PHILADELPHIA -- Fan Appreciation Night brought a big challenge for the Philadelphia Flyers and goalie Brian Boucher, a matchup with their Atlantic Division rivals, the New Jersey Devils, who were seeking to regain first place in the division.
The Flyers were trying to snap a five-game losing streak and Boucher was 1-8-3 since Dec. 14. He was also playing without a safety net. His backup goaltender was Carter Hutton, the former UMASS-Lowell goalie who had all of four AHL games professional experience before getting called up on an emergency basis after Johan Backlund tweaked his groin on Saturday.
Boucher made 32 saves and five different Flyers scored in a 5-1 victory over the Devils. It was the first time in 15 games that the Flyers had scored more than two goals. They also broke a six-game, 0-for-20 power-play drought when Kimmo Timonen scored on the first shift of the second period.
“Yeah, it just feels nice to get a win," Boucher said. "Things have been kind of going sideways a bit. Nice to get a win.”
"He was sharp, quick, made the saves he was supposed to, and some tough ones as well," said Flyers coach Peter Laviolette, 25-22-5 since taking over on Dec. 5. "He gave us the chance and an opportunity to win a hockey game.”
Three Flyers goalies, Ray Emery, Michael Leighton and Backlund, have been injured this season, leaving the team without an experienced backup.
It was the Flyers' fifth victory over the Devils in six meetings this year and they chased veteran goaltender Martin Brodeur at the end of two periods. Both teams were playing for the second day in row. The Devils downed the Canadiens, 4-2 Saturday while the Penguins beat the Flyers, 4-1. New Jersey coach Jacques Lemaire thought his team might have been a little slow.
"It always depends on what type of game you had the night before," Lemaire said. "We played a skating team in Montreal. The game was fast and then you come up with another team that skates well. Your energy is not where it should be and you don't look as good."
The victory lifted the Flyers into sixth place in the Eastern Conference while the Devils fell to second place in the Atlantic Division and fourth in the Eastern Conference, two points behind the Atlantic-leading Pittsburgh Penguins who defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs in a shootout, 4-3, earlier Sunday.
A quick start helped the Flyers down the Devils. The Flyers struck on the game's first shift at 53 seconds when Arron Asham carried into the Devils' zone and fired a pass to Scott Hartnell on the left wing. Hartnell gave it to Matt Carle in the high slot. Carle's 37-foot shot hit Brodeur's glove and deflected in.
"They were ready right from the start. They played a great game," Lemaire said. "Us, we were a little tired from last night, a little lack of energy and not as good with the puck, not as good support on the ice. They got some goals, a couple on deflections and goals from their defensemen and that helps."
"It's a tough way to start," Devils captain Jamie Langenbrunner said. "We know they're going to come out hard. They always do in this building. We wanted to try to limit that. It was tough to start that way but there was time to rebound from that. We had chances when it was 2-0 and we didn't capitalize on that."
The Flyers doubled their lead at 8:18 when Ville Leino passed behind the net to Danny Briere, who skated out and tried to feed Simon Gagne a soft pass in the crease. The puck went past Gagne and two Devils defenders for Leino's tap-in on the left side.
The Flyers held an 11-3 shot edge over the Devils after eight minutes but that gap closed to 12-8 by the end of the period. The Flyers stopped the Devils' momentum with Timonen's power-play goal at 45 seconds of the second period. The Devils held a 22-19 shots advantage at the end of the second period but gave up a devastating goal when Travis Zajac and Andy Greene deflected Lukas Krajicek's point shot past Brodeur with 40 seconds left in the period.
"You need to get traffic on pretty much every goal in this League and we did a lot better job of getting to the net and creating traffic, tips, and screens and things like that," Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger said. "That’s how you score in this League."
"There’s parts of the game whether it’s, say, 2-0 in a hockey game, and it’s like a turning point," Boucher said. "You can either go and make it 3-0, or it can be 2-1 and it’s a hockey game. We got that third one, and then there’s a big goal in the last minute of the second to make it 4-0, and that’s the type of mentality you need to have if you’re going to win. You need to step on your opponents, and I thought we did that tonight.”
Yann Danis replaced Brodeur to start the third period and stopped five of six shots.
Ilya Kovalchuk scored for the Devils at 10:20 when he one-timed Brian Rolston's feed from behind the net past Boucher.
The Flyers got the goal right back at 10:53 when Gagne beat Danis from the left side off a nice pass from Leino, who walked down the slot.
Lemaire shook his head when asked about Boucher's performance.
"It looked like he came up with his best game against us," he said.