East Rutherford, NJ – Martin Brodeur made 33 saves and Zach Parise scored twice as the New Jersey Devils defeated the Philadelphia Flyers at Continental Airlines Arena on Thursday night, 4-1.
With the loss, the Flyers remain three points behind the Rangers for first place in the Atlantic Division as New York lost 5-3 in Pittsburgh on Thursday. They are now tied with the Devils for second place. Philadelphia has one game in hand on both teams, and hosts New York on Saturday afternoon (2:00, NBC) before coming back to East Rutherford on Easter Sunday (1:00 p.m., CSN).
"We all watch the standings. All is not lost, we still have a game in hand on everybody but in my opinion, it's getting kind of urgent," said Mike Knuble. "Not just wins and losses, but how we're playing heading into the playoffs."
"We've got the these guys again and the Rangers so we have plenty of time of get stuff turned around and get it going," said Robert Esche, who finished with 32 saves.
With the Devils leading 2-0 after the first period, the Flyers had their chances in the second but Brodeur kept them off the board. Brian Savage had two good chances, but was sticked away by Brodeur in front of the net early in the frame, and his redirection while charging the net all alone was smothered by the New Jersey goaltender just past the nine-minute mark.
New Jersey increased the lead with its second favorable bounce of the night that resulted in a goal. On the play, Scott Gomez attempted a quick pass through the crease and it was knocked away by Esche, but the puck bounced off of defenseman Mike Rathje and then Esche's helmet before dropping into Philadelphia's net at 14:14 on the power play.
"We were way behind the pace in the first period," said Ken Hitchcock. "They built momentum off of the 2-0 lead, and we were too far behind the pace at the start of the game. Their pace was red-hot and we were behind the bar."
The Flyers briefly cut the lead to 3-1 on their first power play of the night in the third period. Niko Dimitrakos found the rebound of a shot by Freddy Meyer for his eighth goal of the season just over four minutes into the frame.
"We got going in the second and third, but you don't want to get down 2-0 to New Jersey," said Hitchcock.
Philadelphia was 1-for-2 with a man advantage and killed off three of four Devils power plays.
Parise's second goal of the night on a pass from Brian Gionta from behind the net at 8:25 gave New Jersey its three-goal cushion back. Gionta finished with three assists.
New Jersey has now won nine straight games and all three match-ups against the Flyers at home. Philadelphia, however, won three of the four games of the season series at the Wachovia Center.
New Jersey took a 2-0 first period lead. First, Sergei Brylin left the puck for Patrik Elias along the boards and got free in the high slot. Elias gave the puck back to Brylin for a wrist shot that got past Esche at 10:20.
A fortunate bounce for New Jersey at 18:20 gave the Devils a two-goal cushion, when Gionta sent a weak backhand along the ice towards the net and it deflected off of Parise's skate and between the legs of Esche.
"[New Jersey] has played like this for years and years," said Derian Hatcher. "They wait for mistakes and then they capitalize. They are great at transition. There's no secret with this team, and they're good at it."
FLYERS NOTES Peter Forsberg missed his fourth straight game with a groin injury. … Randy Jones, recalled from the Phantoms on Wednesday, played in the game as Denis Gauthier served the second and final game of his suspension. … The game was completed in just two hours and four minutes.