East Rutherford, NJ – Brian Savage scored in the second period to tie the game but New Jersey's Viktor Kozlov tallied the only goal in the shootout as the Devils defeated the Philadelphia Flyers at Continental Airlines Arena, 2-1.
In Philadelphia's seventh shootout of the season, Mike Richards, Petr Nedved and Peter Forsberg failed to beat Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur. Kozlov, the Devils' first shooter, also scored in regulation.
The Flyers earned a point in the loss and now trail the Rangers by a pair going into the head-to-head matchup with New York at the Wachovia Center on Thursday night (7:00 p.m., CSN).
"I thought we played a really good hockey game. The second and third periods were excellent for us," said Ken Hitchcock. "To come back and play the way we did is a really good step for us and a really good way to start this stretch here."
Trailing 1-0 after the first period, Forsberg had a great chance to tie the game in the second minute of the middle frame when he blasted a slap shot that was stopped by Brodeur. Forsberg followed his own shot and his rebound attempt hit both posts while sliding along the goal line.
Despite missing on that chance, Forsberg helped to set up the tying goal at 8:23 of the frame. The Olympic gold-medalist passed the puck from the corner to Mike Rathje in the high slot for a slap shot. Savage, who took Simon Gagne's place on the Forsberg-Knuble line, found the rebound for his seventh goal of the season.
"This is a real feather in his cap to get up on that line there for a little while and see how he does, and he scored a nice goal," said Hitchcock of Savage. "He's starting to play with some confidence."
Gagne sat out with a bruised right knee while Michal Handzus, Chris Therien and Kim Johnsson also remain out of the lineup. Forsberg had missed the last eight games before the Olympic break while Rathje, Nedved and Branko Radivojevic also returned after missing time before the Winter Games interrupted the season.
New Jersey was also without one of its key cogs, as Patrik Elias missed the game with bruised ribs.
Forsberg, who did not arrive back in Philadelphia until Tuesday, was his typical self getting or setting up several scoring chances, particularly later in the game.
"He played with probably 50 or 60 percent of the energy he's going to play with, and he's still a very effective player. It kind of makes you think, you've got him and Nedved, Handzus back in a week, and Gagne back in a couple games here. There's a lot of good things that can happen with this hockey club if we stay healthy."
"I was tired, I'm not going to lie to you," said Forsberg when asked how he felt. "It's been a hard couple of days coming over, and the time change and everything, but I thought I did my job. I played pretty safe in the first period and in the second and third I tried to score a couple of goals. Now I just have to get home and get some rest and get ready for [Thursday]."
Overtime began with a rare three-on-three situation as Mike Knuble and John Madden received coincidental slashing minors late in regulation. New Jersey's Scott Gomez had the best chance getting loose alone in front of the net early in the extra session but the puck was poked away by Robert Esche at the last second.
Esche finished the game with 31 saves compared to Brodeur's 26.
"The Russian game [in the Olympics for Team USA] was the first game I played pain free, and I haven't had that all year. It's been a real tough struggle here this season with my groin and my hip, and I finally got two games in a row where I really felt like I could stretch and jump and push off, and all that stuff," said Esche. "To me, that's really exciting."
Philadelphia's penalty-killing, led by Sami Kapanen, kept the game scoreless early. The Devils had two separate two-man advantages, including one for over a minute, but could not convert.
Esche misplayed the puck behind the Flyers net later in the first period, however, and New Jersey took the lead at 11:59. Brian Gionta stripped the Flyers goaltender behind the Flyers' net and Kozlov tapped it in for his 12th goal of the season, which is where the game stood after 20 minutes.
FLYERS NOTES The Flyers' 19 games decided by overtime or a shootout is the most in the league. They have won nine of those games and are now 2-5 in shootouts. … Keith Primeau, who announced on Tuesday he will sit out the remainder of the season, attended the game and took notes in the press box. … This was the fourth of eight meetings between the Flyers and Devils this season, with Philadelphia winning two of the first three. They meet again on March 21 at the Wachovia Center. … Philadelphia has lost four straight road games. … Ryan Ready was recalled from the Phantoms on Tuesday to fill Gagne's roster spot.