The Philadelphia Flyers will try to take another step toward defense of their Atlantic Division crown when they visit the surging New Jersey Devils.
The Flyers beat the first-place New York Rangers 4-1 on Saturday to close within one point of the division leaders. Philadelphia has two games remaining while the Rangers have one, and the Flyers could win the Atlantic and clinch the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference with wins in their final two games on the road against New Jersey and the New York Islanders.
"We're one point behind them and we've got one more game, so it looks pretty good," said Flyers center Peter Forsberg, who returned to the lineup Saturday after missing four games with a groin injury. "I think we showed everybody we can play good hockey for 60 minutes."
The Flyers jumped out to a 4-0 lead midway through the second period off goals from Mike Knuble, Niko Dimitrakos, R.J. Umberger and Petr Nedved. Philadelphia outshot the Rangers 15-3 in the first period en route to just their fourth win in the last nine games. The Flyers have scored four goals in each of those victories.
Antero Niittymaki made 25 saves and allowed one or fewer goals for the fifth time in his 41 starts this season.
"We needed to make a statement today, and now we need to follow it up," said Umberger, who also had an assist.
The Flyers may have a tougher time following up their statement against the Devils, as they have lost all three games in New Jersey this season and four of the last five meetings between the teams. Philadelphia has scored just five goals in those five matchups.
The Devils are playing their best hockey of the season and beat the Flyers 4-1 on Thursday for their ninth straight win.
"This one's different because we needed the points," said Scott Gomez, who had a goal and an assist. "It took us a while, for whatever reason, but when everybody's doing their role, we're tough to beat."
The Devils, who are outscoring opponents 33-18 in their streak, are in sixth place in the Eastern Conference race, but still have slim division title chances. New Jersey will try to win 10 in a row for the first time since its franchise-best 13-game winning streak from Feb. 26-March 23, 2001.
Gionta has nine goals and 11 assists in his 13-game point streak and is one goal shy of Pat Verbeek's franchise-record total of 45, set in 1987-88.
TEAM LEADERS: Flyers - Simon Gagne, 45 goals and 77 points; Forsberg, 56 assists; Donald Brashear, 166 PIM. Devils - Gionta, 45 goals and 84 points; Gomez, 48 assists; Jason Wiemer, 96 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Flyers - Power play: 18.2 percent (80 for 440), 15th in NHL. Penalty killing: 78.7 percent (359 for 456), 27th. Devils - Power play: 18.0 percent (77 for 429), 18th. Penalty killing: 81.6 percent (279 for 342), 20th.
GOALTENDERS: Flyers - Niittymaki (23-15-6, 2 SO, 2.96 GAA); Robert Esche (21-10-5, 1, 2.97). Devils - Brodeur (41-23-7, 5, 2.59); Scott Clemmensen (3-4-2, 0, 3.35).
SEASON SERIES: Devils, 4-3.
LAST MEETING: Thursday; Devils, 4-1. At East Rutherford, N.J., Parise scored two goals, Gionta had three assists and Brodeur made 33 saves to lead the Devils. Dimitrakos tallied a power-play goal for Philadelphia.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Flyers - 22-12-5 on the road; Devils - 26-11-3 at home.