EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) _ The Philadelphia Flyers beat the New Jersey
Devils at their own game to take firm control in the Atlantic Division with
less than a month to go in the regular season.
John LeClair had a goal and two assists and the Flyers bottled up the Devils
in center ice for two periods in a 3-1 win Tuesday.
``I think we are proving to ourselves how good of a hockey team we have when
we stay with the program and believe in it,'' Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock said.
``There are a lot of guys that are believing in what we are trying to do here.
Good things are happening because of it.''
The Flyers' second straight win over New Jersey gave them a seven-point lead
in the division with 11 games to go. The Devils have played two fewer games.
``Our goal was to win our division,'' said Mark Recchi, who added a goal and
an assist. ``We've got 11 to go. We've got an opportunity, if we have a big
week, to succeed. We're still looking at the big picture, at what we have to do
and what we have to get better at.''
The Flyers will get a chance to open up a bigger lead when they face the
Devils in Philadelphia on Saturday.
Devils coach Pat Burns said the loss put a serious dent in New Jersey's
chances to win the division.
``We're not throwing in the towel, but if you win tonight's it's a different
situation,'' Burns said.
LeClair set up goals by Recchi and Kim Johnsson in a 2:28 span bridging the
first and second periods. The left wing, who did not have a point in four games
against New Jersey this season, iced the contest with an empty-net tally with
12.9 seconds to go as the Flyers snapped a five-game winless (0-3-1-1) streak
on the road.
Robert Esche made 20 saves for the Flyers, who got a big night from the
LeClair-Michal Handzus-Recchi line, which was a combined plus nine for the
night. Handzus had two assists.
``We got the lead and we really kept them to the outside. When they had
opportunities, Esche was good for us,'' Recchi said.
Turner Stevenson scored for the Devils, who were limited to 10 shots in the
first two periods.
Esche was good when needed. He stopped Scott Gomez in close twice and
linemate Patrik Elias once in the first two periods.
After Stevenson scored with 13:55 to go, Esche made three good stops, the
last two on Elias with just under two minutes to go.
Down 2-0, the Devils got back in the game less than a minute after Martin
Brodeur stopped LeClair at point-blank range.
Gomez started the Devils' scoring play with a pass from behind the net to
Scott Niedermayer about 40 feet right in front of Esche. The defenseman passed
the puck to Stevenson in the right circle and his shot got by a Flyers
defenseman and Esche.
Recchi got the Flyers on the board with 1:17 left in the first period on
somewhat of a lucky goal. LeClair's pass to Handzus on a three-on-two rush hit
off the Flyers' center. The loose puck went to Recchi who squeezed a shot
through Brodeur for his team-high 26th goal.
Johnsson got his fourth goal in four games at 1:11 of the second period,
putting in the rebound of a shot by LeClair.