NEWARK, N.J. – The Philadelphia Flyers made up for a sub-par game with a little bit of luck, something the New Jersey Devils haven’t had all season.
Danny Briere and Scott Hartnell capitalized on fortuitous bounces to score two goals apiece while Ville Leino added a career-high three assists as the Flyers defeated the fast-fading Devils 4-2 on Thursday night.
How lucky was the NHL’s best road team? Their first goal came off a weird bounce off the end boards. Briere’s go-ahead goal in the third period was set up when Leino’s pass deflected off a Devils’ stick, and his game clincher went in off the skate of New Jersey defenceman Colin White.
“Any bounce that could not go our way has been happening,” Devils forward David Clarkson said after New Jersey lost for the 28th time in regulation, one more than it had in each of the previous two seasons.
As they have done all season in posting the second-best record in the Eastern Conference, the Flyers made sure they took advantage.
“It was kind of an interesting game,” said Flyers goalie Brian Boucher, who made 18 saves. “Not much going on and then we catch a big break off the boards to get us going.”
Leino and Hartnell woke up the Flyers with less than five minutes left in the second period and the Devils ahead 1-0.
Leino fired a dump-in from centre ice, and the puck took a weird diagonal bounce off the end boards. It eluded Johan Hedberg and went to Hartnell for a backhand shot into an open net.
“When I dumped it, I said, ‘Oh my God, that was a bad dump. He’s going to get it,’ ” Leino said.
Hedberg didn’t, and the puck went straight to Hartnell, who was coming down the middle of the ice.
“These boards are lively,” Hartnell said. “All night you see it was taking weird bounces.
“I don’t know if Ville did it on purpose but it wound up kicking right past Hedberg. I just had to put it in the open net.”
In the Devils’ 2-1 loss to Minnesota on Tuesday night, Clayton Stoner scored the winner for the Wild in the third period when his dump-in from centre ice took a crazy bounce off the side boards and went into an open net after Hedberg went behind the goal to play the puck.
Hartnell’s goal kicked off a wild final five minutes of the second period in which Clarkson put the Devils back in front with 2:40 left when a review showed his shot during a partial breakaway beat Boucher.
However, Hartnell tied the game 74 seconds later, putting in a centring pass by Leino.
That sent the game into the third period tied 2-2 before Briere took over.
Briere’s go-ahead goal at 2:48 of the third came after Leino’s pass from the right side boards deflected off the stick of a Devils player and went to Briere alone between the circles. He fired a shot into the top corner of the net.
Boucher preserved the lead with a big save on a slapshot by Jason Arnott with 11:15 to go.
Briere’s 20th goal put the game away. He missed an open net with a little over a minute to play, costing him a hat trick.
“It was fun the way our line was able to come out and get a couple of key goals,” Briere said.
Dainius Zubrus also scored for New Jersey, which has won only twice in 16 games and is likely to miss the playoffs for the first time since 1996.
“They’ve been good for so long, beating up on so many teams for so long, it’s kind of nice to give it back to them a little bit,” Briere said.
What made this one interesting was the Devils started Hedberg for the second straight game for slumping goalie Martin Brodeur. New Jersey also scratched captain Jamie Langenbrunner amid rumours of an impending trade.
Devils president Lou Lamoriello was not in the dressing room after the game, so there was no news on the trade front.
Devils centre Travis Zajac wasn’t surprised by the trade talk.
“We’ve put ourselves in this position,” Zajac said. “No one is performing well or having a great season so there is bound to be changes.”
NOTES: The last time Brodeur dressed as a backup for two straight games was January 2004. … Patrik Elias got an assist on Zubrus’s goal, making him the Devils’ career scoring leader against the Flyers with 65 points. He surpassed John MacLean, who was fired as Devils coach earlier this season. … The Flyers had season lows of 20 shots and two penalty minutes.