PHILADELPHIA – With elimination on the horizon, Martin Brodeur gave New Jersey a reason to stay optimistic.
Brodeur stopped 23 shots for his 121st career shutout to keep New Jersey’s flickering playoff hopes going with a 3-0 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday night.
Ryan Carter, Matt D’Agostini and Adam Henrique scored goals to help the Devils snap their 10 game winless streak (0-6-4).
“I believe in numbers,” Carter said. “They say there’s still a chance. So as long as there’s still a chance, I still believe.”
The Devils are six points out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. They have five games left and need a lot of help to even think about a post-season berth. For one more night, at least, the Devils still have hope.
In a game where 1-0 felt like 5-0 for a team that’s struggled to score, Brodeur stood tall in net. He wasn’t seriously tested all game but did enough to earn his second shutout of the season. He got his 11th career shutout vs. the Flyers.
“I think we’ve worked so hard without results for a long time now,” Brodeur said. “It was a great game again. We got a W for it.”
With four games left for the Flyers, elimination will come soon enough. The Rangers can officially end Philadelphia’s post-season chances with a win Friday night. Coach Peter Laviolette had led the Flyers to the playoffs in each of his first three seasons, including a Stanley Cup finals trip in 2010.
“It was almost like men playing with kids,” Flyers forward Scott Hartnell said. “We lost pretty much every battle.”
Neither team came out playing with the passion expected in a game badly needed to keep even a scant chance at playing for the Stanley Cup alive. The teams combined for six shots in the first 12 minutes of a plodding first period.
The Devils broke through in the second period when Carter’s wrister beat Ilya Bryzgalov for his fifth goal of the season. Carter took a nice centring pass from Stephen Gionta to beat the Flyers on a 2-on-1 break.
His goal ended a New Jersey scoring drought that stretched just over 146 minutes. The Devils lost consecutive 2-0 games coming into Philadelphia.
“I think it’s a big goal for the morale on this team,” Carter said. “We’ve been playing well. We haven’t gotten the result leaving teams with 11 or 12 shots, but losing 2-0. Playing the game you want and not winning is frustrating.”
Jakub Voracek had a potential tying goal waved off when a video review confirmed he kicked the puck into the net.
Bryzgalov kept it 1-0 after the puck shot off the post and knocked off his right skate before he smothered it just outside the crease.
Even with the sweet save, the Flyers couldn’t build any momentum or generate offence against Brodeur.
“I think the biggest problem is, we don’t know how to play a patient game,” Flyers forward Danny Briere said.
Bryzgalov’s save came only moments after New Jersey’s Andy Greene flattened Hartnell from behind and into the boards. The fans howled in protest for a whistle, but there was no penalty. The hit was replayed a few times on the big screen, which only made the fans more irate a boarding call was missed.
D’Agostini scored his third goal of the season when he slapped one past Bryzgalov late in the third. Bryzgalov, who declined to talk to the media, stopped 28 shots.
Henrique added an empty-netter in the final minutes.
By then, Brodeur had sealed it with a flawless effort.
“We had to start with one and it took us a while to get it,” Brodeur said. “We’re really happy and we’ll enjoy this.”
The Devils played without captain Bryce Salvador (right wrist) and Ilya Kovalchuk (right shoulder). The Devils hadn’t won since Kovalchuk was injured on March 23. Kovalchuk is still second on the Devils with 27 points.
“It seems like it’s been a long time, so I’m glad for the guys,” Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. “That’s the kind of effort we’ve been putting out for a while now, but didn’t get rewarded.”
Notes: The Devils went 4-1 in the season series. … Devils D Anton Volchenkov also sat out because of a suspension. … The Devils had not gone winless in 11 straight games since 1990-91. … The Flyers had scored 11 goals over the last two games.