NEWARK, N.J. – Martin Brodeur got shutout No. 96 with yet another win over the Philadelphia Flyers, and Travis Zajac got a long-awaited goal and a few stitches on his finger.
Just another night in this Atlantic Division rivalry. Brodeur stopped 36 shots, and the New Jersey Devils beat Philadelphia 3-0 Friday night for their 11th straight home win over the Flyers.
Brodeur has four shutouts this season and is seven shy of tying Terry Sawchuk’s mark of 103. Brodeur’s total of 118, including 22 in the playoffs, is an NHL record.
But it was what happened to Zajac that had everyone talking.
During a scrum in front of the Flyers net midway through the second period, Zajac got his glove into the face of Philadelphia defenceman Derian Hatcher and then pulled his bare hand out.
“I guess I got close to him and he bit me,” said Zajac, who wore a splint on the middle finger of his left hand. “I felt pain, I saw blood and then got stitched up and went back out.”
Zajac, who gave the Devils a 2-0 lead with his first goal in nearly a month, missed the rest of the second period but returned for the third. Zajac said Hatcher didn’t talk to him.
“I had my finger in his mouth, so I don’t think he could,” Zajac said.
Hatcher’s version of the story was different.
“If he’s cut, good, but I didn’t bite him,” Hatcher said. “I didn’t think anything of it until someone mentioned it to me.
“He went like that (face wash) right across my face. He got his glove on my tooth, almost pulled it out. It’s all sore.”
Hatcher could face an NHL suspension, especially if there is video showing him biting Zajac. Devils coach Brent Sutter saw one replay, but didn’t get a total picture of what happened.
“It shows Trav pulling his hand away with the glove still in Hatcher’s mouth, like a dog on a bone,” Sutter said. “It’s not something you like to see in the game, let alone a veteran player like that.”
The Devils lost the first game of the season series to the Flyers but have won four straight, stretching their dominance over Philadelphia to 14-1-1. The Flyers haven’t won in New Jersey since March 9, 2004, and have one more chance this season.
“They play a hard-nosed game when we face them, and for whatever reason we match that intensity,” Devils captain Jamie Langenbrunner said.
Devils defenceman Paul Martin, who hadn’t recorded a point in 11 games, had a goal, and Patrik Elias added a power-play tally in his first game since missing two due to a groin injury. The Devils won their fifth in six games and are 16-4-1 in the last 21.
Brodeur made 11 saves in the first period and was especially sharp in the second when he also stopped 11 shots. He has 40 of his 515 career wins against Philadelphia, his most against any team.
“It’s a number on the way to a bigger number,” he said about No. 96. “I shut them out, but we got a win and everybody is happy. I’m happy, too.”
Philadelphia had won three straight after an 0-4-2 skid. The Flyers have three games left on a six-game trip that continues Saturday at Toronto. Martin Biron made 23 saves after backing up Antero Niittymaki on Saturday in a 1-0 victory at Florida.
“It’s disappointing,” Biron said. “We felt like we handed them a couple of goals.”
After going eight straight games without scoring in the first period, the Devils now boast two consecutive two-goal efforts. Just as they did Wednesday against Florida, the Devils jumped to a 2-0 lead in the opening period.
This time they did it despite handing Philadelphia three consecutive power plays.
Martin got it started 9:41 in when he got around forward Denis Tolpeko and carried the puck behind the Philadelphia net. While Martin curled, Flyers defenceman Braydon Coburn shoved New Jersey’s Dainius Zubrus into Biron by the left post.
Martin came out front, patiently holding the puck, and fired a shot into a hole that Biron couldn’t cover. Biron protested as Martin and the Devils celebrated his second goal and first in 17 games, dating to Nov. 23 at Atlanta.
It didn’t take long for a second mistake by Coburn to help another Devils player out of a scoring slump.
Coburn wasn’t under pressure as he moved the puck toward his blue-line, but suddenly fell. Zajac, without a goal in 11 games, quickly gained possession of the puck and let go a hard drive from the right circle that smacked Biron in the glove but didn’t stick.
The puck trickled across the line to make it 2-0 with 2:29 left in the period.
Elias stretched the lead to three with 7:15 remaining in the second. He got to a rebound after his shot hit players in front and scored his ninth goal. It was New Jersey’s first in five power-play chances and broke a 1-for-21 drought over six games.
Notes: Zajac scored 17 goals in 80 games last season, his rookie campaign. He has six in 40 games this season . . . Philadelphia has been outscored 17-5 in its four losses to New Jersey . . . Biron stopped 65 of 68 shots in his previous two outings. He is 4-11-0 with two ties in 18 games against New Jersey . . . Devils RW Arron Asham returned after missing one game with the flu.