PHILADELPHIA – All the New Jersey Devils needed to get their slumping power play going was a low-scoring defenceman.
Johnny Oduya had a goal and three assists and the New Jersey Devils scored five times on the power play in a 7-3 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday night. The Devils beat Philadelphia for the fifth straight time this season to move into first place in the Atlantic Division.
“It’s nice to score,” said Oduya, who recorded multiple points for the first time in 117 career games. “I don’t get that many points. But I’m more happy for the win in a big game.”
Patrik Elias and Zach Parise each had a pair of goals, and Jamie Langenbrunner and Dainius Zubrus also scored for New Jersey.
The Devils equalled the team record for power-play goals and fell one short of the franchise mark. New Jersey had five power-play goals two other times in club history. The club was known as the Colorado Rockies when they scored six power-play goals in an 8-6 win over the Flyers on Feb. 19, 1980.
“We put pucks on net, we directed pucks toward the net, and we had guys around the net,” Devils coach Brent Sutter said. “We moved the puck well, we got some rebounds, we got some screen shots and we made the most of our opportunities. We created chances by going to the net and we scored some goals in areas we need to score some goals in.”
Daniel Briere, Mike Knuble and Jeff Carter had Philadelphia’s goals.
The Flyers hadn’t lost in regulation in their previous eight games and were 10-1-2 in the last 13. But they hardly looked like a team playing for first place.
“We had a total letdown,” coach John Stevens said.
Philadelphia mostly outplayed New Jersey at even strength. The problem was stopping the Devils’ suddenly potent power play. New Jersey came in 28th in the NHL with a conversion rate of 14 per cent, and was 0-for-15 over the last four games.
With Oduya playing the best game of his career, the Devils capitalized on almost every opportunity on the man advantage.
Oduya came in with nine points in 40 games this season. He scored New Jersey’s first goal to tie it at 1 and assisted on three of the next four.
“It seems like always we have been struggling on the power play,” Oduya said. “I think we played pretty good at times but tonight we got the bounces early on there to get some goals.”
Zubrus scored from the slot to give the Devils a 3-2 lead late in the first period. Elias made it 4-2 midway through the second. Oduya set that one up with a perfect, one-handed centring pass.
Flyers goaltender Antero Niittymaki was pulled for Martin Biron after Parise made it 5-2 with 5:27 left in the second. Niittymaki, who was 6-0-1 in his last seven starts, allowed five goals on 19 shots.
Carter scored with eight seconds remaining in the second period to get the Flyers within 5-3. But Elias and Parise scored less than a minute apart early in the third period to put the game out of reach.
A feisty first period featured two fights and another scrap involving a few players. Flyers rookie Steve Downie excited the sellout crowd when he bloodied David Clarkson’s left eye in the second fight in a three-minute span.
Devils goalie Martin Brodeur looked shaky early, but finished with 24 saves.
“It’s kind of like a wake-up call, lets us know we have a long way to go if we want to beat that team,” Flyers forward Sami Kapanen said.
Notes: The Flyers beat New Jersey 4-0 in Philadelphia in the teams’ first meeting in October. … Elias’ goal gave him 600 career points. … The seven goals were the most scored by the Devils and most allowed by the Flyers this season. … Oduya was the 221st pick by Washington in the 2001 NHL entry draft. He signed with the Devils as a free agent after playing five seasons in Sweden.