PHILADELPHIA – Flyers coach Peter Laviolette expected Mike Richards to help the team end a losing streak, and the Philadelphia captain came through.
Richards scored a tiebreaking goal early in the third period to lead the Flyers to a 5-3 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Saturday.
James Van Riemsdyk, Claude Giroux, Danny Briere, and Jeff Carter also scored for the Flyers, who had gone 0-1-2 in their previous three games. Carter and Matt Carle each added two assists.
“I think any time you’ve lost a few games you look to your captain to step it up,” Laviolette said. “I think he is really on his game right now.”
Richard, who also had an assist, deflected a slap shot from just inside the blue line by Chris Pronger, giving the Flyers a 3-2 lead at 3:37 of the final period.
“I saw the initial release but it just found a hole,” New Jersey goaltender Johan Hedberg said about Richards’ goal. “This was another big game for us to try to find our winning ways. It’s not about lack of effort. Philly is a good team.”
Briere scored at 8:07 of the third period, converting from the crease after taking a backhanded pass from Carter. The Devils pulled to 4-3 when Patrik Elias scored on a power play with a two-man advantage with 44 seconds left. Carter added an empty-net goal with 2 seconds remaining.
“It was good to finally win a tight game,” Briere said. “Even though they have struggled this year, we always fight hard against each other.”
Ilya Kovalchuk and Travis Zajac also scored for the Devils, and Jamie Langenbrunner had two assists. New Jersey has lost three of four, with the only win during that stretch coming in a 2-1 shootout against the Flyers last Saturday. The Devils have also lost five straight on the road.
“It’s definitely a tough loss,” Devils coach MacLean said. “We had a couple of breakdowns and we tried to get back in it. It just was not enough.”
Philadelphia goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, who was named the NHL’s Rookie of the Month in November, made 23 saves including a brilliant stop of Kovalchuk’s breakaway attempt late in the second period.
Hedberg, appearing in his season-high sixth straight game for the Devils while Martin Brodeur recovers from a bruised elbow, stopped 29 shots.
Kovalchuk put the Devils ahead on a power play at 3:02 of the first period. His one-timer from just inside the blue line nicked off the skate of Flyers centre Blair Betts into the goal.
It was his first goal in his last nine games and only his second goal in his last 17.
Van Reimsdyk tied it 17 seconds later, knocking in a rebound after Richards’ shot hit the post.
Zajac gave New Jersey a 2-1 lead at 12:55 of the period with a wrist shot from just inside the faceoff circle. It was his first goal in 11 games.
Giroux tied it 58 seconds into the second period, scoring on a rebound in traffic in front of the goal and earning the praise of his teammate Carter.
“It’s a big part of our game, waiting at the net, jamming the corners, and getting some dirty goals,” Carter said.
NOTES: Richards is the Flyers’ all-time leading scorer against the Devils with 28 points (7 goals, 21 assists) in 36 career games. … The Devils were only 1-for-43 on the power play on the road before Kovalchuk’s goal. … Devils D Colin White recorded his 100th career assist on Zajac’s goal. … Philadelphia went 0-for-3 on the power play and is 2-for-41 with the man advantage in its last 10 games.