One thing the New Jersey Devils have done very well this season is frustrate their opponents.
Take the Philadelphia Flyers as a case in point. Friday night at Prudential Center, the visiting Flyers built a 3-1 lead after 20 minutes and appeared ready to hand the Devils their second straight defeat.
Not so fast. New Jersey came back to score a 5-3 victory that left the Flyers shaking their heads. Now, the Devils have won five of their last six.
“I mean guys were skating hard today,” Flyers captain Claude Giroux lamented after the game. “It’s a hard rink to play in. We got a 3-1 lead, we have to find a way to get it done. We have to learn from this.”
“Like I said, I think we were on the attack in the first period, and the second and third not quite as much,” Philadelphia coach Peter Laviolette said. “The second and third, they picked up their game a little bit and had their chances and scored on them.”
For the Devils, Ilya Kovalchuk has three assists. Patrik Elias had a goal and two assists and David Clarkson netted the game winner his 10th, in the third period with a deft deflection of an Adam Larsson point shot. Travis Zajac got the Devils on the board just 40 seconds into the game and the newest old Devil, Alexei Ponikarovsky scored in the first game of his second stint with the franchise. Stever Bernier scored an empty net goal.
And Martin Brodeur had a very active night, moving the puck adroitly, especially on Ponikarovsky's goal just 26 seconds into the second period. And he also made 25 saves.
“I got the opportunity to play the puck a lot tonight," Brodeur told reporters. "It’s always nice to get a helper. When we started in the second, I knew we had a chance to break out, so I got it out there to Kovy, who was wide open, so I sort of threw him the Hail Mary."
And it connected and shortly after, Ponikarovsky had brought the Devils back within a goal, 3-2.
The Devils figured to be out of it early after the Flyers built the 2-1 lead on goals by Wayne Simmonds, Mike Knuble and Matt Read. The Philadelphia goals came in a span of 2:36. But instead of panicking, the Devils regrouped.
“We played better defensively,” Brodeur said of New Jersey's play after the first period. “I thought we played better in the neutral zone. That was one of the things they abused (on) us in the first. They controlled the dumps that they made on us and they made us play in our zone for too long and when we started to play a little better in the neutral zone we were able to get out clean and better and we created more offense and we scored some goals.”
Just part of the Devils keep on keeping on.
“After we were down, we just had to get back to play the way the Devils’ play,” said Clarkson, who continues to prove last season's 30 goals was no fluke. “We never hit the panic button as a team. We did a lot of good things in the second and third periods when we needed it. We had to come on like that after being down.”
“I thought we were sitting back and we were watching instead of dictating," New Jersey coach Pete DeBoer said. "We were giving them too much room and that’s not our game, so we talked about some of our system play, about closing up a little bit and taking away some of their time and space and making it a little tougher. We just started to play our game.”
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