Thursday, October 09, 2014

Devils spoil Flyers' home opener with strong third period

by Bob Herpen
Phanatic Hockey Editor 

Philadelphia, PA -- For a glorious span of four minutes and 15 seconds late in the second period, it looked like the Philadelphia Flyers were going to show the home crowd that any defensive or goaltending lapses incurred this year would be made up by a swiftly-striking offense.

After Wayne Simmonds scored his second goal of the middle period -- a deflection from the right side with tenths of a second to go before the horn -- pulled the hosts even at 3-3, hopes were high that last night's troubles might be swept away.

"For the first game of the season there are a lot of stretches of positives. We've just got to eliminate the 5 or 6 minutes of lack of composure," said Devils head coach Peter DeBoer. 

Unfortunately, the New Jersey Devils corrected their course, tallying three times in the final 20 minutes and claiming a 6-4 decision on Thursday night.

"We did a good job coming back in the game, we were playing aggressively, playing our game ... ahhh, it's frustrating," said an obviously bewildered captain Claude Giroux. "It's obviously not the start we want, we know that. We played a lot of good minutes, but made a lot of mistakes we have to look over and get better."

Patrik Elias had put the visitors ahead on his goal at 4:16 of the third, but Vinny Lecavalier responded only 15 seconds later to even the game once more. Both shots were of the saveable variety for each goaltender, clear lanes provided, but were authored by veterans who could fool their counterparts.

Dainius Zubrus officially put a damper on the party, beating Steve Mason on a quick wrister from the right wing at the 7:13 mark and Mike Cammalleri shoveled his second marker of the evening into an empty net with 60 seconds to play.

"The fifth one was an odd-man rush. I had to stop it, had to make that save at that point in the game," was all Mason offered.

It wasn't a total wash for the 26-year-old. He made his best save of the contest with just over five minutes remaining, trailing 5-4 and the Devils on the advantage. squatting in his crease and moving forward ever-so-slightly to rob a slick deflection attempt by Cammalleri in front. As the season progresses, it was the kind of key stop which might fuel a late tying goal. 

The Flyers dropped to 0-2-0 for the third straight season and have lost three consecutive home openers, but that wasn't even the most striking things to come out of the contest.

Prior to the game, GM Ron Hextall reported that defenseman Braydon Coburn, who took a shot off the foot in last night's 2-1 loss in Boston, will be out "a while." Coburn was on crutches while being introduced during the pregame festivities.

"There's more pressure on us to play defensively. Our forwards, we have to protect our net better and play better in front of Mase," Giroux countered when asked if the defensive woes might put more pressure on the offense to score more. 

Hextall couldn't confirm multiple reports from key sources that Chris Pronger would join the staff of the NHL's Player Safety, but those reports indicated that Pronger would not have anything to do with issues that arise with the Orange and Black, and that the club would not suffer any salary-cap problems.

Mason, who ended up stopping only 20-of-25 opportunities, couldn't be faulted for each of the Devils' opening three salvoes.

Four Philly players collapsed around their crease and Michael Ryder was able to snap a shot through a screen partially created by Lecavalier's inability to move Adam Henrique, and beat Mason under the crossbar for a 1-0 game at 12:05 of the opening period.

It was 2-0 with 2:10 played in the second, as Henrique was given free rein in the right circle to snap off a shot which changed direction off the instep of Luke Schenn's skate and slip into the net inside the far post.

On the third strike, coming at 5:33, Jaromir Jagr sent a blind pass from the boards along the right wing all the way into the slot. His prayer was answered by a streaking Cammalleri, whose tip sailed home. 

"The goals they got against Mase (early on) were the bounces that we got against us last year," Giroux noted of the franchise-worst 1-7-0 start.

It looked like another typical Devils road-game snoozefest until the roof caved in on the Red and Black starting with 4:16 left in the second. The hosts were all over Cory Schneider during an earlier advantage when Jordin Tootoo went off for slashing, with pucks squirting loose and being spirited away just before a Flyers forward could pounce.

Enter Giroux, who simply snapped a shot off from below the left circle for his first goal of the season.

Simmonds then whipped the crowd announced at 19,801 into a frenzy by outwaiting Schneider in close and whipping the puck home to make it 3-2 at 19:03. Ryane Clowe then took an ill-advised tripping penalty with 4.5 seconds remaining, and after a right-circle faceoff win, Simmonds somehow redirected a Lecavalier dish through Schneider with two-tenths of a second on the clock.

"I think all of our blood pressure went up a little too much there," Schneider said. "It wasn't typical Devils hockey, I would say."

But as happens often in a comeback scenario from a multi-goal deficit, the team which originally leads finds their equilibrium. 

Notes: New Jersey has won four in a row here and improved to 7-1-1 in its last nine games at Philadelphia ... Jagr's assist moved him into sixth place on the NHL's scoring list, ahead of Steve Yzerman, with 1,756 points ... Simmonds recorded his eighth career game of three points or more, and notched his 14th career multi-goal game ... Schneider ended up with 35 saves in just his second career start vs. Philly ... Schenn was a career-worst minus-5, while defensive mate Mike Del Zotto suffered through a minus-4 ... Ryder also contributed two assists to the winning effort ... Thursday marked the fifth time the Flyers and Devils met in the former's home opener, and the latter claimed a 3-2 advantage, winning here for the first time since October 5, 1989 (6-2) ... Nick Schultz made his Philly debut, playing 14:46 while registering one shot and one hit. 
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