EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) _ The Philadelphia Flyers beat the New Jersey Devils at their own game to take firm control in the Atlantic Division with less than a month to go in the regular season.
John LeClair had a goal and two assists and the Flyers bottled up the Devils in center ice for two periods in a 3-1 win Tuesday.
``I think we are proving to ourselves how good of a hockey team we have when we stay with the program and believe in it,'' Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock said. ``There are a lot of guys that are believing in what we are trying to do here. Good things are happening because of it.''
The Flyers' second straight win over New Jersey gave them a seven-point lead in the division with 11 games to go. The Devils have played two fewer games.
``Our goal was to win our division,'' said Mark Recchi, who added a goal and an assist. ``We've got 11 to go. We've got an opportunity, if we have a big week, to succeed. We're still looking at the big picture, at what we have to do and what we have to get better at.''
The Flyers will get a chance to open up a bigger lead when they face the Devils in Philadelphia on Saturday.
Devils coach Pat Burns said the loss put a serious dent in New Jersey's chances to win the division.
``We're not throwing in the towel, but if you win tonight's it's a different situation,'' Burns said.
LeClair set up goals by Recchi and Kim Johnsson in a 2:28 span bridging the first and second periods. The left wing, who did not have a point in four games against New Jersey this season, iced the contest with an empty-net tally with 12.9 seconds to go as the Flyers snapped a five-game winless (0-3-1-1) streak on the road.
Robert Esche made 20 saves for the Flyers, who got a big night from the LeClair-Michal Handzus-Recchi line, which was a combined plus nine for the night. Handzus had two assists.
``We got the lead and we really kept them to the outside. When they had opportunities, Esche was good for us,'' Recchi said.
Turner Stevenson scored for the Devils, who were limited to 10 shots in the first two periods.
Esche was good when needed. He stopped Scott Gomez in close twice and linemate Patrik Elias once in the first two periods.
After Stevenson scored with 13:55 to go, Esche made three good stops, the last two on Elias with just under two minutes to go.
Down 2-0, the Devils got back in the game less than a minute after Martin Brodeur stopped LeClair at point-blank range.
Gomez started the Devils' scoring play with a pass from behind the net to Scott Niedermayer about 40 feet right in front of Esche. The defenseman passed the puck to Stevenson in the right circle and his shot got by a Flyers defenseman and Esche.
Recchi got the Flyers on the board with 1:17 left in the first period on somewhat of a lucky goal. LeClair's pass to Handzus on a three-on-two rush hit off the Flyers' center. The loose puck went to Recchi who squeezed a shot through Brodeur for his team-high 26th goal.
Johnsson got his fourth goal in four games at 1:11 of the second period, putting in the rebound of a shot by LeClair.
(c) New Jersey Devils 2013 - All Rights Reserved
newjerseydevils.com is the official web site of the New Jersey Devils, a member team of the National Hockey League ("NHL"). NHL, the NHL Shield, the word mark and image of the Stanley Cup and NHL Conference logos are registered trademarks of the National Hockey League. All NHL logos and marks and NHL team logos and marks as well as all other proprietary materials depicted herein are the property of the NHL and the respective NHL teams and may not be reproduced without the prior written consent of NHL Enterprises, L.P. Copyright © 1999-2013 New Jersey Devils and the National Hockey League. All Rights Reserved.