Devils 5, Flyers 3
NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils coach Peter DeBoer knows in a shortened season not every win is going to be categorized as "pretty."
Then again, the Devils aren't really interested in looking glamorous with 34 games left.
Such was the case Friday when DeBoer's club spotted the Philadelphia Flyers a 3-1 first-period lead before storming back with four unanswered goals over the final 40 minutes to snatch a 5-3 triumph before a packed house of 17,625 at Prudential Center.
"You have to win all kinds of different ways in a short season," DeBoer said. "Not all of them are pretty."
The Devils scored five goals on 19 shots, including four against Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov.
The victory was the sixth in seven games for the Eastern Conference-leading Devils, who visit the New York Islanders on Saturday. The Flyers, who haven't strung together more than two straight victories this season, fell to 1-2-0 on a six-game trip that continues at the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday.
David Clarkson snapped a 3-3 tie midway through the third when he redirected a perfectly placed shot from the right point by Adam Larsson past Bryzgalov at the 10:43 mark.
Philadelphia's Matt Read tried to drive the puck from the right corner out of the zone along the right-wing boards. The clearing attempt was gloved down by an alert Larsson at the right point, and he wristed a shot toward the slot where Clarkson was waiting.
Steve Bernier scored an empty-net goal at 18:24. After yielding three goals on 11 shots in the first period, Devils goalie Martin Brodeur stopped the next 17 shots he faced, including 11 in the second.
"I don't think they had but one scoring chance except the goal they scored on in the third period [by Clarkson]," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. "But, saying that, we only generated a few more than that. The first period we were on the attack, but in the second and third, not quite as much."
Clarkson credited Larsson with a heads-up play at the point.
"It was a great play by Larz," Clarkson said. "He impresses me more and more every night, but that shot by him was in the perfect location for me to get a stick on it. Patty [Elias] made that play up the wall, but I think Larz's shot was just perfect location."
Larsson, who logged 20:04 of ice time and finished with a plus-3 rating, knew what to do when Clarkson gained position in front of the net.
"When you see Clarkie in front, you just try to get it to the net because he usually is there with his stick," Larsson said.
The goal by Clarkson was his team-leading 10th. Elias, who finished with a goal and two assists, pressured Read into making the ill-advised clearing attempt. Ilya Kovalchuk had three assists, and Brodeur made 25 saves.
Elias pulled the Devils into a 3-3 tie at 15:40 of the second period when he hopped over the boards on a line change, took a pass from Kovalchuk between the circles and ripped a shot Bryzgalov got a piece of but couldn't control. The puck skittered a couple of inches over the goal line, giving Elias his fourth goal of the season and the 34th of his career against the Flyers.
The assist by Kovalchuk was the 388th assist and 799th point of his career.
"Pete told us we better wake up and start playing, so we started doing the right things on the forecheck in the second," Kovalchuk said.
Philadelphia might have lost defenseman Kimmo Timonen for an extended period of time with a lower-body injury.
He didn't play a shift in the third period after suffering his injury late in the second. Laviolette did not have an update during his postgame remarks.
"He's valuable to our team and big part, so it was a tough loss," Flyers defenseman Luke Schenn said. "Hopefully, it's not too severe. I'm not sure what happened, but it's tough to see him missing."
Alex Ponikarovsky, in his first game since being reacquired by the Devils this week, made an instant impact when he took a pass from Kovalchuk and fired a shot from the top inside edge of the left circle that beat Bryzgalov high to the short side 26 seconds into the middle period to pull New Jersey within 3-2.
Brodeur earned an assist, his first of the season, by flipping the puck to Kovalchuk at center ice to spring his team on a 3-on-2 breakout.
"Marty got the puck and saw Kovy up ice and threw it down to him," Ponikarovsky said. "Kovy made a nice play to me … I was going full speed on the [left] side and took a shot."
Ponikarovsky looked right at home on the team's top line with Kovalchuk and center Travis Zajac.
"He played with us the last four or five months [last season]," Kovalchuk said. "We missed him to start this season … we'll look at it like he got a suspension. But there were a lot of smiles when he came into the room."
Laviolette was upset over the fact his team allowed the Devils a goal in the opening minute of the first and second periods.
"It's unacceptable," he said. "They come off of turnovers. You have to take care of the puck and make decisions, and be in the right spots defensively and defend the rush properly. These are things we continue to harp on."
After spotting the Devils a 1-0 lead less than a minute into the game on Zajac's first goal in 12 games, the Flyers erupted for three goals on Brodeur in a span of 2:36 to open a 3-1 advantage.
"I thought we were sitting back and we were watching instead of dictating [in the first]," DeBoer said. "We were giving them too much room and that's not our game. During the first intermission, we talked about system play, about closing up a little bit and taking away some off their time and space."
Wayne Simmonds got it started on a power-play goal off a backhand attempt from the slot at 9:27. Mike Knuble made it 2-1 at 11:15 on a quick turnaround blast from the high slot that beat Brodeur on his glove side. Read connected for his team-leading sixth goal of the season 48 seconds later. Mark Fayne turned the puck over to Claude Giroux, whose cross-ice pass found Read in the slot for a blast to the short side that beat Brodeur cleanly.
"I know it's cliché, but it isn't over until buzzer goes in the third," Devils captain Bryce Salvador said. "You have to find all different ways to win. We found a way to get points and proved why our team is so resilient. We don't want to have these slow starts, but we're finding ways to turn those around."
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