Mike Richards’ go-ahead goal in the third period capped three unanswered Flyers tallies in the Devils’ 3-2 loss Monday at Philadelphia.
The Devils jumped out to a 2-0 lead on goals by Zach Parise and Anssi Salmela before Philadelphia tied it with two markers in the final 1:36 of the second period. Kimmo Timmonen’s centering feed from behind the Devils’ net on a Flyers power play set up Richards’ 23rd of the season, snapping the 2-2 tie at 12:02 of the third.
Salmela was said to be up and walking around in the dressing room after a scary moment in the opening 61 seconds of the middle frame. As Salmela scored shorthanded for his first tally as a Devil, Philadelphia’s Jeff Carter delivered a big hit in the slot that left the 25-year-old defenseman face down and motionless for several minutes.
Salmela, who was re-acquired in Thursday’s Ilya Kovalchuk deal, moved his legs before he was taken off the ice on a stretcher.
“He was cutting inside and that blindside, that’s where Carter came from,” head coach Jacques Lemaire said. “He hit him with his shoulder, so it’s tough to say. To me, it’s a hit that happens, but you hate to see guys injured like this.”
Martin Brodeur made 34 saves for New Jersey, which dropped its second in a row. Brodeur kept the Devils within striking distance with 2:28 to go in regulation. He slammed the door on Danny Briere’s charge down the left side, then recovered to foil Briere and Blair Betts from the doorstep.
Brodeur might have made his best of the night with 4:50 to go in the second, when he dove to his left on a Flyers power play to get a piece of Carter's shot with his blocker.
Flyers’ backup Michael Leighton needed 28 saves to record his 10th victory of the season. Philadelphia snapped a two-game losing streak with its third win in four meetings with the Devils this season.
Leighton robbed Patrik Elias with 4:48 left in the third. Elias slipped the puck through the legs of Braydon Coburn for a shot from the edge of the left circle that Leighton snagged with his catching glove to keep it 3-2.
It was the first time since Oct. 7, 2005 that the Devils lost to the Flyers after taking a two-goal lead.
“It’s a good team,” Lemaire said. “They played a good game. They were on the puck, they made good plays. They could’ve scored before that. They had good chances. I felt that, on our part, we didn’t finish.”
A hard-charging Parise drew three power plays in the third period, including a boarding call on Timmonen with 1:52 to go. The Devils pulled Brodeur for a six-on-four advantage, but couldn’t break through on Leighton for the equalizer. New Jersey finished one-for-seven with the man advantage.
Kovalchuk didn’t hesitate to pull the trigger in his third game as a Devil. Despite being held off the scoresheet, the newly acquired sharpshooter fired a game-high nine shots on goal. He has recorded 17 shots in his last two contests.
“I think you bring in a player like that and you have to let him do what he does, and what makes him successful,” Parise told Versus. "His presence, the first day that he got there, the excitement in the dressing room, the smiles on the guys’ faces – we’re really happy that he’s here.”
The Devils (36-20-2) close out the home-and-home series when they host Philadelphia on Wednesday. Jersey's Team entertains Nashville on Friday, then visits Carolina on Saturday in their final game before the two-week Olympic break.
Parise’s 26th of the season, fifth on the man advantage, was the lone goal of the first period. With Briere in the box for one of three Devils power plays in the frame, Parise’s cross-slot pass attempt for Kovalchuk deflected off the skate of Chris Pronger and into the net at 7:00.
“I was trying to find Kovy coming down the back door,” Parise said. “It’s something we’ve been talking about and I got pretty lucky. We’ve been doing a lot of good things and haven’t been having too much luck lately.”
Devils fans in Philly got this view of Bryce Salvador's fight with Daniel Carcillo in the first period.
The Devils were killing the carryover of Andy Greene’s tripping minor when Salmela scored 1:01 into the second. He collected a pass from Travis Zajac in the neutral zone, then muscled his way around Richards to cut toward the middle. He beat Leighton’s blocker with his first goal as a Devil to snap a 30-game drought with his second of the season.
But what should have been a celebration turned scary.
Salmela became the second Devil in under a month to be left motionless on the ice after a hard hit. Elias, who returned to the lineup on Saturday, missed 10 games after suffering a concussion courtesy of Ryan Wilson’s hit at Colorado on Jan. 16. He has picked up assists in both games since coming back.
The Flyers erased the Devils’ lead with two goals in the final 1:36 of the second. They cut the deficit in half on James van Riemsdyk’s 13th. He used Greene as a screen and zipped a shot through Greene’s legs that beat Brodeur to his glove side at 18:24.
Carter tied it 1:12 later with his 23rd. Pronger, who had two assists, started the play with a long clear of a Jamie Langenbrunner rebound. That set up a two-on-one the other way, with Scott Hartnell feeding Carter’s one-timer from the left circle with 23.2 seconds to go in the period.