Friday, October 24, 2008

The Flyers Finally Win!

In a very tough, grind-it-out style game, the Philadelphia Flyers finally became the last NHL team to win a game in 2008-09, in what was likely the most impossible scenario you could imagine. The Flyers beat the New Jersey Devils 6-3 at the Prudential Center, their first win in New Jersey since 2004. Mike Richards led Philadelphia on offense, assisting on four of their six goals. Five different players scored for the orange and black, led by Scott Hartnell's second and third goals of the season. Philadelphia withstood a barrage of shots in the third period, as Martin Biron stopped all 14 the Devils put on him in the final stanza.

It looked like the Flyers would be doomed for another loss early on. Travis Zajac scored just 47 seconds into the first period to give the Devils a very early 1-0 lead. After going back and forth a couple of times, New Jersey scored what appeared to be another backbreaking goal late in the first, as Zach Parise knocked home a rebound with just 19 seconds to go in Period One. Despite giving up two ill-timed goals and trailing 3-2 after 20 minutes, Philadelphia did not fold. In fact, their effort over the final two periods showed a great amount of resolve.

The Philadelphia comeback started with 8:03 left in the second period, as Simon Gagne continued his hot start with a game-tying power play goal, his fifth of the season. Five minutes later, Scott Hartnell scored his first of two goals to give the Flyers a lead they would not relinquish. They led 4-3 after two periods, outshooting the Devils 21-12 after previously being outshot by seven shots a game. In the third period, Philadelphia padded its lead on a Joffrey Lupul deflection goal and an empty netter by Hartnell to end up on top, 6-3. The Flyers finally won the shots on goal battle, putting 28 pucks on Martin Brodeur while allowing 26.

As I mentioned earlier, this was a tough game, which means there were some physical battles. Two fights occurred in the second period, with Devils rookie Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond taking on Riley Cote and recently acquired Flyer Andrew Alberts battling David Clarkson. There were a couple of scrums involving multiple players as well, which was not a surprise in this crucial battle of Atlantic Division rivals. This game made it clear that these teams certainly do not like each other, and hopefully set the tone for a great season series the rest of the way.

Let me summarize what happened: Philadelphia won in New Jersey, against the 5-1 Devils, where they had not won in over four years, without star center Daniel Briere, even after falling behind less than a minute into the game. Believe me, I am a die-hard Flyers fan and I certainly did not expect them to win this one, but the Flyers have a knack for winning at times when it seems they have no chance. Last year, they ended a ten game losing streak in Buffalo, another city where they rarely win, after falling behind 3-0 in the first period, doing so via the shootout, an area where they struggle mightily. Also, who expected them to vanquish the top-seeded Montreal Canadiens in five games in last season's playoffs? Honestly, I did not.

Of course, the Flyers still have a long way to go to get to where they want to be, and some of their season-long problems continued tonight. Once again, they failed to score first, something they have done only twice this year. Also, the Devils destroyed them in the faceoff circle, as New Jersey won 41 draws compared to just 25 for Philadelphia. Still, a win like this could be just the kind of thing the Flyers need to turn their season around. Can they keep it going tomorrow afternoon, when they'll be facing this same Devils team at home? We shall see.

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