NEWARK, N.J. (AP) The All-Star break has done wonders for the New Jersey Devils. They are winning again, and they have gotten the Philadelphia Flyers off their back in the playoff hunt, for now.
No. 1 overall draft pick Nico Hischier scored on a deflection with 1:27 to play, capping the Devils’ rally to beat the Flyers 4-3 on Thursday night.
”We know it’s a really important game, a four-point game,” Hischier said after the Devils won their second straight after the break. ”We knew they were right behind us. We had a really good start but it was up and down. At the end we won, and it feels good, but we’ve got to keep going.”
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The win was New Jersey’s fourth in 14 games (4-7-3) since Dec. 29, and this was big. Had the Flyers held on, they would have tied the Devils with 58 points.
New Jersey, which is now four points ahead with a game in hand, came into the period down 3-2.
Damon Severson tied the hard-fought contest with 9:00 left, and Hischier’s first goal in 11 games spoiled goaltender Alex Lyon’s first NHL start.
”We had a little bit of a tough second period and it was a little bit dicey at times but we were able to find a way to stay in the game the whole night,” Severson said.
Kyle Palmieri and Drew Stafford also scored for the Devils, while Keith Kinkaid made 22 saves.
Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds and Shayne Gostisbehere scored for the Flyers, who were looking for their third win over the Devils in less than a month. Lyon made 18 saves a night after making his NHL debut in relief of Michal Neuvirth, and Philadelphia lost its second in two nights. It also marked the first time the Flyers have lost three straight in regulation.
Blake Coleman set up the winner on a rush. His pass toward the net was re-directed by Hischier between Lyon’s pads, just barely getting through and crossing the goal line.
”The guy put it to the net and I thought I was in really good position, but I just opened up a little bit and things happened fast enough in this league where you are going to pay for that,” Lyon said. ”I learned the hard way. I am just going to try to learn from my mistakes and be sharper next time.”
Pavel Zacha set up Severson’s tying goal after the Devils won a battle for the puck behind the net.
Gostisbehere gave the Flyers a 3-2 lead 7:01 into the second period with a shot from the left circle that hit off Kinkaid’s side and the goalpost before trickling into the net. The puck got to the Flyers defenseman after a cross-ice pass hit off Severson’s skate.
”I feel bad for Alex, we kind of let him down there,” Gostisbehere said. ”It’s about getting back on the horse. There is a lot of hockey left. We have to get some wins here.”
With both teams right on the playoff bubble in the Eastern Conference heading into the final two-plus months of the regular season, this game was intense. There were two fights in the first period and several scrums, resulting in power plays that led to all four first-period goals.
Palmieri put the Devils ahead 1-0, beating Lyon from the right circle with a shot over the goaltender’s shoulder.
Giroux tied it a little more than three minutes later with a shot into an open net with the Flyers enjoying a two-man advantage.
Stafford gave New Jersey 2-1 lead at 13:49, deflecting a shot by John Moore past Lyon. Simmonds scored on a rebound at 15:46 to tie the score at 2-all.
NOTES: Seven of Palmieri’s 10 goals have been on the power play. … Giroux’s goal was the Flyers’ second this season with a two-man advantage. … Flyers F Travis Konecny had his five-game goal-scoring streak snapped. …. Philadelphia D Radko Gudas angered the Devils by jumping into Palmieri after a rush into the offensive zone. Travis Zajac got into a fight with Gudas minutes later, but all it did was give Philadelphia the power play on which Simmonds got his 17th goal.
Flyers: Host Ottawa on Saturday night.
Devils: Host Pittsburgh on Saturday night.
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