The Flyers (6-8-1, 4th in Atlantic Division) found themselves on the wrong end of a roller coaster game Friday night at the Prudential Center, where they fell 5-3 to the New Jersey Devils (9-2-3, 1st in Atlantic Division).
Things started off in the wrong direction quickly for the Flyers, as the Devils jumped to a 1-0 lead just 40 seconds into the game following a Travis Zajac wrist shot that beat goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov.
At the start of the second period New Jersey struck quickly once again when Alexei Ponikarovsky snapped a shot past Bryzgalov’s stick just 26 seconds into the frame. Flyers defenseman Luke Schenn found himself out of position on the play when he was caught chasing forward Ilya Kovalchuk, allowing Ponikarovsky to easily slip behind the defense for the goal.
The Devils scored again with 4:20 left in the period following a botched pass by Kimmo Timonen in an attempt to get the puck out of the Philadelphia defensive zone. Veteran winger Patrik Elias fired a quick shot off of a pass from Kovalchuk to knot the game at 3.
But David Clarkson would break the stalemate with the eventual game winner on his redirection of Adam Larsson’s shot from the point in the third period. Steve Bernier would later add an empty net goal to seal the win for the Devils.
What went wrong for the Flyers? Both the power play and penalty kill units went 1-1, and aside from goals, the Flyers led the Devils in almost every statistical category on the night. Are these just the growing pains of a young team, or are the Flyers simply just not as good as a team like the Devils, who are continuing to establish themselves as the class of the Eastern Conference?
Only time will tell, and while every team suffers injuries throughout the year, a few key Flyers have gone down to start the season. Left winger Scott Hartnell (foot) should return to action in about a week, and defenseman Andrej Meszaros (shoulder) is hoping to return in 2-3 weeks. The Flyers are hopeful their returns will help jump start the struggling team.
In a lockout shortened season every game is important, and if the Flyers cannot mend their problems quickly, they may find themselves on the outside looking in come playoff time.