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Devils continue hot streak, sink struggling Flyers 5-2

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NEWARK, N.J. - Eight days ago, when the New Jersey Devils were in the midst of their longest losing streak in two decades, dropping six straight, the players all believed that they were playing fairly well, but just losing.

Now, that the Devils have turned things around and won three out of four, the breaks are finally going their way.

"A week ago or so, the shots I took would have either hit the post or gone wide," said Adam Henrique, who scored two goals in the Devils' 5-2 win over the rival Philadelphia Flyers Wednesday night at the Prudential Center.

"It's just the way it goes sometimes," said Henrique, who scored goals in the first and third periods. "Sometimes, you get the bounces. I always thought that it was just a matter of time before things would go our way. I was in the right place at the right time. I just tried to get the puck on net as much as possible. I'll take it any way I can."

The Devils (13-9-5) moved into a tie for fifth place in the NHL Eastern Conference standings with Ottawa and Toronto. All three teams have 31 points.

The Flyers (12-15-1), desperate for wins and points, failed to gain any ground in the standings and remain in 11th place with 25 points.

Johan Hedberg stopped 23 shots in his second straight strong performance in goal. He struggled during the team's losing streak, but Hedberg feels he's turned things around as well. He made several spectacular saves Wednesday night for his fifth win of the season.

"I started to feel the momentum during the last game as well," Hedberg said. "I had too many up-and-down games. I had to be consistent. I'm thrilled to be able to do well. Tonight, we got more breaks and I can't remember the last time we put five in the net, so it's nice to get the cushion."

The last time the Devils scored five goals in a game was against the Flyers Feb. 15 in a 5-3 win.

Henrique scored his eighth goal of the season in the first period and added his ninth on a power-play opportunity in the third period.

"Everyone had the emotions of a big game," Henrique said. "It was definitely there. Any time you play the Flyers, it's a big game. It's a big rivalry, especially after (last year's) playoffs."

The Devils eliminated the Flyers in the Eastern Conference semifinals last year in five games, winning four straight games in the process. With the three straight New Jersey has this season against the Flyers, they've now won the last seven contests.

Andrei Loktionov and Patrik Elias each had a goal and an assist and Ilya Kovalchuk scored a shorthanded goal for New Jersey. Kovalchuk now has a five-game streak with at least one point and Elias, the Devils' leading scorer, tallied his ninth goal of the year.

"We had a lot of good drives to the net early, got a couple of goals and off we went," Elias said. "We've had good success against them and did it again tonight. It's most important for us to stay with the game plan like we did tonight. It's such a close race and it's such an intense game every night."

Jakub Voracek scored his team-high 13th goal of the season in the first period for the Flyers. Scott Hartnell, who is still working himself back to shape after returning from a broken foot, scored his second goal of the season late in the third period. It gave both Voracek and Hartnell a goal and an assist for the game.

Ilya Bryzgalov had a tough night in net for Philadelphia, making 27 saves on 32 shots. After the game, the goalie was at a loss for words.

"I don't have any idea what to say," Bryzgalov said. "I'm just tired of losing."

The Flyers have dropped four of their last five games.

"It's just bad right now," Bryzgalov said. "I have no answers. We have no emotions. We keep doing the same thing, making the same mistakes. We've been doing that all year."

The Devils got on the board at the 2:02 mark of the first period, when Elias found the net. The Flyers tied the game midway through the opening period when Voracek scored his 13th goal of the season.

But the Devils scored two more goals in the first period, one by Henrique and then a shorthanded goal from Kovalchuk. The goal was Kovalchuk's 10th goal of the season and his fourth shorthanded tally. The Devils have scored eight shorthanded goals and Kovalcuk has half of those. Both totals lead the league.

New Jersey increased the lead to 4-1 on a pretty goal from Loktionov. The Flyers lost a lot of their spirit after Loktionov's goal, collecting two penalties that a team doesn't need when trailing their rival by three goals. They received one unthinkable call for having too many men on the ice and another for closing the glove on the puck in their own zone.

The Devils then added a power-play goal early in the third period, when Henrique lifted a backhander high over Bryzgalov's left shoulder for a 5-1 lead.

The two teams face each other again Friday night in Philadelphia, in what shapes up to be a must-win for the Flyers.

NOTES: Devils defenseman Henrik Tallinder has joined teammates Martin Brodeur and forward Dainius Zubrus on the injured list. Tallinder, who had missed the prior four games with a lower body injury, was placed on the injured list Wednesday and replaced by center Harri Pesonen, who was a healthy scratch for Wednesday's game. ... While Brodeur has begun to skate on his own, there is no timetable -- and it doesn't look like he'll be back soon. Devils general manager and president Lou Lamoriello said that "it's still going to be a little bit." Brodeur has missed 10 games and Johan Hedberg has started all 10 in his absence. ... Devils rookie forward Stefan Matteau and defenseman Mark Fayne were healthy scratches. ... Flyers forward Mike Knuble, who scored a goal against New Jersey in the Feb. 15 game, won by the Devils, was a scratch for the fourth straight game. The Flyers also scratched defenseman Luke Schenn for the first time this season.
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