The top teams in the Atlantic Division already had a simmering rivalry, and this matchup pitted two of the NHL’s hottest teams.
Sami Kapanen scored a goal and set up two others to rally the Flyers to a 3-3 tie with the Devils on Friday night in a game that had fans standing for almost every rush up the ice in overtime.
The teams will play again Saturday in Philadelphia.
“It was actually a nice reprieve to have back-to-back games with this kind of intensity during a monotonous 82-game schedule,” said Flyers center Keith Primeau, who got the game-tying goal with less than seven minutes to play.
“It makes for a lot of excitement,” Primeau added. “We’ve been looking forward to both these games for a couple of weeks. Tonight was a lot of fun.”
The Flyers’ only loss in the run was to Ottawa. Their loss to New Jersey on Oct. 30 was Philadelphia’s last before a 12-game unbeaten streak.
“It was pretty exciting to play and to watch,” said Elias, who staked New Jersey to a 3-2 lead early in the third period. “It had everything.”
Philadelphia leads the Devils by six points in the Atlantic Division.
There is bound to be bad blood on Saturday after a scrum late in overtime in front of the Devils net. Brodeur made a nice save on Tony Amonte, who took an extra swipe at the rebound. Brodeur then hit him in the head.
“We needed to have a game like that to have an exciting game tomorrow,” Brodeur said. “There is going to be carry over. Definitely this is the push to see who is going to get the series.”
Despite the Flyers’ comeback, the game again exposed the Flyers’ perennial weakness—goaltending.
Niedermayer’s goal came on a 100-foot shot from his side of center ice and Elias whizzed another shot past the goaltender’s glove on a third-period power play. Hackett stared up the crowd after the goal, and the crowd responded by cheering every time he made a save after that.
“Our guys played great. They really bailed me out. I didn’t see it,” Hackett said of his play and Niedermayer’s goal. “I don’t think I set my alarm clock until the second period.”
The Flyers rallied from deficits of 2-0 and 3-2 to tie it. Kapanen scored the first goal and set up the last two with great passes.
On the one that tied it at 3, Kapanen got the puck behind the net, turned and found Primeau on the edge of the crease for a tap-in goal with 6:25 left in the third.
Elias gave New Jersey the lead with a power-play goal at 1:17 of the third.
The Flyers staged a remarkable second-period comeback after falling behind 2-0 late in the first period. Hackett didn’t see Niedermayer’s long shot until the last second.
Instead of being deflated, the Flyers picked up their intensity and outshot New Jersey 16-5 in the second. The shot total was the highest in a period against the Devils this season.
Kapanen cut the deficit to 2-1 at 3:57 with a shot from the slot that Brodeur almost stopped. Brodeur made a good save in close on Justin Williams, but Primeau got the rebound and found Kapanen.
Kapanen made the good pass on Brashear’s tying goal at 10:29, skating from his own zone into the Devils’ end and then finding the big, tough guy on a two on one.
Sergei Brylin did all the work on Pandolfo’s goal, skating around the net and firing a shot from the circle that hit off Pandolfo and just got into the net.
Niedermayer scored with 31 seconds left in the first when he let a shot go10-to-15 feet behind the center-ice line.
Primeau has 601 NHL points. … The attendance of 18,055 was about 1,000 less than a sellout. New Jersey has had only two sellouts in 16 home games. … Devils C John Madden (broken nose, facial cuts) missed the game. … New Jersey D Colin White (knee) returned to lineup after missing four games. … Robert Esche, who shares the goaltending with Hackett, missed his thirdstraight game with a groin injury.