NEWARK, N.J. (AP)—The New Jersey Devils followed their worst loss of the season with one of their best efforts.
Veteran Dainius Zubrus scored his first two goals of the season and rookie Rodney Pelley got the first of his career in a three-goal flurry to help New Jersey beat the Philadelphia Flyers 4-1 on Thursday night.
“We responded in the right way,” Devils coach Brent Sutter said. “There was a lot of emotion tonight on our end. I thought we were mentally strong the whole game.”
After Monday night’s 5-0 thrashing at the hands of Pittsburgh, Sutter put players through grueling practices Tuesday and Wednesday. He has not been shy about publicly criticizing players in the season’s early weeks as the defending Atlantic Division champions limped to a 5-7-2 record.
For one night at least, the tough love worked.
Playing like the Devils of old, New Jersey choked off Philadelphia’s attack and outshot the Flyers 39-14. Martin Brodeur was barely tested by the Flyers, who were playing the final game of an eight-game road trip.
“We came out flat from the get-go,” said Flyers defenseman Mike Richards. “They turned the puck over a lot with their forechecking and we didn’t match their intensity. We didn’t have our legs out there, but you have to battle through that and we didn’t.”
While Sutter praised Zubrus’ work ethic, the effort wasn’t translating into goals until Thursday.
“Obviously it hurts your confidence a little bit and it’s in the back of your mind, but you know the goals are going to come,” Zubrus said. “Playing in the league for 11 years, you just try to bring a consistent effort every night and not get too high or too low.”
Zubrus and Brian Gionta scored within 18 seconds of each other in the first period after spotting Philadelphia a 1-0 lead, and Zubrus scored late in the period to give New Jersey a 3-1 lead.
The struggling Devils entered the game having won just two of their last eight games, but found their offensive rhythm and equaled their combined goals for the last three games with Pelley’s score.
Pelley’s goal early in the second period sent Flyers goaltender Martin Biron to the bench. The last time the teams met on Oct. 18, Biron shut out the Devils 4-0.
With New Jersey trailing 1-0 after Knuble’s power-play goal, Gionta picked up a loose puck to the left of Biron and scored with 5:32 left in the period.
The puck went into the Flyers’ end off the faceoff and, after a shot from between the circles by Jay Pandolfo, Zubrus stuffed the rebound past Biron with 5:14 left. He scored again with 29 seconds left in the period on a high wrister that hit Biron’s shoulder and fell behind him.
The scoring burst began not long after the Devils heard boos from the crowd at the new Prudential Center for wasting a four-minute power play with Philadelphia’s Riley Cote off for high-sticking Patrik Elias and drawing blood from the face of the Devils forward.
Gagne missed four games earlier in the season with dizziness after a check by Florida’s Jay Bouwmeester on Oct. 24 … Philadelphia recalled forward Stefan Ruzicka from the Philadelphia Phantoms of the AHL … D Karel Rachunek returned after missing four games because of a groin injury … Devils’ Arron Asham and Cote squared off in the first period, with Asham absorbing some shots before scoring a clean takedown … The Flyers fell to 7-1 this season when scoring first … The crowd looked considerably smaller than the announced 14,948 in the Devils’ fifth game of the season at the Prudential Center.