NEWARK, N.J. - Adam Henrique scored two goals and Johan Hedberg stopped 22 shots in his second straight strong performance in goal, leading the New Jersey Devils to an easy 5-2 victory over the rival Philadelphia Flyers Wednesday night at the Prudential Center.
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. After the Devils endured a six-game losing streak, they have now won three of their last four.
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.
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.
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.
Hedberg, who had been struggling as the replacement for injured Martin Brodeur, was sensational in goal, collecting big saves from the opening minutes. It was Hedberg's fifth victory of the season.
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.
The game definitely had a playoff atmosphere and the Devils wanted to come out and make a statement against their rival, who they had defeated six straight times dating back to last season.
The Devils had the first good scoring chance just 45 seconds into the game, when Alexei Ponikorovsky fired a low shot that Bryzgalov managed to kick aside.
However, the Devils got on the board a little more than a minute later, when Patrik Elias found the net. The play started when Steve Bernier fired a shot that Bryzgalov stopped, but the rebound bounced back to Henrique, then trickled to Elias, who backhanded it past a prone Bryzgalov for a 1-0 lead at the 2:02 mark of the first period.
The Flyers tied the game with 10 minutes left, just 12 seconds after Ryan Carter was sent to the penalty box for tripping. Voracek scored his 13th goal of the season off a fine feed from Wayne Simmonds. Hedberg tried to make a split save, but the puck was already behind him, tying the game at 1-1.
But the Devils scored two more goals in the first period. Henrique threw a shot in front, where there were four players battling for position. The shot managed to get by Bryzgalov for the go-ahead goal just 36 seconds after Voracek's goal, as the Devils led 2-1.
Then, the Devils pushed the lead to 3-1 on a shorthanded goal from Kovalchuk. With Bryce Salvador in the box for interference, Stephen Gionta won the battle for the puck along the right boards and pushed it ahead to Kovalchuk, who skated in alone and fired a wrist shot that Bryzgalov never saw. 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.
The Devils led 3-1 after the first period.
New Jersey increased the lead to 4-1 on a pretty goal from Loktionov, who took a pass from fellow Russian Alexei Ponikorovsky and skated into the zone alone against two Flyer defenders. But Loktionov stopped on a dime, allowing the defense slide by him, and fired a left-handed wrist shot that Bryzgalov couldn't get to. It was Lotkionov's fourth goal in just 12 games since being acquired in a trade with Los Angeles.
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 in the opening stages of the third period, when David Clarkson fed Henrique with a perfect pass and Henrique lifted a backhander high over Bryzgalov's left shoulder for a 5-1 lead just 1:26 into the period.
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 for the future Hall of Famer and it doesn't look like he'll be back soon. Devils general manager and president Lou Lamoriello, who is usually extremely tight-lipped about personnel issues, 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. ... The Devils signed 19-year-old prospect Reid Boucher to a three-year, entry level contract. Boucher, a 5-foot-11, 195-pound right wing and fourth round draft pick in 2011, is tearing up the Ontario Hockey League this season with 62 goals in 65 games. He is not eligible to play for the Devils until the 2013-14 season. He currently has 14 more goals than any other player in the OHL.