Hart makes 33 saves, Raffl breaks tie as Flyers beat Devils
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Carter Hart made 33 saves and fourth-line forward Michael Raffl scored the go-ahead goal early in the third period in the Philadelphia Flyers’ 3-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Thursday night.
Captain Claude Giroux scored his first of the year and defenseman Nate Prosser had his first since April 2018 to help the Flyers sweep the two-game series in New Jersey against their Turnpike rivals.
“They say never critique a win,” said Flyers coach Alain Vigneault, whose team was outshot 24-8 in the first 40 minutes. “At the end of the day we played one period where we played with energy and the way you’re supposed to play on the ice.”
Defenseman Damon Severson scored for New Jersey, and Scott Wedgewood made 14 saves. The Devils are without top goalie Mackenzie Blackwood after a positive COVID-19 test.
“The effort, energy, and the way we skated, that’s probably as good, as good as we can play in the first 40 minutes,” Devils coach Lindy Ruff said. “And still had some good looks in the third period, too.”
Hart, who broke his stick in frustration after giving up six goals to Boston over the weekend, was the difference in the first two periods. He downplayed his performance, calling it just another game
“You have to be prepared to do all the right thing but definitely feels good to come back,” he said.
The Flyers found their game in the third period, scoring twice on nine shots. Raffl broke a 1-all tie by poking the rebound of Connor Bunnaman’s shot that hit the goalpost into an open net at 2:10.
Giroux made it 3-1 a little more than four minutes later, deflecting a point shot by Erik Gustafsson past Wedgewood, who was making his fourth straight start.
Severson gave the Devils with early lead with a great shot after a rush from his own end. Prosser, who spent last season in the AHL, scored on a rebound in close to tie the contest. The veteran was playing in his first NHL game since Jan. 17, 2019 with Minnesota.
“I mean it was unreal, words can’t really describe it,” Prosser said about his goal. “I never gave up hope over the last few years. Last year was down (in the minors) all year and the year ended in March and not playing a game until tonight was an eye-opening experience for me.”
Ruff coached in a 1,500th game in the NHL.
New Jersey center Travis Zajac played in his 998th regular-season game. The 15-year veteran, who has spent his entire career with the Devils, is expected to play in his 1,000th game on Sunday.
Jesper Bratt, who signed a new contract recently, played in his first game. He missed the first six after spending a week in Sweden getting his visa and then isolates after arriving in New Jersey. He played on the Devils top line with Jack Hughes and fellow Swede Andreas Johnsson.
The Flyers won 39 of 53 faceoffs, 74%.
“We’ve got to keep working at it,” Ruff said. “The only way you’re going to get better is to know the little nuances that the other center is going to going to use, and try to combat against that.”
Flyers: Host New York Islanders on Saturday and Sunday.
Devils: At Buffalo on Saturday and Sunday.
More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports