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Second Line Bails Out Flyers in New Jersey

Upon returning to the east coast after a four game road trip out west, the Philadelphia Flyers took the ice in New Jersey for a matchup with a lowly Devils squad. For all that can be said about New Jersey's record this season, there are never any easy points that come from an Atlantic Division game. Thursday night was no different.

The Devils fought tooth and nail in their game plan of slowing the pace of play against the Flyers. Although the game could have gone either way, the line of Ville Leino, Daniel Briere and Scott Hartnell proved to be the difference in a 4-2 Philadelphia victory.

At the outset of Thursday night’s game, the Flyers came out strong offensively, but they couldn’t find the back of the net. They had two golden opportunities on the odd man rush as well as some other close calls that were snuffed out by Devils goalie Johan Hedberg. The game had all the makings of one where the team that dominated and couldn’t capitalize would lose momentum in the blink of an eye.

That’s exactly what happened when Dainius Zubrus deflected an Anton Volchenkov point shot for the game’s first goal 11 minutes into the game. Zubrus’ stellar work in front of Brian Boucher took the wind out of the Flyers’ sails and at the first intermission the score remained 1-0.

Although the Flyers turned the offensive pressure back up in the second period, they needed a huge break to even the game at one apiece. On a Leino dump-in to New Jersey’s zone, Hedberg moved behind his net to play the puck. However, the puck took a fortuitous bounce for the Flyers and ended up in front of the open net. The bounce was just what the Flyers needed as Hartnell deposited it in the back of the net with a little over four minutes remaining in the second period.

It wouldn’t be long until the Devils grabbed the momentum back from the orange and black. David Clarkson broke free from Sean O’Donnell and beat Brian Boucher top-shelf to break the tie. Upon first glance, the goal wasn’t indicated, as it bounced right back over Boucher as if it had hit the crossbar. However, the play was reviewed at the next stoppage of play, and the Devils rightfully restored their one-goal lead.

But, Leino and Hartnell wouldn’t let the Flyers go into the second intermission trailing their longtime rivals. Leino sent a centering pass into some traffic in front of Hedberg and Hartnell managed to redirect the puck into the net with just over a minute to play in the second period. With momentum back on their side, the Flyers headed to the third period looking like they had weathered the Devils valiant efforts.

Leino continued his stellar game early in the third when another bounce of the puck went Philadelphia’s way. When attempting to center the puck, Leino’s pass was batted down on the ice and the bouncing puck found Briere. His quick shot surprised Hedberg and gave the Flyers a 3-2 lead about three minutes into the third period. Briere would later score on an odd man rush, when his centering pass to Hartnell was deflected in by Colin White’s skate. The Flyers would salt away the remaining 8:26 and head back home to Philadelphia where they’ll welcome the Devils on Saturday.

Thursday night’s game had all the makings of a lethargic loss for the Flyers when they didn’t get many bounces that went their way in the game’s first 35 minutes. However, Leino, Briere and Hartnell kept flying around the ice until they made the bounces go their way. The end result was the team’s second straight victory, despite being held to a season-low 20 shots on goal.

After all was said and done, Leino notched his first career three-point game, Briere scored his 20th goal, and Hartnell continued his stellar season with a couple of greasy goals. When the team needed a boost, the second line came through again. The result was two points for the Flyers, and much deserved praise for the team’s most consistent line this season.

As I figure out where the rest of the team’s offense was on Thursday, feel free to follow me at www.twitter.com/mtrible or email me at mtrible@thecheckingline.com