A preseason game doesn’t have a redemption or vengeance label. Usually, such a storyline would be between the Philadelphia Flyers and New Jersey Devils, considering the result on the scoreboard from Monday.
Sean Couturier, Bobby Brink, Wade Allison, and Emil Andrae all looked like a more refreshed version of themselves. Cam Atkinson, Travis Konecny, and Carter Hart fit in stride during their first action of the 2023 Flyers NHL Preseason. Sharper on home ice versus the Devils, the Flyers forced overtime hockey in back-to-back games.
“I felt pretty good; shake off the rust a little bit. That’s what preseason games are for.”Carter Hart; 9/30/2023
However, while the improvement was notable, it wasn’t enough to blemish the Devils’ perfect 2023 NHL Preseason.
Flyers vs. Devils
Brink was electric in the shootout victory in Boston. He had a goal and an assist against the Bruins, capping the night as one of two conversions against Linus Ullmark. His electricity traveled from Boston to Philadelphia, striking in the first period.
Opting out of a backhand shot, Brink located Allison after Michael Vukojevic gave up his position. Allison buried the chance, 1-0, with 17:56 remaining in the first period. The scoring play proved the Flyers’ management correct. Brink was worth an extended look at home, and he tallied his third point (1G, 2A) in two games on back-to-back nights.
“He [Allison] got that goal there. Bobby made a nice play. That line was pretty good, too, especially in the third period; they came back to life. He’s fighting for a spot, without a doubt. He’s grinding; trying to find a way out there to get things done.”Rocky Thompson; 9/30/2023
The Devils penalty kill played hard. Tyce Thompson, Nico Hischier, and Dougie Hamilton all served penalties but allowed just one official shot on goal, courtesy of Atkinson. On the night, the Flyers were 0/3 on the powerplay. They did not give the Devils a man advantage, remaining well-disciplined away from the puck.
Thompson stormed out of the penalty box after serving a tripping minor. The puck, blocked after a shot by Andrae, bounced to Thompson, who stormed down the ice to record an assist. A little bit of ‘right place, right time’ helped Thompson leverage Curtis Lazar for the finish on Hart, 1-1.
“He [Andrae] came on, too. He had a really good third period. On the powerplay, he was doing good things; that second unit was doing a lot of good things. He made a young guy mistake a couple of times late in the powerplay, not recognizing the clock and forcing something; creating those chances against. We talked about it in the room; that happens and you learn from it.”Rocky Thompson; 9/30/2023
Tying the game put the Flyers on their heels. Hart made great saves, getting quality work in his first preseason start. As the Devils began to possess the puck and dictate the pace, the shot attempts began to take a toll. Eventually, Alexander Holtz snuck behind Brendan Furry on the crease, putting the Devils ahead, 2-1.
Then, in the second period, the Flyers did a great job slowing the pace down. The Devils didn’t add to their lead. In the scoreless period, the Flyers did attempt their last powerplay of the exhibition. Similar to moments on the man advantage in Boston, the puck movement on the powerplay was efficient. A key difference was the shooting lanes, all clogged by the Devils’ penalty kill.
Late in the third period, Rhett Gardner provided the theatrics to tie the game, 2-2, with 3:06 remaining in regulation. It was the reward the Flyers deserved for finding a groove to get back into the fight versus the Devils. The lineup turned in competitive shifts for several minutes, leading up to the backdoor pass from Matt Brown. For the second time in consecutive nights, the Flyers headed into overtime.
Despite the spirited effort, the Devils were masters of the overtime period. They stretched the ice time for the Flyers, exhausting the defense with Dawson Mercer and Erik Haula. It wasn’t surprising when Haula scored the game-winner, 3-2, but an overtime loss still hurts the same. Vitek Vanecek earned the victory, outlasting Hart and the Flyers in Philadelphia.
(Photo by Joshua Sarner/Icon Sportswire)