The scene was similar.
Only eight months ago, the New Jersey Devils (2-0-0) embarrassed the Philadelphia Flyers (0-3-0) in the Eastern Conference semifinal in five games by avoiding the Flyers hard-hitting style of play and using it to their advantage.
On Tuesday night, the Devils did that again, beating the Flyers rather handily, 3-0, at Prudential Center. It’s New Jersey’s second win in as many games, and drops Philadelphia to a miserable 0-3 start.
New Jersey scored three goals on its first three shots of the game, beating Ilya Bryzgalov quick and forcing the Flyers to play desperately, much like they did in games two-through-five of their playoff series last spring.
Travis Zajac and David Clarkson each scored their second goal of the season in the opening period for the Devils, and Ilya Kovalchuk added a short-handed penalty shot goal early in the third period to give New Jersey a comfortable lead.
From that point on, the Flyers looked to get the Devils into as many fights and scrums as they possibly could, trying to light a spark under the team, but New Jersey stayed smart — just like they did in the playoffs — and backed away from most of the opportunities that presented themselves.
Late in the second period, Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds knocked over Devils goalie Martin Brodeur after a save, clearly looking to create a reaction from New Jersey. As soon as he did, Simmonds dropped his stick and both gloves and swung at the several Devils’ players that came in aid of their netminder.
And, of course, the win would not have been complete — or playoff-like — without the scintillating performance from Brodeur. Brodeur stopped 24 shots on the night, earning his first shutout of the 2013 season and his 120th of his career.
The shutout was Brodeur’s 10th against Philadelphia in his career, tying the Flyers with the New York Islanders for the most shutouts against an individual team for Brodeur.
The Devils certainly took advantage of the Flyers playing their third game in four days. Head coach Pete DeBoer said New Jersey, particularly Kovalchuk and Jacob Josefson, who played overseas during the lockout had, “significantly better legs,” according to the Bergen Record.
When Brodeur was asked about the fan reaction to the first Devils home game in over eight months, he said, “Hockey is back in New Jersey, I guess,” according to the Star Ledger.
New Jersey will be back at home on Friday, when they host the Washington Capitals (0-2-0) in an attempt to move to 3-0 on the season.