Read (left) Couturier and Braydon Coburn helped Flyers climb within two points of Devils in Metropolitan Division
By Ben Sullivan
Matt Read picked a great night to break out of his funk.
He had a goal and an assist in the first period Thursday to help the Flyers defeat the Devils 4-1.
Sean Couturier also had a goal and an assist. Wayne Simmonds and Jakub Voracek each scored a goal for the Flyers (10-13-5), and Ray Emery made 17 saves to earn his fifth win.
Read’s goal was his first in the past 12 games, third in 28 games this season. That’s a far cry from the 20-goal seasons he’s had in two of his first three NHL seasons.
“I wouldn’t say losing confidence, but getting frustrated a little bit,” Read said. “You keep telling yourself you’ve got to work hard, get in front of the net. Do those little things and eventually something will go in. You can’t get too down or too frustrated, because once you do that, you start gripping the stick a little too tight and it’s not going to go for you.”
Read got to the net and was in the right spot when Couturier’s pass from the bottom of the left faceoff circle eluded two Devils defenders and goalie Cory Schneider to land on Read’s stick on the right post. It made for an easy tap-in and a 2-0 Flyers lead at 13:37 of the first.
Read started the play by helping Couturier win a board battle deep in the New Jersey end. That followed his smart play on the Flyers’ first goal, when he blocked a shot and started a 2-on-1 shorthanded rush that Couturier capped with his sixth goal.
“We talk about blocking shots, doing the little things out there [on the penalty kill],” Read said. “Luckily it bounced to the boards and I was able to get a hop on it. [Couturier] hustled up the ice, give him the puck and he finished it.”
Couturier’s goal extended his point streak to five games. He has two goals and four assists in the streak after he had one assist in his previous 10 games.
Although Read and Couturier are counted on for their defensive and checking skills — they have the fewest offensive-zone starts of any Flyers forwards to play more than 10 games this season — coach Craig Berube said they have to chip in offensively as well.
“To me it’s speed and shooting the puck and an attack mentality,” he said. “They can’t just go out there and think about checking. They do have to do that, but when they do have the puck, they have to make something happen.”
The Devils (11-14-5) did little with the puck Thursday, getting 18 shots on goal. It’s the second time in three games the Devils have been held to less than 20 shots; they had a season-low 16 shots Monday in a 2-1 win against the Carolina Hurricanes.
“I think we didn’t do a good enough job getting pucks to the net,” Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. “I thought we had [offensive] zone time; we got pucks to the point quite a bit. I thought our [defensemen] did not do a good enough job getting pucks to the net … that’s why the lack of shots.”
Martin Havlat scored with 6:58 left in the second period to make it 2-1. The goal was Havlat’s first in nine games, his third of the season. The Devils had other chances to get back into the game, with their best coming on a 3-on-1 break in the second that Mark Streit helped short-circuit by sprawling to tip the puck away from Jordin Tootoo to Andy Greene, and Emery stopped Greene’s shot from in close on the right side.
The Flyers put the game away with two goals in the third. Simmonds’ power-play goal at 4:16 provided the insurance they needed. He tipped Mark Streit’s high shot, but Schneider stopped that and made another save on Simmonds on the rebound. But Simmonds stayed with the play and finally got it past Schneider for his 12th goal.
“It was nice to get the insurance goal,” Simmonds said. “You don’t want to go down to the last two minutes up one goal there.”
Voracek closed the scoring with an empty-net goal with 2:30 remaining.
The goal was Voracek’s 10th. He’s tied with Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins for second in the NHL with 35 points, one behind the Dallas Stars’ Tyler Seguin.
Most of the Flyers’ offense this season has come from Voracek and Claude Giroux, who had two assists Thursday. A lack of secondary scoring is one reason Philly is on the outside of the Stanley Cup Playoff race. But the hope is strong games Thursday from Read and Couturier can serve as a catalyst for them moving forward.
“We want to help this team produce offensively,” Couturier said. “We don’t want to be just shut-down guys. We talked about coming back to the basics, having the guys in the right places. Tonight that seemed to work out pretty good.”