Shut out 3-0 by the Flyers in their home opener, the Devils quickly learned they have some work to do if they want to avoid the same poor start as last season.
“Nothing looked good tonight,” Pete DeBoer said after his Devils coaching debut. “We got a good lesson tonight from a very good hockey team.”
The Flyers were faster, sharper and better with the puck in their second win of the season. Goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov stopped all 20 shots faced to earn his 24th career shutout in his first game as a Flyer.
“They looked at game speed, we looked at practice speed and we never caught up,” DeBoer said.
Goaltender Martin Brodeur was sharp amidst a flurry of action in the first period, but the Flyers took a 1-0 lead on Claude Giroux’s goal from the slot at 12:05.
The second period was better –as DeBoer said, more reflective of the game the Devils want to play – but the Devils frustration and inability to execute became apparent in the third period. Trying to create a spark, DeBoer juggled the lines but it yielded little by way of production.
Matt Read and Wayne Simmonds both tallied within the first five minutes to put the Devils in a 3-0 hole and the Devils team spent much of the remaining time down a man.
“We ran into some penalty trouble in the third and didn’t really give ourselves much of a chance to get back in it,” Zach Parise said after his first game as Devils captain. ‘We’ve got to learn from that.”
The damage could’ve been worse for the Devils had the Flyers power play been efficient. They gave up eight power-plays to Philadelphia and failed to convert on any of their five man-up opportunities.
“If we’re going to take penalties the way we did, it’s too much. It takes away from our game that we want to play,” Brodeur said. “It’s something we need to address, getting more disciplined.”
Feisty winger David Clarkson was ejected from the game midway through the third period; he said he asked an official why he earned an extra two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct for his third-period scrap with Simmonds and got no explanation.
"I have no idea," Clarkson said. "It's frustrating when you're down like that. I just wanted to get things going or take some frustration out and I ended up getting kicked out."
Fourth-line center Brad Mills, who won 10 of 11 draws, incurred a boarding minor for his hit on Philadelphia’s Jakub Voracek at 16:01 of the third. Although the NHL has set a strict tone on hits from behind, it appears unlikely Mills will face any supplementary discipline.
Winless in opening-night games for the past three years, the Devils hope they can straighten things out before Monday’s holiday matinee against the Hurricanes.
“It’s one of those nights you want to learn from but you also want to forget as quickly as you can,” DeBoer said. “This league doesn’t allow you to feel sorry for yourself.”