PHILADELPHIA – Stop an opponent’s first line during even-strength play and there’s a good chance you’re going to come away with a win.
That was part of the Flyers’ formula for success in their 3-1 win over the New Jersey Devils at the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday afternoon.
Philadelphia’s defense pairing of Shayne Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov kept the Devils’ top line of Taylor Hall, Nico Hischier and Jesper Bratt in check, with the exception of a power-play goal by Bratt in the second period.
The Gostisbehere-Provorov tandem played tight defense on the Hall line, limiting their scoring chances and putting up a wall in front of goaltender Michal Neuvirth.
“We look mostly toward the challenge,’’ Gostisbehere said after the game. “Obviously we’re playing against the other team’s top line. It’s a challenge every game.
“As a pair, I think we try to keep it simple, pick our spots and it’s working.’’
Hall, specifically, has been a pain in the Flyers’ rear ends over the years so the defenders try to keep an eye on him.
“Cut off his time and space,’’ Gostisbehere said, explaining his strategy against Hall. “He’s got great speed. I think ‘Provy’ did it a couple times, I stand him up and he comes and gets the puck, or he cuts him off and I get the puck.
“It worked for us. If you take the guy’s speed like that, a guy who uses a lot of speed, it’s easier for us.’’
Provorov looks like a good fit in this pairing. He has the defensive skills to complement Ghost’s offensive talent.
“I think we understand the game in a similar way,’’ he said. “We understand where we are on the ice all the time. I think it helps us to get out of our zone quick. Get to the neutral zone real fast and create some offense.’’
From a goalie’s perspective, Michal Neuvirth appreciates what this defense pairing has brought to the table.
“Provy is usually playing against the No. 1 forward,’’ Neuvirth said. “He’s doing an outstanding job every game. He just proved himself again tonight.
“They don’t feel young to me. It’s a game of mistakes but they’re doing a great job on an everyday basis.’’