PHILADELPHIA – Let’s face it, any loss to a Metro Division foe is bad enough but when it comes against your hated rivals just up the turnpike, it doubly smarts.
The Flyers decided they were tired of taking grief from the New Jersey Devils, especially after last Wednesday’s discouraging 3-0 loss in Newark.
So they went out and did something about it Tuesday night, decisively blowing the Jersey boys out of the Wells Fargo Center by a 6-1 score.
It was the Flyers’ third straight win, raised their record to 11-12-4 and moved them past the Devils in the division standings.
The Flyers had lost both encounters with the Devils this season, the defeats coming in just the past few weeks, so frustration was mounting.
Cam Atkinson led the attack with his first hat trick as a Flyer. He scored a goal in each period and now leads the team in goals with 12.
Interim coach Mike Yeo has been preaching a more aggressive attitude and forecheck from the start of the game and his players followed that cue in this encounter.
“That’s what we want to be a big part of our game,’’ Yeo said. “We want to be a team that’s hard to play against and the physicality with that forecheck. It’s not just running around. It’s about recovering pucks.’’
Philadelphia broke the game open with a three-goal second period, featuring the second of the three goals from Atkinson, plus markers from Justin Braun and Oskar Lindblom.
Braun connected on a long shot at 6:07 for a 3-0 lead. After P.K. Subban countered for the Devils at 6:43, the Flyers began to pull away. First, Atkinson scored off a shorthanded breakaway with a 25-foot blast against goalie Mackenzie Blackwood at 16:16. Then Lindblom converted an Atkinson feed off a Jersey turnover at 18:20. It was Lindblom’s second goal of the season.
What a difference a week makes. The Flyers got bombed 7-1 by Tampa Bay in Alain Vigneault’s last game as coach and then gave up seven more in a 7-5 defeat by Colorado in Yeo’s first game.
The Flyers are 3-1 since then.
“We had a lot more energy,’’ Yeo said. “This is a team (the Devils) who had our number. We wanted to make sure we played this game with an edge. We wanted to have a really good home game. We hadn’t had one of those in a long time.’’
Atkinson has scored a hat trick in the past in Philadelphia, only it was in a Columbus Blue Jacket uniform.
The offensive display is a direct result of the team playing a better two-way game.
“It’s just play the right way, positive things,’’ Atkinson said. “Sticking together, playing with energy, good checking, good habits. Capitalizing on opportunities.’’
The Flyers raced to a 2-0 lead in the first period on goals from Travis Sanheim and Atkinson.
Sanheim registered his first of the season at 9:14, finishing off a Rasmus Ristolainen entry from the left circle. Sanheim’s wide-angle shot found its way under Blackwood’s pads.
Ristolainen also assisted on the second goal. With the teams skating four aside, Ristolainen spotted Atkinson wide open at the left post and Blackwood had no chance on the right wing’s tap-in.
The Finnish backliner threw his body around in this game and flattened a few Devils along the way.
“I have to kind of get in the game, too,’’ he said. “I have to feel some bodies so that’s a big part of my game.”
What about the offensive side of the puck?
“That’s like a flashback, Rasmus as an 18-year-old,’’ he said. “I have to pick my spots and tonight I had some good opportunities there. But still my first job is to keep our net clean.”
Added Sanheim, who is Ristolainen’s partner: “He adds energy. Anytime you see him make a big hit it brings some excitement to the team and gets guys going. That’s a key part of his game and he does a great job with it.’’
Atkinson completed his hat trick at 7:09 of the third period off a feed from Claude Giroux.
It was Giroux’s 882nd career point as a Flyer, moving him within one point of tying Bill Barber for second on the Flyers’ alltime list.
Carter Hart picked up the win in goal for the Flyers.
>Frost pulled from game for COVID protocol
Flyers forward Morgan Frost was pulled just several shifts into the game and placed in health protocol.
“I was told due to COVID protocol that he had to be removed from the game,’’ Yeo said. “I know we’ll have more on his status tomorrow morning. We’re aware of what’s going on around the league. Everyone’s health is at the top of the list of what’s important. I’m not sure what the league is going to do, what we’re going to do.’’
>Recchi gets ovation
Former Flyer Mark Recchi, making his first visit to Philadelphia as an assistant coach of the Devils, received a nice ovation after an announcement about his induction into the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame this past summer. Recchi still holds the single-season point record for the Flyers with 123.