NEWARK, N.J. -- Maybe the Flyers won’t make the playoffs. Maybe their torrid late-season push will fall short.
But at least they are making things interesting.
James van Riemsdyk scored two first-period goals Friday as the Flyers defeated injury-riddled New Jersey, 6-3, at the Prudential Center, improving to 15-3-2 in their last 20 games.
Goalie Cam Talbot, making his first appearance in 20 nights, stopped 30 shots in his Flyers debut. He was acquired from Edmonton for Anthony Stolarz on Feb. 15.
Talbot became the eighth goalie to play for the Flyers this season, giving them an unwanted NHL record.
“I was a little off in the first period; they kind of took it to us in the first five minutes and I had to get my legs under me,” Talbot said. “After that, I kind of settled in.”
Travis Konecny (two goals, his 19th and 20th) finished the Flyers’ scoring with an empty-net tally.
Van Riemsdyk and Jake Voracek (three assists) each had three points for the Flyers, who edged to within five points of a playoff spot and have 17 games left. What once was a 16-point deficit has been reduced to a manageable number, though there is little margin for error.
“It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t pretty, but we found a way to win and that’s all that matters,” said center Sean Couturier, who contributed his 26th goal of the season.
The Flyers, coming off a 4-3 overtime loss in Columbus on Thursday, took a 3-2 lead on a bizarre goal by hustling right winger Konecny with 30 seconds left in the second period.
New Jersey goalie Cory Schneider tried to poke the puck away from the on-charging Konecny, but the puck bounced off the skate of Devils center Kevin Rooney and into the net.
Before the Konecny goal, the Flyers were thoroughly outplayed in the second period.
“It definitely changed the momentum in our direction,” Konecny said.
Just 27 seconds into the third period, Couturier padded the lead to 4-2. Taking a feed from Claude Giroux, he weaved around traffic and scored from the left circle.
With 6:33 left in regulation, defenseman Ivan Provorov, of all people, tipped in Travis Sanheim’s drive to make it 5-2.
The Flyers’ power play did little after Kurtis Gabriel was assessed a five-minute boarding penalty for a high hit on Nolan Patrick with 14:58 left in the first. In fact, they were outshot by a 4-2 margin during that span, including a shorthanded breakaway by Blake Coleman that Talbot turned aside.
“For me, that was a big confidence-booster after not playing for a while,” Talbot said.
Later in the game, Patrick went after Gabriel, and there were several scrums as the Flyers sought retribution. After Patrick’s high hit on Gabriel, the Devils forward left the game to be tested for a concussion, as did Patrick in the first period.
“He’s in their lineup for a reason, I guess, to do that,” Patrick said about Gabriel stirring things up. “The best way to respond is the way we did -- by beating them.”
Shortly after their five-minute power-play struggle, the Flyers regrouped. Van Riemsdyk took a pass from Giroux (two assists) and whipped a left-circle shot past Schneider on the Flyers’ next power play, putting them ahead, 1-0, with 7:07 remaining in the first.
Just 1:23 later, Ryan Hartman went behind the net and dropped a slick pass in front that van Riemsdyk converted into his 19th goal -- and sixth in the last nine games.
“Both those plays were super-great passes and I was just trying to find that soft spot,” van Riemsdyk said.
The Devils tied it on second-period goals by Damon Severson and Jesper Bratt, both scored on fat rebounds allowed by Talbot.
Because of injuries, the Devils were missing seven regular forwards, including Kyle Palmieri (team-high 26 goals) and Taylor Hall, the league’s MVP last season.