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Brodeur, Devils waste no time beating Flyers

NEWARK, N.J. - After missing 36 games, Danny Briere was back on the ice yesterday afternoon. But it didn't do much to change the fact that Kimmo Timonen was still sick with the flu or that Martin Brodeur was back in net for New Jersey.

NEWARK, N.J. - After missing 36 games, Danny Briere was back on the ice yesterday afternoon.

But it didn't do much to change the fact that Kimmo Timonen was still sick with the flu or that Martin Brodeur was back in net for New Jersey.

Brodeur looked like he had not missed a game, making 27 saves on the Flyers and recording his 100th career shutout and the second in his first three games back since missing 50 with a torn biceps tendon.

The only other goalie to record more than 100 career shutouts was Terry Sawchuk, who had 103.

"It's a big number," Brodeur said. "It's hard to believe a little bit. I think you go out and you play and you have shutouts and there is only one other guy that got through the 100 plateau. It kind of hit me later on when guys came over and congratulated me and I figured out it was the 100 they were talking about."

It was great for New Jersey and Brodeur. It was bad for the Flyers.

The Devils scored before 4 minutes had elapsed in the first period and again in the first 37 seconds of the second. They added the third goal after Brodeur made a save on Scott Hartnell, and then batted the puck out of the air up to Bobby Holik.

The puck eventually ended up on Johnny Oduya's stick and over Marty Biron's shoulder and into the net when the New Jersey defenseman shot from the top of the circle. Biron made 39 saves on 42 shots.

The loss drops the Flyers nine points behind the Devils in the Atlantic Division, with the Flyers flying into snowy Boston for a game tomorrow night.

"I thought the first period we actually played pretty good," coach John Stevens said. "The play they made to score the goal, we had people back but we needed a better sense of urgency at our net and then they scored on the first shift of the [second] period.

"Just a poor mental commitment on the defensive side of the puck in our end and it ends up in our net and now you start playing catch-up, and lots of motivation with them and Brodeur and what's going on with him for shutouts and wins.

"We certainly made it an uphill battle," Stevens added.

While it was a loss, getting Briere back was a plus. The Flyers' top free agent two summers ago had missed all but nine games coming into yesterday due to three groin pulls and two abdominal surgeries.

"It was the first time I had the skates on for about 4 hours, so it was a little different," Briere said. "I was disappointed about the loss, but for myself it was my first game and I was glad I was able to get over that hump. Hopefully now I won't have to constantly look back and think about the injury anymore."

One injury the Flyers will have to watch is the one Simon Gagne suffered when he lost his stick on a first-period penalty kill and was hit in the left hand by a slap shot.

He was examined and returned in the second. The hand does not appear to be fractured, but he will be re-examined today in Boston.

"I took a shot right on the hand and it hurt," Gagne said. "We took an X-ray of the finger and the whole hand to make sure everything was fine. It's sore right now, but it looks like there's nothing broken.

"It's not comfortable. There's a lot of swelling in the fingers. I was able to play but when I shoot it's painful. The good thing, though, is it's not broken and it should get better every day."

Starting another game without Timonen is bad by itself; against New Jersey it was worse. Timonen has been suffering from the flu since last Monday and has missed the last three games.

With Lasse Kukkonen on loan to the Phantoms to make cap space for Briere, Nate Guenin was called up.

But the Flyers fell behind on the game's first shot on net. Zach Parise had the puck and looked like he was headed behind the Flyers net, but instead put a backhand pass through the crease and out front for Jamie Langenbrunner. The Devils' captain one-timed the pass behind Biron and into the net.

Thirty-seven seconds into the second period, Oduya took a shot from the point and Brian Gionta tipped it past Biron. Oduya tallied the third goal at 4:48 of the third - and the Devils picked up their third straight win.

As for the Flyers, they will look to get back on track in Boston. The past week has been unsettling, with the team losing Glen Metropolit and Ossi Vaananen after placing them on waivers to make cap space for Briere and still having to reshuffle the roster to clear the needed space. Metropolit was picked up by Montreal and Vaananen by Vancouver.

"It's been a little tough. Obviously, losing people is not the best thing," Flyers captain Mike Richards said, "especially guys that have been with you all year and have become pretty good friends with everybody and then get taken out of the lineup.

"There's been a lot of movement, but I think we have enough character and know the game enough to know that's going to happen. There's no excuses for losing a game, but we've rebounded all year from losses and hopefully we do that again on Tuesday." *