NOT TOO LONG ago, James van Riemsdyk was playing street hockey in his driveway in Middletown, N.J. Like any kid playing with his two younger brothers, van Riemsdyk can remember "scoring" against all of the NHL's biggest names. Frequently, the target was New Jersey Devils netminder Martin Brodeur - who could go down as the best goalie to ever play the game by the time his career is over.
Last night, van Riemsdyk made that dream a reality.
Van Riemsdyk's third-period tally, in which he received a gift-wrapped New Jersey turnover in the slot and blindly threw it toward the net on a turnaround shot, looked like an insurance goal at the time. It ended up being the game-winner as the Flyers held on for a scrappy, 3-2 win over the visiting Devils.
Van Riemsdyk's weak wrist shot somehow made its way through the pads of Brodeur, the NHL's career wins leader.
"[There was] definitely a time or two thinking that [scoring against Brodeur] with the stick out on the driveway with my brother," van Riemsdyk said. "You always kind of relive scoring goals against guys like that. So it's pretty cool to get one on the ice.
"I kind of got lucky. I think I handcuffed him a little bit there. He's a tough goalie to beat. He plays a little bit different, but I guess that's why he's so good."
The win not only snapped the Atlantic Division-leading Devils' eight-game winning streak but also prevented them from tying an NHL record for most road wins to start a season (10).
Last night, Brodeur did not look like the best goalie in the house - let alone the history of the game. That's not to say he wasn't good, he was just outplayed by Ray Emery.
Emery was brilliant throughout the entire game, stopping 33 of 35 shots in front of 19,673 fans and a national television audience. He set the tone early, turning aside five Devils scoring chances with crisp saves in the first 5 minutes alone, against a pesky club that has jumped on teams quickly this season.
"He was sharp," Flyers coach John Stevens said. "Obviously they had a lot at stake with the road record on the line. Ray looked really sharp and I thought he responded to the challenge well."
"We really wanted that one," Emery said. "We wanted to limit our mistakes, limit their chances. Them coming in here, especially when we dropped a tough one [against Buffalo] a couple nights ago, we really wanted that one."
The Flyers never trailed, thanks to Darroll Powe's goal in the first period on a one-timer from a Claude Giroux backhand pass. It was Powe's sixth goal this season, already matching his total from last year.
"I've just been finding some open spaces," the always-humble Powe said. "My linemates are doing a great job. They've been feeding me, so it has been pretty easy."
Powe skated with Arron Asham (before Asham left the game with an oblique strain) and Giroux, who was centering a line for the first time since October. Giroux finished with two assists, also helping out with Mike Richards on Scott Hartnell's power-play goal in the second period.
"I like [Giroux] in the middle," Stevens said. "We had to bounce around him."
Hartnell's fluke goal 44 seconds into the second period gave the Flyers a 2-0 edge, but the Devils clawed back into it.
Late in the second period, Richards was whistled for "tripping" New Jersey's Cory Murphy while in pursuit of the puck in the Devils' zone. Richards' stick got tangled in Murphy's legs and he fell when awkwardly trying to pivot toward the puck.
With Jeff Carter - one of the Flyers' other top penalty killers - already in the box, it didn't take long for David Clarkson to capitalize on a two-man advantage.
Clarkson pounded in a rebound off Emery and the call, much to the chagrin of the Flyers' captain, had the potential to change the game by bringing the Devils within one.
Van Riemsdyk's seeing-eye wrister with 9:22 remaining in the third period made it a moot point.
"We take pride in our penalty kill," said Ian Laperriere, one of those penalty killers. "It was a little frustrating. But at the end of the day, we won the game and that's all that really matters."
With time expiring and a pileup in front of the Flyers' net, Zach Parise blasted a shot past Emery. Parise's shot registered with 0.6 seconds remaining and caused a brouhaha in front of the net.
"It's water under the bridge," Stevens said. "The two points was the main thing here tonight. Obviously they were looking to do something pretty special, and for us it was just another warning that they were going to be ready to play and play as hard as they possibly can."
Although it was Dave Schultz Night at the Wachovia Center, there was not a single fighting penalty in last night's game . . . The Flyers blocked 12 more shots than New Jersey, stopping 26 pucks from reaching Ray Emery . . . Scott Hartnell had a team-high six shots on goal . . . The Flyers were slated to arrive in Los Angeles about 1:30 this morning since their charter flight left immediately after the game.
For more news and analysis, read Frank Seravalli's blog, Frequent Flyers, at http://go.philly.com/frequentflyers.