BREAKING OUT of the Flyers' zone, Danny Briere could tell from the reaction of the 19,724 inside the Wells Fargo Center that something was happening.
Martin Brodeur had just skated to the New Jersey bench, an aggressive pull by coach Peter DeBoer with a shade over 5 minutes remaining, giving the Devils an extra attacker.
Crossing the blue line, Briere handled a selfless Jake Voracek pass and got jittery. He knew, with an empty net in front of him, that the most painful drought of his professional career might soon be over. He shot it into the shin pads of Devils defenseman Marek Zidlicky.
"I think that was the perfect example of someone who's not playing with a lot of confidence," Briere said. "Ninety-nine percent of the time, I would have faked the shot to try to go around the defenseman."
Somehow, the puck landed back on Briere's stick. He had another shot at redemption. And $6.5 million players don't miss two empty nets.
As Briere put his head back, raised his stick to the rafters and glided into the boards in celebration, 66 days worth of frustration melted away. It was his first goal in 24 games.
Never had any empty-net goal felt so good.
"You could tell he was pretty happy," Voracek said. "With this guy, it was only a matter of time."
Briere and South Jersey housemate Sean Couturier must have had a special pregame meal on Monday night, because both players snapped goal-less streaks dating to January. They powered the Flyers to an important, 3-0 win over the Devils last night.
It was Briere's first goal since netting a hat trick against Ottawa on Jan. 7 and Couturier's first non-empty netter since Jan. 17. Last night also marked the first time since March 1 - a span of six games - that the Devils allowed more than one goal.
"I knew both of us were in a little bit of a funk, but I didn't know how long it was for him," Briere said. "It's going to be a big relief in the household. Hopefully now I can relax a bit and score a few more goals. It's been frustrating lately."
Along the way, Ilya Bryzgalov tied a franchise record with his third straight shutout as the Flyers solidified their hold on fifth place in the Eastern Conference over New Jersey. It was Bryzgalov's fifth shutout of the season and his fourth in his last five starts.
The Flyers held New Jersey to 17 shots, one off their best defensive performance of this season. Peter Laviolette called it "one of our most complete games of the season."
Bryzgalov will carry an impressive shutout streak of 196:13 into tomorrow's night game on Long Island, just 31:28 away from John Vanbiesbrouck's club record. Vanbiesbrouck entered last night as the only goaltender in Flyers history to pitch three consecutive shutouts, back on Oct. 20-24, 1999.
After the game, he was Bryzness as usual - as has been his modus operandi recently - refusing to talk about himself.
"We played an unbelievable game," Bryzgalov said. "They are a very good skating team. We were very physical. We were hungry around the net. We were blocking the shots. Just watching the game, how the guys played, they enjoyed the game."
And few enjoyed it more than Briere, who chalked up his performance to a lengthy chat with Laviolette after a team meeting on Monday afternoon.
"I have to give him a lot of credit for the way he made me feel coming into tonight's game," Briere said. "Peter and me had a pretty good talk. It gave me a lot of confidence. He told me to stay with it, that good things would happen."
Laviolette said he would "rather not" go into detail about his conversation with Briere, but said his confidence in one of his top playoff performers never wavered.
"Everyone has a lot of confidence in Danny," Laviolette said. "He's capable of doing great things."
Now, if Briere can get on a roll, his re-emergence could be the equivalent of acquiring another lethal threat for the league's top offense.
"If he gets on a hot streak, he could score a few in a row," Voracek said. "It's good to see him score. It's the right time, too. Right before the playoffs."
The Flyers (3-2-1) won the season series with New Jersey . . . Rookie defenseman Brandon Manning was sent back to the Phantoms yesterday after the morning skate, preserving two more call-ups for the Flyers before the end of the regular season . . . Pavel Kubina (upper body) participated in yesterday's morning skate and is a possibility for tomorrow night's game on Long Island . . . Last night was the Flyers' 69th consecutive sellout at Wells Fargo Center.