NEWARK, N.J. - The Flyers and Devils had little in common entering Thursday night's matchup at the Prudential Center. The Flyers had won 11 out of their last 13 games while the Devils had slogged their way to seven consecutive losses, five of which had come by at least three goals.
But recent results mattered little once the puck dropped. The Devils dispatched of the Flyers, 4-0, sending them home empty-handed heading into their five-day holiday break. The Flyers managed just 16 shots on goal in the defeat, their lowest output in more than two years.
"We just couldn't get engaged," Dave Hakstol said. "That hasn't happened too often in the first half. This group has been a bunch of warriors."
The Devils asserted themselves early in a chaotic first period. A P.A. Parenteau deflection on a shot by Michael Cammalleri trickled past Steve Mason less than eight minutes into the contest. Before the goal, the Flyers had not faltered in a shorthanded situation in their last six games.
Matters didn't improve much for the Flyers when they returned to even strength. Miles Wood deposited the rebound of an Adam Henrique shot into the back of the net with 6 minutes, 34 seconds remaining in the frame to give the Devils a 2-0 advantage.
Soon after the goal, the first period devolved into a series of skirmishes after Brandon Manning decked Sergey Kalinin in open ice. Nick Cousins and Radko Gudas starred in the festivities, both earning multiple penalties and exchanging fisticuffs with Cammalleri and Vernon Fiddler, respectively. Cousins accrued seven penalty minutes (in addition to the high-sticking minor that ended with the Devils' power-play goal) and Gudas earned two roughing penalties. Overall, the physical nature of the first period resulted in four fighting majors, eight roughing minors, two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties and no momentum gained for the Flyers.
A goaltending change to start the second period did not help much. Hakstol inserted Anthony Stolarz, who grew up a Devils fan in New Jersey, to relieve Mason to begin the frame. The Devils outshot the Flyers, 9-7, in the period and extended their lead to three when Adam Henrique rifled a point-blank shot past Stolarz with 6:11 remaining. Stolarz allowed a second goal with 1:22 left in the game when Kyle Palmieri scored a power-play goal.
Mason's early departure came one night after he stopped 36 of 38 shots against the Capitals in a thrilling shootout win. General manager Ron Hextall said Mason was "nicked up" but he did not expect him to miss time. Mason wasn't concerned after the game and said the decision was made so he could get some extra rest entering the break.
In the early portion of the season, the Flyers had largely avoided the pitfalls of playing on back-to-back days. The games against the Devils and Capitals marked the ninth occasion on which the Flyers played two days in a row, and Thursday's contest was just the second time they did not collect at least one point in the second game. The players weren't thrilled with the letdown.
"It's probably going to burn for a little bit," Wayne Simmonds said.
The Flyers offense failed to sustain any sort of pressure in the loss. The team's best scoring opportunity came less than six minutes into the second period when Michael Raffl hacked away at a loose puck on the left side of the goalmouth. He came inches away from cutting the deficit in half when Cory Schneider's glove hand swooped in from behind the goal line and stopped the puck with inches to spare. The night did not get much better for Raffl. He suffered a lower-body injury and will miss 1-2 weeks.
The Flyers will have to wait until Wednesday's game against the St. Louis Blues to recover from their most lopsided loss all season.
"This is a hard one to sit on," Hakstol said. "But you've got to flush it out pretty quick."