AMONG THE story lines that have defined the first 2 months of this hockey season in Philadelphia, a lack of secondary scoring has been among the most prominent.
Take Matt Read, for example. Here is a guy with 20-plus goals in each of the full NHL seasons he's played. But for whatever reasons, his play through 27 games of this year mystifyingly yielded forgettable results: two goals, six assists and a -8.
The Flyers would benefit greatly if the Read they saw last night is the Read they get for the final two-thirds of this season. The third-line right winger played his best game of the season in a 4-1 win against the Devils, needing only his first five shifts of the game to match 25 percent of his previous 2014-15 point production.
A goal and an assist from Read helped the Flyers (10-13-5) earn their second win in three games on the heels of a season-worst six-game losing streak. They outshot the Devils, 36-18, the fewest shots the Flyers have allowed since Dec. 28 of last year. Their previous best mark this season was 22 in the Nov. 22 win against the Blue Jackets.
"I guess [the performance] gives you a little bit more confidence," said Read, who went eight games between points. "You work hard every game and when things aren't going your way you kind of doubt yourself but you've got to just keep going."
The game featured perhaps the third line's best performance of the season. Sean Couturier, who enters tomorrow's game against the last-place Hurricanes on a five-game point streak, scored on Read's assist and returned the favor by assisting on Read's goal.
"They played great tonight along with [R.J. Umberger]," said Wayne Simmonds, whose team-leading 12th goal helped the Flyers gain some breathing room in the third period. "I think their line sparked us right off the jump and we just followed in line and we kept taking it to them."
Read helped get the Flyers on the board first early in the first period, despite a Jake Voracek hooking penalty. On the penalty kill, Read blocked Marek Zidlicky's shot from the point, fell to the ice after the Devils' defenseman tripped him, got up and skated after the puck. In a two-on-one, Read found Couturier in front of the net for the score.
It was the Flyers' first shorthanded goal of the season. Only four teams — the Capitals, Panthers, Predators and Red Wings — have yet to score a shorthanded goal.
"I saw that Matt fell down, but I think that he had a good step on the guy and he got back up," Couturier said. "I knew that we would have a good chance if we drove to the net real hard. Matt made a nice pass across to me and it was a good goal."
Later in the period, Read broke his scoreless streak, with some help from his center. After corralling the puck in the corner of the Flyers' offensive zone, Couturier whisked it toward the net, where Read put it past Cory Schneider.
Read's third goal of the season was just his second in the last 21 games and his first since the Nov. 15 game at Montreal.
"It was a good cycle shift down low," said Read, whose multipoint game was his first since April 6 of last season, a span of 31 contests. "We talked about getting pucks to the net and people in front of the net. Somehow that puck went between about six players' legs and ended up on my stick. I don't think the goalie saw it."
Read recorded a season-high five shots. They came on the same day he received advice from a four-time All-Star. In the trainer's room at the Wells Fargo Center after yesterday's morning skate, embattled veteran Vincent Lecavalier encouraged Read to get in the hard areas, shoot the puck and eventually the goals will start to come.
"I wouldn't say [I was] losing confidence. [I was] getting frustrated a little bit," Read said. "You just keep telling yourself you've got to work hard and get in front of the net, just do those little things and eventually something's going to go in. You can't get too down or too frustrated because once you do that you start gripping your stick a little too tight and it's not going to go for you."
Voracek's empty-net goal late in the game tied him with Sidney Crosby for the second-most points (35) in the NHL behind only Tyler Seguin (36). Claude Giroux's two third-period assists were his 31st and 32nd points of the season.
But unlike many other games this season, the Flyers also received scoring elsewhere.
"It lightens your shoulders a little," Read said. "It's good to have a good game, but we've still got 59 games left or so. It's just one game. [I've got to] get back to the way I've played the first 3 years of my career. [I've] just got to keep going and keep doing those little things. I know I can do it. I've just got to work hard and get in the right spots to get myself that opportunity."