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'We needed this win': Devils top Flyers at MetLife

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Published in Hockey
Saturday, 17 February 2024 22:23

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils captain Nico Hischier said their game at MetLife Stadium had been circled on their calendar before the season. What he didn't know was how crucial their 6-3 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday night could end up being for the Devils this season.

"That's a win that brings the group together," said Hischier, who had two goals and an assist in front of 70,328 fans, the largest crowd to date for an NHL Stadium Series game. "We knew it was a big game at the beginning of the year. With how the standings are, it's an even a bigger game. So this can bring the group together. We move on, we take the good feelings out of it, and now we have more business to do."

It was a weekend of good feelings for the Devils. They skated with friends and family after practice on Friday night. They arrived together on Saturday wearing tracksuits out of "The Sopranos." They never trailed against the Flyers. The massive crowd was majority Devils faithful.

"We knew we had great fans. I didn't see too many Philly fans, so it's a pretty special win," Hischier said.

The win moved the Devils (28-22-4, 60 points) within five points of the Flyers (29-20-7, 65 points) for third place in the Metro Division with two games in-hand. They're also two points in back of the Detroit Red Wings (28-20-6, 62 points) for the last wild card spot in the East.

"We needed this win. If (the Flyers) beat us, it puts them almost out of reach," Devils coach Lindy Ruff said.

New Jersey has been trying to build momentum for a run at a playoff spot since getting star center Jack Hughes back in the lineup on Feb. 8. They're now 3-2-1 since Hughes returned from injury, having played noticeably better in all six games than they did before the NHL All-Star break.

Defenseman Brendan Smith, who had a goal and an assist in the win, said he hoped the Stadium Series victory combined with that uptick in play could launch the Devils down the stretch.

"We hope so. To be honest, I think I've been happy with what we've been doing as of late in our games. Keep my fingers crossed on that and let's keep going," he said.

Devils winger Timo Meier agreed, saying the four-point swing vs. the Flyers in the standings was hugely important.

"I think we've started to play better defensively. Everybody's buying in and that's what we need," he said. "Jack's back, so we obviously we got the offensive explosion from him that he can bring to the ice, but it's also the play away from the puck that's really important. Our goalie made some big saves, too."

Rookie goalie Nico Daws won the Stadium Series game with a 45-save effort against a relentless Flyers team. The 23-year-old has put together four straight strong performances as the Devils continue to search for a dependable option in goal.

"He's been awesome," said winger Nate Bastian, who had two goals in the win. "There have been stretches this season where we've played some tough hockey and it's made our goalies look bad. Lately, Nico's been making us look good. He's young. He's so confident and so promising for us."

The Devils will take to the road to meet the Washington Capitals on Tuesday.

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