There were several good points to be made in this 3-1 victory at Continental Airlines Arena in an important Atlantic Division game that saw New Jersey lose its third straight at home.
"A step in the right direction," coach Bill Barber said. "We were very solid from the start. I was happy for Chemo [Roman Cechmanek]. We haven't scored some goals for him and yet he's been a very solid player for us. . . . I think he was a major factor."
Cechmanek, still battling the flu, was outstanding in goal with 33 saves.
As for winning face-offs - it was the Flyers' best performance this season - Barber said, "Every time you win a draw, you get an offensive chance. When you lose a face-off, it takes 15-20 seconds to get the puck back."
Jiri Dopita won a team-high 87 percent (14 of 16), Keith Primeau got even at 50 percent (11 of 22, including 7 of 9 in the final period), and Marty Murray won 75 percent (3 of 4).
"It's normal," Dopita replied through Jan Hlavac as a translator. "Sometimes you're good and sometimes not."
Asked if his size - he is 6-foot-3, 212 pounds - mattered against the Devils' smaller face-off men, he said, "Yeah, it could be that I'm big."
Simon Gagne picked up his second game-winner when he broke a 1-1 tie 41 seconds into the third period on a smart play by linemate Mark Recchi.
Recchi grabbed a Primeau rebound deep in the Devils' end and, instead of shooting the puck on net, lasered a pass diagonally to the right slot, where Gagne flicked a quick backhander past Martin Brodeur for his ninth goal.
"It was a great shot by Keith Primeau, who went around their defenseman," Gagne said. "Rex could have shot it, but he saw me at the last second. I had a big space to shoot at the right side."
After that goal, the Devils mounted a serious challenge at the Flyers' end. In what was a turning point in the game, Roenick became a one-man defensive pin ball, flailing his body at pucks and then taking out Scott Stevens at the blue line.
In other words, doing to the Devils what the Devils usually do to the Flyers in these games.
"I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off and trying to make sure I did not pay for it," Roenick said. "I got a couple of key blocks, then the puck came out to Stevens and I was able to get a shoulder on him. It was a good sequence. They started to get a little bit of steam there."
The steam blew out at 8:51, when Ruslan Fedotenko intercepted a long pass from deep in the Devils' end and fired the puck from 50 feet, beating Brodeur for the insurance goal.
Hlavac gave the Flyers a 1-0 lead at 7:24 of the second period with a tricky backhand shot. He stole the puck from Jim McKenzie in the high slot and angled toward the right circle, where he let loose with the backhander. Normally, that shot goes to the opposite post, but it went low five-hole to the right post.
"He fanned on it and surprised me by going low," Brodeur said. "I thought he was going high."
Cechmanek gave the Flyers numerous strong saves from deep angles in that period, including a chest knockdown on Holik. He also denied Petr Sykora, who got an angle on Dopita and buried a shot into the goalie's chest. The entire game, Cechmanek had good views of the puck.
New Jersey's only goal came seven minutes after Hlavac's goal, when three Flyers went to the corner for a loose puck. That allowed Randy McKay to toss it into the wide-open middle for Holik, who got off a wicked, uncontested shot that Cechmanek was helpless to defend.
There was also a stark contrast in the kind of shots the teams got yesterday. The Flyers had good shots from between the circles, but many of the Devils' chances came from very deep, at the point where they looked for rebounds yet found the Flyers clearing out the middle.
"Everyone knew their assignments; we followed the game plan and executed for 60 minutes," Barber said. "I'm just happy for the guys who got rewarded for a change."
Loose pucks. Bruno St. Jacques suffered bruises and cuts above the right eye and bridge of the nose two minutes into the second period when hit in the face by a McKay shot. He did not return. X-rays for a broken nose were negative. . . . Having sat as a healthy scratch four of five games, Pavel Brendl was sent down to the Phantoms. "If he plays hard we'll bring him back and put him where he can use his skill," Flyers general manager Bob Clarke said. "We're not going to bring him back and put him on the fourth line where he can't use his skills."
Tim Panaccio's e-mail address is email@example.com.