Atkinson’s hat trick leads Flyers past Devils 6-1
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Cam Atkinson had three goals and an assist to lead the Philadelphia Flyers to a 6-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night.
Travis Sanheim and Oskar Lindblom each had a goal and an assist, and Justin Braun also scored for the Flyers, who won their third game in a row after losing 10 straight. Philadelphia improved to 3-2 under interim coach Mike Yeo, who took over Dec. 6 when Alain Vigneault was fired.
“Overall our team played really solid and another stepping stone in the right direction,” Atkinson said. “Sticking together, playing with energy, playing the right way. … We just capitalized on our opportunities.”
Yeo has implemented a more up-tempo offensive style, and Philadelphia has 20 goals since the coaching change after netting 13 in Vigneault’s final eight games — all losses.
“That came because of their hard work,” Yeo said.
P.K. Subban scored for the Devils, who have lost three straight and seven of eight. New Jersey was without captain Nico Hischier and top defenseman Ryan Graves, who each missed a second consecutive game due to COVID-19 protocols.
New Jersey coach Lindy Ruff also said several Devils were playing through non-COVID-19 illnesses.
“All you can ask is to give what you have. You can’t expect anything else,” Ruff said. “I find it hard to sit here and make excuses.”
Atkinson finished a pretty tic-tac-toe passing play with Sanheim and Rasmus Ristolainen from close range to make it 2-0 with 1:25 left in the first period. Atkinson got his second goal short-handed on a hard slap shot that made it 4-1 with 3:44 left in the second, and completed his hat trick with a one-timer from in front that gave Philadelphia a 6-1 advantage with 12:51 remaining.
It was the seventh career hat trick for Atkinson, who upped his team-leading total to 12 goals this season.
“It was exciting,” he said.
Philadelphia broke the game open with three goals on nine shots in the second.
Braun’s wrister from long range made it 3-0 at 6:07 of the period. After Subban’s wrister got New Jersey on the board 36 seconds later, the Devils turned it over in their zone on a power play and Ivan Provorov set up Atkinson perfectly on a breakaway.
Atkinson then helped finish the scoring in the period when he chipped a pass to Lindblom, whose wrister whizzed past Mackenzie Blackwood’s glove side with 1:40 left in the period.
Carter Hart made 26 saves for Philadelphia.
Blackwood, one of the players Ruff said was sick, was pulled to start the third after stopping 17 of 22 shots. Blackwood was replaced by Akira Schmid, who made seven saves in his second career game.
CHEERS FOR A CHANGE
The Flyers skated off in the second period to loud cheers, something that hasn’t been heard much this season in Philadelphia — especially of late. The victory was their first on home ice since Nov. 16, snapping a five-game home skid.
Things had gotten so bad in Philadelphia during the tail end of the slide that a large contingent of Flyers fans changed their social media profile pictures to a brown bag with a sad face placed over the head of a Flyers fan and used the hashtag #BroadStreetBag, a play on the famed Broad Street Bullies moniker that was hung on the Flyers’ back-to-back Stanley Cup championship teams in 1974 and ’75.
“We wanted to have a really good home game,” Yeo said. “We haven’t had one of those in a while. That was big.”
The Flyers avenged a pair of losses to the Devils, including a 3-0 shutout on Dec. 8 at New Jersey, in their final meeting of the season.
“They’ve had our number,” Yeo said. “We wanted to make sure we played this game with an edge. I thought our guys did that.”
Devils: D Christian Jaros also didn’t play because of COVID-19 protocols, and C Janne Kuokkanen was a late scratch. Ruff said before the game that one player would not play because of a non-COVID-19 illness.
Flyers: C Morgan Frost left the bench in the first period due to COVID-19 protocols and did not return.
Devils: Host the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday.
Flyers: At the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday.
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