NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Martin Brodeur made 24 saves for his 120th NHL shutout, Ilya Kovalchuk scored on a short-handed penalty shot, and the New Jersey Devils won their home opener in front of an enthusiastic sellout crowd with a 3-0 victory over the winless Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday night.
Travis Zajac and David Clarkson scored first-period goals for the defending Eastern Conference champions, 2-0 in the lockout-shortened season.
The Flyers dropped to 0-3, matching their worst start since they also lost their first three games in the lockout-shortened 1995 season.
Philadelphia rebounded that year to win the Atlantic Division, and the Devils won their first Stanley Cup championship that season with Brodeur in goal.
Brodeur was the difference this time in recording his 10th shutout against Philadelphia. He was outstanding in the first period, stopping nine shots when the Flyers played with desperation.
The Devils, had only three shots in the period against goalie Ilya Bryzgalov. Zajac and Clarkson, who scored in the Devils’ 2-1 season-opening win over the Islanders on Saturday, both scored again.
New Jersey never looked back.
Kovalchuk, who played in Russia during the lockout and was a little late in getting back for training camp, brought the crowd of 17,650 to its feet on the Devils’ fourth shot early in the second period. He was hooked by defenseman Kimmo Timonen on a semi-breakaway and was awarded a penalty shot at 2:44.
The 29-year-old Kovalchuk wasted no time once the puck was put down at center ice. He skated quickly at Bryzgalov and beat him with a backhander to the upper part of the net for his first goal of the season.
The only question after that was whether Brodeur would add to his career-leading shutout total. Wayne Simmonds had the best scoring chance with a shot from the right circle that had Brodeur out of position. However, the 40-year-old goalie slid across the crease and made a pad save.
It must have frustrated Simmonds because he bumped Brodeur after another glove save later in the period, sparking a little melee. Clarkson and Simmonds traded punches in a third-period scuffle.
The Flyers, who lost to the Devils 4-1 in the conference semifinals last season, dominated the first period and held New Jersey without a shot for 12:25. But they still trailed 2-0.
Zajac gave the Devils the lead after only 67 seconds. The center who signed a $46 million contract last week, stopped a point shot by Bryce Salvador right at Bryzgalov’s doorstep and tucked the puck around the goalie into an open net.
Clarkson extended the lead to 2-0 with 24.9 seconds left in the opening period with a fluky power-play goal. He centered the puck from the side of the net, and it hit off the stake of Flyers forward Ruslan Fedotenko and caromed into the net.
Brodeur had three excellent saves in the opening 20 minutes. He made a skate save on a point shot by defenseman Andrej Meszaros, stopped Fedotenko on a rebound, and made a one-on-one stop against Scott Hartnell with the Flyers coming at him in waves.
Notes: Brodeur has a career-leading 10 shutouts against Philadelphia and the New York Islanders. … Kovalchuk’s goal was the Devils’ first short-handed, penalty-shot score since Zach Parise had one on Oct. 21, 2011 vs. San Jose. … Kovalchuk has scored on three of four penalty shots in his career. … New Jersey is 17-8-5 in home-openers. … Tye McGinn, recalled from Adirondack of the AHL on Monday, made his NHL debut for the Flyers. He replaced Zac Rinaldo who sustained a cut to his right thigh against Buffalo on Sunday. … Philadelphia RW Danny Briere missed his third straight game. He broke his left wrist playing overseas during the lockout. … Former Islanders D Bruno Gervais, who signed as a free agent during the offseason, made his Flyers debut.
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