The Philadelphia Flyers' slump continued their last time out in the opener of a home-and-home series against the New Jersey Devils, who have utterly dominated them starting in the playoffs last season.
The Devils can win their eighth straight in the overall series while looking to continue their resurgence Friday night at Philadelphia.
Philadelphia (12-15-1) has been inconsistent all season, and its latest rough stretch continued with a 5-2 loss to New Jersey on Wednesday. The Flyers, in last place in the Atlantic Division, trailed 3-1 after the first period and made numerous costly mistakes in losing for the fourth time in five games.
"This one hurts. It stings," forward Scott Hartnell said. "You can use any adjective you want, but tomorrow is a new day. We have to come to the rink with a new attitude and get through this. This is frustrating hockey."
Ilya Bryzgalov had another rough game, giving up all five goals as his goals-against average rose to 2.86. Bryzgalov, the NHL leader with 26 games played, has an .896 save percentage that's toward the bottom of the league.
"To be honest, I have no idea what to say to you guys," he said. "I'm just tired of losing. Another disappointing loss. We've been doing this all year long, and we just continue."
The Flyers' goaltender isn't totally to blame, as Philadelphia has managed two or fewer goals in six of its last 10 games.
The club has done even worse of late offensively against the Devils (13-9-5). The Flyers have been outscored 28-12 during their seven-game skid to New Jersey, which dates to Game 3 of their second-round postseason series in May.
The Devils have won two in a row and three of four since a six-game losing streak. That's due in part to improved play in goal from Johan Hedberg, who made his 10th straight start in place of the injured Martin Brodeur and had 23 saves.
Hedberg has allowed two goals in each of the last three victories after posting a 3.79 GAA during the six-game skid.
"I think we had done a lot of good things, even though we were losing," Hedberg said. "We weren't rewarded but we stuck with it. Sometimes when you're not winning, it's a matter of pushing a little too hard. I think that was the case. We were trying so hard to get those goals."
The Devils, who have scored 14 goals in the past four games after managing 11 in the previous six, are battling for the fifth spot in the Eastern Conference.
"Obviously, we had a tough stretch there," center Adam Henrique said after scoring twice and adding an assist Wednesday. "We talked in here. We're a confident group. We just needed to stick to our systems and play our game. We knew eventually it was going to turn around."
Ilya Kovalchuk is on a five-game point streak with three goals and three assists. Philadelphia has had little success in stopping him lately, as he's recorded six goals and 13 assists in his past 10 matchups including playoffs.
Teammate Patrik Elias had a goal and an assist Wednesday and has four goals and one assist in his past five games. His 35 goals versus the Flyers are his highest total against any team, and his 80 points are tied for the most.
Hedberg has won five straight starts versus Philadelphia, while Bryzgalov has lost all seven games during the skid to New Jersey with a 3.48 GAA.
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