With the team buried in the standings for much of the season, even minor celebrations have been rare for New Jersey.
But the Devils had two reasons to feel good yesterday: They beat the best team in the NHL and have won three straight for the first time this season.
Patrik Elias scored two goals and Henrik Tallinder scored one to lead the improved Devils to a 3-1 win over the Flyers in Philadelphia.
“When you start to work, you get a better team,’’ Devils coach Jacques Lemaire said. “I feel now the guys are working as a team.’’
Johan Hedberg stopped 26 shots to give the Devils points in a season-high six straight games (5-0-1).
The Devils are still in last place in the Eastern Conference but have been showing signs of life since Lemaire took over for John MacLean Dec. 23.
“We’ve managed to turn this poor start of ours around,’’ Tallinder said. “He changed everything when he came here.’’
James van Riemsdyk scored for the Flyers, who failed in their initial attempt to become the first expansion-era team to reach 1,000 home victories.
The Flyers are off to Chicago for today’s rematch of the Stanley Cup finals, which the Blackhawks won in six games.
The Flyers, leading the East with 67 points, can’t wait for the rematch.
Hedberg preserved the win with a sensational, sprawling and sliding save to his left that denied Jeff Carter the tying goal with 2:40 left. Carter shook his head in disbelief as he watched the replay on the overhead scoreboard.
Tallinder and Elias staked the Devils to a 2-0 lead in the first period that turned out to be all the offense they needed.
Blackhawks 4, Red Wings 1 — Tomas Kopecky scored twice and Corey Crawford made 36 saves at Detroit.
Cory Emmerton scored in his NHL debut to give Detroit the lead midway through the first period. Dave Bolland tied the game later in the period and Kopecky scored twice in the second against his former team to make it 3-1.
Capitals 4, Maple Leafs 1 — Alex Ovechkin had his first hat trick of the season, Matt Hendricks also scored for visiting Washington, and rookie Braden Holtby made 35 saves in his second straight start after being recalled from the AHL.
Penguins 3, Hurricanes 2 — Dustin Jeffrey, Mark Letestu, and Pascal Dupuis scored and host Pittsburgh held off Carolina for its first win without injured stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
Blue Jackets 5, Blues 2 — Andrew Murray, Rick Nash, and Fedor Tyutin scored in the third period, and Columbus scored five unanswered goals to beat host St. Louis.
Kings 4, Coyotes 3 — Justin Williams scored his 18th goal and Jarret Stoll added a goal with a sprawling shot in the third period to give visiting Los Angeles the win over Phoenix.
Ducks 4, Canadiens 3 — Bobby Ryan scored in the shootout and Jonas Hiller stopped all three Montreal shooters as visiting Anaheim won in former captain Saku Koivu’s emotional return to the Bell Centre.
Rangers 3, Thrashers 2 — Brian Boyle’s goal forced overtime with 5:19 left and Mats Zuccarello scored in a shootout as New York rallied to win in Atlanta.
Sharks 4, Wild 3 — Devin Setoguchi scored a pair of goals in the second period and Antti Niemi made 23 saves to lift host San Jose to its fourth straight win.
Flames 4, Canucks 3 — Alex Tanguay scored the winner in the third round of the shootout for Calgary after Ryan Kesler tied the game for host Vancouver midway through the third.