– by Adesina O. Koiki
A Lot of Sports Talk editor-in-chief
NEWARK, N.J. — In only his ninth game of his National Hockey League career, New Jersey Devils goalkeeper MacKenzie Blackwood had a front-row seat in experiencing the blood feud that is the Devils’ rivalry with the Philadelphia Flyers — and how good he has to be in between the sticks to come away with a victory.
Though teammate Nico Hischier is just over a year into his NHL career, he knows about playing in the rough-and-tumble blood feud all too well, and thriving in its environs.
Hischier had a goal and an assist while Blackwood came up with 32 saves in leading the Devils to a 3-2 victory over the Flyers in a Saturday afternoon game at the Prudential Center.
Blackwood, coming back to the lineup from a lower-body injury, improved to 4-1-0 in his last six starts and was not flustered when numerous Flyers crashed the net to try and frustrate the rookie, saving a few point-blank opportunities in stopping all 12 shots in the first period.
New Jersey got on the board first at 6:32 of the first when defenseman Damon Severson pinched down to the bottom of the left circle and rocketed a one-timer from teammate Drew Stafford past Flyers rookie goaltender Carter Hart’s right shoulder and into the net.
Hischier completed a solo act early in the second period to double the Devils’ lead, stealing a pass at center ice from Flyers defenseman Travis Sanheim to create a breakaway opportunity on Hart, which Hischier converted as he slid a backhand through Hart’s legs.
Philadelphia cut the lead in half at 15:51 of the second with a James van Riemsdyk goal, but the Devils were able to open up a two-goal lead once more just 78 seconds into the third period. Hischier screened Hart in front of the net when a Blake Coleman shot from the right wing boards was saved by Hart, but Miles Wood, after Hischier attempted to stuff home the rebound in front, skated in and pounced on the loose puck and scored to give New Jersey a 3-1 lead.
Sean Couturier scored on a breakaway with just two seconds remaining in the game to create the final margin. Hart made 22 saves for the Flyers, who have now lost nine of their last 10 games.