NEWARK, N.J. - With the team desperate for a win, Mike Richards showed why he is the Philadelphia Flyers' captain.
Richards had a career-high four assists and the Flyers became the last NHL team to break into the victory column this season with a 6-3 decision over the New Jersey Devils on Friday night.
"He was our leader tonight. It was a great effort from our captain," Flyers coach John Stevens said after Philadelphia (1-3-3) ended a six-game victory drought in a city where it usually struggles.
Not only did the Flyers win, they did it just hours after learning star centre Daniel Briere would be sidelined up to a month with a torn abdominal muscle that will have to be surgically repaired.
"It was a good night, first win of the year and we played well," said Richards, whose previous high was three assists. "I know I said this a lot lately, we deserved to win tonight. We played a good game right from the get-go and we finished the game."
Scott Hartnell scored twice and Jeff Carter, Mike Knuble, Simon Gagne and Joffrey Lupul tallied once for the Flyers, with Richards setting up four of the last five goals in breaking the Devils' three-game winning streak.
"It's been a frustrating last couple of weeks, we've been putting forth the effort and not getting the results," Richards said. "You try to give it your all every night and it feels good all the hard work paid off."
Martin Biron had 23 saves as the Flyers ended a skid that tied their longest victory drought at the start of the season. They were winless in their first six games in 1999-00, posting an 0-4-1-1 mark before also winning in the seventh game.
"Mike was all over the place, being the player that we want him to be, and he wants to be," said Biron, who came into the game with a 5.00 GAA. "When a guy like that gets going, it gives everybody confidence."
Zach Parise had a goal and set up scores by Dainius Zubrus and Travis Zajac for New Jersey. Martin Brodeur, who came into the game with a 5-1 record, a 1.30 goals against average and .942 save percentage, faced 28 shots in taking the loss.
"They played a very desperate game and played well," Devils coach Brent Sutter said. "They deserved to win tonight. We weren't good enough to win tonight."
Richards more than made up for Briere's absence with a spectacular performance. He iced the game midway through the third period by skating down the left wing and centring a perfect cross-ice pass that Lupul redirected past Brodeur for a 5-3 lead.
Hartnell scored into an empty net with less than two minutes to play.
The lead changed hands three times in the first two periods, with Richards setting up goals by Gagne and Hartnell in the final 10 minutes of the second period to give the Flyers the lead for good.
Gagne tied that game at 3-all, scoring in front after Knuble tipped Richards' shot from the left circle.
Richards did all the work on Hartnell's goal, skating behind the net and firing a shot at Brodeur. Hartnell outmuscled two Devils to put in the rebound.
New Jersey scored in the opening and closing minute of the first period in taking a 3-2 lead.
Zajac got his first of the season by banking a shot off Flyers defenseman Braydon Coburn 47 seconds after the opening faceoff.
Carter tied the game just over a minute later with a great shot from the right circle after skating up the ice with a breakout pass from Biron.
Knuble got his first goal, breaking in from the right circle at 11:25 with Devils rookie Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond serving a five-minute penalty for boarding. Richards gave him the pass that set up his run at Brodeur.
Zubrus tied the game less than four minutes later, scoring alone in front on a power play.
Parise stuffed a rebound past Biron with 19 seconds left in the period.
Notes: Gagne was back in the lineup after missing Wednesday's game with the flu. ... Riley Cote got the best of Letourneau-Leblond in a second-period fight. ... With Briere out of the lineup, the Flyers dressed Darroll Powe. ... Devils F Jamie Langenbrunner sustained an undisclosed lower body injury. His status for Saturday's night's rematch in Philadelphia was uncertain.