PHILADELPHIA — The New Jersey Devils are still searching for that elusive first win.
Carter Hart stopped 25 shots — including using his glove for an acrobatic save on a Taylor Hall shot on a Devils’ 5-on-3 — for his first career shutout to lift the Philadelphia Flyers to a 4-0 win over the Devils (0-2-1) on Wednesday night.
Hart became the youngest goaltender in Flyers’ history to record a shutout, at the age of 21 years, 57 days. He topped Dominic Roussel, who shut out Calgary on February 27, 1992, at the age of 22 years, five days.
“Anytime you have a milestone, it is definitely pretty cool,” Hart said.
Ivan Provorov scored for the Flyers, and so did Kevin Hayes, Sean Couturier and Travis Konency as part of a three-goal third period in their home opener.
The Flyers played for the first time since they beat the Chicago Blackhawks last week in Prague as part of the NHL’s Global Series.
Hart stopped 28 shots in that 4-3 win, and the 21-year-old was even better playing in his first NHL opening night. Hart had long been pegged as the Flyers goalie of the future and was sensational in spurts at times last season to give the Flyers a flicker of postseason hope.
They missed the playoffs — but Hart has Philly thinking it can wrestle its way into an Eastern Conference playoff spot.
Hart shined in the Philly debut of new coach Alain Vigneault, securing the shutout in his 33rd NHL game. His save on Hall was a game-changer.
“I kind of lost the pass in the middle and then saw him winding up on the side, so I had to quickly push over and stick my arm out and luckily it hit me,” Hart said.
Vigneault has been known for quick fixes in previous stops and led Vancouver and the New York Rangers to the Stanley Cup Final. Vigneault certainly boasts the credentials that prove he’s capable of turning the Flyers into winners. He has coached 16 NHL seasons for the Montreal Canadiens, Canucks and Rangers and his teams have made the playoffs 11 times.
“Everybody could sense the vibe in this building from start to finish,” Vigneault said. “It was a great atmosphere and something I want to be part of, the players want to be a part of. It’s lifting and it’s a lot of fun.”
Hayes and Couturier gave Hart a needed cushion when they scored 24 seconds apart against Cory Schneider in the first minute of play in the third period.
Hayes is another new face expected to play a pivotal role in a potential Flyers’ turnaround. Hayes signed a $50 million, seven-year contract and became the Flyers’ third-highest paid player behind captain Claude Giroux and winger Jakub Voracek. He’s coming off a career-high 55 points last season with the Rangers and Jets.
The Flyers also paid tribute to former star Wayne Simmonds. The Devils signed Simmonds to a one-year contract after the Flyers traded him to Nashville at the trade deadline. The 31-year-old Simmonds was a huge fan favorite and was wildly popular inside the locker room almost since the moment he was acquired in a 2011 deal with Los Angeles. He scored 23 goals and had 378 points in 584 games with the Flyers and was never afraid to drop the gloves when it was needed. With the Flyers out of the playoff race, they made the tough call to deal him at the deadline.
Simmonds was greeted with hugs and handshakes from familiar arena staff as he made the way from the Devils bus to the locker room.
“I was, what, 22 when I got traded here? Turned 23 before the season and I was just coming in here trying to prove myself as a good hockey player,” Simmonds said. “I could have never imagined in my wildest dreams that they would take to me like they did. Obviously, it’s an honor and it’s nice to have played here.”
Simmonds got a roaring standing ovation when a video tribute played for him that featured testimonials from the Flyers on just how much they loved playing with the forward known as “Simmer.” He waved toward the fans in appreciation.
“So many good things have happened for me in this building, so I don’t think there’s really one that I can probably put my finger on,” Simmonds said. “There will probably be different things going through my mind.”