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It wasn’t the prettiest game defensively, but the New Jersey Devils showed how dangerous they can be offensively when they rallied three times from one-goal deficits to blast past the Tampa Bay Lightning 6-4 on Thursday night at Prudential Center. Six different players scored a goal in the win, showing just how deep their scoring depth is, matching the goal output they had in their three previous games; five Devils had multiple points in the win. For Tampa the lone bright spot was Ryan Malone who scored his team’s first three goals in recording his fourth career hat trick.
Malone opened the scoring with 44 seconds left in the first period, slamming the puck in from the side of Martin Brodeur’s net after a point shot softly redirected to him.
Once the second period began, all hell broke loose in the Devils’ house; Dainius Zubrus scored a shorthanded goal at 3:07, converting a perfect saucer-pass from Patrik Elias at the end of a two-on-one. “It was the end of our shift, so we were a little tired,” said Zubrus of the odd-man rush. “Patty made a really nice saucer pass, over the defender’s stick; and it was flat, right on my (stick) tape. I don’t think you can ask for a better pass, and I just shot it right away.” Malone responded for the Lightning 93 seconds later when his attempted pass went past Brodeur off of New Jersey defenseman Marek Zidlicky’s skate. Jacob Josefson retied the game for the Devils 2:14 after Malone’s second goal, snapping a shot past the oft-helpless Tampa netminder Dwayne Roloson.
Malone completed his hat trick at 10:13, giving the Lightning their final lead of the game when he was able to sweep a rebound past Brodeur from the edge of the goalmouth. Ilya Kovalchuk netted his team-leading 33rd goal after a pretty passing play with Zach Parise and Adam Henrique just over three minutes later, setting the stage for the Devils to grab a hold of the see-saw game. Six seconds into a power play Zidlicky atoned for his earlier misfortune when he blasted a rocket past Roloson to give New Jersey its first lead of the night, just 71 seconds after Kovalchuk had tied the game.
Alexei Ponikarovsky deftly tipped Bryce Salvador’s long shot past Roloson 2:25 into the final period; although the goal was announced as Salvador’s first of the season it was changed later by the official scorer. “I want to see the proof,” joked Salvador after the game. “I have to make sure Alex tipped it.” Ponikarovsky said he knew he had tipped it and told his teammate that on the bench. “I tipped it with my stick at my waist, I knew it was a good goal, there was no doubt in my mind (that it was mine).”
Less than four minutes later, Ponikarovsky and David Clarkson controlled the puck in Tampa’s zone for a while which resulted in the latter finding the puck and scoring his 29th of the season from atop the crease. Trevor Smith scored the final goal of the game with nine seconds remaining, only changing the final score but not the outcome. “We can’t be overconfident (after tonight),” said Ponikarovsky. “The next game, everything goes back to zero; we have to win another game. We have to do the same things and work hard to get goals.”
New Jersey’s magic number is down to one point — gained by them or lost by Buffalo.
Game Notes: Zidlicky led all skaters in ice-time with 21:33, while Tampa defenseman Victor Hedman led his squad with 21:12. Kovalchuk led all players with seven shots on goal and Malone led the Lightning with six. Devils defenseman Anton Volchenkov, playing in his first game since last Friday, had a game-high of four hits, also matched by Ponikarovsky. Henrique had two assists and was a +3 (game-high). Travis Zajac, playing in his third game back won 14 of the 18 face-offs he took. New Jersey (94 points, 6th in East) is off until Saturday when they play at Carolina (77 points, 13th in East) and that same night Tampa (77 points, 11th in East) returns home to host Winnipeg (78 points, 10th in East).
Dan’s 3 Stars of the Game:
#1 — Ilya Kovalchuk (NJ): goal (33), assist (44)
#2 — Ryan Malone (TB): 3 goals (18)
#3 — Patrik Elias (NJ): 2 assists (47)
Dan Rice can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
A year ago at this time, Adam Henrique was playing for the New Jersey Devils’ AHL team (the Albany Devils) and posting a 50-point (25g-25a) effort over 73 games in his first season as a pro. He earned a call up for New Jersey’s final game of the season (April 10, 2011 vs. Boston), giving him a sample of what NHL hockey is all about. Fast forward to March 18 of this season; Henrique is now firmly entrenched as New Jersey’s number one pivot, centering two superstars – Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise — quite a change for a guy that was barely on the Devils’ opening night roster.
Some say he is even a candidate for rookie of the year (Calder Trophy), and his stats would back that up. He has registered 46 points (15g-31a) in 64 games, including four shorthanded goals and three game-winners. It seems sometimes that he came out of nowhere, but he was a star in Junior hockey with the Windsor Spitfires, playing regularly with the first overall pick in the 2010 NHL draft Taylor Hall of the Edmonton Oilers. When Windsor won the Memorial Cup, it was Henrique and not Hall that won the Wayne Gretzky Trophy (playoff MVP) by tallying 25 points (20g-5a) in 19 games.
Hockey scouts see a nice upside for the recently turned 22-year-old from Brantford, Ontario: “He leads by example, has two-way intelligence and a high hockey IQ. Can play center or wing and plays his best in pressure situations. He must continue getting stronger in order to maximize his two-way acumen at the highest level.”
Recently I was able to slow down the speedy Henrique to ask him a few questions about his career and off-ice interests.
The Devils selected Henrique 82nd overall (3rd round) in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft and although he was happy just to be selected, he was excited that it was New Jersey that chose him. “(I knew I was going to be drafted), it was just a matter of when, and to what team,” recalled Henrique of that afternoon in Ottawa. “It’s a huge honor to be drafted into this league, and it was special to experience that; having my family there. To be picked by New Jersey, it was a great fit for me – three and a half years later — it couldn’t have worked out better for me.”
After making the big club out of training camp, because the team’s top center Travis Zajac was sidelined indefinitely while recovering from an Achilles injury, Henrique was sent down to Albany on October 14 after two uneventful games played and a healthy scratch for another. Eight days later he was recalled as the Devils were shuffling the lineup, still trying to offset the loss of their number one center, Zajac.
Three games after being recalled he registered his first NHL point, an assist on October 27 in Phoenix, and three games after that he scored his first goal; the first of four goals over three games. “We were in Philly, and it was a little frustrating for me up to that point,” he revealed. “I had hit a few posts, I was getting chances and it just seemed like one was never going to go in.”
“There was a turnover and it was a two-on-one with myself and Kovy. Being on a two-on-one with that guy, you just keep your stick on the ice and at any point he’s going to throw it over. So I just tried to get to the net, he put it right on my tape,” said Henrique before smiling and adding, “It was Merry Christmas from there,” even though it was only November 3.
Some of his closest friends in the league aren’t necessarily on his team just yet, but he was joking with current teammate Petr Sykora pretty good at the start of this interview about Henrique’s missed opportunities during the game against Colorado where his peer made some great passes that were flubbed by the 22-year-old.
“I think the other day I counted thirteen guys that I played with in Windsor that are in the NHL right now or played this season,” said Henrique. “I was talking with my good buddy (Eric) Wellwood of the Flyers, he just got called back up a little while ago. Obviously there’s Hall, Anaheim’s Cam Fowler and Florida’s Scott Timmins to name a few. Any time you see those guys or they get called up its pretty cool. I try to stay in touch with most of those guys over the year. It’s nice to see so many guys from that Windsor team make it.”
If Henrique’s career becomes anything like that of the player he idolized growing up, and the Devils can keep him on the team, they could be adding some more Stanley Cups to their collection of three. “Growing up I loved Steve Yzerman from Detroit,” said Henrique, “I always enjoyed watching him play and he had a tremendous career. I always liked the Wings growing up and he was the man; I had a chance to meet him and talk to him a few times and that was really neat to be able to do that.”
Away from the rink, he has taken it easy in anticipation of the grind that is known as the marathon 82-game NHL season. “I relax,” he said with a chuckle, “I enjoy the time away and relax a lot. Since turning pro last year, you realize that you have a lot of free time. It’s a long year though, you learn to take advantage of that rest and relaxation, enjoying your time to yourself as much as you enjoy your time at the rink.”
Some of his interests while he’s relaxing include soccer, baseball and rugby watching along with watching a lot of the TV show Modern Family, Prison Break and Lost, as well as listening to whatever Top 40 music is on the radio and “Zubie (teammate Dainius Zubrus) always has a good playlist on the locker room iPod. I loved country growing up,” he said, “but no rap for me.”
He hopes to stay in New Jersey for the foreseeable future, and the way he has played this year the fans and management probably would agree. “This whole year has been a blast, coming in and not really knowing what to expect or where I’d be. Obviously I’ve tried to gain the trust and respect of the coaching staff. I want to play here whether it’s with Zach and Kovy or if it’s on the fourth line.”
He paused, smiled and added, “Things worked out and hopefully it continues in the future.”
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Dan Rice can be reached at email@example.com
DEVILS 1 COLORADO 0
New Jersey Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur was named the game’s first star in his squad’s 1-0 shootout win over the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday night at the Prudential Center. The losing goalie, Jean-Sebastian Giguere, was named second star — a reversal of what occurred when the two netminders squared off in the 2003 Stanley Cup Finals when Brodeur had three shutouts in his four wins in the series and Giguere walked away with the MVP (Conn Smythe Trophy).
Brodeur confirmed, when asked, that he thought about his match-up with Giguere in the Finals during the match tonight. “Yeah, it went through my mind a little bit. We had some good battles in that series, there’s no doubt about that; it’s definitely different circumstances now though. It was a fun game, I’m sure he felt it too. It was a good goaltending battle.”
Both goalies were as sharp as a skate blade in this game — Brodeur finished with 28 saves over the 65 minutes of hockey and Giguere had 33. They also played a close, yet disciplined game as there were only two penalties (both hooking) and each team went 0-for-1 on the power play. “Both goaltender’s were great tonight,” said Devils coach Pete DeBoer. “That was a playoff-type game; stay out of the box, stick with it, don’t make a mistake. It’s great preparation for playoff hockey.”
One of the highlights of regulation was when Brodeur denied Milan Hejduk’s in-close rebound attempt with his toe, forcing the puck to stray away from the net. “I didn’t expect the guy to shoot, I think it was a 3-on-1 or something,” said Brodeur, recalling the save. “The guy took a shot for a rebound, and that’s what I did (laughs) I gave up a rebound. My balance was good, I was able to stay on my knee and keep my skate there to block the puck. After that he kind of lost it and it hit the side of the net. That was a good one there.”
Ilya Kovalchuk went first again in the shootout as he had eleven previous times and he netted his tenth goal in the tiebreaker after waiting out Giguere before beating him with a wrist shot. Brodeur denied Hejduk’s wrist shot, getting a piece of the Colorado captain’s shot before it rang off the post and caromed away.
Zach Parise also scored on his attempt after faking out the Avs goalie with two moves and then scoring on the third. Peter Mueller needed to score for Colorado to keep the game alive, but his soft wrist shot was gobbled up by Brodeur’s glove, sealing his team’s fifth win over their last six games.
Kovalchuk now has seven game-deciding shootout goals, setting a new NHL record, breaking a tie with Adrian Aucoin (2009-10); he has eleven career shootout winners, two shy of the NHL record of 13 held by Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby and Toronto’s Phil Kessel.
Game Notes: Both goalies get credited for a shutout, Brodeur’s NHL record is extended to 118; Giguere recorded blanking number 36 of his career. Brodeur now has 651 career wins, 100 more than Patrick Roy’s previous record, which he equaled three years and one day ago. Kovalchuk led all skaters in ice-time with 25:22, while defenseman Jan Hejda led Colorado with 24:28. Kovalchuk and David Jones of the Avalanche led all players with six shots on goal each. New Jersey (87 points, 6th in East) is back on the ice Saturday afternoon in their retro jerseys when they host Pittsburgh (91 points, 4th in East) and Colorado (81 points, 7th in West) will play at MSG against the NY Rangers (95 points, 1st in East) on Saturday night.
Dan’s 3 Stars of the Game:
#1 — Martin Brodeur (NJ): 28 saves, win (26), shutout (2)
#2 — J.S. Giguere (Col): 33 saves, ot loss (3), shutout (2)
#3 — Ilya Kovalchuk (NJ): shootout winning goal (7)
Dan Rice can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org