Six Devils Score in Crazy 6-4 Win Over Tampa

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 drdiablo321@yahoo.com

Kings Send Jack Johnson to Columbus for Jeff Carter

With the NHL trade deadline fast approaching (Monday, February 27) the LA Kings and Columbus Blue Jackets pulled off the first significant trade — unless you consider New Jersey’s acquisition of Alexei Ponikarovsky: 10 points (4g-6a) in 13 games. Columbus acquired 25-year-old defenseman Jack Johnson and a conditional 1st round pick from Los Angeles for former 40-goal scorer Jeff Carter. Current King Mike Richards and Carter were traded exactly eight months ago from Philadelphia and will now reunite in Hollywood hoping to save the goal-starved Kings season.

Carter, 27, has struggled this season in Columbus (who hasn’t), but the previous three seasons he netted 46, 33 and 36 goals; once you score 40 goals in a season in this league, you are always expected to reach that plateau and are held to high expectations — making Carter’s 15 goals this season an aberration.

Johnson is a steady two-way defenseman that should help the Jackets improve on the back end, and I always believe a team should build its foundation from the goaltender out. With linchpins Fedor Tyutin and James Wisniewski already on the blueline in Ohio, Johnson will help solidify that group and also possibly provide some help for floundering goalie Steve Mason (who may also be traded by Monday).

So who’s next to be traded….Rick Nash? Derek Roy? Ales Hemsky? Luke Schenn? Someone unexpected perhaps?

Expect Detroit to make a move, seeing as they have a nice chunk of space to reach the salary cap thanks to Brian Rafalski’s retirement. Los Angeles could still make another move, or two, possibly shipping goalie Jonathan Bernier to a team where he can be a no. 1 starter.

What will Washington do as they sit on the outside of the playoff picture after entering the season as a favorite to win the Stanley Cup? Will the NY Rangers be tempted to add an impact player such as Nash despite their success and risk messing with the chemistry of mostly homegrown players on their roster?

By 3pm Monday afternoon, we will know which teams improved and which teams are giving up hope on winning the 2012 Stanley Cup.

Brodeur Turns Back the Clock as Devils Nip Ducks

Devils — 3                Anaheim — 2

The Anaheim Ducks that invaded the Prudential Center on Friday night were no longer mighty as they were in 2003, and New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur is now 39, not 30, but he was the best player on the ice (36 saves) in his team’s 3-2 shootout win, just as he was in the 2003 Stanley Cup Finals. “He was great, he was our best player,” said Devils coach Pete DeBoer after his team’s second win in a row. “They are a difficult team to play against right now and he was our best player tonight and that’s why we won.”

New Jersey squandered a 2-0 lead on the resilient Californians, who have been burning up the NHL lately after a shaky start that cost their coach his job, culminating with ex-Devil Sheldon Brookbank scoring the game-tying goal with 2:13 left in regulation.

After a scoreless opening period, rookie Adam Henrique gave the Devils a 1-0 lead 85 seconds into the second period when he collected a rebound off of Anaheim goaltender Jonas Hiller’s pad and slid the puck past his outstretched toe for his 15th goal of the season. Ilya Kovalchuk, who had a lot of energy during the match, fired the initial shot after some strong forechecking by Henrique and Zach Parise. “Zach took the puck away from the guy and found me in the middle of the slot,” said Kovalchuk, “I shot it and it went right to Henny; he has great hands and he put it in.”

Alexei Ponikarovsky made it 2-0 for New Jersey at 10:56 after shoveling a nifty pass from Dainius Zubrus past Hiller for his 3rd goal in 11 games since being acquired from Carolina. “Zubie is a pretty skilled guy,” said Ponikarovsky, “a guy of his caliber compliments my game well, and that’s why we scored.” Just over five minutes later Corey Perry got the Ducks on the board with his 29th, a backhanded rebound shot of Ryan Getzlaf’s one-timer echoing blast off of Brodeur’s leg pad.

Perry nearly netted his second of the game on a shorthanded breakaway with 6:30 left in the third period, but Brodeur denied him with a sprawling save to momentarily preserve his squad’s one-goal lead. That was a key save when Brookbank scored only his second career goal (ending a 166 games goalless drought) four minutes later to send the game into sudden-death overtime.

Getzlaf appeared to end the game 1:10 into the tiebreaker when the puck went off his skate and past Brodeur’s goal line, setting off a celebration with all of his teammates mobbing him in the corner. But the Devils requested and got the play reviewed, and eventually reversed as the league ruled that the Anaheim captain directed the puck into the net intentionally with his skate.

Still undecided after five minutes of overtime, the shootout began with Kovalchuk racing in and beating Hiller with a quick wrist shot through the five-hole; Teemu Selanne responded for the Ducks as he deked and flipped a shot past a sliding Brodeur to even the score. “Selanne,” admitted Brodeur, “after six hundred and something goals I should know his moves, I guess I didn’t do my homework on him.”

Parise’s wrist shot was denied by Hiller in round two, and Perry’s shot rang off the post and sailed wide, sending the teams still tied into round three. Patrik Elias snapped a shot through Hiller for New Jersey and Getzlaf was denied on his attempt by Brodeur’s leg pad, clinching the victory for the Devils. “I don’t see these guys (Perry and Getzlaf) too often, but I played with them in the Olympics,” said Brodeur. “I have a little bit of a book on them, I know they like to get close to you and shoot it, they are so skilled and so quick; I just tried to time myself with them on those.”

Game Notes: Perry, last year’s Rocket Richard Trophy (most goals) winner, now has goals/points in each of his last four games. Every player on Anaheim had at least one shot on goal, led by Perry’s five; Kovalchuk led all players with six shots on goal and only three players on New Jersey failed to record a shot (Zubrus, Bryce Salvador, Anton Volchenkov). Salvador led all skaters in ice-time with 26:28 and Ducks d-man Francois Beauchemin led his team with 25:42. Devils winger David Clarkson led all players with five hits and Volchenkov led all players with four blocked shots. New Jersey (33-20-4) is off until Sunday when they play in Montreal (24-25-10) and Anaheim (24-24-10) will also be in action that day in Florida (27-19-11).

Dan’s 3 Stars of the Game:
#1 — Martin Brodeur (NJ) — 36 saves, win (20-13-2)
#2 — Jonas Hiller (Ana) — 25 saves, ot loss (21-19-10)
#3 — Corey Perry (Ana) — goal (29)

Dan Rice can be reached at drdiablo321@yahoo.com.

Zach Attack! Parise & Devils Blow Past Hurricanes

Devils 4           Carolina 2

The New Jersey Devils picked up their first win of the new season on Monday afternoon, topping the Carolina Hurricanes 4-2 at the Prudential Center. Captain Zach Parise scored his first goal in a year’s time to start the scoring, and he sealed the win by scoring an empty-net goal with 1:06 left in the game. “Someone just told me it was a year between goals (for me), it’s always a good feeling scoring a goal. There’s a lot of excitement that rushes through you. When you’re not playing, or not scoring, you want that feeling back,” said Parise.

Johan Hedberg was the somewhat-surprise starter in net for New Jersey and the Moose was solid, turning aside 24 of 26 shots to even his team’s early season record at 1-1. “You usually have an early game routine and a late game routine,” said the Swedish netminder when asked how he prepared for the 1pm start time. “I usually find it hard to remember what I do (for day games) when it’s early in the season,” he added with a smile.

Parise scored 3:59 into the game, redirecting a shot-pass from Patrik Elias past ‘Canes goalie Cam Ward. “I felt like last game, the crowd was waiting for something to cheer about,” said Parise when asked if the first goal of the game (and season) was important. “Fortunately we were able to get one early, get that first one for the season out of the way and just settle down a little bit. We had a better start tonight.”

The game remained 1-0 until 8:56 into the second period when Alexei Ponikarovsky was the last player to touch the puck after a long shot from Tim Gleason pinballed off of a host of players in front of Hedberg’s crease. The tie didn’t last long, as Mark Fayne one-timed a circle-to-circle pass from Ilya Kovalchuk past Ward at 9:36.

Chad Larose evened the score again when his rocket shot deflected off of defender Henrik Tallinder’s stick and went over Hedberg’s shoulder and under the crossbar. “I should have had that. I got a piece of it, it hit the post and went in,” Hedberg explained afterwards. “I have to take a look at it (on video) and see what happened there.”

New Jersey had to kill off a two-man disadvantage early in the third period with the score still tied at two and did so thanks in large part to their defenseman and forward Dainius Zubrus. “Great job, from our goaltender to Zubrus upfront and the defensemen,” said coach Peter DeBoer. “I thought Zubrus did an outstanding job there at a critical time in the game.”

Kovalchuk, who had broken two of his sticks earlier in the game on attempted shots, finally netted his first goal of the season when he followed up his own shot and flicked the rebound over Ward for the eventual game-winner. “Those plastic sticks, they’re not very strong,” said a smirking Kovalchuk. “I should stop working out.” His linemate, Nick Palmieri, helped create the time and space that Kovalchuk needed on the goal that gave the Devils the momentum they needed to close out the first win for DeBoer as their new coach. “You breathe a sigh of relief,” said Palmieri after the team’s first win, “especially after getting shutout in the first game.”

Game Notes: New Jersey used the same exact lineup as they did in Saturday’s shutout loss; the only change was in goal, as Martin Brodeur got a rare early-season game off. For the second straight game the Devils’ PK was perfect, they were 5-for-5 against the Hurricanes and now are 13-for-13 this season. Petr Sykora assisted on Parise’s goal for his first point in his second-stint with the franchise. Larose led all players with five shots on goal, Parise, Kovalchuk and Elias led New Jersey with four each. Devils rookie defenseman Adam Larsson led all skaters in ice-time with 24:35 and Joni Pitkanen led Carolina with 23:08. Palmieri and ‘Canes blueliner Bryan Allen had two assists each. New Jersey (1-1-0) is off until Thursday when they host Los Angeles (1-1-0) and Carolina (0-2-1) will try again for their first win of the year on Wednesday when they host Boston (1-2-0).

Dan’s Three Stars of the Game:

#1 – Ilya Kovalchuk (NJ) – gw goal (1), 2 assists (2)

#2 – Zach Parise (NJ) – 2 goals (2)

#3 – Johan Hedberg (NJ) – 24 saves, win (1-0-0)

Dan Rice can be reached at drdiablo321@yahoo.com.

Waiting For Kovalchuk…

A lot has happened since Ilya Kovalchuk (642 points in 621 NHL games) became the most talented free-agent in NHL history to hit the open market on July 1, but here we sit on July 18 and the Russian sniper (338 career goals) still hasn’t found a new home. New Jersey, which acquired him in a trade last season is still in the mix, and so are the in, out, in, out, in the Kovy-sweepstakes LA Kings. A third option could be the Russian KHL League, but a talented player in his prime like Kovalchuk needs to play in the league with the most talent and best competition — the NHL.

There are still very valuable players on the market besides Kovalchuk and it seems that the are all waiting for him to sign, before they decide where to go or maybe the other GMs are waiting to see where he lands — making for a very boring two weeks in July devoid of any substantial hockey news.  So, here’s what I am thinking about as we wait for Kovalchuk’s ‘decision’ to be made:

-The NY Islanders have made some solid, off the radar moves to shore up their blue line (Mark Eaton & Milan Jurcina), but more work needs to be done if they are to contend for a playoff spot out of the ultra-competitive Atlantic Division. They should look to sign Alexei Ponikarovsky to play in the top-six and bring back two former Islanders to add more grit to their game — Andy Sutton & Raffi Torres. Sutton has said he would welcome a return to the Island and Torres would be a perfect fit on the third line alongside either Frans Nielsen or Doug Weight.

-What in the freaking world is going on in Calgary?!? They signed two ex-Flames, who both had less than stellar tenures the first time around. Alex Tanguay is a shell of the player he was in 2001 with Colorado and Olli Jokinen was traded away for Ales Kotalik and his ridiculous contract and then they re-sign Jokinen who never looked comfortable in Calgary alongside Jarome Iginla. A few days later ex-Tampa GM Jay Feaster as assistant to the GM who will be probably soon be fired in Darryl Sutter.

-There are still two solid goalies available — one via free agency (Marty Turco) and one via trade (Tim Thomas). It’s not every day you have these types of quality goalies available, so stop being cheap and give your team a decent chance to succeed next year (this means you Columbus, Toronto, Atlanta, Florida, Tampa, Montreal, Minnesota, LA, San Jose, Dallas).

-There are two enigmatic, but talented wingers available in Max Afinogenov and Alex Frolov and i haven’t heard peep about either yet. It’s possible that one of these two could wind up in the KHL, but in the right situation they can still be solid NHLers.

-Two talented centers are available for trade, but both have almost unmovable  contracts — Boston’s Marc Savard and Ottawa’s Jason Spezza. Hey, maybe they should just be traded for each other?

-It seemed odd to me that: Pittsburgh signed defenseman Paul Martin from New Jersey, New Jersey signed Anton Volchenkov from Ottawa and Ottawa signed Sergei Gonchar from Pittsburgh. This is just my opinion but, a three-way trade during the season would have been soooooo much cooler!

-If the Devils don’t sign Kovalchuk, they should take a hard look at Miroslav Satan, and not just because of the name. Miro proved in the playoffs that he can still produce and help a winning team go deep into the spring.

-Four solid long-time NHL vets are still on the market. Would Mike Modano, Paul Kariya, Teemu Selanne & Bill Guerin have lasted this long on the open market ten summers ago in 2000? I think not. Modano may go to Detroit, which makes sense in a lot of ways. What if Kariya and Selanne sign one-year deals in Pittsburgh like they did in Colorado? Apparently Sidney Crosby felt he didn’t need Guerin’s leadership, so maybe Guerin could ride shotgun with AO in DC?

-Finally where in the world is Petr Sykora? The rest of your buddies from 2000 are in NJ…..A-LINE, ASSEMBLE!!!!