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.

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Hedberg, Devils Keep Rolling

Earlier in the season the New Jersey Devils and New York Islanders were in a battle to see who had the worst record in the NHL. Now they are two of the hottest teams in the league, and the Devils continued to rise from the dead on Wednesday night with their fifth straight win, topping the Carolina Hurricanes for the second time in eight days. New Jersey is now 12 points behind the eighth place ‘Canes with 25 games remaining.

Johan Hedberg made 25 saves as New Jersey raced out to a 3-0 lead and then held on for a 3-2 win. Ilya Kovalchuk continued his torrid second half pace, netting his 20th goal of the season to get the scoring started in the second period. After a scoreless opening twenty minutes, it was Kovalchuk (20 goals for the ninth consecutive season) who beat Cam Ward with a dazzling shot at 5:41, giving his team a lead they would never relinquish.

In the early stages of the third period Brian Rolston and Patrik Elias scored goals 1:25 apart, leaving Carolina dazed, confused and in a 3-0 hole. Both goals came during 4-on-4 play as the Devils exposed the ‘Canes with the extra space on the ice. First Rolston converted Elias’ rebound for his ninth goal of the year at :34 and then Elias buried a backhand shot past Ward after taking a cross-ice feed from Rolston.

Hedberg lost his bid for his second shutout of the year when Sergei Samsonov scored at 8:17 and Tuomo Ruutu finished the scoring with 2.8 seconds remaining, making the game seem closer than it actually was. Next up for the Devils are the floundering New York Rangers on Friday night at Prudential Center, before a rematch with the Hurricanes in Carolina on Saturday night.

Dan’s 3 Stars of the Game:
#1 — Johan Hedberg (NJ) — 25 saves, win (10): The Moose was solid again, now has .500 record
#2 — Ilya Kovalchuk (NJ) — goal (20): Kovy continues his torrid pace, money well spent
#3 — Patrik Elias (NJ) — gw goal (14), assist (29): NJ’s leading scorer continues to lead.

Devils-Hurricanes Postgame Quotes [12.09.09]

Here are some of the postgame quotes after Wednesday’s 4-2  win by the Devils over the Hurricanes:

Zach Parise:

Describing Andy Greene’s power play goal that he assisted on…

“Andy pretty much did it all; he made a nice break in and their guy kind of backed off of me and let me take it to the net. I tried to shoot low blocker and it went right over to Andy.”

Are these Hurricanes any different than the team that you lost to in the playoffs last spring, despite their record?

“I think it’s the same team. For whatever reason they’ve struggled, but they’ve still got good players. I think they’re a lot better than their record says — that’s a good team over there.”

Johnny Oduya:

You blocked a lot of shots tonight (4) can you talk about that a little?

“Did I?”

You had at least four through two periods, including one where Marty was out of position and you went down to one knee…

“Well, that one I was a little bit out of position and it was my guy that was wide I think; I had to make a choice and got caught a little bit in between. I don’t know, I think I got lucky and his shot caught me because it was pretty much an open net.”

Carolina has a pretty bad record right now (7-18-5), do you notice anything different about them from last year’s playoffs?

“Well they have a couple of guys out; I always think they’ve been a good team. I know last year at times they were struggling a little bit too before they got it going at the end of the year. They’re one of those teams that, maybe, they get up a little bit more for the playoffs. They’re a pretty experienced team, playoff-wise too, once we get further along in the season, I think they’re going to start playing better. Obviously they’ve had a tough start, but I think they’ll come around.”

When Bryce Salvador went down at the end of the first period and misses part of the second, the d-pairings get changed up a little bit, how much does that affect you?

“I think (on this team) anyone can play with anyone; everybody can play both sides too. I don’t think that’s a problem, I think it’s more of just knowing who you are out (on the ice) with and their type of game, but we still play the same system and play a team-game, a defensive-game.”

Martin Brodeur:

Talking about Andy Greene…

“I don’t think there’s a doubt in anybody’s mind that he belongs in the NHL.”

Can you believe that at one point this season you had to answer questions about not winning at home and now you’ve won eight of ten here at the Rock?

“It’s always tough, because as reporters, and even coaches and players, you take an 82-game season and you shrink it down to little streaks. But when you look at the grand scheme of things, it’s a lot different; you don’t see these bumps as much. But when you’re going through them, we had a hard time in the first three games (here). We got over it and now we’re doing well and we have to try to keep that up. It’s like a goalie that has a couple of tough games, next thing you know, its tough but when you really look at it; when you get older you realize that the big picture is what’s important. I know its important the day you have to play, but right now we’re happy about the way everybody is contributing for us to be successful at home. It is important, you play to be the top team — that gives you the home-ice advantage — so if you’re not comfortable playing there, it doesn’t make sense, so it’s important to play well at home.”

Did their first goal hit (Mark) Fraser’s stick?

“Yeah, I think it hit his stick, his pants and went down on me; it was kind of weird. I lost it for a good second, and I was looking like ‘Where is it?’ and the next thing I saw was it going by me, so it was an unfortunate break.”

Were you thinking shutout before that?

Smiling “No, no, it was too early, with four minutes left maybe.”

Cam Ward:

Did you feel any rust going in or was it the first shot and then you’re in the game?

“I felt a little bit uncomfortable at times in the first period, but as the game went along I thought I settled down and played better in the second and third; by the end of the game I felt like my old self again.”

Did this game start to take on the feel that it had when you guys faced each other in the playoffs last spring?

“Yeah, you know it’s just another game against the Devils — it’s always a hard-fought game; I thought our guys really competed well. We were pressing quite a bit in the second and third periods there and we just couldn’t find a way to get that third goal. They do such a good job at clogging up the slot — the middle of the ice in front of Marty. We worked hard, but once again we fell a little bit short.”

Jacques Lemaire:

How worried were you about blowing the lead when it was 3-2?

“Well at that time I wasn’t thinking about the game itself, the win or the loss, I was thinking about the way we were playing. If you notice we started to turn the puck over at their blue line, three, four times in a row and at different times.”

Who would you say saved the win for you?

“Saved the win? I know Marty made big saves at certain times, I think it’s again, the guys that played against their top line; I felt we did a pretty decent job against them.”

Devils Post-Game Quotes [10.17.09]

Here are the transcripts of postgame after Saturday’s 2-0 Devils win over the Hurricanes:

Zach Parise:

It looked like a playoff-style game, do you agree?

“Yeah, it seems like anytime we play these guys, it’s going to go down to the wire. Both teams didn’t really give a lot of room; it was tough (out there). It wasn’t an easy game.”

Talk about the line changes…

“We knew beforehand, so it wasn’t a surprise for us. We need to get some more scoring and more of a consistent attack. We’ll see what happens. There are some good players in here and we should be capable of playing with anyone so – its tough when you lose Elias who’s one of your best forwards – you have to mix and match and find something that works.”

The PP struggled again tonight…

“Yeah we’re working on it. We were fortunate to get away with it tonight, but we’ll figure it out.”

Martin Brodeur:

Talk about getting shutout no. 102…

“You never know when there’s going to be the next one, (so) it’s hard to really look forward to it. Hopefully we get shutouts, because that means we’re getting wins, and then everybody’s happy.”

You seemed like you were in a zone tonight, fair assesment?

“When we play these guys it’s always a tough game. We knew that we couldn’t give them much; we had to stay disciplined and stay out of the box. They did the same too. It was really a little bit of a chess match. I think it was a pretty good game to watch – to play it was a lot of fun, because every little mistake could have been the difference, we got a lucky bounce on our goal and that was enough to win the game.”

What’s it like playing against Ward?

“He’s a good goalie. Every time I play against him or watch him play, I’m really impressed. Tommy Barassso has done a great job with him, he’s playing a lot like him – how aggressive he is. He made some big saves to keep his team in the game. Again, anytime you play against one of the top goalies you always want to play well because you know your team isn’t going to get much, so you can’t give up a lot.”

Did you notice Ward has been more aggressive with his stick?

“Well, Tommy B was like that; it’s a credit to Cam that he’s playing that way – I think it’s a way of playing the game, to be active with your stick. It’s something that I do a lot but really impressive in the way that he’s playing.”

When did you know you needed a shutout tonight?

“When we scored that goal, I said, ‘I think this is going to be it for me – this is all the production I’m going to get.’ In my head it wasn’t about a shutout it was I cant give up anything and we’ve got to get it done.”

Did you sense in the first period it would be a goaltending duel?

“I felt good. I’m not sure about Cam, but I felt strong in there. At least I got some shots early on – last night I didn’t get many shots until late in the second period. It’s hard to get going when that happens. I should be used to it playing for Jacques so many years (smirk) but it was nice because I was able to get some work tonight and I felt good.”

Paul Martin:

New defense partner for you tonight…

“It worked well tonight and we’ll see what the coaches want to do. It’s not up to us.”

Was it difficult after playing alongside Oduya for so long?

“Sal is more of a stay at home d-man. He has different tendencies (than Oduya). I guess they (the coaches) weren’t getting from us what they wanted so far, so they tried something different.”

You played with Salvador last year a bit, does that make it easier?

“We’re supposed to play the same way (individually) every game, so it really shouldn’t matter who you’re playing with, you just get used to it.”

Rob Niedermayer:

Talk about the scoring play and the goal…

“Zach made a good play and I knew a couple of guys were going to the net so I just tried to throw it there and we got the bounce. Sometimes you need to get the lucky bounce, like we did.”

Did you feel you were owed one of those lucky bounces?

“Well, you have to work for your chances, your goals. I thought tonight we did and we came out and worked hard all three periods – that’s what we have to do.”

Jacques Lemaire:

What did you think of tonight’s performance?

“Much better — everyone worked hard, everyone played disciplined, we were good with the puck, and we had good scoring chances. I can’t find a player that didn’t do his job.”

How about Marty?

“Marty was just great. That’s how we know the type of game he could play. You could tell right at the start there that first cross-ice pass that turned out to be a one-timer he made a good save, and after that it was downhill for him.”

Any line combos you haven’t tried yet – is it because you haven’t thought of them yet?

“(Smiling) Yes, I did change the lines, I feel much better with the ones that we have right now. I think our team is more solid. It’s too bad that I had to break up a line that had so much success last year, but I talked to the guys and they want to go on with this and they feel it’s going to help the team. You could tell the job that Travis did tonight with the kids – that was really good…really good. He makes the kids even better, this is what we need. Nieder, started on the checking line and then I moved him up with Zach and Jamie and I thought he fit really well there. He moves the puck well, he’s getting his share of chances and I’m really happy with the way they all played.”

Why did you make that move?

“I wanted to give a little more responsibility to Zubie (on the checking line with Pandolfo and Rolston) playing against the other team’s top line and I knew before the game that Nieder would fit well with those two. It turned out really good.”

You used Bergfors a lot… (He played 17:47 and led the team with 8 shots on goal)

“Yes. He played a good number of minutes. You know I just feel he’s solid. You look at him when he gets the puck and he controls it…makes good plays. I liked, if you talk to Lou or any of the coaching staff, I liked the kid right from day one. I said ‘This kid can play’, you can see he missed a few chances, but he’s there. We’ll work on his shot. But him and Matt they never stop; they just keep working. Matt had the stick in the face on his nose and he wanted to come back as quick as possible — he wants to play. It’s great to have kids like that.”

You still have an issue with too many men on the ice…

“Whew. I think we’re practicing our PK. That’s the only thing I can see. The guys want to kill penalties so our average gets better. Again – the player though the player he was replacing was already on the bench.”

Brodeur & Devils Blank ‘Canes 2-0

Here is the link to my recap of Saturday’s Devils-Carolina game:

http://nycsportsnews.com/articles/details.htm?id=1020

Dan’s Three Stars of the Game:

#1 – Martin Brodeur (NJ) – 26 saves, win (4-3-0), shutout (1)

#2 – Can Ward (Car) – 27 saves, loss (2-4-1)

#3 – Jamie Langenbrunner (NJ) – gw goal (2)

More quotes to be posted…

Here are the line combos and d-man pairings used for most of the game:

New Jersey:
Parise-Niedermayer-Langenbrunner
Halischuk-Zajac-Bergfors
Pandolfo-Zubrus-Rolston
Leblond-Pelley-Clarkson

Martin-Salvador
Mottau-White
Greene-Oduya

Carolina:
Whitney-Staal-Ruutu
Samsonov-Cullen-Larose
Jokinen-Brind’Amour-Walker
Kostopoulos-Yelle-Conboy

Gleason-Pitkanen
A.Ward-Alberts
Corvo-Wallin