Greene Powers Devils Past Islanders

Devils 3           NY Islanders 2

For the first time since the spring of 1996 it appears that the New Jersey Devils will not be a participant in the NHL’s Stanley Cup playoffs, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have something to play for over their disappointing season’s final seven games. “It’s definitely a different territory for all of us to go into seven games left and you know the season is going to be over come April 10 at 6 o’clock,” admitted Martin Brodeur afterwards. “I think it’s important that you leave the season with a good taste. We’ve come a long way, really (played) well in the second half and so let’s no try to destroy that.” After blowing a two-goal lead in the third period, defenseman Andy Greene scored with 4:56 left in the game and gave New Jersey a 3-2 win over the New York Islanders on Wednesday night at Prudential Center.

The Devils had been shutout in each of their previous two games and their scoring drought eventually lasted a total of 178 minutes and 12 seconds when Ilya Kovalchuk gave his squad a 1-0 lead 4:17 into the game. Kovalchuk’s 28th goal of the year was set up by a nice pass from rookie Nick Palmieri to the Russian sniper in the slot. “Coming off of two shutout losses, it’s nice to bounce back and get a win,” said the 21-year-old Palmieri. New Jersey maintained the one-goal lead into the second period and extended that lead when Jacob Josefson found a rebound from Palmieri’s in-close shot and stuffed it past Islanders’ netminder Rick DiPietro.

The Islanders were unable to get a shot through Brodeur until they took a four-minute high-sticking penalty 7:57 into the third period. Isles center Frans Nielsen scored his league-leading seventh shorthanded goal on a clean breakaway after a turnover in the neutral zone. “We had a ‘first half of the season’ type of breakaway,” said Brodeur when asked what went wrong on the play.

“I knew exactly who it was, he scored on me in the shootout on his backhand; I knew he was going to go there. I couldn’t get enough momentum to make the save, different situation then on a shootout breakaway.” Nielsen’s 7 SH goals in one season tied a franchise record held by Bob Bourne 30 years ago. Four minutes and six seconds later it was Nielsen who scored again, getting credit for the tying goal after a goalmouth scramble in Brodeur’s crease.

The tie didn’t last long as Greene flipped a long shot past DiPietro from the top of the left circle, allowing the Devils to recapture the lead. Brodeur was the more active of the two goalies on this night and was able to make the crucial saves at crucial times, ensuring the victory with 27 saves. “He plays with a lot of confidence, a lot quicker in the net,” said coach Jacques Lemaire of his goalie. “I’m sure he feels good about his game.”

Besides pride and doing their jobs, another motivation for New Jersey is to finish the season at .500, meaning they must win the final six games; the last Devils team to finish below .500 was pre-Brodeur days, back in 1990-91.

Game Notes: New Jersey finished the six-game season series with New York 4-2-0. Nielsen has eight shorthanded points this season, also first among all NHL players, perhaps he should get some serious consideration for the Selke Trophy. Palmieri’s two-point game (2a) was the first multi-point game of his career. Devils forward Rod Pelley played in his 200th NHL game. Greene led all skaters in ice-time with 28:55 and defenseman Jack Hillen led New York with 23:40. Kovalchuk led all players with eight shots on goal; Nielsen led the Islanders with six. Devils rookie defenseman Mark Fayne led all players with five blocked shots and Hillen led the Isles with four. Josefson now has four points (2g-2a) in three games against the Islanders.

 

Dan’s Three Stars of the Game:

#1 – Frans Nielsen (NYI) – 2 goals, sh (13)

#2 – Ilya Kovalchuk (NJ) – goal (28), assist (26)

#3 – Nick Palmieri (NJ) – 2 assists (7)

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

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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!!!!

Devils-Isles Postgame Quotes [11.06.09]

Here is some of the postgame quotes after Friday’s 2–1 Devils win vs. the Islanders:

Dainius Zubrus:

Thoughts on the game…

“Pretty good, the power play clicked again. We had more chances, and early in the game too. Our start was not the greatest again, but other than that I thought we played pretty well.”

Two wins in a row at home after a 1-4 start, what’s different?

“It was in our heads more than anything else; I think its more how we played at home. People keep asking the same question (about the record at home), but we just have to play better. The last two games I thought we did. On the road, I don’t want to say we play simple but, we don’t do too many fancy things and everybody’s going. I think we did the same thing the last couple of games – where everybody’s involved and everybody’s moving. With a lot of guys out, it’s not easy, especially on the blue line; but the guys are moving well and making good plays.”

With the injuries and coach’s decision to jumble the line combinations so often, is it easier or harder to adjust to new linemates constantly?

“Honestly, I don’t think I have to change my game that much. We have some young faces here too so, for myself, I have to stay back (defensively) at times, but other than that not really. You play with good players and try to create (offense) but you have to be smart at all times as well. Its 15 games in and I think Jacques is doing a great job keeping everybody in the game and keeping the lines moving and keeping guys involved. Especially now the way the schedule is, we have a lot of three games in four nights; hopefully we keep winning.”

How do you stay unbeaten on the road tomorrow in Ottawa?

“The same thing (we’ve been doing). We won here now we have to go on the road, and have a better start. But nothing changes; we just want to play the same way. Guys are missing, but other guys are stepping up getting more minutes, but they’re playing well. Obviously on the road we don’t have to change much.”

Patrik Elias:

How did you feel out there tonight?

“Not too bad. It was an up-and-down game for me, physically. I felt all the things that I expected for my first game in five months.”

Any chance you play tomorrow night?

“We’ll make the decision tomorrow morning.”

Yann Danis:

Do you think the team feels they can rely on you now that you have two starts and only allowed two goals?

“I hope so, that’s what I’m trying to do. I’ve said all along that whenever I get a chance to play, I want to make sure that I play well. I want the guys to feel confident with whoever is in net. But a big part of that is the guys played real well in front of me in both games and made my job a lot easier.”

Are you surprised the Islanders didn’t try to distract you more, with talk or whatever?

“I don’t think they’re that type of guys. Like I said, I heard my name here and there, but nothing mean. I don’t think they’re that type of team (that would trash talk to me).”

Does it feel good to beat you’re former team?

“Yeah, obviously it adds a little something. Obviously I want to win against whoever I play, but to beat your former team, it makes it a little special.”

What did you see, or not see, during the scramble around you at the end of the game?

“I had no idea the puck was behind me like that on the goal line; I thought I still had it against the post. I had no idea how close it came (to going in), I saw it on the replay afterwards (on the jumbotron). Good play by our D there (to sweep the puck away), I don’t know who it was, but it was a good play.”

Jacques Lemaire:

Yann Danis tonight…

“He’s steady. If you look at him, it’s easy to believe in him. He’s always well positioned, there’s a lot of pucks that hit him; that’s why it’s easy to believe in him.”

Nice to see Cory Murphy come through with a goal…

“Yeah, that was nice. He didn’t play a lot in the first (period), but after that we used him a little more and it was nice – that shot on the power play.”

You’ve won two straight at home and three of the last four, are the home woes over?

“Hopefully; we got two at home, but I’d still like to see more goals here – that’s what I’m looking for now. We don’t give a lot, which is good, now we have to get some more goals. I’d love to get four goals, get a game that’s not a one-goal game.”

Why’d you change the lines again after the first period?

“Nothing was going. Nothing was going well.”

Was it nice to see Brian Rolston score again?

“Yeah, Rollie played well; he was probably our best forward. He played really well tonight – not only his goal but he won battles and he won a lot of pucks; he made some plays. He played against the top line on the other side. He was good.”

Doug Weight:

Close game, but you came up short…

“Yeah, special teams, we won four in a row and we were kicking it in gear – in all aspects of the game; the last couple of losses, specialty teams could have sure made a difference for us. The power plays, we had a 5-on-3 early, we had three or four (in the game) and we didn’t bury our chances. It’s a tough building to play in, a good team, when they have the lead they clamp down. But it was a good game, we had good opportunities, ultimately we fell short and we’re disappointed.”

Your former teammate played pretty good tonight…

“He did. Yann’s a good guy. I’m sure he was pumped – anytime you play your old team; we knew we were going to get a strong game from him. We had to get some pucks in the net and he answered the bell.”

He mentioned hearing his name on the ice tonight, your response?

“I just said ‘hey’ to him in warm-ups…he was staring at us and I asked him if he was trying to intimidate us. Yann’s a good kid and when the game starts you bear down and you try to win the game.”

Frans Nielsen:
Talk about your goal…

(Sean) Bergenheim and (Jon) Sim got the loose puck off the wall and I was open in front. Bergenheim’s pass went through the legs of the d-man, and then I think my shot went through Danis’ arm.”

You missed some time at the start of the season, how do you feel?

“Good, the last five or six games have been good. I can’t complain.”

Your thoughts on Yann Danis’ game tonight?

“He played great. I think he saw the puck most of the time though; we didn’t get in there and create much traffic in front of him. He was solid.”