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.

No Doubting Thomas as Bruins Bash Devils

Boston 4         Devils 1

Through the first four home games this season the New Jersey Devils have perfected only one thing — the art of losing. Saturday night at Prudential Center they dropped a bomb against the Boston Bruins, falling by a 4-1 score with all goals coming in the second period. Tim Thomas played a strong game in net for the Bruins, turning aside 31 of 32 Devils’ shots as he picked up his second win of the season. New Jersey’s Martin Brodeur also made 31 saves, but the four he surrendered in 16 second period Bruins’ shots were the difference in the game as his team fell to a disappointing 0-3-1 at home. “Timmy did good tonight; he challenged everything,” said Boston coach Claude Julien. “When he’s on top of his game, that’s what he does. He challenges (the shooters); he doesn’t over think, he just does the job. I thought he did a great job in close, they had some shots, some rebounds and he battled through those.”

In the final two minutes of the scoreless opening period the Devils had a 5-on-3 advantage, but were unable to capitalize as the road-weary Bruins began to find their game legs. “Yeah that could have been a turning point right there; the second call was a tough one on (Brad) Marchand, but you have to kill those off,” the ex-Devils coach said afterwards. “They have a couple of guys that can shoot from the back end: (Jason) Arnott and obviously (Ilya) Kovalchuk. We wanted to make sure that we took away those opportunities and make the big save when we needed it – our guys did a pretty good job of killing that. It seemed to give us some momentum heading into the second period.” Boston played their first two games this season in Prague, Czech Republic against the Phoenix Coyotes and won’t play their home opener until Thursday when they host Washington.

At the start of the second period New Jersey coach John MacLean altered his line combinations, switching Dainius Zubrus with Kovalchuk. Zubrus’ addition to the duo of Travis Zajac and Zach Parise paid almost immediate dividends as the trio accounted for the team’s only goal. On the scoring play Zubrus collected the rebound of Andy Greene’s point shot and flipped a backhanded shot past a lunging Thomas at 3:45. “The goal was a good shot on net, a battle in front of the net — I think Zach got a piece of it — and it popped out right to my backhand,” said Zubrus. “I saw Thomas was down and I tried to get it over the top of him and I was able to do that. It felt good obviously, because it gave our team some energy and we haven’t been scoring that much.”

Unfortunately Kovalchuk was relegated to the third line and managed only one shot on goal each period skating with David Clarkson and rookie center Jacob Josefson. “I thought Zubie and Travis and Zach worked really hard. They had a lot of chances and they battled the whole game. I thought that line was good,” said MacLean. “We had a couple of lines that battled the whole game and we had some passengers.”

The Devils lead lasted only 1:53 as the Bruins evened the score when rookie Jordan Caron netted his first career NHL goal by sliding a rebound past Brodeur, sparking his team’s goal explosion. Michael Ryder gave Boston the lead permanently when his slapper from the slot beat Brodeur’s glove hand at 10:44, followed by Shawn Thornton’s tally at 16:43 and Milan Lucic’s at 18:09. “It was frustrating,” admitted Zubrus. “I thought we had a decent start, we were playing okay and then it seemed every mistake that we made, they just…if you look at the goals that they got, it was something where we turned it over or lose a battle; a lot of the goals that we get scored on (lately), we have the puck on our stick and then we lose it.”

The Devils will have four days off before their next game and clearly have some things to work on if they are to get back to their winning ways. “We’ll take a break and then we’ll start working on things from the defensive zone out, work on some starts and stops, some battles,” said a surprised, but not shocked MacLean, “start winning some battles, and getting our mind focused (on playing 60 minutes).”

Game Notes: Nathan Horton’s assist on the fourth Boston goal was his 300th NHL point (145g-155a). Boston defenseman Zdeno Chara led all skaters in ice-time with 23:55 and Greene led New Jersey with 23:36; Arnott was a game-worst -3. Parise and Horton led all players with five shots on goal apiece; only two Bruins (Gregory Campbell and Blake Wheeler) failed to register a shot on goal. Both teams won 21 face-offs and both power plays were empty: NJ 0-4, BOS 0-3. New Jersey (1-4-1) is off until Thursday when they play at Montreal (3-1-1); Boston (2-1-0) will continue their early-season trek in Washington (4-1-0) on Tuesday night.

Dan’s Three Stars of the Game:

#1 – Tim Thomas (Bos) – 31 saves, win (2-0-0)

#2 – Michael Ryder (Bos) – gw goal (1)

#3 – Milan Lucic (Bos) – goal (2)

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

Avalanche & Anderson Keep Devils Winless at Home

Colorado 3             Devils 2

Playing with a full lineup for the first time in three games the New Jersey Devils fired a season-high 43 shots on goal and still lost 3-2 to the Colorado Avalanche on Friday night at the Prudential Center. Avalanche goalie Craig Anderson was the star of the night, turning aside 41 shots as the Devils home record fell to 0-2-1. “It’s a little tough when we’ve been starting games the way we have, especially the last two games — out-shooting our opponents 10-0 or 15-3 — and we don’t get anything, it’s hard to get momentum,” said Anderson’s opposition Martin Brodeur. “The frustration builds up as the game goes on if you don’t put the puck in the net early. It’s definitely a little tough for the guys, but I think we worked through it and got a lot of chances. Not everybody is going to play like Jacques Plante against us every night.”

The loss spoiled a night of first for some of New Jersey’s young talent — rookie blueliner Matt Taormina scored his first NHL goal and had his first multi-point effort, while fellow rookie and defenseman Matt Corrente earned his first NHL point, an assist.

The Devils started the game strong, badly out-shooting the Avs (10-0 at one point) and still couldn’t solve Anderson before his team finally woke up and scored the game’s first goal. New Jersey killed off 3:56 of Colin White’s four-minute double-minor penalty but Cody McLeod scored his first goal of the season when he beat Brodeur with a snap shot that the goalie said tricked him when it bounced off the ice and by him.

22 seconds after McLeod scored, he was kicked out of the game for boarding Taormina in the corner, giving the Devils a five-minute major power play. “We should have settled it down a little bit more and a little better support,” said Devils winger Patrik Elias. “We have to learn how to relax a little bit with that power play; I thought in the second period when we scored on the PP, we kind of settled down, made some real good passes and had them running around.” They continued to pepper Anderson with shots from all angles, and almost scored twice, but they ended the period trailing 1-0 despite holding a 17-3 edge in shots on goal. “We all had our opportunities on that power play, their goalie played well,” said Taormina afterwards, “that happens.”

TJ Galiardi extended the lead to 2-0 when he pounced on a loose rebound 11:48 into the second period, but it felt like 12-0 the way Anderson was playing. Three minutes later at 14:48 Taormina got New Jersey on the board with a booming slap shot that found its way through a maze of players and past Anderson. “We tell each other to shoot it on net and I did that; it’s nice to finally get one, especially on the power play,” said the 23-year-old rookie. “We played a good game, (but) we have some things that we have to fix.”

The Devils entered the third period down by one, but quickly found themselves down by two again. “I think that we had maybe ten minutes in the second and the first ten minutes in the third we were kind of flat,” said an unfazed Elias. “Not every game is going to go perfect, but we have to push each other. One line has to get good chances and we have to follow that up; I think we can push each other a little more.” Chris Stewart (who now has four points in three career games vs. NJ) blasted a slap shot past Brodeur’s glove hand at 4:31 for his second goal of the season.

Taormina then assisted on an Ilya Kovalchuk goal (for the second game in a row) to bring New Jersey back within one goal. The rookie fired a long pass to Kovalchuk who raced into the zone and snapped a wrist shot through Anderson, leaving the Devils with 11:15 left in the game to try to find the equalizer — which they never found. “I think we’re playing well. It’s just a matter of getting breaks offensively on our side,” said Brodeur. “I think these breaks, eventually we’re going to get, and we’ll solve some of the flaws that we have in our zone.”

The loss means that for the second consecutive year New Jersey (1-2-2) has dropped its first three home games; they will try again Saturday night when they host Boston (1-1-0). Colorado (3-1-0) continues their road trip and will play at the New York Islanders (1-1-2) the same night.

Game Notes: This is the second year in a row the New Jersey has lost their only meeting with Colorado. Taormina led all skaters in ice-time with 24:42 and Kyle Quincey led the Avalanche with 22:52.  Kovalchuk led all players with seven shots on goal, while Daniel Winnik and Paul Stastny led the Avs with three apiece. Despite trailing in face-offs 2-9 after the first period the Devils finished the game 33-22. Rookie center Jacob Josefson (20th overall, 2009) made his NHL debut and saw 15:13 of ice-time, had one shot on goal and was 5-5 on face-offs. Stastny now has five points (1g-4a) in four career games against New Jersey.

Dan’s Three Stars of the Game:

#1 – Craig Anderson (Col) – 41 saves, win (2-1-0)

#2 – TJ Galiardi (Col) – goal (1), assist (1)

#3 – Matt Taormina (NJ) – pp goal (1), assist (2)

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