Kovalchuk Comes Up Clutch Again as Devils Nip Sharks

Two of the NHL’s hottest teams squared off on Friday night at the Rock as the San Jose Sharks visited the New Jersey Devils. The unstoppable force met the immovable object — San Jose is 9-0-1 in their last ten games, New Jersey is 5-0-1 over their last six contests. For the second night in a row the Devils won a game by a score of 2-1, and for the second night in a row Ilya Kovalchuk had the game-winning goal.

The game remained scorelees through two periods due to stellar and sharp netminding by the Devils’ Johan Hedberg and the Sharks’ Antti Niemi. Finally 6:08 into the third period Hedberg blinked first, surrendering Patrick Marleau’s 21st goal of the season on the 27th shot he faced in the game. Just over three minutes later Brian Rolston tied the game on a one-timer during a 4-on-3 power play, after a nice set-up pass by Kovalchuk.

Kovalchuk gave his team it’s first lead of the night with 3:59 left, firing a shot through Niemi’s arm/body after a face-off win by Travis Zajac; he now has 12 points (6g-6a) over his last nine games. The win moves the Devils only 11 points behind the 8th place Carolina Hurricanes. Kovalchuk’s goal was his sixth game-winner of the season and he now has points in seven consecutive games.

Dan’s 3 Stars of the Game:
#1 — Ilya Kovalchuk (NJ) — gw goal (19), assist (19): King Kovy strikes again.
#2 — Johan Hedberg (NJ) — 31 saves, win (9): The Moose has another solid performance.
#3 — Travis Zajac (NJ) — assist (24),  11 face-off wins: Who needs Zach Parise right Travis?

 

Kovalchuk’s OT Winner Lifts Devils Past Leafs

With one-third of the NHL season left, the New Jersey Devils are trying to pull off an improbable push for a playoff spot — the same Devils team that was once 28 points out of a postseason berth. After Thursday night’s 2-1 overtime victory in Toronto, New Jersey finds itself 13 points behind eighth-place Carolina with 27 games left in the season; they also play the Hurricanes twice over the next nine days.

Ilya Kovalchuk won the game with a brilliant rush up ice as the final seconds ticked away in overtime, his 18th goal of the season came with 24 seconds left in the hockey portion of the game.  He raced towards the net with both Maple Leaf defensemen in front of him (Dion Phaneuf and Keith Aulie) and fired a lightning-quick shot that goalie James Reimer got a piece of, but not enough to prevent the winning goal.

Both goalies were phenomenal in the game as Reimer (37 saves) and Johan Hedberg (31 saves) made key stops in limiting their opponents to one regulation goal each. Hedberg’s only mistake of the night came 5:18 into the second period when he was beaten by Nikolai Kulemin’s rising shot in front of the crease, his 21st goal of the season.

Toronto maintained the 1-0 lead until 3:23 into the third period when Dainius Zubrus deflected Mark Fayne’s long shot past an unsuspecting Reimer, after some great work by Zubrus to maintain puck possession in the offensive zone.

The win was especially special for coach Jacques Lemaire because it was the 600th of his career, a feat only accomplished by seven other bench bosses. During the postgame on MSG he seemed very happy, almost shocked, “I only heard about this last week” he joked, but the look on his face told you he was very proud of the accomplishment.

Dan’s 3 Stars of the game:
#1 — Ilya Kovalchuk (NJ) — gw goal (18): Clutch players make clutch plays.
#2 — James Reimer (Tor) — 37 saves, ot loss (1): Forget Jiggy and the Monster, this kid is the Goods.
#3 — Johan Hedberg (NJ) — 31 saves, win (8): The Moose was solid again, which Devs need in Brodeur’s abscence

Hedberg Stands Tall as Devils Outlast Flyers

Devils 2 Philadelphia 1 — shootout

Despite losing to the New York Islanders 2-0 at the Nassau Coliseum on Black Friday (snapping their modest two-game winning streak) the New Jersey Devils were able to rebound and beat the division-leading Philadelphia Flyers by a score of 2-1 in a shootout 24 hours later at Prudential Center. The Devils have now won four in a row at home and the last three of those can directly be attributed to the play in goal by Johan Hedberg who has surrendered only two goals in the three games, stopping 83 of the 85 shots he has faced. “He’s been incredible. It seems like he’s a goalie that the more shots he gets, the better he is,” said New Jersey’s Travis Zajac. “Today, they got a lucky one on him, other than that he’s been making key saves for us in key situations of games.”

Just 1:52 into the game the Flyers found themselves shorthanded for four minutes when Scott Hartnell smacked Brian Rolston in the head with his stick. Although the Devils didn’t score on the power play they gained some early territorial momentum and had seven shots on goal before Philly had registered its first of the day. Adam Mair scored his first goal of the season at 11:49, snapping a wrist shot past Flyers goalie Brian Boucher’s stick hand to give New Jersey the early 1-0 lead. “It feels great; I’ve had some chances,” said Mair afterwards. “As a hockey player, you always like to score; you always like to help contribute offensively.”

Philadelphia out-shot the Devils 41-18 for the game after the first eight minutes but they were never able to solve Hedberg until Daniel Briere scored the tying goal from behind the goal line 8:38 into the third period, his 12th of the season. “He just shot it at me,” said Hedberg. “I think he shot it from the side of the net, it bounced up and hit my thigh and went in. It’s just one of those things.”

After a scoreless overtime, the game went to a shootout where the first two shooters on each team were turned aside without a goal — Ilya Kovalchuk and Mattias Tedenby for New Jersey, Claude Giroux and Briere for Philly. Nikolay Zherdev beat Hedberg through his five-hole, putting pressure on Jason Arnott to keep the game alive for his fellow Devils. “I just had it in my head what I was going to do all along and it helps when you have it in your head what you are going to do,” confessed Arnott. “I knew Boucher was going down a little bit early, and I wanted to go (top) shelf; I wanted to make sure I got it off quick and hard…and it went in.”

Flyers’ captain Mike Richards rang a wrist shot off the post in round 4 before Zajac clinched the win with his sharp wrist shot that went by Boucher so fast it hit the back of the twine and popped right back out past the Flyers netminder. “I said to myself if I got a chance I would just fake a shot, and then try to go upstairs,” said Zajac. “To be able to come back today (after Friday’s loss) and get the two points against a very good hockey team, that was important for us.”

Game Notes: Devils winger Patrik Elias missed the game because his wife Petra was giving birth to their first child, Sophia Gabriella. Kovalchuk led all skaters in ice-time with 26:31, while Matt Carle led Philadelphia with 25:40. Jeff Carter, who assisted on Briere’s goal, led all players with nine shots on goal; Kovalchuk led New Jersey with eight. Flyers d-man Kimmo Timonen led all players with four blocked shots. New Jersey (8-14-2) is off until Thursday when they host Montreal (15-8-1) and Philadelphia (15-6-4) is back in action on Wednesday when they host Boston (12-7-2).

 

Dan’s Three Stars of the Game:

#1 – Johan Hedberg (NJ) – 40 saves, win (4)

#2 – Travis Zajac (NJ) – g/w shootout goal

#3 – Daniel Briere (Phil) – pp goal (12)

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

Devils-Flyers Postgame Quotes [11.27.10]

Travis Zajac:

Talking about rebounding from a loss the day before…

“We wanted to get those points yesterday, but to be able to come back today and get the two points against a very good hockey team; that was important for us.”

Was your move planned ahead in the shootout?

“I said to myself if I got a chance I would just fake a shot, then try to go upstairs.”

Were you trying to get him to go down?

“Yeah.”

Was it nice to get that goal when goals have been hard to come by this season for you?

“(smiles) Yeah; I wish those counted on the score sheet. It’s been a struggle for us the last couple of games. We haven’t done too much on offense, but our defense has been solid. I think if we continue to play hard defensively we are going to get more and more opportunities; but we still have to work on creating stuff offensively. It’s tough to win games when you score one goal a game, lucky for us our goalie has kept us in the last couple of times. We still have to find ways to score.”

What did you think of Hedberg’s game tonight?

“He’s been incredible. It seems like he’s a goalie that the more shots he gets, the better he is. Today, they got a lucky one on him, other than that he’s been making key saves for us in key situations of games. He’s the reason we won three out of four (games) this week.”

Johan Hedberg:

Did (Nikolay) Zherdev’s shot go through your five-hole there?

“Yeah, he fooled me. I thought he was going to shoot up, but it was a quick release, beat me five-hole.”

Did Danny Briere’s goal go in off your leg?

“Well I think what happened was they passed across (the crease) and it hit a skate, came back out and then Briere shot it at me. I think he shot it from the side of the net, it bounced up and hit my thigh and went in.”

Talking about the recent shootouts…

“Sometimes you don’t see one for thirty games, and then when you see them it’s four in five nights.”

Jason Arnott:

You scored a huge pressure goal today…almost 18,000 people were holding their breath; how did you feel going into it?

“(laughs) I just relaxed. The referee blowing the whistle as quick as he did so I could go instead of thinking about it helped a lot. I just had it in my head what I was going to do all along and it helps when you have it in your head what you are going to do.”

Tell me what was in your head?

“I knew he was going down a little bit early, and I wanted to go (top) shelf; it went bar and in. I wanted to make sure I got it off quick and hard…and it went in.”

It wasn’t the winner though, what about Zajac’s shot?

“He put a great move on the goalie; he came right in and put it upstairs. I can’t say enough about Travis — he comes to compete every night, he’s not always on the score sheet but he’s always playing solid defensively — and all around the ice. He’s been playing real well for us.”

You guys have won three of the last four games and seemed to have turned things around; how big was this one?

“It was huge; especially after a disappointing output yesterday, we wanted to come in, we knew Philly is atop the conference — we wanted to come in and just play hard. We haven’t had a whole lot of wins at home, the fans were behind us today and we battled it out. We were missing Patty as well, and everybody just chipped in where we could.”

Adam Mair:

Talking about his first point as a Devil…

“It feels good to contribute offensively and help the team win. I think as a whole we really got it together and played well; down shorthanded, the third game in three and a half nights, it was a good effort.”

How did it feel to get your first goal of the year?

“It feels great; I’ve had some chances. It’s not necessarily what’s expected of certain players on the team, but as a hockey player, you always like to score, you always like to help contribute offensively.”

What did you think of Hedberg today?

“He played great; he played great all week. He’s really been the backbone of our team and the success of our team; I can’t say enough good things about him. His work ethic, even when he wasn’t in the net; you need solid goaltending to win and Johan has done nothing but provide that, especially over the last week or so.”

Devils-Flames Postgame Quotes [11.24.10]

David Clarkson:

Talking about the goal he scored…

“(laughs) I was just standing in front of the net and Teddy (Mattias Tedenby) shot it; I was just standing there and it went off my shin pad. I think the refs thought I kicked it, that’s why they reviewed it, but it just nicked off my shin pad and went in. I guess I was just in the right place at the right time.”

You have two wins in a row now, are you guys building something good here?

“We are; back to back wins, but we have to put that behind us and go to New York (on Friday) and we have to do the same things — we have to play the same way. Obviously we would’ve liked to put another one in there tonight, but it feels good to get the two points.”

With the win tonight, does that make the turkey taste better tomorrow?

“(laughs) Well it tastes better than if we didn’t (win) so I think it’s something to build off of and we have to start getting ready for the next game and come out like we did in the first (period) today.”

Ilya Kovalchuk:

Talking about Johan Hedberg

“Moose deserved to be the first star tonight; he’s the guy who’s really helping us win right now, he’s playing unbelievable. He gives us so much confidence, and we spend more time in their zone.”

You took a much more direct route this time on your shootout attempt…

“You know I changed it up a little bit; it worked better tonight.”

Was this a game where you had to be patient as a team because there wasn’t a whole lot going on?

“Yeah, but it’s all about the two points. Both teams were desperate; those games are usually down to the end. I wish it wasn’t going to be shootout, we should’ve won in overtime, but listen what are you going to do? One team has to win.”

Can your team build on this win?

“Yeah I think we are playing with way more confidence. Like I said, when Moose plays the way he did the last two games it gives you a lot of freedom to go out and make plays. It was a great job by him.”

Patrik Elias:

Talking about Hedberg…

“He played great again (tonight). He gave us a chance to win obviously and to stay in it; especially in the second period. We leaned on him there.”

Dainius Zubrus:

Talking about Hedberg…

“He played real well; the second game in a row. Even when you look at the one goal he gave up, I’m pretty sure it was a tip-in right? So, when somebody tips it, probably six feet in front of you, he can’t do anything about it. To me he was real good — again nothing really went by him; it’s huge.”

With the win tonight, does that make your turkey taste better tomorrow?

“For sure, for sure (smiles); I don’t know how much turkey we’re going to have but yeah it will.”

Devils Burn Flames with Shootout Win

Devils 2 Calgary 1       —          shootout

It took 22 games, but the New Jersey Devils finally won consecutive games on Wednesday night and they may be on the right path to correcting their wretched start. It took a shootout, but a win is a win is a win — as the Devils topped the Calgary Flames 2-1 at Prudential Center behind the stellar goaltending of Johan Hedberg, who finished with 26 saves. Ilya Kovalchuk, whose last appearance in a shootout was forgettable (the puck slid off his stick before he could get a shot off on November 10) scored the only goal of the tiebreaker as New Jersey’s first shooter and Hedberg denied all three Calgary shooters. “Moose deserved to be the first star tonight; he’s the guy who’s really helping us win right now, he’s playing unbelievable,” said Kovalchuk afterwards. “The way he played gives us so much confidence.”

David Clarkson opened the scoring 13:06 into the opening period when Mattias Tedenby’s wrist shot from the slot deflected off of his skate and past Flames’ rookie goalie Henrik Karlsson. “I was just standing in front of the net and Teddy (Tedenby) shot it; I was just standing there and it went off my shin pad,” Clarkson explained. “I think the refs thought I kicked it, that’s why they reviewed it, but it just nicked off my shin pad and went in.” On the scoring play New Jersey had kept the puck in the offensive zone after a power play expired, and Matt Corrente’s blue line shot found its way to the back of the net after it was blocked; Tedenby found the loose disc and immediately shot it — hitting Clarkson at the right time. “I guess I was just in the right place at the right time,” he said.

The Devils carried the 1-0 lead into the third period and Hedberg had stopped all 18 of Calgary’s shots to that point. But the Flames scored as their power play ended when Rene Bourque deflected Matt Giordano’s point shot into the back of the net 1:18 into the frame for his tenth goal of the season. “Even when you look at the one goal he gave up, I’m pretty sure it was a tip-in right? So, when somebody tips it, probably six feet in front of you, he can’t do anything about it,” said Devils’ winger Dainius Zubrus. “To me he was real good — again nothing really went by him; it’s huge.”

Hedberg and Karlsson continued to stop everything they saw as the game moved to a five-minute overtime, and the Flames rookie goalie saved his biggest stops for a Devils’ 4-on-3 two-minute advantage. New Jersey mustered five shots on their power play, two more than they managed in the twenty minute third period, but Karlsson stopped them all until he met Kovalchuk in the shootout. “It’s all about the two points. Both teams were desperate; those games are usually down to the end. I wish it wasn’t going to be shootout,” said Kovalchuk, “we should’ve won in overtime, but listen what are you going to do? One team has to win.”

Hedberg meanwhile, denied Niklas Hagman, Alex Tanguay and Brendan Morrison in succession during the shootout — sending his teammates’ home happy and ready to enjoy their Thanksgiving dinners. “I don’t know how much turkey we’re going to have,” said Zubrus, “but yeah it will taste better because we won for sure.”

Game Notes: New Jersey has now won three in a row at home after dropping their first seven home contests. Tedenby now has points in three straight games and six (3g-3a) in seven games since he made his NHL debut. Calgary defenseman Jay Bouwmeester played in his 445th consecutive game, which leads all active players. Devils defenseman Henrik Tallinder led all skaters in ice-time, logging 27:12 and Giordano led the Flames with 23:33. Bourque led all players with five shots on goal, while Patrik Elias led the Devils with four. New Jersey (7-13-2) is off until Friday afternoon when they play at the New York Islanders (4-12-5) and Calgary (8-11-2) also plays Friday afternoon when they visit Philadelphia (16-6-2)

Dan’s Three Stars of the Game:

#1 – Johan Hedberg (NJ) – 26 saves, win (3)

#2 – Ilya Kovalchuk (NJ) – g/w shootout goal

#3 – Henrik Karlsson (Cgy) – 20 saves, shootout loss (1)

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

Hedberg & Devils Blank League-Leading Capitals

In game two of this season the New Jersey Devils played the Washington Capitals and got smoked in D.C. to the tune of 7-2. In game 21 on Monday night at the Prudential Center, with both teams heading in different directions, the Devils evened the score by shutting out the NHL’s most talented team in a much-needed 5-0 win. It was perhaps their most complete game of the season as four different players tallied goals and Johan Hedberg was rock solid in net to the tune of 30 saves and his first shutout as a Devil.

Jason Arnott scored twice for the winners (bumping his team-leading total to eight) and rookie Mattias Tedenby continued to impress with a penalty shot goal and the primary assist on the winning goal — scored by him and Arnott’s linemate, Patrik Elias. “He said before the game he felt good,” said Elias of the 20-year-old Swede, “he was right.”

With rookie Braden Holtby making his fifth appearance in an NHL game, Elias opened the scoring 5:49 in when it appeared he got the shaft of his stick on a crisp pass from Tedenby during a power play. He admitted to the media that the puck hit Caps’ defenseman Mike Green’s stick and hit off of his pants leg. Arnott doubled the lead at 16:15 when he carried the puck into the zone, fought off Capitals’ defenseman John Erskine and forward Brooks Laich, and then scored on a quick wraparound that had Holtby spinning in his crease.

Tedenby was pulled down by Erskine on a breakaway 1:59 later and he was able to make it 3-0 for his Devils on a penalty shot when he calmly skated in and flipped a backhand shot over the fellow rookie’s glove hand. “I don’t know if it’s good or luck,” he admitted shyly after the game before a media crowd.

Arnott added his second goal of the game 2:43 into the second period, collecting the rebound of Andy Greene’s point shot and sliding it into the net and Dainius Zubrus delivered the final blow when he flicked a rebound into the net after a well-orchestrated 3-on-2 into the Caps’ zone.

To their credit, Washington never quit, and they certainly made Hedberg work for his 15th career shutout. “It felt good,” said the Devils’ netminder. “We needed a win badly and I think the way we played we started something good.” He denied dangerous sniper Alexander Semin’s wrist shot from deep in the slot midway through the second.

The great-eight aka Alex Ovechkin challenged Hedberg 6:10 into the third period with a booming slap shot that loudly bounced off the goalie’s leg pad – right back to the ever-dangerous Ovechkin who quickly fired another shot towards the goal. But his shot rang off the goal post and bounced away, perhaps signaling that this would indeed be the Devils’ night. They’ve now won two in a row at the Rock, a small positive, but something that they can build on, as well as the 5-0 thrashing of the team with the NHL’s best record.

Game Notes: The Devils are honoring their former coach Pat Burns with memorial “PB” patches on their jerseys for the next four home games. Each of the jerseys will then be autographed by the entire team and auctioned off. Proceeds from the sale of the jerseys will be donated in Pat Burns’ memory to La Maison Aube-Lumiere, a cancer hospice in Sherbrooke, Quebec. The team also showed a brief video and held a moment of silence before the game. Elias, Arnott, Tedenby and Greene each had two points in the game; Tedenby led all players with a +3. Ovechkin and Semin led all players with five shots on goal apiece, while Elias and Arnott led New Jersey with four each. Washington defenseman John Carlson led all skaters in ice-time with 27:11, while Henrik Tallinder led New Jersey with 25:23. Ovechkin led all players with five hits, while Devils defensemen Colin White and Anton Volchenkov had a game-high three blocked shots each. New Jersey (6-13-2) is off until Wednesday when they host Calgary (8-11-1) and Washington (14-6-2) is also back in action that same night when they play at Carolina (9-9-2).

Dan’s Three Stars of the Game:

#1 – Mattias Tedenby (NJ) – goal (3), assist (2)

#2 – Johan Hedberg (NJ) – 30 saves, win (2), shutout (1)

#3 – Jason Arnott (NJ) – 2 goals (8)

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