Devils Thankful for Brodeur after Topping Columbus in OT

Devils 2           Columbus 1    — shootout

Over his 17-year NHL career, Martin Brodeur has given the New Jersey Devils franchise and its fans a lot of reasons to be thankful — three Stanley Cups, the most wins and shutouts in NHL history would be a good place to start. But on Wednesday night at Prudential Center, everyone was thankful that Brodeur was in net, stopping 35 of 36 Columbus Blue Jackets’ shots — and then two more in the shootout — as New Jersey rebounded from a tough loss in Florida on Monday night and skated to a 2-1 victory on Thanksgiving eve.

After a scoreless first period, Brodeur would make one of his biggest saves in the game when he stared down two Blue Jackets coming at him with no defenders of his to slow them down. On the play Vinny Prospal attempted to hit Rick Nash with a backhand pass across the mouth of the crease, but Brodeur alertly poked the puck away with his goal stick to avert what seemed to be a sure goal.

About forty-one seconds later Dainius Zubrus gave the Devils a 1-0 lead when he collected a loose rebound in the slot and swatted it past Jackets’ goalie Curtis Sanford for his seventh goal of the season. “Our defenseman got a shot on the net and Zubie was in the right spot and he got that second chance,” said Patrik Elias who now has 20 points in 20 games. “He’s been in those right spots lately.”

The score remained the same until Jared Boll tied it 6:01 into the third when Marc Methot’s long shot deflected off his skate and past Brodeur.Columbus seemed determined to score in the third period as they out-shot New Jersey 17-3 over the final twenty minutes, but other than Boll’s goal they were unable to solve Brodeur.

The Devils gave the Blue Jackets six power plays throughout the game and were able to kill them all off, something that has become the norm at home –New Jerseyhas yet to surrender a power play goal at the Rock this season (36-for-36) and ranks first in the NHL on the penalty kill (94%). “Some nights it’s all about luck,” said Elias of his team’s PK, “the puck is bouncing around there and they had a couple of great opportunities. Marty makes the save or it gets blocked; sometimes it’s not about X’s and O’s, you have to get lucky.”

After a scoreless overtime, Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise each scored on their shootout attempts, while Brodeur denied Nash and Mark Letestu — improving the Devils’ record to 5-1 in the tie-breaker. “It’s nice going second (in the shootout),” said Parise. “I can watch a little bit, I was able to watch when Kovy came in and watch the replay to see what their goalie was doing.”

The Devils captain was also very thankful that Brodeur was backstopping the team on this night as the team continues to pile up points early in the season. “He played very well, made great saves when we needed him to; we kind of got the play taken to us at certain points of this game,” explained Parise. “He’s a big reason why we got to overtime and the shootout.”

Game Notes: Adam Larsson assisted on Zubrus’ goal, giving him an assist in three consecutive games; Elias had the other assist and now has points in four straight games. Kovalchuk is 4-for-4 this season in shootouts; Columbus has never won a game in New Jersey (0-3-1). Blue Jackets defenseman James Wisniewski led all skaters in ice-time with 28:56 while Kovalchuk led the Devils with 23:17. Parise led all players with seven shots on goal; Nash and Jeff Carter led Columbus with six apiece. Ex-Ranger defenseman Fedor Tyutin led all players with three blocked shots and New Jersey’s Anton Volchenkov led all players with three hits. New Jersey (11-8-1) is back in action on Friday afternoon when they play against the NY Islanders (5-10-4) and Columbus (5-13-3) is on the ice again also on Friday when they host Buffalo (12-8-1).

Dan’s Three Stars of the Game:

#1 – Martin Brodeur (NJ) – 35 saves, win (5)

#2 – Patrik Elias (NJ) – assist (12)

#3 – Curtis Sanford (Cbj) – 23 saves, ot loss (2)

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

A Star Is Born As Henrique’s 2 Goals Sink Jets

Devils 3           Winnipeg 2 — overtime

Rookie Adam Henrique has played all of his 10 NHL games in relative anonymity. After notching his first career goal on Thursday in Philadelphia, he struck for two more goals Saturday night at Prudential Center — including the overtime winner — as the New Jersey Devils skated past the Winnipeg Jets 3-2, making him, at least for one night, a folk hero in Newark.

The home fans were already chanting ‘Hen-Rique’ after his goal that pushed his Devils lead to 2-0 in the second period, and they cheered even louder after his nifty goal on a breakaway during the five-minute overtime period gave the team their second consecutive win and pushed their record to 6-5-1.

New Jersey’s most consistent player this season has been Patrik Elias and he continued that trend early in the 2nd period, giving the team a 1-0 lead. Dainius Zubrus raced into the offensive zone along the left wing wall and found a streaking Elias wide-open in the slot; Elias hammered a one-timer into the top right hand corner over the Winnipeg goalie Ondrej Pavelec’s glove hand for his 6th goal of the season.

Henrique doubled the lead almost nine minutes later when on a semi-breakaway he flipped a backhand shot past the Jets’ goalie, while being hooked at from behind by 2 defenders. “It felt good,” said Henrique, “especially at the time of the game when we were up 1-0. I didn’t know if there was going to be a penalty (when they hooked me) or what, and the puck didn’t seem to sit down (for me) either.”

Martin Brodeur and the Devils held onto the 2-0 lead until Mark Flood netted his 1st career goal 6:43 into the third period on a long shot. Jim Slater evened the score for Winnipeg when he took advantage of a no-call that neutralized Devils defenseman Anton Volchenkov, allowing him to get a shot past Brodeur uncontested with 2:45 left in regulation.

Evander Kane took a hooking penalty with 48 seconds left in regulation but New Jersey was unable to capitalize on the power play that carried over into overtime. Henrique jumped on the ice to replace Elias during the extra session after the man-advantage had expired and found himself on a breakaway again after a perfect pass from Zach Parise. “He scored some awesome goals tonight for us,” said the Devils captain, who added that “he played really well. He’s getting better and better every game. It’s fun to play on a line with him.”

Henrique very calmly skated in towards Pavelec and snapped a wrist shot low to the glove side that found the back of the net, sending home a bunch of happy humans from the Rock. When asked about the winning goal after the game, the 21-year-old Henrique’s face lit up, “Oh my God, my heart started racing from the blue-line in again (like on the previous goal),” he said with a smile from ear-to-ear. “I got in there and tried to keep it simple, I didn’t want to go to the same move again.”

Strangely, the win was the first of the season for Brodeur (in his fourth game played out of 12, with the calendar reading November. “It was a good win for us, back-to-back wins after losing what, four in a row,” said Brodeur afterwards. “It definitely weighs on you, the way you approach a game when you haven’t helped the team get any points in the standings yet.”

Game Notes: Ilya Kovalchuk (groin) and Andy Greene (lower body) were scratches for New Jersey. Henrique has 5 points (3g-2a) in the last three games; Elias now has a point in four straight games (2g-2a). Parise had two assists in the game and has 21 points in 21 career games against the Thrashers/Jets. After not registering a point in his first ten games, rookie Adam Larsson now has an assist in each of his last two. Jets defensemen Zach Bogosian led all skaters in ice time with 26:25, and Henrik Tallinder led NJ with 24:58. Petr Sykora led all players with six shots on goal; three players led Winnipeg with three each. Volchenkov blocked a game-high three shots. New Jersey (6-5-1) is off until Tuesday when they host Carolina (5-5-3) and Winnipeg (5-6-2) plays at MSG against New York (6-3-3) on Sunday night.

Dan’s Three Stars of the Game:

#1 – Adam Henrique (NJ) – 2 goals, gw (3)

#2 – Zach Parise (NJ) – 2 assists (3)

#3 – Mark Flood (Wpg) – goal (1), assist (1)

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

Lupul Tricks Devils with 3 Goals in 5-3 Leafs Win

Toronto 5               Devils 3

Toronto Maple Leafs winger Joffrey Lupul was a few days late but he enjoyed a bunch of treats as he scored a natural hat trick in the second period of his squad’s 5-3 win over the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday night at Prudential Center. In 17 previous contests against New Jersey Lupul had managed just four goals, but on this night he notched his third career hat trick; his first since December 12, 2007. “This is a game we really wanted to have,” said Lupul, “we have another road game tomorrow night. We wanted to start this (road trip) off on the right note.”

Martin Brodeur, making his first start in seven games for the Devils, was a bit rusty and the opportunistic Leafs took advantage, never trailing when the game was a back-and-forth contest. “It was a big test for me to go through this game. I felt good later on (in the game), there’s just that kind of spark, knowing I’m able to go full out,” Brodeur said afterwards.

Joey Crabb (who entered the game with seven goals in 77 career games) started the scoring bonanza 8:37 into the match with his first of this season when he whacked the puck out of midair past Brodeur’s stick side. Dainius Zubrus evened the score on the power play less than four minutes later when he punched a rebound past Toronto’s Jonas Gustavsson for his third of the season. Mikhail Grabovski gave Toronto a 2-1 lead going into the first intermission when he converted a diagonal slap-pass from defenseman Jake Gardiner that Brodeur had no chance of stopping.

When Gustavsson took an interference penalty behind his cage early in the second period, the Devils made him pay as Patrik Elias whipped a one-timer past the goalie for his fifth of the season; the power play goal was the 93rd of his career, replacing John MacLean as the franchise’s all-time leader in that category. (elias quote)

Lupul began his dominance three minutes after Elias’ tying goal when he was Johnny-on-the-spot at 6:31– he was wide open in the slot as Mike Komisarek’s rebounded popped off of Brodeur and onto his stick. David Clarkson slipped a backhander past Gustavsson on a breakaway at 8:15 to even the score yet again, but Lupul was just about to seal the deal.

Ninety seconds later he stick-handled around three defenders and snapped a wicked wrist shot past Brodeur’s glove hand for what turned out to be a highlight-reel game-winning goal. Just over three minutes later he completed the trick when Grabovski found him wide open at the side of the net after a crazy sequence that left Brodeur totally out of position.

When asked if the hat trick meant anything more because it was against Brodeur (the league’s all-time leader in wins and shutouts), Lupul wasn’t shy, “It does mean a little bit more,” he explained. “I played a ton against this guy when I was in Philly, it seems like he always had my number. Tonight, the second one was a bit of a lucky one; it’s pretty cool to do it against him.”

Brodeur admitted he was rusty, but was happy this first game back from injury was behind him. “Definitely I would have loved a different result,” he said after surrendering five goals on 23 shots. “I didn’t play well at all. We scored three goals, two on the power play; that should have been enough to at least have a better chance in this game.”

Game Notes: Adam Larsson had his first career point for New Jersey, assisting on Elias’ goal; Brad Mills registered his first career assist on Clarkson’s goal. Phil Kessel (two assists) continues to lead the NHL in scoring with 20 points (10g-10a) in 12 games. Ilya Kovalchuk also assisted on Elias’ goal and has 36 points in 36 career games against the Maple Leafs; he also led all skaters in ice-time with 24:52. Toronto captain Dion Phaneuf led his team in ice-time with 24:44 and all players with four blocked shots. Lupul and Kovalchuk led everyone with five shots on goal each. New Jersey (4-5-1) next plays at Philadelphia (7-4-1) andToronto (8-3-1) will play their next match at Columbus (2-9-1), both games are Thursday night.

Dan’s Three Stars of the Game:

#1 – Joffrey Lupul (Tor) – 3 goals, gw (8)

#2 – Mikhail Grabovski (Tor) – goal (5), assist (4)

#3 – Phil Kessel (Tor) – 2 assists (10)

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

Sharks’ Comeback Bites Devils in Shootout

San Jose 4              Devils 3   — shootout

Over the past few seasons the New Jersey Devils and San Jose Sharks have played some wildly entertaining games and Friday night at the Prudential Center was no different, as the visiting Sharks rallied from two goals down and beat the Devils in a shootout after tying the game again with 33 seconds left in regulation. Johan Hedberg ended up as the hard-luck loser in this one as he was brilliant in goal for New Jersey, finishing with 37 saves. “I thought he was great,” said coach Peter DeBoer after the game, “he gave us a chance to win, to get a point.”

The Devils opened the scoring 13:53into the game when Patrik Elias scored off a perfect circle-to-circle pass from Ilya Kovalchuk, snapping a wrist shot top shelf past Sharks netminder Antti Niemi. The power play goal was the 92nd of Elias’ career, tying him with John MacLean for most in franchise history.

With 2:52left in the period, the Devils lost their second line center Jacob Josefson when he crashed hard into the boards behind the San Jose goal. The 20-year-old skated immediately to the bench and into the locker room with his right arm dangling; it was later announced he had a broken right clavicle.

Thirty-six seconds into the second period Zach Parise was awarded a penalty shot when Sharks defenseman Brent Burns pulled him down on a shorthanded breakaway. The Devils captain has become a master of sorts in penalty shots/shootout attempts lately and he continued that reputation as he increased the lead to 2-0, faking out Niemi with his forehand and slipping a backhand shot through the goalie’s five-hole.

Hedberg held the Sharks scoreless as long as he could with the shot total rising rapidly, but he was finally beaten 15:18into the second when Joe Thornton’s wrist shot slid into the net under the goalie’s pads. “I’m not sure how that went in,” Hedberg admitted, “it surprised me too; I don’t know why I didn’t stop that, I’m not sure actually.” Ryane Clowe completed the comeback and evened the score 1:03 later when the puck pin-balled off of his shin pad and found the back of the net.

San  Jose continued to outshoot the Devils but the game remained even until 13:18 had elapsed and David Clarkson scored his second goal in as many games, converting a beautiful spin-o-rama feed from Mattias Tedenby. “He made a great play to me in front,” said Clarkson, “I had enough time and found the back of the net.”

Victory for New Jersey seemed certain until the final minute when with their goalie pulled for an extra-attacker, the Sharks tied the game as Joe Pavelski wired a shot through a maze of players in front of the crease. Hedberg appeared to be interfered with on the play, and he tried to plead his case but the officials didn’t see it that way and the game was tied. “We were thirty seconds away from winning the game and we still had a chance in the shootout,” said Parise afterwards. “I think we know we have to be a lot better. It wasn’t our best game tonight and we know there are going to be more of those, but we definitely need to be better for tomorrow.”

The game remained 3-3 after a five-minute overtime, sending the outcome to be decided by a shootout. Kovalchuk scored first, beating Niemi with a rising backhand and Pavelski’s attempt went wide of Hedberg’s cage. Parise was denied on his attempt, evening the score between he and Niemi. “He made a good save on it,” said Parise. Niemi didn’t want to get burned on the same move as earlier and was ready. “You can’t really cheat too much,” said the Sharks’ goalkeeper. “You just have to try and wait him out.” Michal Handzus evened the tie breaker with a shot that hit the goalpost and then went in off Hedberg’s back.

Elias attempted a wrist shot through the goalie’s five-hole and was denied and Clowe won the game when he flipped a backhand over the Moose’s glove hand. “I’ve taken a few shootouts now over the years and that’s kind of my go-to move, I usually go backhand,” said Clowe. “It’s a little easier I guess when I face Eastern Conference goalies because they don’t get to see you as much. Hedberg’s kind of a smaller goalie and I have a long stick, long reach; I try to use that when I go to my backhand. I think he was over there, but I got it up over his pad.”

Game Notes: Thornton (the Sharks captain) played in his 1000th NHL game, and had two points, giving him 42 points in 34 career games against New Jersey. Colin White played his first game against the team he spent the past 11 seasons with and the two-time Stanley Cup winner was applauded by the Devils fans when he was announced during pre-game in the San Jose starting lineup; he played 14:44, led all players with three hits, was minus-1 and had one shot on goal. Kovalchuk led all skaters in ice-time with 32:25 and Dan Boyle led the Sharks with 31:23. Pavelski, Boyle and Clowe led all players with six shots on goal, and Devils defenseman Anton Volchenkov led all players with four blocked shots. New Jersey (3-1-1) is back in action Saturday night when they play at Pittsburgh (5-2-2) and San Jose (2-3-0) will also be in action that night when they play at Boston (3-4-0).

Dan’s Three Stars of the Game:

#1 – Joe Pavelski (SJ) – goal (3), assist (1)

#2 – Johan Hedberg (NJ) – 37 saves, OT loss (3-0-1)

#3 – David Clarkson (NJ) – goal (2), assist (1)

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.

Devils Fire Blanks in Opener vs. Flyers

Philadelphia 3               Devils 0

The 2011-12 edition of the New Jersey Devils started their new season on Saturday night looking to get off to a fast start, unlike last season’s squad which dropped its first three games. Unfortunately no one informed the Philadelphia Flyers about these plans as they controlled the play and pace of the game virtually all night en route to a 3-0 win in front of a sold-out crowd at the Prudential Center.

Despite the disappointing loss in which the Devils (the worst offensive team last season in terms of goals scored) failed to score a single goal, there were some positives to take out of the game. Martin Brodeur made 26 saves, and was the main reason the score was only 1-0 heading into the third period; “He was outstanding, by far our best player,” said coach Pete DeBoer, who made his debut behind New Jersey bench.

The team’s new captain Zach Parise made it through the entire game without incident and appears to be rounding back into his All-Star form following a knee injury that cost him 69 games last season. “I felt pretty good, my legs were good, but I still need to have a little more patience with the puck,” said the newest and ninth captain in team history.

Finally, despite taking way too many penalties, the Devils killed off all eight power plays that they gave the Flyers. “We did take a lot of penalties, so it was tough to generate anything in the third period,” said Parise afterwards. “I thought our PK did a good job, it got called on a lot, and there were some good things that we did out there.”

Claude Giroux scored the first goal of the game 12:05 into the first period burying a one-timer past Brodeur after a pretty backhand pass from James van Riemsdyk. Andreas Nodl (KNOW-duLL) almost made it 2-0 when he roared in on Brodeur on a shorthanded breakaway during the dying seconds of the opening frame, but New Jersey’s netminder stifled the attempt with a midseason-form save. “Yeah (his shot) hit my shoulder; noodle or however you pronounce his name,” said a laughing Brodeur. “He made a good shot and it hit off of my shoulder.”

The Devils improved their play in the second period, but were still unable to get any pucks past Philly’s Ilya Bryzgalov and still trailed on the scoreboard. “It looked to me like we were at practice speed and they were at NHL game speed,” said DeBoer after the loss. “Our reaction time never caught up with where theirs was tonight.”

He was absolutely right in his assessment and his team imploded, surrendering two goals in a span of 2:19and then proceeded to take needless penalty after needless penalty — sabotaging any slim chance of coming back against Philadelphia. Matt Read scored his first career NHL goal from the slot, muscling a shot into the back of the net that Brodeur got a piece of at the 2:31 mark. “I saw it,” said Brodeur, “it just kind of snuck through between my arm and my body.” The lead increased to 3-0 when Wayne Simmonds beat both Anton Volchenkov and Bryce Salvador to a loose puck in front of the crease just asPhiladelphia’s power play had expired.

Less than four minutes after his goal, Simmonds fought David Clarkson — and beat him soundly — putting the exclamation point on a workmanlike Flyers victory. “I think we have less than 48 hours until our next game,” said Parise. “We’ll come in tomorrow and identify some things we didn’t do right and fix them.”

Game Notes: Before the game there was a moment of silence and very touching video tribute in honor of all of the players that the hockey world lost this summer; The Devils honored former teammates Karel Rachunek and Alexander Vasyunov with memorial patches on their jerseys that they will wear again next Saturday night; the jerseys will then be signed by the entire team and auctioned off with the proceeds going to the Rachunek and Vasyunov families. The 4th overall pick in this past June’s draft, Adam Larsson, had a nice debut despite the ugly loss: 21:46 of ice-time (tops among NJ defensemen), three shots on goal, two hits and one blocked shot. Ilya Kovalchuk and Nick Palmieri were both -3 on the night. Kovalchuk led all skaters in ice-time with 23:30; Chris Pronger led the Flyers with 22:57. Philadelphia’s Andrej Meszaros led all players with five shots on goal; four Devils had three shots on goal each. New Jersey rookie Brad Mills won 10-of-11 face-offs he took and his teammate Jacob Josefson won eight-of-ten. Philadelphia (2-0-0) is off until their home opener on Wednesday when they hostVancouver (0-0-1) and New Jersey (0-1-0) is back in action Monday afternoon when they host Carolina (0-2-0).

Dan’s Three Stars of the Game:

#1 – Claude Giroux (Phi) – gw goal (2)

#2 – Wayne Simmonds (Phi) – goal (1)

#3 – Ilya Bryzgalov (Phi) – 20 saves, win (2-0-0), shutout (1)

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

Zubrus & Devils Are Ready For the 2011-12 Season

The New Jersey Devils won their preseason finale on Saturday night, beating the Philadelphia Flyers 2-1 in front of 12,729 fans at the Prudential Center. Next Saturday night, the two teams meet again in the Devils’ season opener asNew Jerseytries to rebound from a very disappointing 2010-11 season that saw them miss the postseason for the first time in 16 seasons.

Martin Brodeur made 25 saves in his final tune-up before the real games start, his only blemish of the night was a Scott Hartnell power play goal late in the first period. Petr Sykora, still with the Devils on a tryout basis, tied the game when he blasted a shot over Ilya Bryzgalov’s stick hand 4:12 into the second period and David Clarkson’s power play marker at 15:39 of the middle frame proved to be the game-winner.

Stud rookie d-man Adam Larsson led all skaters in ice-time, logging23:46, and he played a solid game quarterbacking the power play and never looked out of place once against the Flyers.

For Dainius Zubrus, who missed the first five games of the preseason with an undisclosed lower body injury, he admitted he was rusty, but was happy to be back in game action. “In the first period I was trying to get into a rhythm,” said Zubrus. “I don’t want to call it nervous or whatever, but it was my first game in a while. I settled down after that and in the second and third periods I think I was a little better.” He didn’t register a shot on goal and had 21 shifts for 16:10 in ice-time centering a line with Clarkson and Mattias Tedenby. When I asked how he felt after the game he smiled and said, “Like I hadn’t played in six months.”

Zubrus believes this team will move past the disappointing season last year and get back into playoff contention. “Honestly I didn’t think much about last season. Even though the second half, whatever blah blah blah, it was good, but at the end of the day still we were at home in April watching TV,” he said. “It was a long summer, saying that, you try to spend that time with the family. I was able to practice and train hard to get ready for this season. You always look forward to the upcoming season and you want to make it better than the previous one, and there is a lot of room (for us) to improve.”

Dan’s Three Stars of the Game:

#1 – Martin Brodeur (NJ) – 25 saves

#2 – Petr Sykora (NJ) – goal

#3 – Adam Larsson (NJ)

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