Devils Win Season Finale/Lemaire’s Last Game

Devils 3 Boston 2

The New Jersey Devils and Boston Bruins played a game on Sunday afternoon at the Prudential Center, but all of the talk following the game wasn’t so much about how much of an epic failure this season was for Jersey’s Team, it centered on their coach who was retiring again and stepping away from the Devils bench for the third time.

Jacques Lemaire ended his second stint as the team’s coach last season after the Devils were eliminated in the first round against the Philadelphia Flyers; he cited his age and family as reasons to step away from the game. New Jersey started this season poorly under first-time bench boss John MacLean (9-22-2) and when GM Lou Lamoriello called Lemaire the week before Christmas looking for a coach to save the season, the 65-year-old couldn’t turn his back on the franchise. “I’m going back to where I was before this year,” said the coach at his farewell press conference.

“(The job) demands a lot. I want to enjoy life; I want to enjoy the family. I thought that I did make the right decision last year. I’m happy I took it, I took the job for the rest of the season; I had fun. It was a huge challenge for me; I thought the guys responded well. Like I mentioned this morning, the only regret I have is not making the playoffs.”

Lemaire came in and, although it took a few weeks, he was able to get the team back on track to their usual winning ways. Many of the players, including Ilya Kovalchuk, responded almost immediately and started to live up to the backs of their hockey cards. “Kovy really likes him, there’s no doubt about that” said Martin Brodeur. “They got along real well right from the get-go last year. So I’m sure he’d like to see him back; I think a lot of guys would like to see him back also. “Although they didn’t reach their ultimate goal of reaching the postseason, Lemaire’s Devils (27-17-3) gave a valiant effort that included a two-month stretch of the season where they reeled off eight consecutive wins and an incredible 20-2-2 record in 24 games to pull them back into contention for a playoff spot.

Ultimately the season was a failure, but the team never gave up and had some fun over the final 41 games — including the last game where they sent Lemaire out a winner with a 3-2 win over the Bruins. Vladimir Zharkov scored his second career goal, breaking a 1-1 tie four minutes into the third period, beating goalie Tuukka Rask on a breakaway. Rookie defenseman Alexander Urbom’s first career goal came 5:10 after Zharkov’s tally and proved to be the game-winner when Boston’s Chris Kelly scored with 3.1 seconds left.

Urbom (who appeared in seven games earlier this season) was recalled from Albany earlier in the day along with Adam Henrique — who was making his NHL debut. Henrique, the Devils’ 3rd round draft pick in 2008, became the tenth Devil (team record) to play his first NHL game this season: Mark Fayne, Stephen Gionta, Jacob Josefson, Oliver Magnan, Brad Mills, Matt Taormina, Mattias Tedenby, Urbom and Alexander Vasyunov. Lemaire really liked what he saw from the 21-year-old Henrique, “He didn’t look like he played in his first game in the NHL. He’s going to move the puck, can skate, sees the ice well and I’m sure he’s got a touch for scoring. So, all these kids that are either with us or came up, this is the future — and the future up front is bright, there’s no doubt about this.”

Johan Hedberg made 24 saves in front of the sellout crowd at the Rock and finished the season with a solid record of 15-12-2 (three shutouts) in 34 games; Brodeur’s season ended under .500 for the first time in his 16-year career, 23-26-3 (six shutouts).

Patrik Elias scored his 21st goal of the season 1:47 into the game and with his 62 points he led the Devils in scoring for the seventh time in his career. Kovalchuk led the team in goals with 31. Four players played in all 82 of the team’s games: Travis Zajac, Andy Greene, Henrik Tallinder and David Clarkson; Kovalchuk appeared in 81 games — only missing a game when MacLean suspended him for missing a team meeting.

Lemaire admitted he was unsure up until two days ago, but was confident he made the right choice. “This is exciting, this is fun; especially when the team wins, and it’s a great atmosphere. You love a lot of things, you get really upset, you get mad about what the players do, not at the individual but at what they’re doing. But as soon as they do something good, right away you feel good. I said this today when I talked to my wife; I said if I was younger, I would be coach because I love it.”

Game Notes: Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg led all skaters in ice-time with 22:54 while Greene led the Devils with 22:18. New Jersey forwards Rod Pelley and Clarkson led all players with five shots on goal each; Milan Lucic led Boston with four. Clarkson’s assist on Urbom’s goal was the 100th point of his career. The Devils will be in the NHL Draft lottery for the first time since 1996 and will find out where they pick in the first round on Tuesday night.

Dan’s Three Stars of the Game:

#1 – Vladimir Zharkov (NJ) – goal (2)

#2 – Johan Hedberg (NJ) – 24 saves, win (15)

#3 – Tuukka Rask (Bos) – 29 saves, loss (14)

Dan Rice can be reached at drdiablo321@yahoo.com

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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.

Zubrus Zaps Sens

Predictably, last night Devils game vs. Ottawa started slow, with a very uneventful 1st period. Nick Palmieri got the scoring started 35 seconds into the 2nd period for New Jersey, a lead that lasted until the sneaky Alex Kovalev scored during a 5-on-3 at 5:09, leaving the score tied 1-1.

After 2 periods the Devils were outshooting the Senators 25-6…heck, the Jersey blueliners were outshooting Ottawa’s entire team 10-6 after 2 periods; but the score was still tied. Sens’ rookie goalie Robin Lehner (2nd career start) was outstanding during the game and was the main reason why his team wasn’t blown out of the building. Ilya Kovalchuk almost gave the Devs the lead with 7 minutes left in the game with a nifty wraparound,but was unable to complete the move thanks to the post.

Martin Brodeur wasn’t tested often early in the game, but when he was tested he was sharp and turned aside all 9 shots he faced in the 3rd. Finally with 5:43 left Dainius Zubrus ‘attempted pass deflected off of Ottawa d-man Chris Phillips stick and over Lehner’s left shoulder — one of the whackiest goals you will ever see and definitely some puck luck that the Devils were lacking over the first 40 games of the year.

Next up, Thursday at the New York Rangers. The win was NJ’s fourth in a row at home and their defensive game appears to be back to the way we remember the last 14 seasons.

Impressive games tonight by Patrik Elias, Rod Pelley and Tim Sestito for the Devs. If Kovalev is available via trade, a playoff contender should jump on him immediately, he could make a big impact in the right situation.

Dan’s 3 Stars of the Game:

#1 — Robin Lehner (Ott) — 31 saves, loss (1)
#2 — Dainius Zubrus (NJ) — gw goal (8)
#3 — Martin Brodeur (NJ) — 15 saves, win (11)

The Waiting is Over…

After 65 days of being held hostage….yes 65…. the Ilya Kovalchuk saga is over. The NHL finally approved Kovalchuk’s 15 year, $100 million dollar deal with the New Jersey Devils and the rest of the hockey world can now move on with their lives. Personally, I was finally able to wear my ‘Kovalchuk 17’ t-shirt that I purchased after he signed the first contract that was rejected by the league and then rejected again by an independent arbitrator.

So what’s next for the Devils? Kovy’s deal puts them about $3 million over the salary cap limit with only 21 of 23 players on their roster, meaning they will have to shed at least two contracts (perhaps Bryce Salvador and Dainius Zubrus) and sign some other players to small money contracts to fill out the roster. By the way, has anyone else noticed that on the Devils official website that Jay Pandolfo is no longer listed on the team’s roster? Other candidates to be moved include Colin White and Brian Rolston, but both have no-trade clauses in their contracts and both are undesirable to other teams as of this moment. If Salvador is moved, I would expect them to bring defenseman Mike Mottau back on a one-year, cheapie deal. If Zubrus is shipped out, expect the team to add some depth by signing a solid veteran such as Richard Park, Brendan Morrison or Jeff Halpern.

With the players they have under contract now, assuming Salvador & or Zubrus are moved, here is what the opening night lineup could look like:

Zach Parise-Travis Zajac-Jamie Langenbrunner
Ilya Kovalchuk-Jason Arnott-David Clarkson
Patrik Elias-Brian Rolston-Vladimir Zharkov
Pierre-Luc Leblond-Richard Park-Mattias Tedenby

Anton Volchenkov-Andy Greene
Henrik Tallinder-Anssi Salmela
Colin White-Mark Fraser

Martin Brodeur-Johan Hedberg

spares: Mike Mottau?, Rod Pelley, Tim Sestito

Who are the teams left that can afford to add a contract like Salvador ($2.9 million) or Zubrus ($3.4 million) this late in the summer?
The Islanders, Thrashers, Blues, Hurricanes, Coyotes, Panthers, Lightning, Stars, Ducks, Predators & Kings all have $9 million or more in cap space.
Time will tell how GM Lou Lamoriello is going to shape and mold his 2010-11 roster and all we can do is sit back and wait; this time it won’t be 65 days because training camp starts for New Jersey on September 17, but they don’t have to be under the salary cap until October 8.

How do you feel now that the second best goal-scorer in the NHL will be a Devil for the next 15 seasons?

Should He Stay or Should He Go…

It’s been almost two weeks since the New Jersey Devils 2009-10 season came to a crashing halt at the hands of the Philadelphia Flyers. Three days after their elimination, coach Jacques Lemaire announced his retirement forcing the team to search for it’s sixth head coach in six seasons since the lockout ended. Three consecutive first round exits, haven’t made it past the second round since winning the 2003 Stanley Cup.

After having time to digest all of this I’ve come up with some suggestions on how to improve the team and hopefully help them (at least) make it out of the opening round of the playoffs. All salaries I used are courtesy of nhlnumbers.com.

Coach: Hire Mike Keenan. The ex-Ranger coach, (more recently ex-Calgary) would seem like an odd choice at first glance, but he knows how to win and he could work well together with another crafty mind like GM Lou Lamoriello. His first task will be convincing Brodeur to play less games, oh and his career total of 672 wins is good for 4th all-time.

Trade: Jamie Langenbrunner, Mark Fraser (and/or) Andy Greene to Toronto for Tomas Kaberle. Perhaps Lamoriello can convince Leafs GM Brian Burke that he can use a Langenbrunner to lead his young team in 2010-11 as he led Burke’s Team USA to a silver medal. Kaberle has one year left on his current deal at $4.25 mil, so to make it fair salary-wise Lamoriello may have to surrender both Greene and Fraser; Langenbrunner is due $2.8 mil and will also be going into the last year of his contract. Perhaps Kaberle will waive his no-trade clause to skate with fellow Czech Patrik Elias.

Trade: Before the draft call your old trading partner Don Waddell from Atlanta and offer him RFA David Clarkson ($875,000) for soon-to-be UFA Colby Armstrong ($2.4 mil). Maybe he still wasn’t 100% from the leg injury, but Clarkson was invisible versus the Flyers; Armstrong will be a player that plays hard every shift and in front of the opposing goalie he will be a pain in the @$$, something Clarkson has failed to do in each of the last two postseasons. See if Waddell has any interest or room for Jay Pandolfo also, who could help stabilize a young squad.

Free Agency: Let Paul Martin, Mike Mottau, Rob Niedermayer, Rod Pelley and Martin Skoula walk away. Changes have to be made and most of these players were very serviceable, the ultimate results just weren’t there.

Do whatever you have to do to re-sign Ilya Kovalchuk. Quick name another first overall pick that has played for the Devils. Stumped, well as far as I know there is only one other– Bobby Carpenter — and he wasn’t nearly as dynamic as Kovalchuk is. Hopefully Ilya sticks around, but who am I kidding, there’s no way he’ll stay in New Jersey right?

Sign Free Agents : Tomas Plekanec, Marek Svatos and either Andy Sutton or Anton Volchenkov. Plekanec is the center that the Devils have been lacking since Scott Gomez took the money and ran to Manhattan, leaving Travis Zajac as the team’s only legitimate scoring center. Svatos is a talented, scrappy, underachieving winger from Colorado who could fit in on a solid third/fourth line. Either Sutton or Volchenkov won’t come cheap, but they are both worth the money that will be spent on them. They both block shots well, get in shooting lanes and aren’t afraid to get into scrums to protect the front of their crease — a huge lacking element in NJ the last three playoff failures. Both players also have the same downside too — they are both injury prone, so teams may end up being hesitant to throw major cash around.

There’s a saying ‘scared money makes no money’ so I say the Devils need to revamp the current edition to make it look something like this:

Line A: Ilya Kovalchuk-Tomas Plekanec-Patrik Elias
Line B: Zach Parise-Travis Zajac-Dainius Zubrus
Line C: Brian Rolston-Colby Armstrong-Marek Svatos
Line D: Pierre-Luc Leblond-Tim Sestito/Dean McAmmond-Vladimir Zharkov

D-pair 1: Tomas Kaberle-Anton Volchenkov/Andy Sutton
D-pair 2: Matthew Corrente-Bryce Salvador
D-pair 3: Colin White-Anssi Salmela/Tyler Eckford

Goalies: Martin Brodeur, Yann Danis

I know I’ve made some crazy suggestions here, and I have no doubt that I’ll probably be 0.00% right, but hopefully some changes are made so I’m not sitting home watching less-superior teams battle for a chance to get steamrolled next season. Let me know how insane this all sounded, Thanx.

Dan

Devils-Islanders Postgame Quotes [04.10.10]

Here are some of the postgame quotes from the Devils 7-1 win over the Islanders:

Travis Zajac:
A big win to secure the division title…

“It was a really big win for us; we’re trying to get ready for the playoffs here. To get scoring from all the lines, and the power play, it’s good for us going into the playoffs on a high note.”

You had four assists tonight; did you feel particularly well out there?

“I don’t think I should’ve had four, I think Zach (Parise) should’ve had the first one, so I don’t know if I had that. But, like I said, I just want to be playing my best hockey going into the playoffs. I think that’s the focus for all of us right now, make sure our game is sound both offensively and defensively; and if we do that, we’re going to make a run here in the playoffs.”


Dainius Zubrus:

You scored the first goal which got the scoring barrage started tonight…

“You think so? I don’t know; the guys were ready, we knew what’s at stake. We want to finish on top and more than anything you want to play well going into the playoffs. The guys were fired up (tonight) and played well.”

Do you feel like the team is where it needs to be heading into the playoffs?

“Well yeah, we’ve been playing much better; I don’t think you can judge by one game. If you look at the last week or so, even the last game in Florida we had over 40 shots on net, but their goalie played pretty well. I think we’re getting better and today was a good step towards the playoffs.”

You clinched the division, how important is tomorrow’s game with Buffalo?

“Well like I said, it’s important to go in (to the playoffs) playing well. We’re playing one of the top teams in the conference; it’s one of those games where you can measure yourself a little bit again. I think the second or third seed in the East will be at stake, so we want to finish as high as possible and play as well as we can.”

Dean McAmmond:

Talking about his goal…

“It was a good play by Rollie and (Rod) Pelley coming out of our end; I kind of got the loose puck, Rollie got up on their d-man. I just grabbed the puck and their d-man was flat-footed, I just got on an angle, tried to go five-hole and it went to the outside of the net, handcuffed the goalie and the shot went off the net and the back of his knee. Sometimes they go in that way.”

Do you feel the team is playing the way they need to play heading into the playoffs?

“Yeah, we’ve had some better games. You look at the game in Florida, where they worked hard, they skated hard and we just kind of relaxed there; and this could’ve been one of those game tonight if we just relaxed, we would’ve kept them in it. We focused on playing hard — once we got two or three (goals) on them, they knew it was over; I think they let off a bit too.”

What does winning the division mean to you?

“I think it’s a great deal for us, a good accomplishment. We’ve had a stop-and-go type of year where we’ve been going hard and slowly losing it, then getting back on it again. It’s nice to win some games going into the playoffs.”


Martin Brodeur:

Talking about losing the shutout…

“Games like that its going to happen, especially when you give them a power play. Five-on-five I don’t think they would’ve got anything on us; we made a little mistake and the guy hit the puck out of mid-air on the goal line there, so it is what it is.”

Do you guys not realize how hard it is to win the division?

“Well we do, we do (smiles). I think we’ve grown to expect success here and we understand how hard it is. Trust me, we go through ups and downs, you guys see it – but we live it every day; with our organization, our coaches, our GM — they want us to play well every single day. For us the accomplishment means a lot, but they expect us to do it; and we expect ourselves to do it. But we understand how hard it is, it’s not like we dominated our division, only one team – Pittsburgh. The other ones, the Rangers wasn’t that good, Philly we were awful and these guys we were 4-2 I think.”

What do you like about this team?

“I think how good we were earlier in the season helped to set ourselves up for what would happen to us today. It’s been a little more rocky, but I think making the big trade to get Kovy in our lineup, I think in the playoffs we’ll be a different team than maybe past years because of a guy like that. His presence will give Zach a little more room and other players to do different things just because we have a weapon like Kovy there that they do have to respect because he’s a pretty talented player that’s going to change games around sometimes.”

Significant game tomorrow vs. Buffalo?

“Yeah it is; it gives us the opportunity to be at home for at least two rounds if we win. It would’ve been better if they had lost tonight (laughs) to Ottawa, but hey that’s why we play 82 games. If we lose it’s not the end of the world, but it could be something nice to have.”

You’re about to win the Jennings trophy, any significance to you at all?

“I haven’t looked at the numbers, where we’re at, but for us we care about the way we play defensively even though we have a different — that’s what I like we’re more geared towards offense, compared to other years — and we’re still able to dominate in our own zone; in a league that’s more geared towards scoring goals. It’s nice to finish on top, that’s for sure.”

All you have to do is not give up eight or nine goals tomorrow…

“(knocks on the wood column in his locker) You never know my friend, it’s nice. It’s fun for some players who’ve never won one. You go into a building and look up at the banners and you’re like ‘I was a part of this, this, this’ it’s fun. I’ve been here a long time, other guys for them it’s their first one and more to come.”

Ilya Kovalchuk:

Is it a different feeling now then when you made the playoffs with Atlanta?

“Yeah a little bit, I only went once and we lose all four games, but that was a great season and great atmosphere for the playoff games. I remember that and I’m still looking for my first win, hopefully it will be really soon.”

Devils-Maple Leafs Postgame Quotes [01.29.10]

Here are some of the postgame quotes after Friday’s  5-4  Devils win in overtime over the Maple Leafs:

Zach Parise:

Does it feel good to put something in the net?

“Yeah, it feels good for us to put some goals in. We let them back in there, getting two late ones, but it does feel good to get some offense going and to get some pucks in.”

It looked like you wanted that third one really bad?

“I did, and I had plenty of opportunities; I just, I don’t know, it just wasn’t meant to be a night for the hat trick.”

Will you settle for the game-winning assist?

“Yeah, that’s good enough for me.”

What did you see on the game-winning play?

“Well the first time when Travis passed down to me and I tried to give it back to Rollie on the far side, at the last second I saw Travis come down, wide open for a one-timer — so next time I wanted to find him stepping into one. He got good wood on it, I’m not sure if (Vesa) Toskala saw it.”

You had a couple of chances to get that third one?

“Yeah, more than a couple, plenty of them; like I said, that third one just didn’t want to go in tonight.”

What happened in that third period?

“I think they started to play a little better, and then they started to put a lot more pressure on us, created some turnovers and once they got the third goal they had a lot of momentum; it’s something we don’t want to make a habit of.”

Nice that the team finally scored a couple goals?

“It’s great for us to put some pucks in the net, it’s been pretty tough for us to score lately, but it feels pretty good to do it tonight.”

I know it was a lot of goals-ago, but do you remember the first two goals you scored?

“Yeah, the first one I don’t know if Zubie was trying to shoot it or if he saw me on the back side — I had a wide open net. The second one Zubie made a really good pass to me — he said he didn’t see me; it was because I was coming down the slot yelling for the puck. He put it right on my tape and I think it went under (Jonas) Gustavsson’s arm.”

What does Zubrus’ presence bring to your line?

“He did a really good job tonight in the corners, making smart plays. He’s so big and he’s able to hold onto the puck and cycle with us and a lot of times we created turnovers in the offensive zone and were able to maintain pressure.”

Travis Zajac:

What did the coach say during the timeout in overtime?

“He didn’t say much, just to set up the PP how we wanted and go from there; we were able to get one.”

Strange game tonight…

“I think for the first two periods we had the gas pedal down, we were on them and pressuring them, making them turn the puck over; in the third period we kind of let off and they got a couple of chances and breaks. They came back, which isn’t like us but we were able to battle back in the end.”

Talk about the winning goal…

“We just wanted to set up the box and I sent it down to Zach; he made a nice pass in my wheelhouse and I was able to get a good shot on net with Zubie in front.”

Martin Brodeur:

Were you screened on their first goal?

“I don’t remember, what was the first goal, first period?

Shot from the point?

“In the first period? Yeah it tipped; hit my player, maybe ten feet in. It hit (Rod) Pelley’s stick and went up in the air; (Mark) Fraser went to cover the guy at the same time and it hit the crossbar and in. Sorry I drew a blank, too many goals against. It’s usually one and I’m able to explain pretty good.”

What did you see on the breakaway by Colton Orr?

“I just got big; I didn’t think he was going to be able to shoot it anywhere. I went down early and figured he was just going to try to go through me because he was holding up and he just flipped it. It just kind of went through me; I was a little off-balance because he didn’t shoot it hard at all.”

You’ve had some crazy games with Toronto over the last few years, any reason for that?

“I don’t know; I wish I had an answer for you. There’s teams that you react different ways and I would like to be solid against every single team, but for some reason, especially in this building, we always have weird games against these guys — it’s been (that way) for years.”

What did you see during the last five minutes?

“I think we just thought the game was over almost. You could tell with the intensity, we didn’t have anymore forecheck — they were forechecking — we turned the puck over a bunch and it was kind of a tough break on Sal (Bryce Salvador) where he coughed it up and it went right on the guy’s stick in front of the net. From there it’s only a one-goal game and, again, we turned the puck over and they put it in. It’s just something that we haven’t done this year a lot, especially with leads, definitely it’s nice to be able to come out on top even though we let go of a two-goal lead late in the game like that.”

Dainius Zubrus:

Was it nice playing with those two guys tonight?

“Yeah!”

Were you excited?

“I was excited, I didn’t know until the beginning of the game and we started the game together. I knew I had to keep skating, keep my feet moving and be ready to play a good, puck-control game with making plays. That’s what happened in the first two periods.”

How and when did you find out?

“In the warm-ups I asked who am I going to go with and that’s when Mario (Tremblay) told me that I’m going on the right side. Even during warm-ups it doesn’t mean much, but we started the game and had a couple of good shifts early and then stayed that way for the first couple of periods.”

How much closer do you feel to 100%?

“I feel pretty good; I don’t feel like I’m doing any harm.”

Playing with these guys will make you feel better right?

“Yeah, I think so. You guys asked me if I’m excited, yeah, it was fun; you get to know before the game that you’re playing with those two guys — like I said they make things happen, they hold onto the puck. They’re going to make something happen, they don’t just get rid of it; they try to make plays and you have to be ready.”

Talk about the winning goal where you were standing in front…

“Well that was my job, trying to be in front of the net — Travis has a great shot and so does Rollie, we tried to set Travis for a shot and me in front of it. It seemed like Zach put it right where Trav wanted it and he put it right on net; I haven’t seen the replay of it, but it went through.”

Jacques Lemaire:

What did you learn tonight?

“Well I learned that maybe because I didn’t see Toronto play that much, I learned that they can score goals; they don’t quit, they keep coming, they played exactly the same way from the start to the end. At the end I felt that they looked better because we slowed down, just tried to stand in the neutral zone instead of getting on the puck.”

Did the giveaway that led to the third goal give them life?

“That gave them some life, definitely; but still we should have been more intense on the puck, skated a little more. You look at our game, we had about six or seven guys up front playing as well as they could.”

When did you decide that Zubrus was going to play on the top line?

“About five minutes before the game.”

What was so good about him on that line?

“When he first started, the first couple of shifts he was just average — and after that, I don’t know what happened — he just started to control the puck and play like I’ve seen him play in the past. Especially the way he played with Zach and Travis, it helps to get better, but you could see that he was as good as could be.”

On the winning goal is that a plan as far as the way it went in?

“I have a lot of plans, but they’re not all done, they’re not executed every time. But it’s a play that we work on, definitely.”

Why did you put Zubrus on that line?

“Well I wanted to have at least two lines that would be able to score, because I look at Toronto and they have two lines that are scoring. So I felt that I’ll put Jamie (Langenbrunner) with Rollie and maybe give us some offense; and then Zubrus, he was on the fourth line and I was looking at their first line and I felt they have a pretty good first line; (Nick) Palmieri, he doesn’t have enough experience to play against them. I was looking for a guy that had experience.”

Patrick Davis’ first goal, what did you think about it?

“I thought he played really well, he works really hard and was rewarded for the effort that he puts in.”

Why did you remove Zubrus from the top line after the second period?

“I tried to make another line better.”