Six Devils Score in Crazy 6-4 Win Over Tampa

It wasn’t the prettiest game defensively, but the New Jersey Devils showed how dangerous they can be offensively when they rallied three times from one-goal deficits to blast past the Tampa Bay Lightning 6-4 on Thursday night at Prudential Center. Six different players scored a goal in the win, showing just how deep their scoring depth is, matching the goal output they had in their three previous games; five Devils had multiple points in the win. For Tampa the lone bright spot was Ryan Malone who scored his team’s first three goals in recording his fourth career hat trick.

Malone opened the scoring with 44 seconds left in the first period, slamming the puck in from the side of Martin Brodeur’s  net after a point shot softly redirected to him.

Once the second period began, all hell broke loose in the Devils’ house; Dainius Zubrus scored a shorthanded goal at 3:07, converting a perfect saucer-pass from Patrik Elias at the end of a two-on-one. “It was the end of our shift, so we were a little tired,” said Zubrus of the odd-man rush. “Patty made a really nice saucer pass, over the defender’s stick; and it was flat, right on my (stick) tape. I don’t think you can ask for a better pass, and I just shot it right away.” Malone responded for the Lightning 93 seconds later when his attempted pass went past Brodeur off of New Jersey defenseman Marek Zidlicky’s skate. Jacob Josefson retied the game for the Devils 2:14 after Malone’s second goal, snapping a shot past the oft-helpless Tampa netminder Dwayne Roloson.

Malone completed his hat trick at 10:13, giving the Lightning their final lead of the game when he was able to sweep a rebound past Brodeur from the edge of the goalmouth. Ilya Kovalchuk netted his team-leading 33rd goal after a pretty passing play with Zach Parise and Adam Henrique just over three minutes later, setting the stage for the Devils to grab a hold of the see-saw game. Six seconds into a power play Zidlicky atoned for his earlier misfortune when he blasted a rocket past Roloson to give New Jersey its first lead of the night, just 71 seconds after Kovalchuk had tied the game.

Alexei Ponikarovsky deftly tipped Bryce Salvador’s long shot past Roloson 2:25 into the final period; although the goal was announced as Salvador’s first of the season it was changed later by the official scorer. “I want to see the proof,” joked Salvador after the game. “I have to make sure Alex tipped it.” Ponikarovsky said he knew he had tipped it and told his teammate that on the bench. “I tipped it with my stick at my waist, I knew it was a good goal, there was no doubt in my mind (that it was mine).”

Less than four minutes later, Ponikarovsky and David Clarkson controlled the puck in Tampa’s zone for a while which resulted in the latter finding the puck and scoring his 29th of the season from atop the crease. Trevor Smith scored the final goal of the game with nine seconds remaining, only changing the final score but not the outcome. “We can’t be overconfident (after tonight),” said Ponikarovsky. “The next game, everything goes back to zero; we have to win another game. We have to do the same things and work hard to get goals.”

New Jersey’s magic number is down to one point — gained by them or lost by Buffalo.

Game Notes: Zidlicky led all skaters in ice-time with 21:33, while Tampa defenseman Victor Hedman led his squad with 21:12. Kovalchuk led all players with seven shots on goal and Malone led the Lightning with six. Devils defenseman Anton Volchenkov, playing in his first game since last Friday, had a game-high of four hits, also matched by Ponikarovsky. Henrique had two assists and was a +3 (game-high). Travis Zajac, playing in his third game back won 14 of the 18 face-offs he took. New Jersey (94 points, 6th in East) is off until Saturday when they play at Carolina (77 points, 13th in East) and that same night Tampa (77 points, 11th in East) returns home to host Winnipeg (78 points, 10th in East).

Dan’s 3 Stars of the Game:
#1 — Ilya Kovalchuk (NJ): goal (33), assist (44)
#2 — Ryan Malone (TB): 3 goals (18)
#3 — Patrik Elias (NJ): 2 assists (47)

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

Congrats to the South-Islanders

Last night the Tampa Bay Lightning became the first team to advance to the NHL’s final four, securing a berth in the East Finals by sweeping the top-seeded Washington Capitals out of the playoffs. For fans of the New York Islanders, watching the Lightning advance could very well be bittersweet; five of Tampa’s 20-man playoff roster (1/4) are ex-Islanders and they all have played a major role in upsetting first the Pittsburgh Penguins and then the Caps.

Dwayne Roloson has been Tampa’s backbone and is now victorious in seven consecutive games after his team was down 3 games to 1 against the Pens. The 41-year-old netminder was traded to the Sunshine State on January 1 in exchange for defenseman Ty Wishart.

Sean Bergenheim was signed as a free-agent this past summer (August 17)and is making first-year GM Steve Yzerman look like a genius. The former first round pick has seven goals in his first 11 playoff games after tallying 14 goals in 80 regular season games. He is part of a great line with ex-Ranger Dominic Moore and ex-Flyer Steve Downie that has dominated this postseason.

Nate Thompson was claimed on waivers by the Lightning in January of 2010 and has done everything the team has asked of him as a fourth-line center. We used to joke that he was Isles’ coach Scott Gordon’s pet because he followed the coach from Providence of the AHL to Long Island; apparently now his teammates refer to him as ‘Nate Boucher’ because he does everything and anything that rookie coach Guy Boucher asks of him.

Marc-Andre Bergeron is a defensive liability on any team, as the Islanders found out during his 69 games with the club in 2006-07. He did score 12 power play goals during that time and it’s his rocket shot that has kept him in the league despite his defensive deficiencies. He only has one goal in seven playoff games with Tampa, and yes it was a PP goal; oh and it was the game-winning goal that eliminated Washington.

Eric Brewer hasn’t played for the Islanders since 2000, but after stops in Edmonton and St. Louis he was acquired by the Lightning on February 18. He has provided solid defense and some scoring (1g-5a), while adding some experience to Tampa’s bruising blueline.

Tampa has been fun to watch and hopefully they give us another entertaining week or two or three as these playoffs roll on.

Who Will Be the Beast of the East?

Who Will Be the Beast of the East?

Eastern Conference predictions

Round 1:

(1) Washington over (8) NY Rangers

(7) Buffalo over (2) Philadelphia

(3) Boston over (6) Montreal

(4) Pittsburgh over (5) Tampa Bay

Round 2:

(1) Washington over (7) Buffalo

(3) Boston over (4) Pittsburgh

Round 3:

(3) Boston over (1) Washington

Washington (1)      vs.    NY Rangers (8)

Last Cup Win: Washington (never), NY Rangers (1994)

Why the Capitals will win: They aren’t intimidated by the Rangers or their goaltender whom has been known to get in some of his opponents’ heads (see: New Jersey Devils). Washington is also one of the deepest teams in the league and they will wear their undermanned first round opponent down.

Why the Rangers will win: They spanked Washington twice this season (6-0, 7-0) and when they are on their game, the Blueshirts have all of the necessary components to go toe-to-toe with any team in the league; solid goaltending, timely scoring and team defense will lead New York to the upset win over the Caps.

Washington’s most important player: Tempted to say Alex Ovechkin, but it’s Mike Green; if he is healthy and has fresh legs he could bury the Rangers (a team that has taken a penalty or two) with his power play prowess.

New York’s most important player: The soul of the Rangers is Henrik Lundqvist, if he falters, they are cooked. He’s only won two playoff series in his career, but his league-leading 11 shutouts this season tell you that he is capable of shutting down any team in the NHL.

Washington’s biggest question mark: It has to be the goaltending, despite the fact that they won the East with three goaltenders — two of them rookies. Michal Neuvirth will get the nod to begin the series, and that’s probably the right call. He won back-to-back Calder Cups for the Hershey Bears and was victorious in 27 of his 48 starts with the Caps this season.

New York’s biggest question mark: Which version of Marian Gaborik will show up in this series? Will it be the same Gaborik that had only 48 points (22 goals) in 62 games this season or will he become the two-time 40-goal scorer that the Rangers are paying for?

Players with Stanley Cup Rings: Washington (Jason Arnott, Mike Knuble), New York (Chris Drury, Ruslan Fedotenko)

PREDICTION: CAPITALS IN 6 — Gaborik and Lundqvist will show up and the Rangers will put up a fight, but Ovechkin will eliminate them with a hat trick in Game 6.

Philadelphia (2)     vs. Buffalo (7)

Last Cup Win: Philadelphia (1975), Buffalo (never)

Why the Flyers will win: Since the start of last season’s playoffs Philadelphia has probably been the best team in the NHL. With the talent on this roster they should walk all over the Sabres, but only if their power play finds itself. This season they ranked 19th in the NHL out of 30 teams, with a putrid 16.6%. Offensive juggernauts that were ranked ahead of them: Buffalo, Colorado, Atlanta, Minnesota and Ottawa.

Why the Sabres will win: They have Ryan Miller and the Flyers don’t; it’s as simple as that. He has won playoff series as the favorite and the underdog in his career, and Buffalo is the hottest team in the league heading into the playoffs. If Miller is at less than 100%, then the Sabres will be in trouble.

Philadelphia’s most important player: Chris Pronger’s presence alone will make a difference in the series, but only if he’s healthy enough to be there. His absence over the final weeks of the season is the reason the Flyers crashed and stumbled out of the East’s top spot.

Buffalo’s most important player: Aside from Miller, it’s Thomas Vanek who very quietly had a solid season — 73 points (32g-41a) in 80 games. If Drew Stafford can get into one of his hot streaks it will make a big difference in the series.

Philadelphia’s biggest question mark: As always since Ron Hextall left, it’s goaltending. Sergei Bobrovsky will start Game 1, but lurking behind him are somewhat proven veterans in Michael Leighton and Brian Boucher.

Buffalo’s biggest question mark: Can Tyler Myers and the Sabres’ defensive corps stop the flock of talented Flyers forwards is a good place to start; also how will smallish rookie Tyler Ennis (who had a real nice season) hold up in a seven-game series against the rugged Philadelphians?

Players with Stanley Cup Rings: Philadelphia (Nick Boynton, Sean O’Donnell, Pronger, Kris Versteeg), Buffalo (Rob Niedermayer)

PREDICTION: SABRES IN 7 — Miller shines as Buffalo wins a l-e-n-g-t-h-y Game 7 in Philadelphia.

Boston (3)       vs. Montreal (6)

Last Cup Win: Boston (1972), Montreal (1993)

Why the Bruins will win: Boston’s depth is only matched by Washington in the East as far as I’m concerned, especially when your top three centers are Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and Rich Peverley. The addition of Tomas Kaberle really balanced out the defense in Beantown too.

Why the Canadiens will win: If I had to pick one team in the East that would give Boston the biggest challenge, I’d say Montreal. These two teams know each other inside and out with all of their legendary battles throughout time. Also how will Boston react after blowing a three games-to-none lead in last year’s East semi-finals.

Boston’s most important player: Tim Thomas is the easy choice here, if he continues playing the way he did during the season (35-11-9, 2.00 GAA, .938 save %, 9 shutouts), the Bruins should be able to choke-out the sometimes offensively challenged Habs.

Montreal’s most important player: Where were you this season Scott Gomez? Horrible season (7g-31a, minus-15 in 80 games) from one of the veterans on the Canadiens, but during last spring’s run to the East Finals he put up 14 points in 19 games. If he can get on that type of run it would be much appreciated in Montreal.

Boston’s biggest question mark: The Bruins had a great year, but after choking away last season’s opportunity to beat the Flyers in the semis, anything less than a trip to the East Finals would be a failure. It will be interesting to see how they react if they get Montreal into an elimination game.

Montreal’s biggest question mark: Last season’s dramatic run was led by goaltender Jaroslav Halak, who is now with the St. Louis Blues. Now it’s Carey Price’s turn and judging from the season he just had (38-28-6, 8 shutouts) he could be a difference maker, not only this season but for many, many more to come.

Players with Stanley Cup Rings: Boston (Mark Recchi (2), Shawn Thornton), Montreal (Gomez (2), Brian Gionta, Travis Moen, Hal Gill, Brent Sopel)

PREDICTION: BRUINS IN 7 – Boston will bend, but won’t break as they hold off the Habs; Nathan Horton, playing in his first playoffs, will have a monster series.

Pittsburgh (4)                vs. Tampa Bay (5)

Last Cup Win: Pittsburgh (2009), Tampa Bay (2004)

Why the Penguins will win: They have an elite goaltender in Marc-Andre Fleury and Jordan Staal will not only shut down Steven Stamkos, but he’ll also chip in a few big goals.

Why the Lightning will win: Without Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin, the Lightning can focus their attention on solid team defense and timely goals. Whether or not Stamkos and Simon Gagne can score multiple times will be determining factors in the series.

Pittsburgh’s most important player: It will be all of their penalty killers; they led the league killing off penalties at an 86.2% clip and if they can shut down Tampa’s powerful power play the series could be a quick one.

Tampa Bay’s most important player: If he becomes a playoff-beast once again, it will be the league’s second leading point getter Martin St. Louis (99 points). He’s a proven playoff performer (48 pts in 45 games) and if he gets hot the Pens will become postseason spectators.

Pittsburgh’s biggest question mark: If there is a small chance he can play, does Pittsburgh risk everything and put Crosby out there? If Crosby doesn’t play, who else besides Staal is going to contribute offensively?

Tampa Bay’s biggest question mark: In the 2006 playoffs, Dwayne Roloson led the eighth-seeded Edmonton Oilers all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals and then blew out his knee in Game 1. That was the last time he played in a playoff game, so five years later it’s hard to tell what you are going to get from the veteran netminder.

Players with Stanley Cup Rings: Pittsburgh (Chris Kunitz (2), Craig Adams (2), Fleury, Crosby, Malkin, Staal, Alex Kovalev, Pascal Dupuis, Matt Cooke, Kris Letang, Brooks Orpik, Tyler Kennedy, Michael Rupp, Max Talbot, Eric Godard), Tampa Bay (Vincent Lecavalier, St. Louis, Pavel Kubina)

PREDICTION: PENGUINS IN 7 — The Lightning prove to be a valiant opponent but Fleury will top Roloson in a wild Game 7

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

Stamkos Avoiding Sophomore Jinx

Here is the link to a story I did for NYCSN about Tampa Bay’s 20-year-old Steven Stamkos:

Stamkos Avoiding Sophomore Jinx

Lightning top Devils in Power-Outage Game

Here is the link to my recap of one of the oddest games ever — a 4-2 Tampa win over the Devils that took three days to complete:

Lightning Top Devils in Power Outage Game

Dan’s Three Stars of the Game:

#1 – Steven Stamkos (TB) – 2 goals, gw (23), assist (20)

#2 – Martin St. Louis (TB) – 2 assists (38)

#3 – Travis Zajac (NJ) – goal (12) assist (23)

The Night the Lights Went Out…

On Friday night at Prudential Center with 9:12 left in the second period and Tampa leading New Jersey 3-0, a portion of the arena lights went dark, leaving one half of the ice less lit than the other half. That was at 8:18 pm; an announcement was made shortly after that they were trying to solve the problem, but the next announcement didn’t come until 10:07 when the PA announcer said that the game was postponed and will be completed at a later date.

The Devils out-shot the Lightning 20-7 until the lighting failed, but it was Tampa who led by three goals scored by Steve Downie, Brandon Bochenski and Steven Stamkos.

The players were not made available to the print media afterwards but coach Devils coach Jacques Lemaire and GM Lou Lamoriello both spoke after the game; here is what they had to say after one of the most bizarre nights in the three seasons that the team has been in Newark:

Jacques Lemaire:

Have you ever experienced anything like this?

“Never, never; the thing is if we don’t have, I looked and we all looked at the ice the way it is right now with the lighting that we have, to me (and to all of us) it would be dangerous to keep playing like this.”

What was the explanation that you were given?

“None, myself I don’t know exactly; Lou will try to explain after I’m done.”

Are you saying that unless either team needs the points this game won’t be completed?

“Lou will answer that question, any questions about the game?”

Not a great start to the second half of the season…

“I thought we, well goal-wise it wasn’t a good start, but I thought it was a great start the way we played. We didn’t allow a lot of chances, a lot of shots; and we had quite a few, we came close numerous times to get a goal, get back in the game and this is exactly what we needed to get a goal. I felt that we were playing really well.”

It was getting late; did you want to restart no matter how late it was?

“There was a time limit; they’re playing tomorrow (in Philadelphia) which is an important game for them. We’re playing tomorrow (in Montreal) which is another important game, so we didn’t want, myself I didn’t want this game to go on until midnight and then get into Montréal at 3 am and play tomorrow. So I guess this game will be played if any team needs it.”

Has this ever happened to you before?

“No, never. But I’m not an electrician (smiles).”

Lou Lamoriello:

“First of all, what happened was a circuit breaker went down. We found which one it was, and then they could not get the computer to work with the circuit breaker and PSE&G has been here and they determined a short period of time ago that they will not get this fixed tonight so the game was called. We have been in constant contact with the league. The officials as you saw went out and looked to see if when they put the LED boards on if there was enough light to play, but it was too risky. One end zone there was too many shadows and safety has to come first in a situation like this. As far as the details for this game being rescheduled, what the particulars will be as far as where it will begin being played, I do not have any of those. They have not been transmitted to me, nor to my understanding have they been discussed.”

Was there a specific league rule about what to do when something happens like this?

“I do not have the rule, I think it will be determined by certainly by hockey operations and the only situation that I’m aware of is when the young man got hurt in Detroit and what they did at that time. But that was in the first period, where I believe they left the score the way it was and just started the game over again; I think Nashville was ahead 1-0 at that time. I’m not saying that that is what will transpire here, we’re in the second period and I really don’t have any answer right now.”

Were you talking to the commissioner at all?

“I was talking to Colin Campbell. I did not ask any of those questions right now; it was more when do we decide that this game is canceled. We were communicating with them and the officials and trying to get the word to the fans and the media as quick as we can; and also to our players. Both teams have games tomorrow night, we have flights, so things had to be rescheduled.”

Is it your understanding that it’s possible the game will not be replayed?

“No, I don’t even have that answer. I believe it will be replayed, because of how it affects other people, it affects standings, and it affects points. But the details of what the decision is, of when and how, I do not have the answer to that.”

Would it have to be replayed in New Jersey?

“I would assume so, but I don’t want to assume anything. This is our last game with Tampa so…”

But you will be in Florida…

“I would be awfully surprised if it’s not played in the venue it was scheduled to be played in.”

Did you guys discuss at all finishing the game in the practice rink?

“No.”

Was there an agreement from both sides that the game should be stopped?

“I don’t want to get into any of those discussions. That is the decision of the officials on the ice as far as the lights.”

In all of your years at Providence and in the NHL, anything like this ever happen?

“No, this is my first experience with this happening at this time during the game. We’ve had a couple of isolated situations prior to a game, but not during a game.”

When were the players told that there would be no more game?

“As soon as you people were told. They were sitting in the locker room, they were undressed, most of them, drying off because there was going to be a warm up once the game started. We made new ice hoping that they would get the lights on, but the players could not go out there cold; that was decided that that would take place. So there was constant communication between both teams, the league and the officials.”

Once in a lifetime event right?

“I hope so.”

Did the commissioner make the final call on this?

“The league has to make the call on this. But I don’t think that it’s a case of where a decision had to be made, I think the commissioner and the league waited as long as they possibly could. Once they decided they could not get this fixed in a reasonable period of time — when I say reasonable period of time, I mean hours — we did wait 90 minutes by the way. I think once you go that period of time and they’re still in the same place they were when they started in the first minute, it’s not a good chance of getting done. But I’m not an electrician. I only know what I’m being told.”

Is this like 4 and a half innings or can the fans go to another game if they have the ticket stub?

“Well that’s going to be decided. That has not been discussed and will be on newjerseydevils.com, once we know exactly what the status is of this game.”