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

Gaborik Scores Twice as Rangers Roll Past Devils

NY Rangers 4                Devils 1

       

Lately, when the New Jersey Devils play the New York Rangers it seems like groundhog’s day — what I mean by that is the script/recipe is always the same when the Rangers win, just like in their 4-1 victory over their Hudson Riverrivals at Prudential Center on Tuesday night. The Devils scored early, but only once — allowing the Rangers to hang around until they tied the game with a late second period goal. New Jersey then became less aggressive and it was exploited for two goals and an empty netter in the final twenty minutes to put the finishing touches on their first loss since December 10.

With Patrik Elias (flu) out of the Devils lineup Travis Zajac moved up to Elias’ second line center position between Dainius Zubrus and Petr Sykora and the move paid off early for coach Pete DeBoer. Zajac, who missed the first 30 games after achilles surgery scored his first goal of the season at 15:51, pouncing on a loose rebound that Sykora fanned atop the crease of Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist. “They really came out strong and put us back on our heels,” said New York’s Mike Rupp. “Hank was big for us tonight; you kind of take it for granted sometimes. You always ask your goalie to keep you in the game, give you a chance to win. That’s what he did tonight.”

The game stayed 1-0 until 17:28 into the second period when with the Rangers being out-shot 20-9 Artem Anisimov buried a pass from Derek Stepan past Martin Brodeur. On the play Anisimov scored his seventh of the season when he slipped between the Devils duo of Zach Parise and Kurtis Foster to collect the perfect pass.

The tie didn’t last long as Marian Gaborik collected a rebound alone at the side of the net and netted his 18th goal of the season 4:45 into the final period. Gaborik’s goal was the eventual game-winner, but the back-breaker was rookie Carl Hagelin’s shorthanded goal with 5:18 left in the period. Hagelin controlled a loose puck that got past Ilya Kovalchuk and fired a twisted wrist shot over Brodeur’s glove hand. Gaborik finished the scoring on an empty net goal with four seconds left, giving him 19 on the season — one away from the NHL leader Steven Stamkos.

“We were never able to get that second goal,” said a frustrated Parise afterwards. “I thought Lundqvist played really well tonight, he was definitely the difference.” Despite the loss the Devils captain like his team’s effort in the rivalry game, “No matter the outcome, I thought we played a good game; our effort was good, we played hard, had a great start. We were mentally ready and into it, we did a lot of things we wanted to do, we just weren’t able to get that second goal.”

Game Notes: Stepan had three assists, giving him five points/assists in seven career games against the Devils; Gaborik’s first goal was the 600th point of his career (302g-299a) and he has 18 points in 19 career games against the Devils. Zajac’s goal was the 250th point of his career (90g-160a). Rangers’ defenseman Dan Girardi led all skaters in ice-time with 29:09, while Kovalchuk led New Jersey with 27:04. Gaborik was +3, while Kovalchuk and Foster were each -3; New York captain Ryan Callahan led all players with four hits, while his teammate Ryan McDonagh led all players with five blocked shots. New Jersey (18-14-1) is off until Friday night when they host Washington (17-14-1) and New York (19-8-4) travels to play the NY Islanders on Thursday night.

Dan’s Three Stars of the Game:

#1 – Marian Gaborik (NYR) – 2 goals, gw (19), assist (11)

#2 – Henrik Lundqvist (NYR) – 30 saves, win (13-7-4)

#3 – Derek Stepan (NYR) – 3 assists (17)

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

Parise Shines against Stars on Niedermayer Night

Devils 6           Dallas 3

Over the course of his career with the New Jersey Devils (1991-2004), Scott Niedermayer had many memorable moments — most notably his end-to-end rush and subsequent goal in Game 2 of the Finals against Detroit in 1995 and his goal in Game 6 of the 2000 Finals against Dallas — but Friday night at Prudential Center was filled with a collection of memories that Devils fans will never forget. His number 27 was immortalized as the team retired his number to the rafters alongside Scott Stevens and Ken Daneyko, his speech was humble, low-key and classy (typical Niedermayer) and his former employers exploded for six goals in a 6-3 win over the Dallas Stars.

Zach Parise continued to show why he is the team captain, leading by example with hard-work and relentlessness that resulted in a four-point night (1g-3a); he was one of six different goal scorers on the night — a show of just how balanced the Devils’ attack can be when all cylinders are clicking. “When your captain is the hardest working guy out there, night in, night out, everybody has to follow,” said Johan Hedberg afterwards.

The game also marked the return of Travis Zajac to the lineup, after he missed the first 30 games recovering from achilles surgery over the summer. “Physically I felt great,” said a pleased Zajac in the locker room. “I was a little tentative in the first period and that’s just due to coming back from an injury. As the game went on I felt better, getting hit, knocked down and engaged in some battles I felt more and more confident. It’s nice to come back and get a win like this.”

Dallas scored first on Niedermayer night, silencing the sellout crowd briefly, but New Jersey had answers all night, responding with their own goal every time the Stars scored. David Clarkson, Adam Henrique, Petr Sykora, Ilya Kovalchuk and Patrik Elias all potted goals for the Devils who won their third game in a row, and fifth in their last six games. Even enforcer Cam Janssen got on the score sheet with the primary assist on Sykora’s late second period, game-winning goal; it was Janssen’s first point of the season in 24 games played. “When you have a full house, you want to put on a good show,” said Parise. “Tonight I thought we did that. We had a little bit of a slow start, giving them the first goal, but overall we played pretty well.”

With Elias’ goal — the sixth of the night for New Jersey– he now has 346 career goals (all in 992 games as a Devil), one short of tying John MacLean’s franchise record. Rookie blueliner Adam Larsson (hopefully about to embark on a similar career to Niedermayer’s) had two assists in the romp and his fellow defenseman Bryce Salvador was a plus-4 on the night, while leading the team in ice-time with 26:20.

In goal it wasn’t Martin Brodeur (the next Devils number to be retired) for New Jersey, it was Hedberg and despite the unusually later start time for the game the Moose was still sharp with 33 saves in his team-leading tenth win of the season; Brodeur will start Saturday night against his hometown Canadiens. “We wanted to send the fans home with an even happier feeling than during the ceremonies,” said Hedberg, “and we did.”

Niedermayer wasn’t just a great hockey player, but he was also a great person and in sports that gets overlooked far too often. He made it a point to thank the people behind the scenes — trainers, equipment men, public relations staff and family — all who played a big part in allowing him to be as successful as he was. Despite the fact he left New Jersey for Anaheimin 2006 to play alongside his brother, and despite the fact that the Devils gave out the number 27 to other players (Mike Mottau? Really?) after he left, he will ALWAYS be # 27 to Devils fans and every fan who ever comes to a game at the Prudential Center will see that when they look up to the rafters and see his # 27 next to # 4 and # 3.

Game Notes: Zajac had 24 shifts in his first game of the season, logging 15:22 of ice-time, one hit, three shots on goal and he won eight of the 17 face-offs he took. Parise led all players with six shots on goal, while Brenden Morrow and Sheldon Souray led Dallas with five apiece; Stars defenseman Alex Goligoski led all skaters in ice-time with 26:45. Rookie goaltender Richard Bachman started forDallas and made 25 saves, losing for the first time in five appearances (3-1-0). The four-point effort by Parise was the seventh time he achieved that mark in his career and he now has a goal in each of the last three games. New Jersey (17-13-1) next plays at Montreal (13-11-7) on Saturday night and Dallas (18-12-1) is back on the ice on Monday when they return home to host Anaheim (9-16-5).

Dan’s Three Stars of the Game:

#1 – Scott Niedermayer (NJ) —  4 Stanley Cups, 740 points (172 goals, 568 assists) 98 playoff points (25 goals, 73 assists), 2004 Norris Trophy, 2007 Conn Smythe Trophy

#2 – Zach Parise (NJ) – goal (11), 3 assists (16)

#3 – Petr Sykora (NJ) – gw goal (7), assist (9)

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

Three More Weeks Until Hockey is Back…

A lot has happened since the last time I wrote, so I will try to cover a variety of topics here:

Congrats to the Boston Bruins who won the Stanley Cup in a Game 7 @ Vancouver. Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron were off the charts in that series, and Tim Thomas’ performance was legendary. That Claude Julien guy that coaches the B’s is pretty good, it’d be nice if the Devils had a coach like that…

The Atlanta Thrashers (and their fugly uniforms) are gone and the Winnipeg Jets are back! It’s a shame they won’t be wearing the old uniforms, but a new beginning does deserve a new look and I think I like what I saw from the logo and the uniform scheme.

My sincere and deepest condolences to the families of all of the hockey players that passed away this summer. I am still trying to wrap my head around what happened in Russia with the plane crash and I still cannot erase the images of Pavol Demitra, Josef Vasicek and Alexander Vasyunov’s faces from my mind; hopefully they didn’t suffer. They will all be missed and never, ever forgotten.

So the Philadelphia Flyers brought in Ilya Bryzgalov to play goal this season, making him the 500th goalie they have employed since Martin Brodeur became a New Jersey Devil and the 1,000th netminder since they last won the Cup in 1975. They also traded their two best players — Jeff Carter and Mike Richards — in separate deals that did not bring back equal value and signed 39-year-old Jaromir Jagr. Good luck with that.

It seems certain that Sidney Crosby won’t be ready for the start of the season, but could suit up at some point in 2011-12. Concussions are a delicate issue and Crosby’s career could be derailed like Eric Lindros and Paul Kariya before him. Intentional head shots must be eliminated from the game, but certain players (ahem Criesby…) are also responsible for protecting themselves and need to stop admiring their passes.

Don’t be surprised if the New York Islanders (that’s right, I said it) make the playoffs this season. IF they can stay healthy! John Tavares, Kyle Okposo, Michael Grabner and Matt Moulson seem primed to have big seasons and hopefully Evgeni Nabokov can add some stability to what has been a blue cross and blue shield crease the last few seasons.

The Rangers added the biggest fish in the free-agent pool in Brad Richards, but have we not learned anything over the past six seasons — the team that signs the top free agent never wins the Cup. They did make one right move this summer — naming Ryan Callahan their new captain.

The Devils had a semi-quiet offseason after selecting Adam Larsson with the 4th pick in the NHL Entry Draft. They were able to rid themselves of Colin White and Brian Rolston’s ridiculous contracts, and they were able to re-sign Andy Greene and Johan ‘Moose’ Hedberg. Both Bryce Salvador and Zach Parise have been cleared to start the season, but Travis Zajac may not be back until December after tearing his achilles tendon during an off-ice workout; Zajac’s team record consecutive games streak will end at 401. Cam Janssen is back with NJ and Petr Sykora could be too — he will be in training camp on a tryout basis. The new coach is Peter DeBoer who was fired from the Florida Panthers, the same DeBoer who helped the Cats reach 94 points a few years back — a remarkable feat in itself with the roster he was given. I predict Mattias Tedenby will net at least 20 goals this season and Jacob Josefson will have 30 assists as they help lead the Devs back to the playoffs after last season’s hiccup.

Boston begins defense of it’s Championship on opening night (October 6); the Rangers open in Sweden against the LA Kings the following day (October 7); the Islanders (vs. Florida) and Devils (vs. Philly) both begin their seasons on Saturday October 8; and the new Winnipeg/old Atlanta team makes it’s debut on Sunday October 9 vs. Montreal.

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

Kovalchuk Hits 30 as Devils Top Toronto

Devils 4 Toronto 2

One hundred million dollars can buy you a lot of things; the New Jersey Devils chose to invest their $100 million into Ilya Kovalchuk, one of the NHL’s most lethal goal scorers. In his first full season with the Devils Kovalchuk has disappointed, amazed, awed and disappeared (in that order), but he reached a number of milestones in his team’s 4-2 win over the also-eliminated Toronto Maple Leafs at the Prudential Center on Wednesday night.

Playing in his 700th NHL game, Kovalchuk scored his 30th goal of the season, giving the Devils a 1-0 lead 13:47 into the game, assuring that he wouldn’t match his career-low in goals for a season; he scored 29 in his rookie season with Atlanta in 2001-02. In the second period he had the primary assist on Mattias Tedenby’s goal at 14:29 (making it 2-0) for the 700th point of his nine-year career.

At 15:34 of the second period, 65 seconds after Tedenby’s tally, New Jersey defenseman Henrik Tallinder made it 3-0 with a blast past Leafs’ goalie James Reimer from the slot. Reimer, who has been splendid for Toronto in his rookie season, had no help really from his teammates through the first two periods was mercifully pulled by coach Ron Wilson to start the third period and the move seemed to spark his sluggish club.

Phil Kessel got the Leafs on the board with his 31st of the season at 6:18 on a power play, whipping a one-timer past Martin Brodeur after collecting a nice centering pass from Joffrey Lupul. Jean-Sebastien Giguere made eleven saves in total during the period for Toronto and Tyler Bozak cut the lead to 3-2 when he scored a 3-on-5 shorthanded goal at 12:42. Devils’ center Travis Zajac kind of won the face-off on the play, but both Kovalchuk and Brian Rolston were unable to corral the puck as Bozak raced past Rolston and roared in on Brodeur. Bozak scored on his backhand, slipping the puck between Brodeur’s stick and right leg pad. “I kind of gave that guy the puck,” admitted Zajac. “It was a bad play by me there; other than that we played pretty good.”

New Jersey coach Jacques Lemaire called a timeout and eventually his team settled down for the final 7:18, limiting the Leafs to only seven shots on goal for the whole period and 24 for the game. “I thought we played well (after the shorthanded goal,” said Lemaire. “The guys came back to their game; tried to put pressure on them. We skated, we moved the puck, I thought we did very well.” Patrik Elias scored into an empty net with 9.7 seconds left, giving him 20 goals for the ninth time in his 13 seasons with the Devils.

“It’s been a rough season this year,” said Brodeur after the win, “hopefully we’ll have a great season next year.” Lemaire knows he couldn’t have asked for more down the stretch from his star netminder. “He’s been really good lately; really good. He’s had at least two great months.”

Game Notes: Kessel’s goal extended his point streak to nine games (3g-7a); Elias has a five-game point streak (4g-4a). Devils forward Dainius Zubrus left after a collision along the boards in the first period and did not return. “My head’s okay, I really think I’ll be fine,” said Zubrus in the locker room after the game. “We’ll check it out a little more tomorrow, but everything’s coming back right now so I’ll be okay.” Zach Parise sat out his second straight game after returning from knee surgery on Saturday; the Devils offered no update on his condition or why he was out of the lineup. Kovalchuk led all skaters in ice-time with 28:42; Toronto captain Dion Phaneuf led his squad with 26:27. Kovalchuk led all players with six shots on goal, while Kessel led the Leafs with five; Tallinder was the only player that was +2.

Dan’s Three Stars of the Game:

#1 – Ilya Kovalchuk (NJ) – goal (30), assist (28)

#2 – Patrik Elias (NJ) – goal (20), assist (41)

#3 – Mattias Tedenby (NJ) – goal (8)

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

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?

 

Back to Reality, Uninspired Devils Fall to Predators

Nashville 3                      Devils 1

All the good feelings and the good vibes that the New Jersey Devils had, coming off a 3-0 shutout of Phoenix on Wednesday, vanished on Friday night when they could only muster 16 shots on goal during a lifeless 3-1 loss to the Nashville Predators  at the Prudential Center. “It’s unacceptable,” lamented Devils winger Ilya Kovalchuk after the game. “I don’t know what happened; we can’t play like that. Especially in our home building.” The Preds won their fifth game in a row behind the two power play goals scored by Martin Erat and the 15-save performance of rookie netminder Anders Lindback.

New Jersey goalie Martin Brodeur only faced 20 shots himself, but he surrendered a goal in each period, each seeming to come at the most crucial of times; his record is now a very unBrodeurlike 5-13-1. Ex-Devil Steve Sullivan started the scoring late in the first period when deflected Shea Weber’s shot off of Brodeur and into the net for his ninth goal of the season with 16.3 seconds left in the period.

Erat beat Brodeur with a laser-like wrist shot 4:56 into the second period and then made it 3-0 in favor of Nashville when he scored on a deflection 4:55 into the third period. Devils rookie Mattias Tedenby, the only player on the team that played with energy, spoiled the shutout for Lindback just over two minutes later when he scored a power play marker. Travis Zajac nearly cut the Predators’ lead to one two minutes after Tedenby’s goal, but Lindback made the save, extinguishing any comeback thoughts the Devils might’ve had. “Nine shots through two periods is not enough,” said New Jersey captain Jamie Langenbrunner after their sixth loss in seven games.

Game Notes: Nashville defenseman Ryan Suter led all skaters in ice-time with 28:19 and he had two assists; Kovalchuk led New Jersey in ice-time with 25:33 and had an assist. The Predators now have points in ten straight games (8-0-2). Erat scored on his only two shots and won all four face-offs he took; Weber registered two assists. Both teams are back in action on Saturday night — New Jersey (9-20-2) plays at Atlanta (17-11-5) and Nashville (17-8-6) returns home to play Los Angeles (17-11-1).

Dan’s Three Stars of the Game:
#1 — Martin Erat (Nsh) — 2 pp goals (5)
#2 — Shea Weber (Nsh) — 2 assists (10)
#3 — Ryan Suter (Nsh) — 2 assists (11)

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

Devils Snap Skid, Muzzle Coyotes 3-0

Devils 3 Phoenix 0

Not only did the New Jersey Devils snap a five-game losing streak with their 3-0 win over the Phoenix Coyotes on Wednesday night at the Prudential Center, but they may have gotten their two most important players into a positive frame of mind — a rarity in what has been a dismal season. Ilya Kovalchuk scored two goals, his first multi-goal effort as a Devil in 56 games with the club and Martin Brodeur made 29 saves for his third shutout of the season (113th career).

“It’s one game,” said Kovalchuk after the game, “it doesn’t make the season, you know? It’s a good game and we have to build on it.” He paused and added, “It’s a long way to go to where we want to be, but we just have to take it one game at a time.”

The win was much-needed for a team that was watching their playoff hopes slip away as they sat 29th out of 30 teams in points (18) this season. After New Jersey killed off an early Coyotes power play, Kovalchuk gave his squad a rare, early lead when he converted a one-timer after receiving a nice pass from Dainius Zubrus. It was only his sixth goal of the year, putting him on pace for the worst offensive season of his nine in the league. “I knew it was a two-on-one and the back-checker was on me,” explained Zubrus, “I don’t know if I would’ve been able to cut to the middle and get the shot off; I knew Kovy was there too, so I was able to get a pass to an area where he could do something with it. And he did.”

Rookie defenseman Mark Fayne doubled the Devils’ lead when he netted his first career NHL goal at 13:18, blasting a shot from the blue line past Phoenix goalie Ilya Bryzgalov who was screened on the play.

Brodeur turned aside ten Coyote shots in the first period, eleven in the second and eight in the third but it wasn’t until he stopped Taylor Pyatt’s semi-breakaway early in the second period that it appeared it was going to be tough to beat the future Hall-of-famer on this night. “I had a good angle on him,” explained Brodeur, “I held my ground on my butterfly and he hit the top of my pad; he wasn’t really looking but he hammered it pretty good.”

Kovalchuk finished the scoring early in the third period when he pounded another one-time past his countryman Bryzgalov, this time during a 5-on-3 advantage. “I always feel good about it,” he said about his confidence in his one-timer. “Sometimes I don’t get many opportunities to do it, tonight it seemed like I got a few of them. That’s all my linemates and my teammates – they create that room (for me).”

One more important challenge/moment remained for New Jersey and that was late in the third when they had to kill a penalty to preserve the shutout — as well as a good state of mind. “Marty played real well for us (tonight), so you want to get him the shutout,” said Zubrus of his goalie’s performance. “It’s good,” said Brodeur of the blanking, “winning is what we’re looking for, shutouts are a bonus; if you could call it a bonus in these times.” He knew it was important for his team’s fragile psyche after their worst start in fifteen seasons. “We have to learn to battle, to play through a little adversity; not just when you are losing — but when you’re winning.

Killing that penalty, even though getting scored on wouldn’t have really mattered much (to the final outcome), that prepares you in knowing that you’re able to get the job done when it’s a tighter game.”

Game Notes: Defenseman Anssi Salmela made his season debut for the Devils and played 14:57 during his 20 shifts. Kovalchuk led all skaters in ice-time with 22:51 and Derek Morris led Phoenix with 22:21. Kovalchuk and Coyotes captain Shane Doan led all players with five shots on goal each; Doan led all players with four hits. Kovalchuk and Travis Zajac each have six points in their last five games. New Jersey (9-19-2) is off until Friday when they host Nashville (16-8-6) while Phoenix (14-9-6) plays Thursday night against New York (19-13-1) at MSG.

 

Dan’s Three Stars of the Game:

#1 – Ilya Kovalchuk (NJ) – 2 goals, pp/gw (7)

#2 – Martin Brodeur (NJ) – 29 saves, win (5), shutout (3)

#3 – Patrik Elias (NJ) – 2 assists (15)

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

Detroit Drubs Devils in Latest Disaster

Detroit 4         Devils 1

The New Jersey Devils dropped their fifth consecutive game on Saturday night, this time falling easily to the mighty Detroit Red Wings by a 4-1 score. Making matters worse, this was the second consecutive game at Prudential Center that they fell behind by not one, but two goals in the first two minutes of the game. The Red Wings’ top players looked like they had barely broken a sweat as they broke the Devils’ spirits and then their wills by dissecting them like top-paid surgeons — Pavel Datsyuk had three points (1g-2a), Henrik Zetterberg had two (1g-1a) and Tomas Holmstrom also had two (1g-1a); and the trio were each a +3 in the match.

Holmstrom opened the scoring 28 seconds after the opening face-off when his long wrist shot hit the post and found the back of the net behind Martin Brodeur. “It hit the post, then the back of my arm I think,” said the Devils goalie afterwards. Detroit’s second shot on goal also found the back of the net when Dan Cleary’s wide angle shot sailed past Brodeur’s glove hand at 1:42, digging the offensively-challenged Devils into an even deeper hole than the 8-18-2 team was already in. “They got two breaks right from the get-go,” Brodeur said when asked if his team was flat. “I have to be better than that. Especially when you play a top team in the league, you can’t spot them two goals, regardless of how they went in.”

It didn’t matter that New Jersey out shot the Wings in the first period or for the game because after the first 102 seconds of the game, 95% percent of those in attendance or watching knew that it would take a miraculous comeback of epic proportions considering the futility of these Devils. “We have to find ways to not get down early in games,” said New Jersey center Travis Zajac. “You shoot yourself in the foot when you’re down 2-0 in the first two minutes.” Zetterberg capitalized on a defensive blunder and made it 3-0 for Detroit at 11:37 of the second period when he collected his own rebound and slid a backhander past the Devils goalie — making the three-goal lead seem like Mt. Everest for his teammates.

Patrik Elias, the only Devil who’s been scoring anything reminiscent of consistent these days, gave the team some life when his power play tally 39 seconds into the third period ended Chris Osgood’s shutout bid; Elias has five points (3g-2a) in his last five games. Zetterberg and Datsyuk worked their magic to restore the three goal-lead nine minutes later when Zetterberg beat out two Devils defensemen, negating an icing and then setting up a wide-open Datsyuk for an easy marker. Osgood finished with 33 saves for his 399th career win, which is tenth all-time in NHL history. “He made some big saves early on for us,” said Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom of his goaltender. “I thought he looked very comfortable in net too. He made some nice saves and he was able to handle the puck for us on a few occasions. I thought he had a stellar game for us.”

Devils coach John MacLean said afterwards he still believes this team can still make the playoffs, “there’s still time,” but if the losses continue he may not be the one with the arduous task of trying to accomplish that with the goal-deficient team, “we’re struggling to find the back of the net.” Zajac wasn’t ready to give-up yet either, “The only thing we can do now is try to get points any way possible; that’s all our focus has to be. Whether it’s winning shootouts, overtime, we just have to find ways to win hockey games.”

Game Notes: When the game ended, the Devils did not have a player on their season roster that is a plus-player in the plus/minus category. Ilya Kovalchuk had three shots on goal and assisted on Elias’ goal; giving him eight points (1g-7a) in eight career games against the Red Wings. Datsyuk and Zetterberg each now have points in three straight games. Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall led all skaters in ice-time with 25:24 while Henrik Tallinder led New Jersey with 22:58.Holmstrom and the Devils’ Jason Arnott led all players with four shots on goal apiece; Arnott’s teammate Anton Volchenkov had a game-high three hits. New Jersey (8-19-2) is off until Wednesday when they host Phoenix (13-8-6) while Detroit (19-6-3) returns home to host Los Angeles (16-10-0) on Monday night.

Dan’s Three Stars of the Game:

#1 – Pavel Datsyuk (Det) – goal (11), 2 assists (25)

#2 – Henrik Zetterberg (Det) – goal (10), assist (19)

#3 – Tomas Holmstrom (Det) – goal (9),  assist (7)

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