The return of Jacob Josefson, about a month and a half early, a (temporary) plus while the injured Henrique recovers from a hamstring injury. After breaking his right collar bone back in a 4-3 shootout loss to San Jose in late October, Josefson makes an early return to the Devils squad and is immediatly placed onto the 3rd line along with Carter and the relativly un-productive Mattias Tedenby. In 5 games played this season before tonight, Jacob recorded only 1 assist, for one point, a +/- ratio of +1 and played a vital role in the absence of then-injured Travis Zajac. Tonight is the closer of the Devils-Jets home&home series; the Devils are 2-2-0 in home&home's this season. In the Devils' return home, they open up what is going to be the season's longest home stand, a six game home series which begins tonight against Winnipeg, and will include teams such as the Bruins, Sabres, Canadiens, and Atlantic Division rival New York Rangers, and Philadelphia Flyers.
While the Devils have had off since Saturday's victory in Manitoba, the Jets have had next to no rest as they played Monday night, in a very well played game against a very strong Ottawa club that has been streaking. Backup goaltender Chris Mason made 25 saves on 25 shots as Tobias Enstrom and Jim Slater both scored a goal and got an assist each in the Jets' 2-0 victory over the Sens. Mason got awarded the start again tonight against New Jersey.
After a dominant game Saturday afternoon, Martin Brodeur recieved the green-flag and was named the starter for tonights game against the Jets. Since December 6th, Brodeur is 8-3-1 and has shown exceptional skill and drive in games of late (with an exception of the Calgary game).
The first period looked exceptionally similar to the second period of Saturday's game, ALSO, against Winnipeg. Decent amount of shots on net, New Jersey out shooting the Jets 9-6 and had 5 more scoring chances then Winnipeg had recorded in the first period. Pretty much, the first period was relativly even, in the viewers eyes, well, at least mine that is. One penalty was assesed in the first period of play as Winnipeg's Jim Slater recieved the call for interference at 5:48, New Jersey couldn't cash in on the man advantage, an issue that has haunted the team for the majority of the season, despite their excellence on the penalty kill. Exactly one second shy of the 1 minute mark, Ilya Kovalchuk broke the ice after recieving a great lead pass from line-mate Zach Parise who finished with 1 assist, +1, and managed to record 3 shots on net.
After a nearly stale-mate at the end of one, New Jersey came out of the locker room full cylinders. Managing 7 shots on net, the Devils made 3 of them count. With goals scored by Sykora, Clarkson, and Kovalchuk again, the offense had finally clicked, in ways it hasnt in games prior. Petr Sykora recorded his 11th goal of the year as it was assisted by Henrik Tallinder and Patrick Elias 92 seconds into the middle stage of the game. On what I believe to be the play of the game, David Clarkson showed effort and determination as he wroked his way into the Winnipeg zone, banged some bodies, used his physical strength and resembled a shot that appeared to be "Kovalchuk-esk" as he fired a bullet in between Chris Mason and the left post for his 16th tally of the year; Clarkson is on his way to a career best season in the goals category.
Five and a half minutes in, Evander Kane gets the whistle for High Sticking on the Devils' latest goal scorer when his stick got nestled inbetween Clarky's chin strap and chin. With Kane in the sin-bin, the Devils were handed their second power play opportunity of the evening. Nearly at the conclusion of Evander Kane's penalty, Nik Antropov is caught in the neutral zone for elbowing which presents the Devils with the 5 on 3 man advantage. The Devils coud not punch another tally on the board with the two man advantage, but no sooner does Kane step back onto the ice, Ilya Kovalchuk blasts a shot past Chris Mason for his 19th of the year, 2nd of the night and it would be the last shot that Mr. Mason would face as he was immediatly yanked and replaced by Ondrej Pavelec. At the conclusion of the 2nd period, the teams were knotted up in shots on goal, with 7 a piece in the second period, but, the ice is tilted, predominantly in favor of New Jersey.
New Jersey had a lead, a very impressive lead at that, 4-0 through 2 periods of play. Brodeur looked nearly flawless, Kovalchuk looked like he could get the Hat-Trick, the defense looked sharp (ill get back to defense in the conclusion), all around the team shined bright, and most importantly, they played as a team.
Despite Brodeur loosing the shut-out bid after Tobias Enstrom rang one LOUD off the post with Marty being screened in front by two men, he still played spectacular even with all the buzz going on in regards to retirement (read more here). 3 minutes after the Enstrom goal, Patrick Elias catches a rebound off of the skate of a Winnipeg defensemen and burries the puck to get his 17th of the year which was assisted by Devils blue liner Anton Volchenkov and winger Petr Sykora. A little while later, Dainius Zubrus gets a short date with the time's keeper as he heads to the penalty box for the Tripping penalty at 13:08; the Devils, didnt not score short handed.
New Jersey held their ground, didnt go into a shell, kept on the pressure, dominated in the offensive category of the game, and showed that they have what it takes to be a TRUE playoff contender. 5-1 the final score against the Jets. The Devils were out shot 21-20 in the game, recording 5 goals and allowing 1. One of the five goals was scored on the powerplay; New Jersey finished 1-4 on power play opportunities. Unlike Saturday, the Devils won more faceoffs than the opposition, out dueling Winnipeg winning 29 while dropping 27 in the faceoff dot.
The defense tonight shined through brightly. Defenders tonight amassed 3 total assists, no goals, recording 4 total shots on net with Kurtis Foster leading the parade with a +3 rating as top defender of the night. The player of the game award goes to Patrick Elias. Elias had 1 goal, 2 assists, 3 total points while finishing +3 with 2 shots on goal in roughly 15:45 minutes worth of ice time. Elias recorded his 17th goal of the year 11:31 minutes into the 3rd period on a pass from Anton Volchenkov.
The New Jersey Devils resume play Thursday evening against the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins. The Devils are 0-2-0 this year against Boston being out scored 10-4. New Jersey looks to extend their current win streak to four games.