This was essentially THE GAME for the New Jersey Devils. After an impressive display of offense in a 6-4 win over Tampa Bay on Thursday, the Devils hoped they could clinch with a Washington loss in Boston. Unfortunately that did not happen but the positive was that they needed just a point against the Carolina Hurricanes tonight to officially clinch. In other words, a win and they’re in. Tonight, in my opinion, was even better than Thursday night as New Jersey cruised on in Raleigh. They’re officially in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs!
Early in the first, I kind of felt a bit nervous because there was some light pressure by the Canes in the first minute. The Devils seemed to turn it over carelessly but thank goodness Marty Brodeur was there to keep Carolina off the scoreboard. At the 16:33 point, Zach Parise took an interference penalty to give the Hurricanes their first power play of the night. Only a minute into this power play, Marty had to make a big save on the Canes’ Jeff Skinner! However, it definitely was a dandy. From that point on, the Devils took control of this period. At the 8:11 point, I got really confused because a shot from Petr Sykora looked to have beaten Hurricane goaltender Brian Boucher. Replay later showed that the puck was tucked inside Boucher’s arm. About a minute later, Ilya Kovalchuk took a cross checking penalty which resulted in another Carolina penalty. I’m not sure how many people realized this but the power play didn’t start inside the Devils’ zone. Instead it started outside the Hurricanes’ blue line. The PK looked strong and Carolina didn’t generate many chances. Momentum was restored back into the Devils’ spirit. Marty made the key saves and the Devils drew a penalty at the 4:07 point. Jussi Jokinen went off for holding and the Devils went on the power play. Though there were no goals on this power play...I was impressed! I’ve never seen the Devils this season move the puck that well, pass that well, and take that many shots on a power play. If we see that kind of power play from NJ, look for beneficial results. With just 0:42 to play in the period, Skinner took an interference penalty which set the Devils up for another power play. This one, however, resembled the first power play in a much quicker fashion. It took New Jersey 18 seconds to capitalize. The birthday boy David Clarkson scored his 30th of the season with just 22 seconds remaining! Clarkson’s goal was assisted by Patrik Elias and Kovalchuk… but wait there’s more! Skinner who came out of the box apparently said something to the refs which ticked them off. Silly Skinner took an ill-advised unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and the Devils went right back onto the power play! Time ran out though and the Devils were ensured a large chunk of carry over power play time. Shots-on-goal- after one were 16-7 in favor of New Jersey.
I guess you can call this second period déjà vu because in terms of goals, it almost mimicked the second period of the game vs. Tampa on Thursday. Kovalchuk increased the Devils lead to 2-0 with a great shot just 1:44 in! It wasn’t a power play goal but Kovy’s 34th was assisted by Sykora and Dainius Zubrus. Without a doubt, momentum was in favor of the Devils. At the 16:32 point, New Jersey proved that they have depth capable of generating offense. Steve Bernier and Ryan Carter (4th liners!) generated a 2-on-1. A nice pass from Bernier to Carter and an even greater snap shot from Carter was all it took for the Devils to beat Boucher again and lead 3-0! Carter’s 4th goal of the season was assisted by Bernier and Jacob Josefson. Sykora took an interference penalty later but the ensuing Carolina power play was simply shut down by the top-ranked Devils Penalty Kill. If anything has been more impressive this season about Devils hockey, it’s definitely the PK. Contrary, Carolina captain Eric Staal bumped into Marty after he made a stop and thus took a goalie interference penalty. This Devils power play didn’t generate any goals but there were definitely some strong chances that could have increased the lead. At the 8:50 point, Marty made THE stop on Jeff Skinner which got a loud ovation from Devils fans in the crowd and completely sucked the life out of Hurricanes fans. With just 2:30 to go, the signature Sykora goal reoccurred! Petr shot the puck off the face off past Boucher and I couldn’t believe it. The Devils were actually beating the Hurricanes (who they’ve had some struggles with over the years) 4-0. Sykora’s 19th was assisted by Elias. In the Tampa game the, the Devils scored 4 in the 2nd. Here, they scored 3. Nonetheless, New Jersey’s goal scoring touch was back in action! Shots-on-goal after two were 28-13 in favor of NJ!
Yawn… really not much action in this one. The opening was very nice though. Just 1:15 in, captain Zach added to the misery of Carolina fans yet, created a bigger smile on the faces of Devils fans everywhere! Parise snapped one past Boucher for a commanding 5-0 lead. His 31st was assisted by Kovalchuk and Travis Zajac. Actually, Adam Henrique had a great chance to make it 6-0 but he was tripped by a Hurricane defender and was unable to reach out for the puck. Literally, the net was wide open for him. Nonetheless, it didn’t change the tempo of the game. From this point on, it was simple up and down hockey. With 3:13 to go in the game, Carter took a slashing penalty. In this power play, the Hurricanes, I think, had a great chance to beat a vulnerable Brodeur. It’s surprising how they didn’t score but I’m glad they didn’t! In that same power play, the MSG+ cameras showed Marty sucker punching a Hurricane in the face. It was quite entertaining to watch and the good mood carried on throughout the night. New Jersey defeated Carolina 5-0, Marty got the shutout, and the Devils are heading to the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs!
- Ilya Kovalchuk
- Petr Sykora
- Patrik Elias (probably could have put Marty here for the shutout)
Key Notes: As mentioned throughout, yes, the Devils are in the playoffs for the 14th time in 15 seasons! They only needed a minimum 1 point to clinch. If they couldn’t get that, a Washington or Buffalo loss of any kind would get them in too. The Capitals beat Montréal in a shootout 3-2 but Buffalo lost to Toronto 4-3 so the Devils would have clinched anyway. A win is still better though. The RBC Center in Raleigh, NC is now called the PNC Arena. The newly named arena sold out tonight with an attendance of 18,680. Alex Ponikarovsky seems to like NJ more than Carolina. He has 6 goals since joining the Devils after being traded from the Hurricanes. Adam Larsson, Eric Boulton, and Cam Janssen were scratches. New Jersey was a perfect 4/4 on the PK tonight. The Devils are the only NHL team with 3, 30 goal scorers (Kovalchuk, Parise, and Clarkson). Adam Henrique has only taken one penalty this season. That’s among the fewest in the NHL. There were many birthdays in the hockey world today (March 31st). A happy birthday to all of the following from us here at Running With the Devils! David Clarkson (NJ – 28 years), Steve Bernier (NJ – 27 years), Michael Ryder (DAL - 32 years), Stan “The Maven” Fischler (MSG Networks – 80 years), and the legendary Gordie Howe (84 years).
Next game: Tuesday April 3rd, 2012 vs. NY Islanders @ The Rock at 7 P.M