After dropping their last two, and the Senators closing in on 6th place in the Eastern Conference Playoff picture, a game against the Blackhawks tonight would be a VITAL two point outing. New Jersey's magic number entering play tonight is 6. By night's end, REGARDLESS of a win or loss for NJ, the Dev's magic number would eventually be 5 due to a matchup between the 8th & 9th seeded Sabres & Capitals in the nations capital. In the team's last 5 games, New Jersey's record is 1-3-1, two loses to Pittsburgh, one to New York, and a shoot out loss to the Leafs award Jersey with 3 points out of a potential 10.
WOW! What a first period there for New Jersey and for Martin Brodeur. Marty shut down all 13 shots faced from the Hawks in the opening twenty including a Chicago powerplay on a Marek Zidlicky interference penalty. Brodeur was solid. Playing posessed at some points, shutting down the puck with nearly EVERY PART OF HIS EQUIPMENT; saves off the mask, the pads, blocker & glove, the stick, Marty was everywhere! After Zidlicky's penalty was killed off, it would'nt be long before New Jersey would have their opportunity on the man advantage. Brent Seabrook was whistled for hooking at 13:50 of the 1st period and boy oh boy, this one would be a lasting play for this game. On the power play, it'd be none other than recently demoted 4th liner, Petr Sykora, clicking on the only shot taken by the Devils on the man advantage, blasting one past Corey Crawford for the goal. Sykky's goal was his 18th of the season, a tip in goal on a pass from Adam Henrique and Mark Fayne. Adam's assist would place him one point behind NHL rookie point leaders Gabriel Langdeskog & Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Shortly before the conclusion of the period, Chicago would get one more big opportunity on Brodeur, firing a shot that Marty would fight off and then would have to bat out of mid air before it was batted out of mid air by a Hawk, ringing it off the cross bar, shortly wrapping up the chaos and then the period. Shots were 13-11 in favor of Chicago; both teams had one man advantage, New Jersey going 1-1, Chicago 0-1.
For Devils fans, this period was frightening. A tremendous amout of scoring chances and shots on goal for Chicago, including a 5 on 3 power play. The Devils would only manage to get 4 shots on Crawford in the middle period while facing 10 more blasts from the Hawks. New Jersey just couldnt manage to get the puck out out of their zone, DESPITE winning faceoffs. Chicago looked very dominant despite the lack of scoring. The play was predominantly in their favor but when every shot was hitting a brick wall, there's nothing really you can do. Brodeur CONTINUED to show his strength and stand his ground. Believe it or not, when the two minor penalties were taken by Ilya Kovalchuk & by Bryce Salvador, it would'nt be Marty highlighting the penalty kill. The 3 men on the ice would be the spotlight players. A key play with the skate by Mark Fayne, kicking a puck out of the path of a potential back door put in goal by Patrick Kane would manage to deflate any particular momentum gained by the Hawks on the 2 man advantage. New Jersey looked sloppy, plain and simple. Shots were 10-4 for Chicago.
These late game collapses will be the ultimate downfall of this team come playoff time, ESPECIALLY in low scoring affairs like New Jersey has become so accustomed to playing in games of late. When all seemed to be smooth sailing and everything seemed NEARLY perfect, I have to stress that one word, "NEARLY". A screened Brodeur would lead to the lone mishap on Marty's resume for the evening in regulation. Brent Seabrook recieved the puck cross ice from Dave Bolland setting up the drive leading to a goal that squeaked through Brodeur's right arm and into the mesh behind him. Two late penalties called in the closing minutes of the 3rd period would set up a brief Chicago power play which would eventually turn into a 4 on 4 when Hossa would get called for the trip. New Jersey killed off the penalty in the 3rd period walking into the 5 minute OT period a man up. Shots were 13-4 for Chicago.
Overtime tonight in comparison to Friday night looked like a completly different Devils team. Tonight, New Jersey looked determined to pull out a victory, regardless of weather it was in a shootout or not. It seemed like a helluva lot more shots were fired at each net during the overtime period, but, only 5 shots were recorded, 3-2 in favor of New Jersey even with the man advantage to begin the sudden death period. Chicago killed off the Hossa tripping call assessed in the closing minute of the 3rd period, recording a 2-3 PK on the evening. Teams would end the O.T. still caught in a stalemate, and away they went, into the shootout.
The lineups and results of the shootout were as follows:
New Jersey (2-5)
Round 1) I. Kovalchuk-Save
Round 2) Z. Parise-Save
Round 3) P. Elias-Goal
Round 4) D. Clarkson-Save
Round 5) T. Zajac-Goal
Round 1) P. Kane-Miss
Round 2) V. Stalberg-Save
Round 3) P. Sharp-Goal
Round 4) M. Hossa-Save
Round 5) A. Shaw-Miss
1 Final/SO 2
The Devils led by Martin Brodeur who stopped 37 of 38 shots through 65 minutes of play and 4 of 5 shootout shooters, would manage to stave off a relentless Chicago Blackhawks team to gain the 2 MUCH needed points, pushing them to 92pts on the season, now placing them a mere 4pts behind Philadelphia with a relatively comfertable 4pt lead over the idle Ottawa Senators with one more game to play this season between the 6th & 7th seeds. The Devils look to continue their rebound Thursday evening against the Tampa Bay Lightning at The Rock, the final matchup between these two teams. For more information regarding Running With The Devils or any of us writers, be sure to check any of us out on twitter at @RWTDblog @Rvaidya33 @RealScottRobb and @DEVIN88MATTERA or like us on Facebook. Im Devin Mattera, you stay classy Devils Fans!