The Devils, dare I say this, needed a win tonight in Buffalo. With the injuries piling up and another game with a shorthanded team, the Devils came to Buffalo with several question marks. The teams remained scoreless, trading chances throughout regulation. When overtime started, the Devils got the better opportunity, and they finally converted, as Ilya Kovalchuk's first goal of the season gave the Devils a 1-0 overtime win over the Buffalo Sabres.
1. Kovalchuk’s First Goal Wins The Devils’ First Game
The Devils had several chances throughout the game, but Ryan Miller and some ill-timed misses kept the game scoreless. Heading into overtime, it seemed like the Devils were on the doorstop, but couldn’t knock down the door. That would all change on one shot.
The Devils, as they had for two of the three periods in tonight’s game, dominated the flow of overtime. The team already had three shots on net as Jamie Langenbrunner handled the puck at center ice. Instead of passing to Kovalchuk, Langenbrunner sent the puck to a streaking Matt Taormina, who carried the puck to the left circle. Taormina momentarily lost control of the puck, but quickly gained it back. The rookie defenseman sent a pass to Kovalchuk in the circle, who dropped to one knee and rifled a shot on net. The puck hit the crossbar but found it’s way into the net for the game-winning goal, his first of the season.
2. Martin Brodeur and Miller Duel It Out
Whenever Brodeur and Miller play on the same ice, the ability to score goals decreases dramatically. Nowhere was that more evident than at the HSBC Center tonight. Both goalies made incredible stops to keep the game scoreless until overtime. Miller made several key saves, including stoning Langenbrunner on the crease with 5:10 left in the third period. But Brodeur equaled the effort, making a game-saving stop on Derek Roy in the second period. It only seems fitting that Brodeur would shut out the Sabres for the Devils first win of the season.
Brodeur now has 111 career shutouts, 23 of which have ended in 1-0 scores. It’s also his fourth career 1-0 overtime shutout win.
3. John MacLean Wins His First Game
Coach MacLean earned his first victory as an NHL head coach tonight, which always deserves congratulations. But it was the fire he lit during the pre-game skate that laid the foundation for the Devils solid game tonight. During the morning practice, MacLean got tired of watching the Devils go through practice with a listless attitude. After a missed pass occurred in a drill, MacLean stopped practice and let go a profanity-raced tirade at the team. After practice, he continued to prod the team through the media, believing the team didn’t have “an air of professionalism that we have to be ready to play the game.”
The team came out and played their most complete game of the night, and I believe it was that tongue-lashing that made the Devils play their best.
MacLean said his first win was a relief.
“I’m excited that we got it,” MacLean said to Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record. “It’s always good to get the first one out of the way. I’m more excited about how hard they played tonight.”
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4. Adam Mair
The Devils signed Mair finally signed Mair to a contract yesterday, and it paid dividends during tonight’s game. Mair didn’t light the lamp or make any fancy plays, but he played a solid game throughout and gave the Devils a nice third line option tonight.
5. Devils’ Defense Steps Up
Through three games, the Devils had been outscored 13-6 by their opponents. In the first two games, the Devils defense was victimized time and time again. But they’ve began to gel, and the defense as a whole looked good tonight.
1. The Devils’ Second Period
I know it’s hard to nitpick a solid performance, but the Devils did take their foot off the gas during the second period. Buffalo came out of the locker room with energy, and it seemed the Devils did just enough to match it. They escaped the period unscathed because of Brodeur’s play in net. But the team definitely left some energy in the locker room during the middle frame.
The Devils grabbed three pucks from the ice today to give out as game pucks. Taormina got the puck from the game-winning goal for his recording his first NHL point. MacLean got a puck for getting his first career victory, and Brodeur collected one from the shutout.
The Sabres and Devils combine to score three goals or less in three of their four meetings last season. I guess we might see that happen again.
The Devils have Thursday off before beginning a back-to-back series with a game against the Colorado Avalanche Friday night at The Rock.
Photo Credits: David Duprey/AP Photo