We'd like to kick off this game recap with a recap in itself. Yesterday, the Devils left Newark for the first time since January the 14th against Winnipeg, nearly a month ago as they headed roughly 90 miles south to Philadelphia to take on Claude Giroux and the Flyers. The Devils would ravage Philadelphia on the scoreboard throwing six pucks into the net before the 10 minute mark in the second period, recording 3 goals in each of the first two periods, a league-leading 12th shorthanded goal, not one, not two, NOT EVEN THREE, BUT four, four powerplay goals, and an even strength goal. New Jersey started backup goaltender Johan Hedberg who preserved a shutout until first year Flyer Wayne Simmonds scored 4 minutes into the 3rd, which would ignite a small comback for Philly as they'd put 4 goals on the scoreboard before being credited with the loss. Philadelphia recorded 41 shots on net, New Jersey, 10 less. The highlight moment of yesterday's matinee was Ilya Kovalchuk's leadership and team play. Kovy scored a short handed goal, aided 2 more goals being awarded two assists, and even dropped the gloves to finish off the Gordie Howe Hat Trick as Kovalchuk, K.O.'ed Flyer Brayden Schenn after a post whistle scuffle which was caused after Devils captain Zach Parise was slew footed by Broad Street Bully Zac Rinaldo. The Devils inched up the playoff ladder as they sit currently in sixth place in the East tied with Ottawa, 61 points each (New Jersey is credited with 6th, not 7th because Ottawa has played 4 more games than New Jersey before entering play on Sunday). The Devils would head into another Atlantic Divisional bout this afternoon against Pittsburgh who is 3pts above New Jersey as they sit in 5th in the East. This game has a GREAT deal of importance for both teams as New Jersey leads the season series 2-0-0 in two games against Pittsburgh. How a six game season series against the Pens fairs out for the Devs will grow in value of importance as the finish line fast approaches.
The Devils' first period was a very well played one. Slow, not necessarily fast-paced, but a good one at that. New Jersey would strike early. Very early at that, as Ilya K.O.valchuk would get the tally on an even strength goal set up by Patrik Elias and Zach Parise as Kovy would put a beauty past the sprawling Marc-Andre Fleury (who wouldnt manage to maintain play past the 2nd intermission as he was yanked by Dan Bylsma after allowing 3 goals) for his 22nd of the year. Both teams would navigate up and down the ice for the next few minutes before Devils D-Man Anton Volchenkov scoring his first goal as a New Jersey Devil, and first goal since April Fools Day of 2010 when he played for Ottawa. Anton's goal was set up by Kovalchuk, his 2nd point of the day, and Alexi Ponikarovsky. One penalty was called in the 1st period as Pittsburgh's Joe Vitale was called for slashing, six seconds after Volchenkov's goal. Pittsburgh would kill off the penalty. The period would come to a close after two New Jersey goals and a 2-0 lead.
Our second period of play was a bit more active as 3 goals were scored, 3 penalties were assesed, 1 of which, resulted in BOTH a short handed goal, and a powerplay goal, 19 shots on net total in the period, and a goalie swap. The Devils continued to pour it on again in the start of the period despite a man in the box (Kurtis Foster for hooking at 1:09) as they scored a league-leading 13th short handed goal when Dianius Zubrus beat Fleury for his 15th of the year on a wrist shot from the side of the net, set up by Ilya Kovalchuk, who would record his 3rd straight 3pt game in a row (2 assists and 1 goal in todays game). After Zubby's goal, the Devils would begin shooting on a new netminder for the remainder of the afternoon when Brent Johnson would replace Fleury. Fleury would only stop 9 of 12 shots, holding a .750% save percentage, in 22:28 minutes of ice time. Brent Johnson on the year is 2-6-2 this season with a goals against average of 3.20 . Brodeur's shutout would only last a few seconds longer before Matt Niskanen would net his 3rd of the year on the powerplay getting feed's from O'Reilly and Cooke. Goal scorer Anton Volchenkov would be called for interferance 7:45 minutes through the second. Volchenkov's penalty would be killed off by New Jersey as the maintain a solid penalty killing unit throughout the season. The period would slowly approach its final seconds minutes after a Zach Parise goal was scored after he managed to punch one through Brent Johnson after a great amount of smart board playing by both Steve Bernier and Parise himself. On Parise's 20th goal, Bernier and Andy Greene would also be credited with points as they were the primary and secondary assists on the tip in goal; New Jersey's 4th of the afternoon.
In a third period in which the Devils needed to just stave off any potential Pittsburgh drive of momentum preventing them from tying the game or getting back into the swing of things, (which, all afternoon, Pittsburgh was ultimately abscent all day) managed to seal the deal and get the "W" and the two points, holding off Pittsburgh in regulation. As he entered the third period, he was a -3 on the afternoon through 2 periods, Evgeni Malkin would eventually get his name on the score sheet in a loosing effort after beating Brodeur low glove side on a powerplay toe-drag which was Malkin's 29th of the year, bringing him to 61 points on the year (league leader in points). That would be the last "real" effort put into play by Pittsburgh for the afternoon which would see New Jersey score one more goal (empty net goal) which was assisted by goaltender, Martin Brodeur, his 4th assist of the year while launching the puck up the wing to David Clarkson who would get his career-high 20th goal of the season; Clarkson is now one of 3 Devils with 20+ goals along with captain Zach Parise(20) and Ilya Kovalchuk(22). All three gentlemen scored in todays victory. Kovalchuk would lead the way with 3pts in the afternoon game, taking 3 shots finishing with a +3 player ratio as did defensemen Bryce Salvador and Anton Volchenkov. The third period's highlight player was unquestionably Marty Brodeur. Brodeur would stop 28 of 30 shots in the game, 8 in the 3rd with a couple of dandy's, one of which was refered to as the Save of the Game when Brodeur made his signature sliding kick save to prevent a goal. Brodeur is now 17-12-2 on the year.
New Jersey rides a four game win streak into The Garden Tuesday night when the Devils set up a rematch of last week's thriller against the Rangers. New York toppled over Philadelphia today as did New Jersey yesterday. Head-to-head on the season, the Devils are 1-1-0 while New York is 1-0-1 in two meetings this year. The Devils have 16 goals in their last 3 games, 19 in their last 4, in which they have won every game. The Devils will play the Rangers, Blues and Panthers in the week ahead. Be sure to tune in tomorrow night to read our weekly installment of "Second Look" reviewing the last 7 days of play for Devils hockey.
I'd like to leave all our readers with a lasting image of.... "The Fight".