Well. The Devils certainly didn't win this one the easy way. The Devils scored first and played a patient game for the first periods. Patient being that the Devils were not overly aggressive on defense - they did not rush to meet the Lightning forwards heads on but relying on positional play to force poor decisions. The Devils and Lightning both had some scoring chances, and it was a fairly even game for most of the 40 minutes of the game.
In the third period, however, the proverbial light bulb went off in the Lightning's collective head and realized they needed a goal. The Lightning became more aggressive, highlighted by their power play in the third period. The Devils could not clear the zone or get a shift change for about 1:40 of that 2 minutes, and the Lightning seemed determined as all hell to score an equalizer. Martin Brodeur said no. In the third period, Brodeur had to make 12 saves on 12 shots, some of which should have been goals. Not probably would have been goals, I mean situations where the forward had the entire top of the net open or a hole off a rebound right in front of the crease; and somehow - SOMEHOW - Martin Brodeur made the save.
Jay Pandolfo got the empty net goal - I can't remember the last empty net goal they got, I'm thinking the Islanders back on December 30, 2006 - to ice the game and ended a tough third period. The Devils did enough on defense to force the Lightning to only have 12 shots and Brodeur did stopped them all for the victory. I must say, despite the Lightning "winning" the period I must commend the Devils defense for limiting Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, and Brad Richards. That's 78 combined goals and not one appeared on the score sheet; you know the blueline has done it's job when the best forward for the Lightning was Eric Perrin.
Martin Brodeur, of course, was the star. Tonight's win makes it his ninth consecutive season with 30 or more wins, a new record for NHL goaltenders if I'm not mistaken. The shutout is Brodeur's ninth of the season and his 89th all time. "The Maven" Stan Fischler told him he played a great game, Brodeur insisted he was OK, and Fischler insisted he was great (and The Maven was right, he did). Amazingly, Brodeur doesn't think he's all that tired and is not against starting tomorrow against Florida. All of this and he's not gassed? Martin Brodeur is truly a legend of the game.
In any case, the Devils offense could have made more of their chances on Holmqvist. They seemed to fade in the third period, but it wasn't without punch. The Lightning did all right in defending the Devils' attack. The power play was weak; I'm pretty sure each of the Devils' four power plays had stretches where they were in their own end defending against the Lightning. Not good. Brodeur played great, but he deserves the offensive help. Regardless, the Devils won the game as frustrating as it was for Lightning fans to not see their team make a come back and as sitting-on-the-edge-of-your-seat as it was for Devils fans to see Brodeur and the defense hold on to such a slim lead.
On a side note, I'd like to make note that The Maven had an interview with Pat Burns after the first period. While I don't have a transcript or a video, Burns did express a desire to remain in the Devils organization in either a coaching or a scouting role. I'm just happy he's getting healthier, much less talking about doing something with the Devils. To echo the Maven, it's great to see Burns on TV again.
Anyway, the Devils win a close one against a good team and now they get to go to take on a team who is fighting for the playoffs: the Florida Panthers. Good luck and GO DEVILS.
Labels: Devils Postgame