Well, that was certainly an intense and exciting affair. Up and down both ways, and the Devils ultimately prevailing without Patrik Elias and John Madden in the lineup. As mentioned on the pregame show prior to the game, Brian Gionta has been placed on injured reserve. This gives the Devils enough temporary cap space to call up two forwards to replace Elias and Madden. They called up Rod Pelley, who filled in Madden's spot on the third line, with Sergei Brylin and Jay Pandolfo. Pelley did OK, got 15:55 of ice time, even some time on the penalty kill. The other call up from Lowell was David Clarkson; who stepped in at right wing with Zach Parise and Travis Zajac on the second line. This obviously meant Jamie Langenbrunner was moved up to the first line with Scott Gomez, with Erik Rasmussen at left wing. Clarkson was impressive for his first NHL game. He was physical, showed some offensive prowess with 4 shots and some power play time, and hustled all game long. Doc and Chico said the organization really likes Clarkson and it's hard to not see why they like him. Trendon at On Fire says he reminds him of Claude Lemeiux. Personally, he reminds of Randy McKay.
In any case, the Devils did very well considering they were without their top forward (Elias), their top shutdown center (Madden), they were coming off a bad loss (3-0 to Pittsburgh in NJ), on the road against a team that desperately needs points. The Devils started off the game very quickly with Rasmussen, Langenbrunner, and Gomez hitting the Canes on the counter attack with sweet looking passes into the zone. Gomez buried the puck to make it 1-0. The Canes responded by catching the Devils on a line change; Brodeur got the shot and the first rebound, but he couldn't get the second. David Tanabe tied up the game 1-1 later that period. The first and second periods were evenly played between the two teams for the most part, but I'd give the edge to the Devils if only for making the Carolina defense and their goaltender John Grahame work pretty hard. Especially on the power play where former Devil Mike Commodore of Carolina prevented a sure goal by blocking a shot with his shoulder. But Carolina would pay them back in the third; oh, how they pay the Devils back.
The third period started off similar to the first with the fill-in first line getting a goal really early. This time it was Erik Rasmussen putting home loose rebounds. A little more than 7 minutes later, Zach Parise deked Grahame out of his skates and slid it in for the 3-1 lead. Normally, the Devils would win the game with a two goal lead during the third period.
Carolina then got a lifeline two minutes later from Tim Gleason and Andrew Ladd. Someone (I'm looking at you Johnny Oduya or Paul Martin) let Andrew Ladd get up in Brodeur's face. Ladd screened him perfectly. Defenseman Tim Gleason got the puck at the top of the circle and let lose a rocket that Brodeur had no chance on. Supposedly Ladd deflected the puck, but that's neither here nor there (no disrespect to Ladd) as Carolina was back in it 3-2.
Then they let loose. Wave after wave of offense by the Carolina Hurricanes. Shots from the point, shots from the slot, shots from the end boards, shots from the circle; the Canes were just relentless in keeping up the pressure that the Devils could do very little about it. It was not as if the Devils decided to not play offense after the Ladd goal; the Devils had to stick to defense in order to protect their lead. I was not kidding when I said the Canes were desperate for points and they could have used at least one from last night's game. The Canes got 23 shots in the third period alone. Up until then, they only had 17. 20 minutes later, they had 40. They clearly took more than that; as the Devils collectively blocked 22 shots and the Canes missed on 14 shots. Up until the very end, the Devils were playing in a ridiculously loud building warding off a relentless attack. Martin Brodeur and the defense came up huge when it seemed certain that the Canes would get something out of it.
The entire game was a gut check for the Devils - an incredibly intense gut check - and the Devils came through. The Devils will play Carolina very soon, tomorrow afternoon in fact; so you can be sure the Hurricanes will be looking for revenge - if only to not be swept in the season series against New Jersey. Still, I'm very pleased with the results and I imagine all Devils fans should be proud of how New Jersey thrived even without three of their best skaters (Elias, Gionta, Madden).
Labels: Devils Postgame