Sunday, March 25, 2007


Postgame: Devils 4 - Florida 3, SO

The New Jersey Devils came from behind to tie the Florida Panthers and win in the ensuing shootout. As always, has the official scoresheet and official super stats of that game, linked respectively.

The Devils started off this game well, putting a ton of shots on Florida goaltender Ed Belfour, who made his 26th consecutive start for Florida. Then a blown pass in the middle of the neutral zone led to Florida take the puck, caught the Devils completely off guard, and Mike Van Ryn fired a shot that was deflected high by Olli Jokinen which fooled Martin Brodeur for the first goal of the game. Needless to say, the first period was not a really good one for the Devils. Even with two power plays and a couple of decent shots on net, the Devils did exactly what I would hope did not happen. They allowed the first goal, they allowed Florida to decide how the game would go early, the crowd got into it (what's all this then about hockey not being for warm-weather locations??), and the Devils had to battle from behind.

In the second period, Florida really took control of the game and doubled their lead when Stephen Weiss pounded a shot home. As if going down 2-0 to Florida wasn't bad, how the goal came about was. First, Brodeur robbed Weiss before the puck was cleared up the zone. Then Johnny Oduya gave away the puck right back to Stephen Weiss who had acres of space and had the proper finish. Not to point fingers, but it was the second game in a row where Oduya would give the puck away and it would lead to a goal. Hopefully Oduya breaks that streak as soon as possible. That said, a beautiful thing occurred later that period.

The Devils scored on the power play! Yes, for a second game in a row, the Devils actually produced something with a man advantage. This time, it was David Clarkson who took a strong Brian Rafalski shot and tipped it in to cut the lead in half. Before you ask, yes a Devils power play goal is a beautiful thing if only for it's relative rarity. Amazingly, the second goal woke the Devils up and kept pressing for an equalizer later that period - which, amazingly, they actually got. It came from Jim Dowd of all people.

During the game, Jamie Langenbrunner got sick early in the second period and did not return. The broadcast said the flu, which I think is code for needing to be near a toilet moreso than the rink. Hopefully Langenbrunner feels better. In any case, it meant Jim Dowd was moved up to play with Zach Parise and Travis Zajac. The lines were mixed up for this game, with Jay Pandolfo seeing ice time with Scott Gomez and David Clarkson at some point. This mixing up of the lines worked when Jim Dowd stashed the rebound from a Zach Parise shot home for the equalizer. The Devils were feeling good ending the second and frankly, so was I.

Which made Florida opening the third controlling it early and getting the lead back so frustrating. Martin Brodeur was in the right position to stop a hard shot from Chris Gratton from the right end boards (right relative to where Brodeur's net was facing). Unfortunately, the resulting rebound was huge, juicy, and went right to Ville Peltonen, who was uncovered on the other end of the rink. Brodeur stretched but couldn't stretch enough to stop the resulting goal. While the defense letting Peltonen go in uncovered and Brodeur giving up that rebound was bad, at least the Devils didn't give up.

The Devils would tie it up with a second goal from Jim Dowd of all people. Yes, Jim Dowd who never had a 2-goal game in his entire career, got two crucial goals tonight. Brian Rafalski saw Dowd uncovered in the neutral zone ahead of everyone, pointed to him, and fired a picture perfect long pass. Dowd was all alone with Belfour, one move, two moves, and Dowd does what so many other Devils have failed to do this season - score on a breakaway. Tie game and the Devils contain Florida just enough (Brodeur made some strong saves late in the third while unfortunately not breaking Belfour a fourth time) to force overtime.

In overtime, the Devils were more threatening on offense, but again the Devils couldn't solve Belfour so the game went to a shootout. Ville Peltonen scored on Brodeur for Florida, but Zach Parise and Travis Zajac beat Belfour. Brodeur stopped Jokinen easily to secure the win, end the losing streak, and retain a 2 point lead on the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Atlantic Division. It was not a pretty win and the Devils really need to end their streak of giving up the first goal in the game. The Devils had enough in them and thanks to an excellent performance by Jim Dowd to complete the comeback, but one win out of the last 4 games where the Devils went down early is not something one would not want to continue. Regardless, the comeback win should give the Devils enough of a boost to really take it to the Islanders next week - regardless of whether Patrik Elias and Erik Rasmussen will return.


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