The New Jersey Devils defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins in the shootout to ultimately win 4-3. As always, NHL.com has the official score sheet
and official super stats
of that game, linked respectively.
The New Jersey Devils really went out there and mostly earned this win. With Cam Janssen suspended and Brian Gionta hurt, the Devils could not have called up a forward to replace him. What's more is that Colin White was injured during the pre-game warm ups leaving the Devils with 5 defensemen. What would head coach Claude Julien do in response? Namely, roll three lines and rotate double shifts for defensemen (Paul Martin got the brunt of it with 34:45 of ice time). The result?
3 goals against Pittsburgh, 36 shots in regulation, and generally looked as the better team overall. But don't get it twisted, the Devils were far from perfect. This game could have and should have been won in regulation. What made the game so close to require overtime and the shootout was mistakes by the Devils. Just brain farts that led to all three of Pittsburgh's goals.
First, Brad Lukowich left Evgeni Malkin wide open for Pittsburgh's first power play of the night. Just wide open. Whilst Martin Brodeur made a blocker save off a deflection, the rebound went right to Malkin who easily just put it home. Why Lukowich wasn't marking the large Russian guy in black and gold who just happens to be right next to the left post is beyond me. The Devils improved in the second, with Andy Greene getting his first NHL goal to tie up the game. The rookie defenseman just teed it up on the power play and Pittsburgh goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury did not see it through a screen.
After the Devils tie it up and took the lead in the second off an Ovechkin-like goal by Sergei Brylin, the Devils made another crucial error. Well, a crucial series of errors to be precise. During a power play, Jamie Langenbrunner got caught up at the point with the puck and coughed it up. The Devils were slow to get back into their own end and went towards the slot. Problem is that Sergei Gonchar took the puck at the corner and just fired it low at the left post. Martin Brodeur's stick was out of position, the puck went off Brodeur's skate and in. That tied the game up, gave the Penguins some life, and the Devils gave up their eleventh shorthanded goal of the season. Horrible. Brodeur should have kept his stick down, someone on the Devils should have went right for the puck carrier, and Langenbrunner should not have coughed the puck up to begin with.
The Devils retake the lead a second time, with Travis Zajac pounding home a loose puck. Then the Devils seemingly take over the game. Until with a little more than 3 minutes left to play, Scott Gomez does something incredibly shameful. Gomez is adept at the breakout, wherein he collects the puck up behind Brodeur and either A) looks for an open pass to begin the rush up ice or B) takes it himself and carries the puck through his own zone and the neutral zone. Gomez is really good at both, but here he just blew it. He went with option A, except Gomez coughed it up right to Evgeni Malkin. Malkin sees Maxime Ouellet breaking into the slot with Brodeur and the defense left hung out to dry. You can figure out the rest, and the game was tied. There's a reason why maintaining possession deep in your own zone and making a smart pass is so important; and Gomez hopefully realized it from that play. It's textbook hockey and needless to say, seeing the way the third goal bothered and upset me more than the shorthanded goal - and it takes a lot for a goal scored by the opposition to be worse than a shorthanded goal.
The overtime didn't feature much other than some violence, with Colby Armstrong elbowing Brad Lukowich in the face. According to Rich Chere's article in today's Star Ledger
, Lukowich sustained a concussion which adds further to the Devils' injury woes. No word on any punishment for Armstrong, and no call was made during the game. Trendon Lynch at On Fire makes the case as to why Armstrong won't be suspended
, but I think he's being a bit too cynical on his first and fourth points. That said, the game went to a shootout. The shootout was a goaltender's duel until Patrik Elias went wide, went inside, and slid it in between Fleury's legs to win it. The Devils broke their three game losing streak and Martin Brodeur became the first goalie to ever have back-to-back 40-wins seasons.
Additional recaps of the game include Patricia's thoughts during the game at 2 Man Advantage
, expressing surprise that Patrik Elias won the shootout. Elias is 2 for 10 in the shootout this season, so it's not a surprise to be surprised, I suppose. She also is concerned about the Lukowich injury.
To be honest, I don't know what the Devils will do here. I really hope they don't play short 2-3 skaters against Buffalo tomorrow night, that's for sure. As always, Tim Mo at RaReMaDev has an extensive recap of the game as well.
As a bonus, Tim Mo also takes a look at the current playoff picture with respect to the Devils.
Personally, Pittsburgh and New Jersey will clearly make the playoffs and maybe the Islanders; thought I understand why he'd rather just have the Devils and the Penguins make the post-season. Trendon Lynch at On Fire also has a recap of the game, praising Paul Martin greatly.
Martin did play very well, considering he played over 34 minutes - which is an insane workload. Hopefully, he won't be called on to play that much against a very potent Buffalo Sabres squad.
In any case, while it remains to be seen what the Devils will do with all these injuries, the Devils accomplished their goal. They beat the Penguins, they ended a three-game losing streak, and Brodeur is finally over that 40-win hump. The Devils will have a huge challenge tomorrow, I can only hope Julien gave those who played a ton of minutes some deserved rest.
Labels: Devils Postgame