It was an unfortunate loss because last night's game, I think, would have been a great time for Patrik Elias to shine. Elias has always had the skill to turn a broken play into a scoring chance and this game was littered with broken plays all over the place. Shots going wide, passes bouncing off sticks and skates, and possession being lost - tonight was definitely not a textbook example of how to perform on offense.
Nonetheless, the Devils did what they could to cool off a hot team like the Atlanta Thrashers. They won 8 of their last 9 and they came out flying in the first period. Fortunately for New Jersey, Atlanta struggled in getting shots off in the first period with 9 shot blocks by the defense and the aforementioned broken plays. Atlanta looked like the better team with their hustle and the ease they kept carrying the puck into the Devils' zone, but they couldn't do much of anything with it. The second period saw the reverse - the Devils looked more confident, they got more scoring chances, they got more shots (12 to 6), and they scored twice. Rod Pelley put up a tight angle shot that luckily slipped past backup goaltender Johan Hedberg. As an aside, I must note that Hedberg played really well tonight in Kari Lehtonen's place. This first goal was a fluke. Then after two hooking calls within 10 seconds by Atlanta, the Devils made the Thrashers pay on the 5-on-3 power play. Paul Martin put home his first of the season off a one-timer from Brian Gionta. Power play goals are always a good sign, especially ones that just blow past the goalie. Paul Martin getting one was the highlight of a great performance back from injury. Of particular note on offense, Jamie Langenbrunner stirred the straw that stirred the drink tonight with three assists, three takeaways, and two shots on net. He was named the second star of the game over both goal scorers.
In the third period, both teams traded chances and the Devils - like in Pittsburgh on Wednesday - stood up to the task. Ilya Kovalchuk and crew didn't get many quality shots. The only real danger came from Pascal Dupuis who took a pass that split the defense and was absolutely robbed of a goal by Martin Brodeur's left leg pad. Brodeur, as you would expect, was great tonight and with a clean (as in no penalties) defensive effort, the Devils sealed the win. Jay Pandolfo scored an empty-net goal late to ice the game.
Martin Brodeur earned his first shutout - his 115th if you combine his playoff and regular season totals as noted by Gulitti
- and the Devils earned this win. They can't rest now. The Elias-less squad will face the Lightning in Tampa Bay tonight. As Gulitti noted in his post about Elias still being sick, the Devils will go with the same line-up. Personally, I would rather rest Brodeur and play Kevin Weekes tonight. Brodeur has played incredibly well, but Weekes has been very good in filling-in and the Devils don't necessarily need Brodeur to win tonight. But I understand the mindset of letting the hot goaltender continue to play. What I think the Devils will need to do to win is keep up their performance on defense. Not just to not let up on lines that feature Vincent Lecavalier, Brad Richards, and Martin St. Louis, but to avoid handing power plays to Tampa Bay's eighth-most effective power play unit in the league. On offense, the Devils just need to continue to make the most of any given opportunities like power plays and giveaways by the defense. Everything you'd expect from a good performance by a hockey team. Who knows, this may be win #4 in their current streak.
Labels: 2008 Postgame, 2008 Pregame