Tuesday, February 05, 2008


The Comeback

Last night had all the makings of a terrible loss by New Jersey. Instead, the Devils turned it all around, equalized in the third period, and went on in overtime to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3.

Now for a confession. During the third period, a few minutes after Pittsburgh went up 3-1, the power in my house went off for a few minutes and DirecTV needed some time to find its signal. So I missed the two quick goals that tied up the game and gave the Devils a legitimate chance at winning the game. Which was a downer because that would have been very uplifting to watch as it was for the Devils. At least I got to see the highlights of the goals, not to mention the thrilling overtime winner.

Because the first two periods were terr-i-ble for New Jersey. The Devils were outshot, out hustled, and out worked. Most the Devils' 14 shots prior to the third period were mostly of the logo-hitting variety; and they bended quite a bit to Pittsburgh's attack. Brodeur didn't pounce on the puck to smother it fast enough which led to the first goal; the second goal was an unfortunate deflection off of Vitaly Vishnevski's knee; and the third goal was due to someone (I unfortunately think it was Jay Pandolfo) missing their coverage. A listless attack, terrible passing, far too many concessions in puck possession, and having to chase Pittsburgh all night. All this against a division rival who beat the Devils bad the last time they were in Newark whilst Pandolfo returned to the lineup. Bad, bad, bad. No wonder the fans were booing near the end of the period.

But we can't say that because the Devils figured it out in the third period. They "woke up," for lack of a better phrase, and took it to Pittsburgh - I think, again I missed the important moments. That late goal by Jamie Langenbrunner on the power play late in the second period was the progenitor to the comeback - something to give the Devils some life, something for a Devils fan to cheer about. Tom Gulitti notes that the head coach, Brent Sutter, made his feelings heard in the intermission. But it didn't sink in until a little later, after the Penguins' third goal game (scored by Jordan Staal). Putting just as many shots on net in the third, they cracked Ty Conklin twice and got the opportunity in overtime to get the win - and took it.

While I agree with Langenbrunner's comment that the Devils have to play like they did in the third period more often, I want to point out a very positive stat. The New Jersey Devils have the second best winning percentage in the league when trailing after two periods, and the most wins when trailing after two periods. They have a record of 6-16-1, good for 26.1%. By comparison, number one is the Detroit Red Wings with a winning percentage of 37.5%, a record of 3-4-1. The pessimists, realists, and cynics will see this and go, "If the Devils are trailing after two periods, they are very likely to lose. Just like many teams in pretty much every sport ever. So what?" But I look at this as proof that Sutter has instilled the team with a "never say never" attitude and that the team has character to fight back from deficits. Both are very admirable traits and a point of pride. The Devils are capable of comebacks, and it happened again just last night.

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Great reporting in that last paragraph.

"They have a record of 6-16-1, good for 26.1%."

I saw those numbers going into the third period (I think) and while I didn't bother doing the math to get the percentage, I knew it was pretty high and had pretty much the same thoughts you did.
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