Finally, finally, finally, finally, FINALLY!
The Islanders struck first, Josef Vasicek put it in the from the sideboards to give them the early lead. It didn't last as the Devils started with offensive pressure on Rick DiPietro and continued it throughout the period with a total of 15 shots. Patrik Elias began the scoring with a rocket of a shot on the power play midway through the first. John Madden got the Devils the lead as he got fortunate on a shorthanded 2-on-1. Madden attempted a pass, but the puck ricocheted off an Islander defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron which beat a bewildered DiPietro to give the Devils the 2-1 lead. The Devils had no issue taking the puck themselves over the blueline or dumping it in; they were getting chances and save for a few miscues - one of which led to a breakaway leading to yet another Martin Brodeur highlight reel save - they were clearly the better team. They looked primed for a win.
The second period featured a more balanced game and the Devils floundering at first. The Islanders equalized early with another shot from the side which beat Brodeur. Just as bad were the Devils conceding a two man advantage which saw them pinned back in their own end for much of the first half of the second period. However, that's where the tied turned and while you can tell from the run of play the Devils turned down their own intensity, they didn't completely take the period off. They were great in keeping the Islanders to poor shots and in killing off both penalties to David Clarkson and Colin White (Aside: This was White's 9th minor of the year - yes only 9 so far). And the Devils reverted to responding and dictating the play moreso in the second half of the second. But the third period and, well.
The third period was an amazing performance. One where I'd give gold stars out to all the Devils and hope that the coaching staff keeps a recording of that entire 20 minute period to remind the team of what they can do when they all figure it out.
The Devils didn't just take the lead back in the game - they owned it at that point. The Devils outshot the Islanders 20-4. The Devils outshot them by a factor of 5! The Islanders had all kinds of trouble trying to get a clear shot on net, as a Devil (or Devils) was (or were) constantly putting pressure on the puck carrier and forcing turnovers all game long. The Devils, on the other hand, kept finding and keeping possession in the Islander zone to great offensive success. The Devils only scored twice, but against a lesser goaltender, it could have been much more. That said, the two the Devils got were sweet. Zach Parise netted the eventual game winner with a sweet individual effort to beat DiPietro; and Brian Gionta put home a rebound to seal the game. Dainius Zubrus had a good game drawing calls, fighting for pucks, and setting up the fourth goal; Gionta had a good game with his constant hustle, which is good since he hasn't done too well as of lately; Oduya and White were the best defenders on the ice; Sheldon Brookbank kept firing it from the point; and the Devils were just out and out the better team in the third.
Overall, the Devils kept out-working and out-hustling a team that is designed to work it off the boards and generate momentum from cycling by stopping them from even setting up - either at the point or in the neutral zone. The offense was aggressive enough to not only get shots off, but everyone just kept moving into open spaces for those shots. That's how you beat the Islanders and thankfully the Devils finally figured it out instead of losing to them a sixth straight time.
That all said, the Washington Ovechkins await in DC tomorrow afternoon. All I ask is for two things. First, have Jay Pandolfo cover the 48 goal scoring machine that is Alexander Ovechkin all game long. Second, please give Marty a well-deserved rest and start Weekes, Mr. Sutter.
Labels: 2008 Postgame