Sunday, March 02, 2008


Devils 1 - Montreal 2

The Devils played a closely fought game with the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Center, ultimately falling in the third period to a power play goal and losing 2-1. Compared to their pitiful performance against Washington, the Devils did much better. I'd say that the game was even overall. Montreal had shifts where they were clearly dominating; but the Devils also had stretches where they were in control of the game. Both Martin Brodeur and Carey Price played very well and both teams had many good scoring chances ruined by missing the net. Seriously, the Devils missed 10 times and Montreal failed to find the net 14 times.

The score became as such with Montreal striking twice on the power play and Brian Gionta continuing his surge by literally stealing the puck from Price and putting it into the empty net. With respect to both Montreal's goals, both could have been prevented. On the first one, Mark Streit put home a rebound as he was set up in the slot. Johnny Oduya was also in the slot but he had to decide which player to go after - Saku Koivu or Streit. Unfortunately for Oduya and the Devils, the puck bounced to Streit for the put-back. With the second goal, Andrei Kostitsyn wrapped the puck around after a shot and pushed Brodeur's stick aside to tuck that puck in during a long penalty kill. So the people to point to are Brodeur, Oduya, and the penalty killing units, right? Well, no. The Devils' discipline was atrocious. Knowing that Montreal had the most effective powerplay unit in the league, going into their house and committing infractions is a dangerous game and they got burned twice.

At Fire & Ice, Tom Gulitti has quotes from Sutter after the game complaining about the referees at the game. As with every game in any sport, some calls are bound to be missed. However, the following just smacks of sour grapes.

Head coach Brent Sutter didn't waste any time in his postgame press conference getting to the questionable calls by referees Eric Furlatt and Don Koharski against Mike Rupp and Jamie Langenbrunner, which eventually led to Andrei Kostitsyn's winning power-play goal with 5:43 remaining.

"It's a 1-1 game with seven or eight minutes to go in the hockey game and it was taken out of hands, so what are you going to do," Sutter said.

Rupp was called for crosschecking Andrei Markov, though it appeared he merely collided with him. "I thought he went down pretty easily," Rupp said.

And Langenbrunner is still trying to figure out what he did to warrant his hooking call on Saku Koivu.

"Both teams were battling and you hate to see something like that be the deciding factor," Langenbrunner said. "I have a hard time watching it and finding it. I can't remember doing anthing and usually you can kind of tell when something happens."

Although he faces a possible fine from the NHL for criticizing the officiating, Sutter did not hold back.

"Both calls upset me," he said. "The fact that the first call was called five seconds after the incident happens and because the fans yell. If it's a penalty, call it right away. And I just watched the video and I still don't know where the second call came from. To put a team down two men with seven minutes to go in a game like tonight, that's why I don't get paid the big money to be an official."

Now, I understand emotions run high during and after a game. However, having seen this on TV and with the benefit of instant replay, I can't understand how Sutter can see he doesn't know what the calls are after watching video of it. First, Rupp clearly cross-checked Andrei Markov into the net. It was a textbook cross check: two hands on the stick in the up-right position with Rupp shoving the stick directly at Markov's back. If it wasn't a cross-check, it'd either be an interference call as the play wasn't anywhere near Markov or roughing as it was a hit from behind. That was a legitimate call.

Second, Langenbrunner raised his stick onto the opposition's hands. Just like Mike Mottau and Zach Parise did earlier in the game. There's no excuse for that - that has always been called since the lockout has ended. Earlier in the season, Sutter wrapped around a towel on Clarkson's stick to guide him to keep his stick down. Maybe Sutter needs to do this for other members of the team as they tend to forget that at times. What's more is that Langenbrunner did this as John Madden was clearing the puck during a penalty kill. That makes the move to raise your stick even stupider. Ultimately it led to a long penalty kill that the Devils nearly escaped, except Kostitsyn broke through.

I can't agree with Sutter or the team here in their thinking that they got jobbed by the refs. Yes, the refs missed a few by Les Habs, but they also missed a few Devils ones. Regardless, six of the seven penalties against New Jersey were all legitimate calls. The only one they got messed up on was Elias' roughing minor at the end. What Elias did, I do not know; I'm still trying to figure out how Mike Komisarek only got a roughing for repeatedly punching Langenbrunner in the back of the head with a fellow Canadien. Hell, I don't even know why he even did that. I guess Langenbrunner's crime was skating within a foot of the crease?

Regardless, the Devils got burned by a lack of discipline, which provided the difference in last night's game. The Devils would do well to make more of the chances they do get and try taking it inside more. Gionta got his goal by going to the net and picking up on a loose puck; the Devils could do more of that instead of settling for the long shot. Which I have to note was blocked quite a few times, to the tune of 18 and with Francis Bouillon getting a remarkable 6 blocks. Can't score if you can't get that shot through. Still, after a terrible game against Washington, this was an improvement and the Devils should keep that in mind when they prepare for Toronto on Tuesday. For additional thoughts about the game, please check Josh's live-cap of the game at 2 Man Advantage.

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