Game 44 Recap: Devils rally in 3rd for huge win in the ‘Peg
Over the course of an 82-game NHL season, every team is going to have games where they dominate, games where they’re average and games where they have to battle. While the Devils didn’t play poorly today, their 2-1 win over the Winnipeg Jets was definitely a battle. Even before the game started, the Devils knew nothing was going to come easy today, as they learned that Adam Henrique would sit out today due to a “mild” groin injury. That forced most of the forwards to play with different linemates today. Still, the Devils battled hard all game long and finish their road trip on a winning note, despite playing a very desperate Winnipeg team, who have now lost three straight themselves.
The Devils and Jets played a fairly even first period, although the Jets kept the Devils stuck in their own end for extended shifts late in the first period, and with about ninety seconds remaining in the period, Jets captain Andrew Ladd raced down the left wing and wristed one past Martin Brodeur’s glove for a 1-0 Winnipeg lead. It appeared that Adam Larsson tried to deflect the puck away, and may have tipped it over Marty’s glove. Regardless of how it went in, it changed the momentum and gave the Jets a spark heading into the second period. The Devils pressed for much of the second period, but couldn’t manage to beat Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec, who made several tremendous saves, including saves on Ilya Kovalchuk in the slot, Eric Boulton from close range, Bryce Salvador from the left side and an incredible stick save on Henrik Tallinder on a 2-on-1 feed from Petr Sykora.
Despite the Devils’ efforts to beat Pavelec, the Jets carried their 1-0 lead into the third period and through much of it. The Devils continued to attack, including on their second of two power plays in the game. Finally, at 9:45 of the third period, Dainius Zubrus scrambled to win a face-off and got it to Kurtis Foster, who rifled a shot from the right circle that beat Pavelec and tied the game. It was Foster’s first goal as a Devil in his 15th game to go along with 5 assists that he’s picked up with the Devils. More importantly, it sparked a strong series of shifts by the Devils. Just under three minutes after Foster’s goal, Adam Larsson took a cross-ice pass from Sykora and slap-passed it right to a wide-open Patrik Elias, who tapped it in to give the Devils a 2-1 lead. For Sykora, it was his 700th NHL point.
Even with the 2-1 lead, the Devils continued to generate scoring chances. Their biggest chance to make it 3-1 came with 1:36 remaining in the third period, when Patrik Elias went off on a partial breakaway and was taken down by Ron Hainsey. Elias was awarded a penalty shot. Peter DeBoer opted to use his time-out at that point. Perhaps he was trying to pull one out of the NFL playbook and “ice the goaltender.” Pavelec was able to get a piece of Elias’ glove-side shot and the score remained 2-1. After that, the Jets gave the Devils all they could handle. For nearly 90 seconds, the Devils were forced to hang on in their own zone. Still, Brodeur made the big saves when he needed to and the Devils held on for a huge win over Winnipeg, in regulation. It’s their first win in Winnipeg since January 19th, 1994 (as per the Devils Generals trivia question today).
For Brodeur, he bounced back after being pulled early in the first period in the 6-3 loss to Calgary. Although he didn’t take the loss in that game, neither goal he allowed in that game was a particularly good goal to give up. Today, despite allowing a goal at the end of the first period, he shut down the Jets’ offense (not Brian Schottenheimer’s Jets offense…). Brodeur finished with 22 saves on 23 shots en route to his 638th career victory. While he didn’t face a high number of Winnipeg shots today, he kept the Devils in the game when they were down 1-0, as well as making a key save on Andrew Ladd moments after Foster had tied the game.
Game notes: The Devils finish the road trip with three wins in four games. They’ll have a six-game home stand that starts Tuesday against these same Winnipeg Jets. Brodeur has 638 wins, but only two have come in the city of Winnipeg and four combined wins from the old Winnipeg Jets franchise before they moved to Phoenix and the current Winnipeg franchise, formerly the Atlanta Thrashers. Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk were both held scoreless today, although Kovalchuk attempted nine shots. Kovalchuk snaps a four-game multi-point streak. The Devils also scored both goals at even-strength. They didn’t score either goal in Edmonton at even-strength, and also snap a three-game streak with a power play goal and four-game streak with a shorthanded goal, although their penalty kill was 2-for-2. 10 of the Devils’ 24 shots came from defensemen, including Foster’s goal and technically, Elias’ goal was from a Larsson shot. Finally, over Brodeur’s last four wins, he’s made 114 saves on 118 shots (.966 save percentage).