Game 49 Recap: Devils cleaned up Rags tonight in shootout victory, start 2nd half with a bang
(headline submitted by @szaneeXD)
It doesn’t really matter where the Devils and Rangers are in the standings when these two teams meet. As Zach Parise said before the game, the two teams bring out the best in each other when they match up. Tonight wasn’t the most conventional 60 minutes of hockey in Devils history, but it was enough to knock off the Eastern Conference’s top team at the moment and enough to give the Devils a win in their first game out of the All-Star break. In case you missed any of it, here’s what happened.
Most of the first period was rather uneventful. Neither team was able to generate many shots or scoring chances early on. The Devils got sloppy late in the period and the Rangers eventually warmed to the task. After a brutal Anton Volchenkov giveaway down low, Martin Brodeur robbed John Mitchell and Artem Anisimov. Seconds later, Marian Gaborik picked up a loose puck and started up the right wing. Brodeur shrugged off his initial shot, but defenseman Anton Stralman joined the rush and popped the rebound home. Stralman, who tried out with the Devils in the pre-season before signing on the other side of the Hudson, give the visitors the 1-0 lead after one period. It was a sloppy period for both teams, which is understandable, as it was the first period following the All-Star break layoff.
The Devils played a better second period. They outshot the Rangers, 11-8 in the middle period, and the one that counted was Zach Parise’s rebound of his own shot. He fired a bad-angle shot over Martin Biron and tied the game, 1-1. For Parise, it was his 16th of the season. The Devils then continued to press offensively. They nearly handed the Rangers another lead, as the Devils broke down on their power play, but Brandon Prust was unable to beat Brodeur. Marty made another huge save late in the period, as the Rangers sprung Brad Richards on a breakaway, but Brodeur kicked it away. The Devils and Rangers were tied at 1 after two periods.
Judging by the recent past, a tie game in the third period made for nervous Devils fans at Prudential Center. The Devils have struggled tremendously at times in the third period this season, including the last meeting between the Devils and Rangers. Just 2:37 into the third period, it seemed as if the Devils would be devistated again. Stu Bickel’s shot fooled Brodeur, and his defense couldn’t clear the puck. Brian Boyle picked the puck up, skated around a lunging Brodeur and scored into a nearly empty net, giving the Rangers a 2-1 lead. It was just Boyle’s fourth goal of the season.
The 2-1 score held for the next 13 minutes of play, but late in the third period, Artem Anisimov took a crucial holding penalty that put the Devils on the power play. As the Devils entered the offensive zone, Patrik Elias found a wide open Ilya Kovalchuk and Kovy snapped the puck past Biron from the slot and the game was tied again. Kovy became the first Devil to reach 20 goals this season on the play, but more importantly, it gave the Devils a huge tying goal. All was not well for them, however. Just 36 seconds later, the Rangers took the puck the other way and Michael Del Zotto put them back on top. Still, determined not to let another game slip away, the Devils kept coming. Finally, with under a minute to play and Brodeur on the bench, Andy Greene slapped a puck into the offensive zone. It took a crazy bounce off the boards and found a wide open David Clarkson, who buried it and tied the game yet again. This game needed overtime.
The game took another crazy turn as the teams exchanged incredible scoring chances in the five-minute overtime period. First, early in overtime, Dainius Zubrus skated down the left side and lost the puck on his backhand in the crease. He turned to his forehand, trying to tap the puck into an open net, but Ryan McDonagh saved the Rangers by stopping Zubrus’ chance with his stick on the goal line. Minutes later, Derek Stepan shoved the puck on goal and the puck slid across the goal line, but Andy Greene cleared it before it was able to cross the goal line. The teams headed to a shootout. The only goal needed was from Kovalchuk, who sniped one five-hole on Biron. Brodeur made saves on Richards and Gaborik after Stepan’s shot missed and the Devils won it, 4-3 in the shootout. Kovalchuk improves to 8-for-9 in the shootout this season.
This was, perhaps, the biggest win of the season to date for the Devils. Following a three game slide heading into the break, they could not afford to lose ground in the standings. It was also an extremely intense game against a division rival. The Devils’ schedule the rest of the way includes a division-heavy schedule. They’ll play the Rangers four more times between now and the end of the regular season. Martin Brodeur showed signs of his old self tonight, despite his defensemen occasionally breaking down on him. It was his 44th win against the Rangers and 640th career win. The Devils improve to 27-19-3, which moves them to 7th in the Conference and just three points behind Ottawa with four games at hand for sixth in the East. The Devils will be back on the ice on Thursday to conclude the six-game homestand, which they’re 2-2-1 on so far.