Game 50 Recap – The Game from Hell: Devils’ Domain
(headline submitted by @kmart890)
Tonight, the Devils suffered three injuries, another goal review going against them, several questionable hits from Montreal players and some unfortunate penalty calls. It also looked as if they were headed to their fourth loss in five games for a while. None of that prevented their second consecutive come-from-behind win out of the All-Star break. The Devils battled hard tonight, and Martin Brodeur made a bunch of huge saves, and they knocked off the Canadiens, 5-3.
The Devils’ start in the first period probably couldn’t have gone much worse, and if it could have, I hope we never have to see it. Just four minutes into the game, the Habs took the lead on a bizarre bounce. David Desharnais took his own rebound from just above the goal line and sent it at the net. It bounced off of Martin Brodeur and into the net. Montreal kept taking it to the Devils, outshooting them and outplaying them until the Devils eventually broke down again. All five skaters were caught “puck-watching” and they left Andrei Kostitsyn all alone in front of the net. Kostitsyn slid the puck around Brodeur and gave Montreal a 2-0 lead. Peter DeBoer wisely used his timeout to get his team back into the game.
Just over a minute after Kostitsyn’s goal, Zach Parise answered with a shot from the left circle off the rush. It was one that Carey Price would certainly want back, but since he can’t have it back, Parise will have to settle for his 17th goal of the season. That made it 2-1 Montreal, but the Devils still didn’t take command of the game. There was no more scoring in the first period, but there was plenty of action, especially in the physical department. Early in the game, Bryce Salvador’s shot hit Alexei Ponikarovsky in the wrist. He remained in the game after some attention from the trainers. Then, late in the period, Ryan Carter retaliated after a Habs player hit a Devil. Carter got the only penalty. Mathiea Darche then drilled Kurtis Foster, which eventually ended Foster’s night. Still late in the period, Patrik Elias hit Montreal’s Mike Blunden from behind. Elias may be hearing from Brendan Shanahan about possible disciplinary action for that hit.
While Elias continued to serve his penalty to start the second period, the Devils caught another tough break. Ilya Kovalchuk skated in on a partial breakaway, and whipped a backhander on Price that fooled the Montreal goaltender. The puck remained on the goal line behind Price, but before Ponikarovsky could bury it, Price dove on top of it and the play was blown dead. It was reviewed, but no goal was called. Immediately after Montreal’s power play expired, the Devils went on the power play. However, Tomas Plekanec stole the puck from Kurtis Foster (before Foster left the game for good) and went on his own shorthanded breakaway. Brodeur made a strong pad save on Plekanec, but Foster couldn’t clear the puck away from the crease. Darche buried the rebound and the Habs took a 3-1 lead.
Montreal continued to take penalties throughout the second period. The Devils were able to take advantage on one opportunity, as David Clarkson re-directed Ilya Kovalchuk’s one-timer past Price to cut the Devils’ deficit to 3-2. Seconds after Clarkson’s career-high 18th goal of the season, they went right back on the power play, but couldn’t tie the game. While this was going on, Brodeur was busy making huge saves, stoning seemingly every Montreal forward. He was especially strong with his glove. With Clarkson’s goal and Brodeur’s goaltending, the Devils remained down one goal heading into the third period.
The thrid period hasn’t been the Devils’ specialty this season, but that didn’t matter last night. As they did Tuesday night against the Rangers, the Devils found a way to rally in the third period. 6:11 into the third period, Alexei Ponikarovsky spun around and fired a shot from the right circle that Dainius Zubrus tipped in, which tied the game at three. Montreal continued to take their shots, some of them high-quality chances, but Brodeur, as he did all night, kept the Devils in the game. Mid-way through the period, Adam Larsson, for the second time in the game, got hit hard. P.K. Subban caught the Devils rookie with his head down, and dropped him. Larsson needed to be helped off the ice. Subban’s hit was a clean hit, however Larsson is suffering from what has been called a bruised lower back.
With under three minutes to play in the third period, Andy Greene made a crucial play to keep the puck in the offensive zone. Patrik Elias then fed Ilya Kovalchuk in the slot. Kovy’s slapshot was deflected right to Zach Parise, who buried his second into the net. Parise nearly had his hat trick goal on an empty netter, but David Clarkson scored his second of the night to seal it for the Devils.
As big of a win as Tuesday’s victory over the Rangers was, the comeback tonight was just as important in the standings. The Devils’ margin for error in this second half is slim, and being able to win a game after how poorly they played in the first period is a very strong statement by the Devils. Brodeur has also been strong for the most part, despite allowing six goals in two games since the break. He does have his coach’s support, though, and he’ll keep playing most of the games. Obviously, they’ll need Larsson to be healthy. DeBoer was unsure of the severity of both Foster and Larsson’s injuries, but if either are out for an extended period of time, general manager Lou Lamoriello may go out and get a defenseman. Last week, he was quoted as saying if the Devils can “improve [on defense,] we will.” Considering they’re already without Henrik Tallinder on the blue line and still missing centers Adam Henrique and Travis Zajac, they might be forced to make a trade to stay in the playoff picture.
The Devils will travel down to Philadelphia for an afternoon game against the Flyers on Saturday.