Game 52 Recap: Win streak has Devils feeling ‘Super’

New Jersey Devils vs Pittsburgh Penguins

(headline submitted by @CincoCinco_)

The first four games out of the All-Star break have been eventful, entertaining and most importantly, all victories thus far for the New Jersey Devils. They’ve silenced critics who said that they couldn’t beat the elite teams of the Eastern Conference. Today was the latest in what is shaping out to be a second half surge for the Devils this season. After dropping the season’s first meeting with the Penguins, 4-1 at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, the Devils earned their third consecutive win over their Atlantic Division rivals by getting off to a terrific start in the first period. In the end, they scored five goals for (ready for this?) the third straight game.

After a dramatic 6-4 win in Philadelphia yesterday on Saturday afternoon, the Devils were all-but sluggish to start this game. The Penguins, who also played yesterday afternoon, were simply outplayed for most of the opening period. Less than two and a half minutes in, the Devils’ forecheck opened the scoring. Zach Parise sent the puck behind the net, and Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, as he often does in New Jersey, had a hard time playing the puck. Patrik Elias picked it up and found Ilya Kovalchuk breaking to the net. Kovy slipped it 5-hole on Fleury and the Devils were off to a tremendous start once again.

The Penguins then generated a few scoring chances, but Martin Brodeur, who has played Pittsburgh tough all season, stopped Tyler Kennedy and the surging Evgeni Malkin to preserve the team’s lead. Still less than halfway through the period, Alexei Ponikarovsky stormed down the right wing and found Anton Volchenkov in the slot. Volchenkov tapped the puck to his left for Kovalchuk, who fed Volchenkov again and A-Train buried his first goal as a New Jersey Devil in 101 games. Six seconds later, the Devils went on their first power play and nearly scored a third goal. 2-0 would hold into the first intermission.

As they did in the first period, the Devils scored within the first two and a half minutes of the second period. As Kurtis Foster went off for hooking, Ilya Kovalchuk pestered his former teammate, Paul Martin and got the puck out of the zone. Kovy continued to harass Martin, and eventually took the puck away and powered his way to the net. Fleury left the puck in the crease and Dainius Zubrus finished it off to give the Devils their 13th shorthanded goal of the season. The goal gave the Devils the always-dangerous 3-0 lead. Pittsburgh yanked Fleury and backup Brent Johnson came into the game. Just over 30 seconds later and still on the power play, the Penguins got on the board. The newest Penguin, Cal O’Reilly fed Matt Niskanen, who slapped one by Brodeur. Brent Johnson then made a huge save on another great chance by Ponikarovsky. Later in the period, Andy Greene found Steve Bernier, and after a tremendous shift by Bernier, Parise stuffed a rebound home and restored the Devils’ three goal lead. That score, 4-1, held up through two periods. The other noteworthy event of the period was Kris Letang’s open-ice hit on Eric Boulton. It was a clean hit, and Boulton retaliated moments later. Chris Kunitz also took a run at Greene as Greene went to the bench late in the period.

Although the Penguins only outshot the Devils, 9-6 in the third period, Pittsburgh really got their chance to come back in the final period. They did score once, as Evgeni Malkin toe-dragged around Andy Greene and scored his four millionth goal of the season…okay, he’s actually at 29, but it feels like he’s got more than that. Aside from that Malkin goal, Brodeur owned the third period. He made several tremendous saves, including another save on Malkin’s turn-around shot from the left side. The save of the period was James Neal’s one-timer from the high slot. Brodeur sprawled out and made one of his patented two-pad stack saves to rob Neal. Finally, after the Penguins’ best push today and after they pulled Johnson, it was Martin Brodeur who picked up the puck and lifted it out to center. David Clarkson stormed down the right wing and scored the empty net goal, his 20th of the season. The Devils won, 5-2.

So, the Devils improve to 4-0-0 since the All-Star break, and they have all been physical, tough hockey games. They played a high-energy game against the Rangers and pulled off late heroics to win in a shootout, they overcame 2-0 and 3-1 deficits to grind out a 5-3 win over Montreal, they dominated the Flyers early and held on to win 6-4 in Philadelphia and finished off the week by outplaying another division rival, and beat Pittsburgh, 5-2. They’ll make their first of three trips to Madison Square Garden on Tuesday to face the New York Rangers again. Today was another strong effort, but they need to continue to work on putting together a 60-minute effort if they want to continue to have success against the league’s top teams.

Game notes: Alexei Ponikarovsky’s assist on Volchenkov’s goal gives him 7 points in 7 games as a Devil. Ilya Kovalchuk picked up his third straight three-point game. Kovy now has 10 points (and a fight) in four games since the break. The Devils are also 4-0-0 with Steve Bernier in the lineup this season. Bernier assisted on Parise’s goal. Speaking of Parise, his goal was his 20th of the season, as Clarkson’s goal was also his 20th. Along with Kovalchuk’s 22, the Devils now have three 20-goal scorers already this season. Parise also has five goals in his last four games. Patrik Elias has points in four straight games as well. Adam Henrique played his first game since the All-Star break after nursing a groin injury. The Devils have beaten Pittsburgh in three straight meetings now.

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Posted on February 5, 2012, in Game Recap, New Jersey Devils, Prudential Center, The Rock and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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