Game 57 Recap: Devils shoot down the Ducks, get kicked into 5th

New Jersey Devils vs Anaheim Ducks

(headline by @DBergz13)

It was just under nine years ago, Martin Brodeur posted seven shutouts in the playoffs, including three in the Stanley Cup Finals to beat the Anaheim Mighty Ducks in seven games. Tonight, Martin Brodeur looked as if he had turned back the clock. They weren’t playing for the Stanley Cup tonight, but his performance tonight was simply “vintage” Brodeur. He stopped 36 of 38 shots sent his way tonight in an entertaining, nerve-wracking and controversial shootout win over the no-longer-Mighty Ducks.

This game got off to a fast start. The Devils didn’t play particularly well in the opening period, but Martin Brodeur wouldn’t crack, and he held the Devils in the game throughout the first period. The Devils couldn’t sustain any offensive pressure in the period. They couldn’t find each other with their passes and they allowed the Ducks a lot of space in the defensive zone. One of Marty’s best saves of the period came when ex-Devil Rod Pelley found himself alone on a semi-breakaway in the zone, but Brodeur stopped Pelley’s backhand attempt. Eric Boulton also challenged the big Anaheim winger and New Jersey native George Parros to a fight, but that didn’t go very well for Boulton, who was cut near his left eye. Anaheim outshot the Devils, 11-6 in the period.

The Devils played a much better second period. While Anaheim continued to outshoot the Devils, 12-9 for the second period, it was the home team that found the back of the net first. From below the goal line, Zach Parise found Ilya Kovalchuk near the right circle. Kovy waited, then shot one that went off goalie Jonas Hiller, but right to Adam Henrique, who buried his 15th goal of the season. That goal came less than 90 seconds into the second period. Kovalchuk was flying all over the ice throughout the game. He had some of the game’s best scoring chances. Just past the halfway point of the second period, Matt Taormina fired the puck back into the zone after an offensive shift. Dainius Zubrus picked the puck up from the right wing boards and found a wide open Alexei Ponikarovsky, and the big winger buried his third goal as a Devil to double the lead. Corey Perry scored on a rebound to get the Ducks back in the game late in the period.

The Devils came into this game with a record of 18-2-2 when leading after two periods, but they haven’t always made life easy for themselves. For the most part, they did a good job of shutting down the Ducks’ top players, thanks in large part to Martin Brodeur. Marty robbed Niklas Hagman with his glove early in the period. In total, he stopped 12 out of 13 Ducks shots in the third period. Shortly after the save on Hagman, the Devils generated some shorthanded scoring chances, including Adam Henrique’s explosive rush down the ice. He lost the face-off, but pushed forward, as Scott Niedermayer occasionally did in the past. He forced the puck out of the zone, and nearly skated around the Anaheim defense, but couldn’t bury it. Ilya Kovalchuk also had a pair of shorthanded chances, but Jonas Hiller stopped them both.

Then, with 2:13 to go, another ex-Devil, Sheldon Brookbank, rang his shot off the post and past Brodeur for his first goal in about three years. Yes, you’re more likely to see Scott Gomez score than Brookbank, but he tied the game for the Ducks. The ensuing two minutes were filled with high-quality chances for the Devils, highlighted by a pair by Kovalchuk. He had one shot glance off the goal post and another from the slot stopped by Hiller after a spectacular move by Parise to create an odd-man situation down low in the offensive zone. Both teams got a point, though, which isn’t a big deal in the standings, because Anaheim is in the Western Conference.

Overtime is only five minutes, but there was a game’s worth of action in those five minutes. 1:10 into the period, Ryan Getzlaf tried to take a pass across the crease and win it, but Anton Volchenkov did a great job of tying up his stick so he couldn’t convert. Instead, Getzlaf re-directed the puck past Brodeur with his skate. The call on the ice was good goal, but the Toronto War Room reviewed it. In a shocking turn of events for Devils fans, the War Room favored the Devils and the goal was wiped out. Getzlaf actually hit the post minutes later. Then, the Devils had their chance to win it. Kovalchuk, Elias, Sykora and Matt Taormina all had tremendous chances to end it, but a combination of defensemen, Hiller and an off-side call had other ideas: a shootout. Ilya Kovalchuk snapped the shootout’s first shot five-hole, and it crept past Hiller and in under his blocker. Teemu Selanne tied the shootout for Anaheim. Zach Parise was stopped, then Corey Perry hit the right post before Patrik Elias also beat Hiller five-hole. Of course the game came down to Getzlaf again. Brodeur was able to stop him and the Devils won it, 3-2 in the shootout. Parise has actually struggled in the shootout recently. After starting the season 5-for-6, he’s now 6-for-13, plus a failed penalty shot during that time.

With the win, the Devils move up to 5th place in the Eastern Conference with 70 points. They’re just one point behind the Flyers for 4th in the conference and two points behind the Northeast division leading Bruins. The Devils are 7-1-2 in their last 10 games. Their climb up the conference standings has a lot to do with Martin Brodeur’s play recently. The Devils were outplayed at times tonight and outshot, 38-27 by the red-hot Ducks, but Brodeur played an incredible game and simply stone-walled the Anaheim Ducks. Brodeur is 8-3-1 with a 1.80 goals against average and .928 save percentage since getting pulled early in a 6-3 loss to Calgary in January (statistic courtesy of NHL.com’s Dave Lozo). That Kovalchuk isn’t too bad, either. He added an assist and yet another shootout goal tonight.

Some stats: Adam Henrique is now three points clear of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins as the league’s top rookie scorer. His goal tonight gives him 38 points on the season. Henrique is also tied with Bryce Salvador for a team-high +10 rating. Zach Parise’s assist on Henrique’s goal gives Parise 50 points for the season, which makes him the third player on the Devils to reach 50 points. No other team has three players with 50 points each. Kovalchuk’s assist gives him 57 points, which is the ninth highest point total in the league. Alexei Ponikarovsky continues to produce for the Devils. Overall, tonight was his tenth goal of the season, but it was his third goal and ninth point in 11 games with the Devils, including eight points in his last eight games.

Finally, Martin Brodeur’s win tonight was his 20th win of the season. This is the 16th time Brodeur has reached 20 wins in a season during his career. He’ll go for 21 in what could be his final start in Montreal on Sunday night.

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Posted on February 18, 2012, in Game Recap, New Jersey Devils and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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