Game 59 Recap: Fayne-tastic win in overtime

New Jersey Devils vs Toronto Maple Leafs

(headline by @BonzoHammer)

It was Doc Emrick who coined the phrase “they don’t ask how, they ask how many.”  With this Friday being Doc Emrick Night, perhaps it was only fitting that the Devils leave Toronto with a back-and-forth win on a crazy overtime goal, but hey, a win is a win, right?  They played a tough, at times physical and certainly intense overtime thriller that ended with a crazy goal from an unlikely source.  Regardless of how it happened, though, the Devils have the second-highest point total in the NHL and actually creep closer to the Rangers for first in the entire Eastern Conference.

The Devils did not get off to a great start.  In fact, the Toronto Maple Leafs had six of the game’s first eight shots on goal, but as he has so often recently, Martin Brodeur made the saves he needed to make to keep the Devils in the game.  Perhaps it was Dion Phaneuf’s tripping penalty midway through the period that sparked the Devils.  They didn’t score on the power play, but just nine seconds after the power play expired, Adam Henrique backhanded a quick pass to a cutting Petr Sykora, and Sykora’s fired one off Leafs goaltender Jonas Gustavsson’s pads, and Sykora followed up the rebound Gustavsson allowed and backhanded it in for a 1-0 Devils lead.  That marked the 9th consecutive game in which the Devils scored the game’s first goal, which sets a new franchise record.

The Devils kept rolling after Sykora’s goal.  Patrik Elias found David Clarkson skating up the right side, and Clarkson powered his way to the net and wristed the puck through Gustavsson’s legs to double the lead.  The Leafs responded right away, as Tim Connolly deflected Cody Franson’s point shot past Brodeur.  However, the period’s most highlighted event occured when Dion Phaneuf cleanly checked Zach Parise to strip him off the puck.  Immediately following his hit on Parise, Phaneuf drilled the Devils’ captain again, and appeared to target Parise’s head.  Zach was slow to get up, but suffered just a cut to his nose, likely from his visor.  Phaneuf was not penalized for the hit, but was given a major when he accepted a fight with David Clarkson moments later.  The Devils outshot Toronto, 13-9 in the period.

Here’s some of your reaction about the first period:

@Devsfan55: didn’t like Phaneuf’s dirty hit. Loved Clarkson… Goal and sticking up for Zach.

@glund625: what a great period! Great job by Clarkson defending his teammate and getting [another goal].

@NonAmericanHero: I enjoyed David Clarkson sticking up for his teammate after scoring a goal. Now can he get an assist for the gordie howe?  (Unfortunately, he didn’t)

@JamCanssen: Everything Clarkson did, from the falling to the scoring to the sticking up for Zach and fighting Phaneuf

@jseltmann: like 2 goals. Don’t like weak PP and giving one back or zach getting hit up high.

The Leafs, desperately fighting to hold onto the 8th and final playoff spot in the conference, came out and played a better second period.  That didn’t mean that the Devils didn’t have scoring chances.  The top line of Zach Parise-Adam Henrique-Ilya Kovalchuk was absolutely dominant every shift they had, it seemed.  Kovalchuk hit the side of the net on a 2-on-1 shorthanded rush, then went in on a breakaway, only to be stopped by Gustavsson, then Kovy fed Adam Henrique on a 3-on-2, but that was also shut down by Gustavsson.  Then, Kovalchuk’s shot rebounded right to Parise, but he shot it off the post.  Parise couldn’t bury a second rebound and the Leafs survived.  Eventually, Matt Taormina turned the puck over at his defensive blue line, and Clarke MacArthur capped off a passing play by the Leafs to tie the game.  With under two minutes remaining in the period, Dainius Zubrus kicked the puck to Alexei Ponikarovsky, who slid to the slot and ripped a shot 5-hole on Gustavsson to give the Devils their lead back.  Zubrus kicking the puck to Ponikarovsky also amazed Chico Resch, for the record.  The second period ended with the same 3-2 score.

And some more Twitter reaction to the 2nd period:

@FasterHockey: Another bad defensive play leaves Marty on an island for a goal. Sloppy play is keeping the Leafs in it instead of breaking

@radametz: Devils seemed to be lacking some energy to start but looking much better following the “Poni Show”.

@Liv133: Like: Poni getting the lead. Dislike: we’re sloppy. We can’t keep the puck on our sticks. And we’re blowing gimmie chances!

In the third period, it was all Toronto…and the Henrique line.  The Leafs only edged the Devils in shots by one in the period, but they controlled play for most of the period.  Had they connected on more of their neutral zone passes, they might have scored earlier and more often in the period.  Brodeur also made some of his best saves in the third, including saves on Joey Crabb and Tyler Bozak from short distance.  Still, with Gustavsson on the bench and under 45 seconds remaining, the puck came dangerously close to the net.  Patrik Elias tried to clear the crease, but the puck ended up on Phil Kessel’s stick, and that’s the last guy you want to shoot the puck.  He banked it off Brodeur’s left skate and into the net to tie the game.  That sent the game to overtime.

The third period can be summarized by this tweet:

@JO310JO: Toronto pressured and kept grinding away! That’s why its tied now!

Overtime didn’t really last very long.  While the Devils’ 10-3 shootout record suggests they might have just wanted the five minute 4-on-4 period to pass, they pressed on their first shift in overtime.  Ilya Kovalchuk nearly ended the game seconds in as he one-timed a cross-ice feed, but he had to reach for it and didn’t get all of the velocity he’s capable of on the shot.  Just seconds later, Adam Henrique sent the puck back to the point and Mark Fayne slapped one wide of the net.  That was your game-winning goal.  How?  Well, Gustavsson reached out for it (it wasn’t far wide of the net, as it probably would have either hit the post or side of the net had Gustavsson missed it), and the puck somehow found its way through the Swedish goaltender and off the far post and into the net.  It’s Fayne’s fourth goal of the season, and first since November 16th in Buffalo.

With the Devils win and Rangers loss to Pittsburgh, the Devils pull to within seven points of the Atlantic division and Eastern Conference lead.  That’s still a big deficit, but the two teams play each other three more times this season.  The Devils took advantage of a weak performance by Gustavsson, but did allow the Leafs a critical point, as they chase down a playoff spot for the first time since the lockout in 2004-05.

Game notes: David Clarkson scored his career-high 23rd goal of the season tonight, and also his 9th goal in 17 career games against his hometown Maple Leafs.  The Parise-Henrique-Kovalchuk line produced 15 shots on goal tonight, led by Kovalchuk’s 7 shots.  Alexei Ponikarovsky has 10 points in 13 games as a Devil.  Martin Brodeur won his 22nd game of the season and against the Leafs all-time tonight.  He had 23 wins all of last season, and is now three wins shy of 650 for his career.  Obviously, no other NHL goaltender has ever reached that number.

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Posted on February 22, 2012, in Game Recap, New Jersey Devils and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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