Game 78 Recap: Zidlic-key to victory

New Jersey Devils vs Tampa Bay Lightning

(I had to use my own headline tonight.  Sorry!)

Three stars of the game:

3rd star: Ilya Kovalchuk (Goal, assist)

2nd star: Ryan Malone (Lighting – 3 goals)

1st star: Patrik Elias (2 assists)

OFFENSE!

The goal-deprived Devils exploded on Thursday night.  After reaching three goals in a game just once in the previous nine games, the Devils managed six goals, all on Tampa Bay goaltender Dwayne Roloson.  An offensive performance like this one couldn’t have come at a better time, as the Devils were slumping, having gone 3-4-1 in their previous eight games, and lack of scoring and ability to capitalize on their chances was one of the primary reasons for the slump.  The Devils scored all kinds of goals in this game: a shorthanded goal, a power play goal and four at even strength.  It was a game that they needed badly.

It didn’t start well for the Devils.  They played a solid, but at times sloppy first period, which included a failed power play late in the period.  In the final minute of the first period, the Devils failed to clear the zone, and Ryan Malone made them pay.  Malone finished Steven Stamkos’ attempt off Victor Hedman’s point shot for his 16th of the season.  The Lightning outshot the Devils, 9-8 in the period.

Andy Greene took a delay of game penalty early in the second, which meant the Devils went shorthanded, but they revived their magic from earlier in the season.  Patrik Elias sprung Dainius Zubrus for a shorthanded goal, which tied the game at one.  The Devils certainly started to warm up after they scored their first goal, but just a couple minutes later, Malone scored again, and the Lightning took the lead back.  This time, the Lightning had the lead for 1:14, as a Tampa Bay turnover resulted in Jacob Josefson’s second goal of the season.

Then, just past the halfway point of the game, Malone finished the hat trick, and the Lightning took their third lead of the game.  Dwayne Roloson, being the kind man that he is, gave the lead back, when Ilya Kovalchuk buried his 33rd of the season, which tied the game at three.  The Devils then decided it would be a good idea to take the lead.  Six seconds into a power play, Marek Zidlicky blasted his second goal as a Devil past Roloson.  What followed that was just bizarre.  Lightning coach Guy Boucher appeared to pull Roloson from the game, but after they switched goalies, Roloson stayed on the ice, and went back in the net.  That was good news for the Devils.

2:25 into the third period, Bryce Salvador threw one on net that Alexei Ponikarovsky deflected past Roloson.  5-3.  Not even four minutes later, David Clarkson scored his first goal in ten games and 29th on the season.  6-3.  Roloson was then pulled.  Again.  And he stayed on the bench this time.  Backup Sebastien Caron stopped all four shots that he faced.  Just to annoy the Devils and Martin Brodeur, Trevor Smith scored in the dying seconds, but that couldn’t spoil a tremendous effort by the Devils, and they cruised to a 6-4 victory.

After a slow first 20 minutes, the Devils absolutely dominated this game.  Sure, it was close on the scoreboard for longer than the Devils would have liked, but they did what they wanted to do: they blew the game open and played a very entertaining and wide open game against a team (Tampa Bay) who gladly obliged, as the Lightning are the NHL’s worst defensive team.  The Devils, who were outshot in the opening period, 9-8, dominated in shots: 18-5 in the second period and 12-6 in the third.  I would say scoring chances were just as lopsided during the final 40 minutes of the game.  The Devils, who were far from perfect defensively, did a nice job shutting down Steven Stamkos and the Lightning’s top players for most of the night, though.  They must have forgotten about Malone, though.  The Devils also dominated the faceoff circle, winning 38 of 57 draws.  Basically, they did what they wanted to do in the final 40 minutes, and Pete DeBoer let them play a little more wide open than usual.

Dainius Zubrus opened the scoring for the Devils tonight, following a 13-game goal-less stretch by Zubrus.  Patrik Elias, who set up Zubrus’ shorthanded tally, had no points in three games entering Thursday night.  Elias assisted on two of the six Devils goals.  Jacob Josefson is also scoring at a 40-goal pace over his last four games (two goals).  Ilya Kovalchuk also registered another multi-point effort, with his team-leading 33rd goal of the season as well as an assist on Zidlicky’s goal.  Speaking of Zidlicky, he picked up his eighth point as a Devil in this game.  Both of his goals have come on the power play in his time with the Devils.  Alexei Ponikarovsky, meanwhile, had just three assists in March, prior to his goal and assist on Thursday night.  His goal eventually became the game winner, with David Clarkson’s first goal in ten games as the insurance goal.  The Devils are now a perfect 12-0-0 when Kovalchuk and Clarkson score in the same game this season.

Now, after a dominant performance like this one was, how will the Devils follow this effort up in Carolina on Saturday?

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Posted on March 30, 2012, in Game Recap, New Jersey Devils and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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