Game 79 Recap: Rocked like a Hurricane
Three stars of the game:
3rd star: Patrik Elias (2 assists)
2nd star: Petr Sykora (Goal, assist)
1st star: Ilya Kovalchuk (Goal, 2 assists)
Let’s rewind two days. Entering Thursday night, the Devils were deprived of goal scoring. They had won just three of eight games, and scored two goals in the three wins. But after the shootout win over the Blackhawks on Tuesday, the Devils finally exploded against Tampa Bay. In the second period, they scored 4 times, added two more in the third period, and the Devils had themselves a 6-4 win over the Lightning. In that game, the Devils felt good about their game offensively, but Martin Brodeur did surrender four goals, and the Devils didn’t really play a strong defensive game. Perhaps Pete DeBoer just let them play wide open to boost their confidence. So they went down to Carolina and cleaned up the other part of their game. They played one of their better games all season, blasting the Hurricanes, 5-0, and the Devils clinch a playoff spot in style.
The Devils and ‘Canes traded scoring chances in the opening half of the first period, but the visitors warmed to the task, as they did Thursday night. The difference between Thursday and Saturday was that Ryan Malone didn’t score a hat trick. Martin Brodeur made a number of key saves that kept the game scoreless, including a pair on Jeff Skinner, which allowed the Devils to find their game. Then, late in the period, after the Devils had already killed off two Carolina power plays, and the Devils had come up empty on their first power play, Skinner took a penalty that put the Devils back on the power play. It took 21 seconds, and the birthday boy, David Clarkson one-timed the puck from the slot off a nice feed from Patrik Elias, and the birthday boy had his 30th of the season. The Devils outshot the ‘Canes, 17-7 in the period.
We turn to Twitter for some reaction to the first period:
@kastrol: PP looking good. Moving the puck around nicely and it led to the first goal. Hope to see more of it.
@HardipGoDevils: Great period, lots of shot and chances, if we keep up the pressure, [we'll win.]
@buckfrenz: Can’t believe its only 1-0 Devils playing to clinch! [Dominating] in shots and takeaways.
As the Devils did on Thursday, they broke the game open in the middle frame. They had the shot advantage, 11-6, but they made their chances count. Just seconds after another power play expired, Petr Sykora fed Ilya Kovalchuk from the high slot, and Ilya blasted his 34th of the season home, and the Devils led 2-0. Less than two minutes later, the fourth line got into the action. Another birthday boy, Steve Bernier, fed Ryan Carter on a two-on-one, and Carter beat ‘Canes goalie Brian Boucher. The Devils continued to control play to the end of the period, when Patrik Elias won a faceoff cleanly to Sykora, and Petr beat Boucher off the draw for his 19th of the season.
Here’s some reaction to the second period:
@buckfrenz: Keep Dominating, this is Playoff Chemistry! Don’t let up.
@Liv133: Just keep up the pressure offensively, and play STRONG defensively.
@kmart890: I think it’s awesome that the team finally has the scoring depth Lou wanted since January.
The Devils didn’t let up in the third period. Ilya Kovalchuk found Zach Parise, who had all kinds of time and space to wrist his 31st of the season home. The Devils held their 5-0 lead for the entire third period. Carolina’s only big threat was on a late Carter penalty, but the Devils’ penalty kill came through for them again. Brodeur finished with 22 saves, nine of which came in the third period, and he picked up shutout #119 for his career. The Devils picked up a win and a playoff spot for the 14th time in the last 15 seasons, and 20th time in the last 22 seasons. They’ll likely be the sixth seed and face the winner of the southeast division (either Florida or Washington) in the first round of the playoffs. It will mark the first time in the Prudential Center era that the Devils will begin the playoffs on the road, but the Devils are 23-15-2 on the road, so that shouldn’t be a problem for them.
With Clarkson’s goal, the Devils become the first team in the NHL with three 30-goal scorers. It marks the first time since 2000-01 that the Devils have a trio of 30-goal scorers. Zach Parise (31) and Ilya Kovalchuk (34) are the Devils’ other 30-goal scorers. Petr Sykora is one shy of 20 goals. Travis Zajac also picked up his second point since his return from injury.
Posted on March 31, 2012, in Game Recap, New Jersey Devils and tagged Carolina Hurricanes, Ilya Kovalchuk, New Jersey Devils, NHL, Patrik Elias, Petr Sykora, Playoffs, Stanley Cup. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.