ECQF Game 4 Recap: Closed-deur
(headline by @imraiv)
Three stars of the game:
3rd star: Stephen Gionta (assist)
2nd star: Zach Parise (goal)
1st star: Martin Brodeur (26-save shutout)
The Devils showed a lot of resiliency and character as they bounced back from a tough loss in Game 3 by playing a very tight-checking game that Jacques Lemaire would be proud of. They had a brilliant night on special teams, as the power play produced two goals and the penalty kill was a perfect 6-for-6. They also played their best all-around game of the series and got their best goaltending performance of the series, as Martin Brodeur stopped 26 shots en route to his new NHL record 24th career playoff shutout. The Devils won Game 4 by a 4-0 final, tying the series in the process, and they won the game by playing “Devils hockey.”
It was a very even, tight-checking first period that didn’t feature many high-quality scoring chances for either team, although each team had ten shots on goal in the period. They started Adam Henrique’s line early, and they created the first bit of offense in Game 4, but Scott Clemmensen was up to the test out of the gate. When Florida went on their first power play 7 minutes into the first period, there was a sense of nervousness, since the Panthers entered the game having scored on 6 of their 10 power plays in the series, but the Devils had success in two major areas of their penalty kill that was not working previously: winning faceoffs and using their forwards to pressure the Florida skater with the puck. The Devils created some shorthanded chances, which was missing from their game early in the series.
The second period was also pretty even for the most part, with the goal total being the exception. With the Devils on a power play, Marek Zidlicky stepped into Patrik Elias’ one-touch feed from the right point and it deflected off of Travis Zajac’s stick and then Zach Parise’s stick and past Scott Clemmensen, and the game’s first goal gave the Devils a lead. Unlike in previous games of this series, the Devils were very careful and smart holding the lead. Of course, they certainly benefited from the strong, and at times vintage play by Martin Brodeur.
The Devils’ next excellent scoring chance came on a 2-on-1 rush with fourth liners Steve Bernier and Stephen Gionta. Bernier fed across to Gionta on the left side, but “Little Gio” shot the puck wide of the net. He had Clemmensen beat, but he couldn’t bury it, as the score remained 1-0. Their next chance came as Ilya Kovalchuk stormed down the left wing, skating around the Florida defense. Stephen Weiss was back on defense, and he hauled Kovy down on a partial breakaway. The call was a minor penalty and the Devils had another power play to work on. It wasn’t a good one, but they kept their lead through the second intermission, thanks to some big stops by Marty on Kris Versteeg and Sean Bergenheim.
The Devils simply came out in the third period as the better team. They controlled play and the Florida zone early in the period, and then scored the second goal. Martin Brodeur started the play, and sent Stephen Gionta up the ice. Gionta dropped the puck to Steve Bernier from above the right circle, and Bernier ripped the puck in and out of the net glove-side high in the blink of an eye, which doubled the lead. About a minute and a half later, David Clarkson skated around the net and backhanded a pass to the slot which Travis Zajac got all of to make it 3-0 Devils. The teams swapped power plays, and in the final seconds of the power play, Peter Harrold sent a beautiful cross-ice pass from right circle to left and Ilya Kovalchuk wristed it over Clemmensen to make it 4-0. After that, it was all Brodeur, who made some of his finest saves of the night in the third period, including an impressive glove stop on Tomas Kopecky. Things got a bit rough in the final minutes, as 30 penalty minutes were distributed in the third period. Most importantly, the Devils held on to win the game, 4-0 and Brodeur picked up his 24th playoff shutout, which is of course, a new record.
The Devils did a lot of good things in Game 4, as they take back momentum heading into Game 5 in Florida. First of all, the penalty kill survived all six of the Panthers’ power plays in the game. The Devils were 27-for-54 in the faceoff circle, which is exactly 50%. They’ll settle for 50% after struggling earlier in the series. The Devils also played a physical game, out-hitting Florida, 27-16 in the game, led by Zach Parise’s six hits. Even the Devils’ smallest player, Stephen Gionta registered a pair of big hits. The Devils were still quite sloppy at times, as they were credited with 11 giveaways in the game. Ilya Kovalchuk didn’t play his best game at all, but he did get on the board and he did manage four shots on goal, after taking just six in the first three games of the series. Zach Parise leads the Devils with 20 shots in the series (technically, his goal didn’t even count as a shot since it was on a deflection). Parise’s goal is also a good sign, as he went to the net on the power play. Each player on the top line (Parise, Zajac and Kovalchuk) scored goals in Game 4. The Devils also got good games out of David Clarkson and the entire fourth line (Carter-Gionta-Bernier). Bryce Salvador also picked up two assists and Martin Brodeur’s assist was his second of the series.
It’s now on to Game 5 in Florida on Saturday night. The Devils will try to take a very important Game 5 on the road and come back to New Jersey on Tuesday with a chance to potentially win the series. The Devils made a statement in Game 4. They established themselves as the dominant team. They took a while to settle in, but they controlled special teams, took a lead, defended well, played physical got great goaltending and then used their game-breaking offensive skill to blow the game open in the third period. It really was a textbook Devils playoff win. It was a solid rebound from their Game 3 loss. They’ll need to follow this up with another good game on Saturday.
Posted on April 20, 2012, in Devils Army, Game Recap, New Jersey Devils, Prudential Center and tagged Florida Panthers, Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils, NHL, Prudential Center, Stanley Cup Playoffs, Stephen Gionta, Zach Parise. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.