ECF Game 2 Recap: Tip drill BeDevils Rangers

2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Eastern Conference Finals

(headline by @TheProgramBTR)

Three stars of the game:

3rd star: Bryce Salvador (2 assists, 23:37 ice time)

2nd star: Chris Kreider (Rangers – 1 goal)

1st star: David Clarkson (Game-winning goal, 3 shots)

“Every goal he scores is a game winner.  I hope he can get 7 more.”  Those were the words of Ilya Kovalchuk in his postgame interview at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night.  He was referring to David Clarkson’s third period goal that held up as the game-winning goal that tied the Eastern Conference Finals at one game apiece after dropping Game 1 on Monday night.  The Devils got the job done, winning 3-2, and will make the short trip across the Hudson River before Saturday’s Game 3 against the Rangers.

The visitors dictated the pace of the game early on.  They looked to play more wide open hockey after a defensive contest in Game 1, when the Devils got shut out, 3-0.  They nearly overwhelmed the Rangers early, as Adam Henrique found himself wide open in front of the net, but he couldn’t settle the puck down to get a shot on Henrik Lundqvist.  Shortly after that, Carl Hagelin was sent off for holding Mark Fayne, and the Devils had a power play.  The power play featured some stick-handling by Ilya Kovalchuk, but neither Patrik Elias nor Marek Zidlicky could send him a good pass, so he couldn’t effectively shoot on Lundqvist.

Ryan Callahan slammed into Andy Greene behind a play later on, causing Patrik Elias to take a retaliatory roughing penalty on Callahan, but the Devils killed off the ensuing Rangers’ power play.  They later drew another power play of their own, as Brian Boyle slashed Zach Parise.  This time, the Devils were able to convert.  The Devils were able to move the puck and create havoc amongst the Rangers’ skaters, so eventually Marek Zidlicky could find Kovalchuk, who skated in and snapped the puck over Lundqvist’s glove side and under the crossbar.  The Devils struck for the first goal of the series and took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission.

The Devils didn’t have a strong start to the second period, but that was partially due to a very weak interference penalty assessed to Alexei Ponikarovsky just 48 seconds into the period.  Marc Staal fired a shot that deflected to the glass behind the net, but bounced crazily back out and off Martin Brodeur’s skate and into the empty net.  The Rangers caught a break and tied the game on their power play.  The goal gave the Rangers momentum, and forced Brodeur to make some big saves early in the second period.  The Rangers were credited with the period’s first six shots.  Lundqvist also made a pair of saves on Kovalchuk, including a glove save on a deflection.

The game’s bizarre moment was after another questionable interference penalty, this time by Travis Zajac.  The door to the Devils’ penalty box wouldn’t open!  Everybody except Zajac thought this was funny, but after several minutes of delay, Zajac sat in the penalty box.  The Rangers scored again as Anton Stralman, who tried out for the Devils last fall in the pre-season, got his shot from the right side on net, and rookie Chris Kreider tipped it in for his fourth of the playoffs.  The Rangers took a 2-1 lead, a lead that lasted less than six minutes.  Late in the period, after Steve Bernier’s shot rebounded to Bryce Salvador, Ryan Carter was able to deflect Salvador’s seemingly harmless point shot past Lundqvist, and it was 2-2 after two periods, which was a big break for the Devils, who were outplayed for much of the period.

After Carter’s heroics tied the game late in the second, the Devils wasted little time taking the lead in the third period.  Marek Zidlicky had pinched in to keep the puck alive, and he skated around the net, passing the puck back to Bryce Salvador, then across to Adam Henrique, who was covering the right point.  Henrique wristed one that was going wide of net until David Clarkson reached out and tipped the puck into the net.  It was reviewed for a high stick, but the goal counted.  Clarkson had his third goal of the playoffs, and it would hold as his third game-winner of the playoffs.  Brodeur then went to work, making eight saves in the third period, but many of them were high quality saves.  He gloved Brad Richards’ shot from the left circle after previously making a highlight-reel pad stop while sprawled out.  Mark Fayne also made a save on the one puck that got past Brodeur.  After about a dozen icing calls, the clock ran out on Game 2 and the Devils evened the series.

This game was a solid effort for the Devils.  They did exactly what they wanted to do: forecheck, draw penalties, screen Lundqvist and obviously, the big one: outscore the Rangers.  Lundqvist was still brilliant, as Kovalchuk, Zach Parise and others easily could have added to the Devils’ goal total tonight, but they got enough to win.  They’ve really played four good periods, and five decent ones in the series so far, with the third period of Game 1 being the lone exception.  They’ve been able to do something that very few teams can say so far this season: they outworked the Rangers along the boards and won puck battles.  They also found a way to get pucks through to Lundqvist.  The Rangers blocked 26 shot attempts in Game 1 and Lundqvist faced just 21 pucks in that game.  In Game 2, the Rangers were able to block 16 shot attempts, and Lundqvist faced a total of 27 shots.

The Devils also enjoyed success in the faceoff circle in Game 2.  Adam Henrique and Travis Zajac combined to go 21-14 for the night.  The Devils also matched the Rangers, hit for hit for the most part.  They were also led defensively by Bryce Salvador, who in my personal opinion, is putting together a Conn Smythe-quality postseason so far.  Although the Devils aren’t the shot-blocking team that the Rangers pride themselves as being, Salvador blocked some big shots in Game 2, logged a team-high 23:37 ice time, shutting down the Rangers’ top line and added two more assists.  Salvador now has 8 points in the playoffs after posting just 9 points during the entire regular season.  Speaking of production from defensemen, Marek Zidlicky also picked up a point, giving him seven in the playoffs.

Just as they did in Game 2 against Philadelphia, the Devils followed up a Game 1 loss on the road with a win in Game 2 to even the series.  They’ll head back to New Jersey with a chance to take a series lead in Game 3.  Unlike in years past, the Devils have done well at the Prudential Center this postseason, as they went 4-1 against Florida and Philadelphia in the first two rounds of these playoffs.  They’ll look for their fifth home win on Saturday afternoon in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals.  If they win on Saturday, they’d be just two wins away from advancing to the Stanley Cup Finals.

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Posted on May 17, 2012, in Game Recap, New Jersey Devils and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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