ECF Game 4 Recap: The Captain steps up and MB30 sets another record

2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Eastern Conference Finals

Three stars of the game:

3rd star: Bryce Salvador (1 goal, 1 assist)

2nd star: Martin Brodeur (28 saves)

1st star: Zach Parise (2 goals, 1 assist)

It’s funny what a difference two days can make.  On Saturday afternoon, the Devils played a decent all-around game, but you need to outscore your opponent to win games (at least that’s the only known way to win as far as I know), and the Devils couldn’t beat Henrik Lundqvist on Saturday.  Two days and a few tweaks to the lineup later, the Devils tied the series once again with the Rangers in a strong, 4-1 victory at the Prudential Center in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Devils, true to form, came out as the stronger team early on in Game 4.  They had almost all of the scoring chances for the first three quarters of the first period, and they were able to make them count in this game.  The first goal of the game started with a play made by Jacob Josefson, who made his playoff debut in Game 4, as he sent the puck around behind the net, and took a hard hit to do so.  David Clarkson worked the puck to Alexei Ponikarovsky, who got it to Bryce Salvador at the left point.  Salvador let it go from the point, and the puck squeezed its way through half a dozen people before splitting the pads of Lundqvist and trickling into the net.  The Devils drew first blood.

Things got a bit nasty after the Salvador goal.  Ryan McDonagh cross-checked Adam Henrique in front of Martin Brodeur, so Henrique dropped the gloves and participated in the first fight of the playoffs for the Devils.  That put the Rangers’ best defenseman in the penalty box for five minutes, and the Devils capitalized.  Dainius Zubrus took the puck away from a Ranger in the neutral zone, and Zach Parise skated right past Michael Del Zotto to create a 2-on-1, then saucered a perfect pass across to Travis Zajac, who slapped the puck through Lundqvist for a 2-0 lead.  That score held up through one period, although Brodeur was tested a bit at the end of the period.

The second period featured more even play, as the Rangers warmed to the task a bit, yet the Devils survived their best push.  The story of the scoreless second period was the “extracurricular” play that occurred away from the puck, which became a theme throughout the game.  The nastiness seemed to spark after Marc Staal chopped at Patrik Elias and appeared to injure him for a moment.  Ilya Kovalchuk and Ryan Callahan had a pair of incidents, one of which resulted in coincidental roughing minors.  Meanwhile, hockey-wise, Brodeur and the Devils kept the Rangers off the scoreboard in the second period, but failed to extent the lead on several odd-man situations.  Over-passing and missed passes prevented many scoring chances for the Devils.

The 2-0 score held into the third period, but early in the period, Derek Stepan high-sticked Mark Fayne, putting the Devils on an early power play.  It took four seconds and the puck was in the net.  Adam Henrique won the faceoff back to Kovalchuk at the left point, and he stepped into a slapshot that Lundqvist bobbled, and Parise buried the rebound five-hole to make it 3-0.  The nastiness took over the game after that.  In total, 48 penalty minutes were assessed in the third period.  Many of them belonged to ex-Devil Mike Rupp, who committed a series of infractions in a very short time, including what appeared to be a sucker-punch on Brodeur.  A mini-line brawl followed and the two head coaches even had a shouting match at each other.  The Devils ended up on a four-minute power play, and 1:20 of 5-on-3 time following another penalty, but couldn’t bury any of their chances.

Ruslan Fedotenko broke Brodeur’s shutout bid in the final minutes on a weak shot from the right side to cut the deficit to 3-1, and the Rangers pressed for a few minutes, but Zach Parise’s empty net goal, with an assist from Brodeur, capped the scoring for the night.  Brodeur’s fourth assist of the playoffs sets a new scoring record for goaltenders in a single post-season.  Brodeur is one point behind Patrik Elias in these playoffs as well.

Despite the win, there was a sour leftover feeling on both sides.  The Devils weren’t too thrilled with some of the Rangers’ antics throughout the game, including Staal’s chop on Elias, Stu Bickel’s cross-check to Ryan Carter’s head, Marian Gaborik’s elbow to Marek Zidlicky’s head and Rupp’s incidents.  The Rangers weren’t happy with Kovalchuk’s spear on Ryan Callahan, either.

Bryce Salvador continues his incredible playoff run.  Salvador, who had 9 points in 82 regular season games, has posted 10 points in the playoffs so far, including his goal and assist on Parise’s empty netter in Game 4.  He also logged 21:26 of ice-time, which was second to his defensive partner, Marek Zidlicky, for ice-time on the team.  As a side note, the Rangers, who are known for their shot-blocking, blocked 12 shots in the game, while the Devils blocked 13.  The Devils were able to find shooting lanes and get pucks on Lundqvist, who was still good as usual, but not enough to hold the Devils off the scoreboard in this one.  The Devils finished with 30 shots on goal, while the Rangers had 29.

One area that the Devils will likely continue to work on is their power play.  After struggling in Game 3, it did produce a goal in Game 4, but they failed on Rupp’s double-minor, which included an extended 5-on-3 advantage, and an additional power play after that.  They didn’t get enough shots on goal with their power play, but made up for it by continuing to dominate 5-on-5 play.  They also killed off the Rangers’ lone power play chance in the game, which overlapped from the first period to early in the second.

The Devils and Rangers will now head to Madison Square Garden once again for Game 5 on Wednesday night.  The Rangers have played a pair of Game 5’s in tied series already this playoff season, winning one and losing the other.  The Devils will look to win back-to-back games for the first time this series and have a chance to clinch a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals with a win on home ice in Game 6.

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

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