The Devils entered tonight’s game desperate for a consistent effort and two points. The team went up against their division rivals, the Pittsburgh Penguins, who hadn’t lost a regulation game in their past ten contests. While the Devils put forth a consistent effort, it was the same losing effort. The Penguins defeated the Devils, 2-1, sending New Jersey to their sixth straight road loss.
Sidney Crosby Sinks The Devils
There’s one name that makes Devils fans instantly feel nervous and angry at once – Sidney Crosby. Coming into tonight’s contest, the Penguins captain recorded 35 points (17 goals, 18 assists) in 33 career games against the Devils. Crosby carried a 15-game point streak into the matchup as well. And in only two periods, Crosby collected two points – including the game-winning goal – to sink the Devils.
Crosby’s first point of the night – an assist – helped even the game, 1-1. The Penguins moved through the neutral zone, and didn’t look to have anything developing. A cross-ice pass was tipped by Adam Mair, but Crosby used his back skate to kick the puck to his stick blade. The Penguins’ captain then moved down into the Devils’ zone along the side boards. He passed across the ice to Pascal Dupuis, who fired a one-timer past Johan Hedberg for his eighth goal of the year.
Crosby’s second point of the night proved to be the game-winning goal. With the puck in the Devils’ zone, Alex Goligoski drove to the faceoff circle and shot the puck. Hedberg made the initial save, but the puck caromed off his pads and to the side of the net. Crosby, all alone, dropped to one knee and fired the puck into the open net for his 24th goal of the season.
Crosby was the reason the Devils lost tonight. As much as fans despise him, he’s virtually unstoppable right now.
The Devils’ Powerplay Shows Life
One of the Devils’ major problems during the season has been the powerplay. It’s been especially dreadful on the road, where the team had one powerplay tally prior to Saturday’s game against Philadelphia. But New Jersey went 2-for-3 against the Flyers, and that solid play continued against the Penguins, accounting for their only goal of the night.
With Dupuis in the box for hooking during the first period, Mattias Tedenby controlled the puck and brought it around the net. The rookie right-winger moved from behind the net and found a streaking Jason Arnott entering the Penguins zone. Arnott one-timed the pass, but the shot went wide right. The puck hit Brian Rolston, but the left-winger stayed with the puck and fired home the shot for his second goal of the season.
For all of the man-advantage struggles, the Devils have shown improvement the past two games. Their 3-for-7, good for about 43 percent. Combine that with better numbers at home, and the Devils powerplay is showing improvement.
John MacLean’s Swan Song?
The Devils needed a win tonight, plain and simple. Another loss meant yet another losing streak and another loss against a quality opponent. As its been all year, the Devils failed to capitalize on opportunities and allowed other teams to dominate games. Instead of stretching leads, the Devils watched them slip away. They couldn’t get anything going, and it might have cost their coach his job.
As I posted here, I don’t believe MacLean should get the axe. Two weeks ago, this team looked like it was turning a corner. But since winning three of four two weeks ago, the Devils dropped three straight. They haven’t shown any signs of a turnaround under MacLean. The team has three days off before they face Ottawa. General manager Lou Lamoriello may feel this is the best time to change coaches.
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The Devils came into this short two-game homestand needing points. New Jersey, losers of their last three games, seemed to battle frustration and unlucky bounces during their terrible start. It wouldn’t get any easier tonight, as the Washington Capitals visited the Prudential Center. It seemed like yet another letdown in a season full of them. But by the end of the first period, the Devils showed they may have finally turned a corner. In a night where they honored Pat Burns, New Jersey destroyed the Capitals, 5-0, earning their second home win of the season.
Jason Arnott Powers The Offense
Coming into tonight’s game, Arnott led the team in goals. Not Ilya Kovalchuk , but Arnott. He’s been the best offensive option, and he displayed those skills tonight, helping put the Capitals away.
Arnott extended the Devils lead to 2-0 at 16:15 of the period. The center started the play at the blue line, grabbing a loose puck at the blue line. He skated down the side boards, drawing two defenders to him. Capitals goalie Braden Holtby came out of the net to challenge Arnott, but the center simply went behind the net and deposited the puck into the empty net on a wraparound attempt for his seventh goal of the season.
Arnott scored his second of the night in the second period, extending the Devils lead to 4-0. Andy Greene threw the puck toward the net, and Patrik Elias deflected the puck on net. Holtby made the initial save, but left the rebound in the low slot. Arnott swept the puck between a defender’s legs and into the net for his eighth goal of the season.
Mattias Tedenby – Penalty Shot Magic
Ever since his callup, Tedenby provided excitement and, importantly, offensive firepower. The rookie once again showed his scoring prowess, converting on the first penalty shot at The Rock since 2009.
Tedenby drew the penalty shot after beating Jon Erskine for a short breakaway. The Caps defender pulled Tedenby down, and the referee signaled for the penalty shot immediately. Tedenby moved in slowly on Holtby, who came out to challenge the right-winger. As Holtby retreated toward his net, Tedenby pulled the puck to the backhand and put the shot on net. The puck deflected off of Holtby’s left arm and into the net for his third goal of the season.
Devils coach John MacLean was pleased with the rookie’s performance tonight.
“He’s a young guy,” MacLean told Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record. “He has great confidence with the puck. You’ve got to let his creativity come and he skates so well that he makes something happen each time he’s out there and you just have to hedge that with being responsible and he was tonight.”
The Moose Is On The Loose
Johan Hedberg wasn’t happy about being skipped over for Saturday’s start against St. Louis. He made that fact known during the pre-game skate, and came into tonight’s game with a chip on his shoulder. After his performance against the Capitals, we might get used to seeing Mike McKenna glued to the end of the bench.
The Devils needed Hedberg to be strong tonight, and the goalie stood up to the challenge. Hedberg stopped 30 shots tonight, blanking the Capitals for his 15th career shutout. They weren’t all cupcake saves either. Hedberg was in a zone, and it seemed like nothing could stop him.
His most impressive save came during the second period, with the Devils already ahead, 5-0. Alexander Semin carried the puck into the Devils zone, and made a beeline toward the slot. The left-winger fired a quick wrist shot on net, and Hedberg quickly flashed the glove and made the save.
“Heddy’s a veteran,” MacLean said to Gulitti. “He wasn’t happy that he wasn’t playing, but understood and he bounced back tremendously, which we expected him to do. It’s good for him because he works extremely hard.”
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As the New Jersey Devils approach the 20-game mark, the team’s struggles fall under greater scrutiny as valuable points fall by the wayside. The Devils traveled north of the border to face off against the Toronto Maple Leafs, who won one of their last nine games. But like so many times this season, the Devils couldn’t take advantage of the situation. New Jersey dropped yet another game, losing to the Maple Leafs, 3-1, continuing their horrid start to the season.
Phil Kessel Sinks The Devils
From the drop of the puck, Kessel showed that he would be a force the entire night. He generated some of the better scoring chances, and narrowly missed converting on a powerplay opportunity when he put a puck off the post. But when it mattered most, the former Boston Bruin would bury his opportunity and help defeat the Devils.
The Maple Leafs, who controlled the puck for most of the second period, began a possession in the Devils zone. Rookie Nazem Kadri held the puck along the right point, and found a wide-open Kessel across the ice. The rookie passed the puck through the entire defense and to Kessel at the left circle, who had all the time in the world to pick his spot. The right-winger fired a shot past the pads of Martin Brodeur for his ninth goal of the season and the game-winning goal.
Jonas Gustavsson – No Goals For You!
The Devils faced a golden opportunity tonight, facing an inconsistent Gustavsson instead of Jean-Sebastian Gigure. But the opportunity quickly turned sour, as the Leafs’ goalie came to play tonight. Gustavsson stopped several quality shots tonight, including denying all 12 of the Devils chances in the third period. New Jersey continually tried to bang the puck low on Gustavsson, but the goalie met every challenge with his pads.
Gustavsson finished with 29 saves, allowing one (fluke) goal in the second period. He earned first star honors from the press, and he’s the reason the Maple Leafs controlled the game.
Martin Brodeur and Another Injury Scare
Brodeur, who started his third straight game, was in the zone tonight. The Devils goalie made several great saves, and got beat on some good chances. But as the third period began, a new goalie skated to net for the Devils. Johan Hedberg began the third, and Brodeur took a seat on the bench. Since it wasn’t ineffective play, it had to be an injury. Just like that, the fears of several New Jersey fans spiked from little concern to nervous sweating.
It looked like Brodeur re-injured his elbow during a second period save on Toronto right-winger Mike Brown. After a turnover along the side boards, Mitchell broke in on net. He tried to cut across the front for a stuff attempt, but Brodeur went down to the ice and knocked the puck off of Mitchell’s stick. But as he went down, Brodeur let go of his stick and spun into a curled position. When he got back up to his feet, he slowly picked up the stick. Replays show Brodeur gingerly held the stick and favored his right elbow throughout the rest of the period.
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The New Jersey Devils traveled to Boston on Monday night, fresh off their first home win of the season. The Devils looked to beat the Bruins and uber-goalie Tim Thomas to start their first win streak of the season. The Bruins, however, wouldn’t allow the Devils the pleasure of winning on their home ice. Boston scored once each period and defeated the Devils, 3-0.
Tim Thomas Stones The Devils
Entering tonight’s game, Thomas carried impressive season statistics. In ten games, the Bruins goalie was 8-1-0 with a 1.45 goals-against average and a .957 save percentage. And while he carried rather pedestrian numbers against the Devils (5-5-0-3, 2.43 GAA, .920 save %), Thomas played stellar hockey tonight. It was two desperation saves that kept the game scoreless in the opening minute and ultimately affected the tone of the game.
The Devils generated two great scoring chances only 40 seconds into the opening period. Patrik Elias broke in on a 2-on-1 with Mattias Tedenby, and held the puck as he cut across the slot. Thomas came out of the net, and Elias looked to have a wide-open chance. But Thomas kicked out the pad to make a save, and stoned Tedenby with the back of his knee on a rebound attempt.
If the Devils score, this game may have ended differently. But a hot goaltender will get lucky, and Thomas made one lucky save to keep his team even early. Thomas stopped 27 shots en route to his league-leading fourth shutout of the season.
“It’s unfortunate,” Devils coach John MacLean said. “We had a chance there early, but we couldn’t bury our chances. They got some chances and put them in. Our stars didn’t bury their chances.”
Checking In To The Sin Bin
The Devils spent 19 minutes in the penalty box tonight, and it seemed like the constant whistles helped stymie whatever momentum the Devils generated. Within those 19 minutes, the Devils faced a 5-on-3 and a double minor. With all those minutes in the box, the Bruins got several advantages, and Michael Ryder took full advantage to score the game-winning goal.
Matt Corrente and Adam Mair took penalties in the first period to give the Bruins a 5-on-3 opportunity. With both players in the box, Ryder received a pass from Patrice Bergeron near the goal line. The right-winger held the puck and fired a shot on Martin Brodeur. The puck snuck through a gap between the Devils goalie and the near post for Ryder’s sixth goal of the year.
The refs didn’t make the best of calls tonight, but the Devils should have found ways to avoid the box tonight. They couldn’t, and it severely hampered any offense they tried to muster.
These Bruins Are Lightning Quick
The Bruins struck quickly against Brodeur, opening the second and third periods with first minute goals to bury the Devils.
Nathan Horton scored 43 seconds into the third period to put the Bruins ahead, 2-0. Milan Lucic carried the puck into the neutral zone, and passed cross-ice to Horton. The right-winger carried the puck across the line and let go a wrist shot near the top of the circle. The puck beat Brodeur stick side for Horton’s eighth goal of the season.
In a bit of deja vu, Blake Wheeler scored 43 seconds into the third period to extend the Bruins lead to 3-0. With Henrik Tallinder pinching down the boards in the offensive zone, Mark Recchi created a turnover near the blue line. The veteran left-winger carried the puck through the neutral zone and fed Wheeler near the Devils’ blue line. Wheeler carried it to the circle and fired a wrist shot toward the net. The puck glanced off of Colin White’s stick and through the legs of Brodeur for Wheeler’s fourth goal of the season.
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Coming into tonight’s game, the New Jersey Devils found themselves near the bottom of the league, somewhere completely unfamiliar to them. The Edmonton Oilers, a perennial loser, could have been a team the Devils used to jumpstart their floundering season. Losing through two periods, the Devils came back to tie the game in the third and win it in overtime, 4-2. It was their first home win of the season, and they ended their homestand on a good note.
Ilya Kovalchuk Gets The Monkey Off His Back
Through the first sixteen games of the season, the Devils hadn’t seen the Kovalchuk they thought they were getting this summer. The left-winger couldn’t score and didn’t seem to gel with the players on the ice. He took some dumb penalties and looked lost on the ice. All of his frustrations culminated Wednesday night, when, breaking in on a shootout attempt, he lost the puck and didn’t get a shot on net. He left the ice to a chorus of boos.
The left-winger found redemption in a big way tonight in overtime. First, Kovalchuk drew a tripping penalty against Dustin Penner, putting the Devils on a 4-on-3 powerplay. But what he did next would turn Wednesday night’s boos into cheers.
With Penner in the box, Patrik Elias and Henrik Tallinder played catch at the point. Elias passed the puck to Tallinder, who sent it to Kovalchuk in the right circle. The left-winger one-timed the puck past Oilers goalie Devan Dubnyk for his second game-winning goal of the year.
After the goal, Kovalchuk skated to center ice, pumping his fist and looking like a new man. That goal was a HUGE relief for the left-winger, and we’ll see if it can loosen his play in the coming games.
The Kids Are Alright
With all the injuries this season, the Devils needed to pepper rookies throughout their lineup. Many of them played important roles during their time with the team, but none were more important than the goals scored by both Alexander Vasyunov and Mattias Tedenby.
Vasyunov’s first career goal at 15:43 of the first period put the Devils on the board, cutting the Oilers lead to 2-1. Both Vasyunov and Travis Zajac stayed out for a long shift as they moved into the Oilers defensive zone. Elias corralled a loose puck at the side boards and moved to the goal line. Elias then layed a pass to Zajac along the end boards, who passed the puck to the front of the net. Vasyunov skated into the slot and beat Oilers goalie Devan Dubynk for the goal.
Not to be outdone, Tedenby scored his first NHL goal at 11:00 of the third period to tie the game, 3-3. With Ales Hemsky in the box for high-sticking, the Devils won a faceoff in the Oilers zone. Andy Greene held the puck along the point, and sent a shot on net. Tedenby tipped the puck into the back of the net for the goal.
Colton Fraser Makes The Devils Pay
Coming into tonight’s game, Fraser had no goals in 14 games this year. The five-year pro would change that, doubling his total in the first ten minutes of the game.
Fraser opened the game’s scoring at 4:34 of the period, putting the Oilers ahead, 1-0. The Oilers forward drove the net and tried to stuff the puck past Martin Brodeur. The Devils goalie made two stops, but Fraser knocked in the third attempt for his goal of the season.
Fraser’s second goal at 9:50 of the period extended the Oilers lead to 2-0. Ryan Jones began the play in his own zone, flipping the puck high into the Devils zone. Olivier Magnan attempted to glove down the puck, but he missed and was knocked off the puck. Foster picked up the loose puck in the low slot and fired it past the stick of Brodeur for his second goal of the season.
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It seemed like the New Jersey Devils finally woke up tonight. While the defensive play wasn’t great, the team created scoring chances and actually converted them. They scored four goals with a goalie in the net! But home effort would be for nothing. Ilya Kovalchuk‘s failed shootout attempt (more below) would epitomize the Devils season as the team dropped their second game in a row, losing to the Buffalo Sabres, 5-4, in a shootout tonight. The loss extended their home losing streak to seven games.
Who is this #17, and what have you done with the real Kovalchuk?
The Devils spent $100 million dollars and suffered through public humiliation just to re-sign Kovalchuk, who they believed could be a difference maker. But when push came to shove tonight, the left winger once again fell flat on his face.
Kovalchuk’s heard boos during the third period of tonight’s game, when he had the chance to be the hero. The left-winger broke in on a partial breakaway against Sabres third-string goalie Jhonas Enroth, but sent a shot high over the net. But coach John MacLean would give him a chance to redeem himself. With the Devils down, 2-1, in the shootout and facing a loss, MacLean called on Kovalchuk to keep the Devils in the game. With the game on the line, Kovalchuk lost the puck and didn’t even get a shot off on net.
Just like that, Kovalchuk drew the ire of every Devils fan. Through sixteen games, Kovalchuk has three goals and eight points total. When asked if he was frustrated, Kovalchuk replied “I think we all are.”
Kovalchuk needs to find himself – and fast – to start helping this team win.
Derek Roy delivers a win
Roy skated to center ice for his shootout attempt in the fourth period after Jamie Langenbrunner put one past Enroth to knot it up. Calm and collected, Roy collected the puck and broke in on Hedberg. The forward made a beautiful move to bring the puck to his backhand. He fired it past the glove of Johan Hedberg for the game-winning goal in the shootout.
The Sabres Never Say Die
The Sabres were behind the eight ball three times tonight, and each time they came back to tie the game. The best comeback of the night came in the second period, where the Sabres would take a 2-1 lead in 13 seconds.
Jason Pominville tied the game at one with a goal at 5:22 of the second period. Tim Connolly took a shot from the point that Hedberg stopped, but a rebound went to the slot. Pominville collected the rebound and beat the Devils’ goalie for his first goal of the season.
Roy gave the Sabres a 2-1 lead merely 13 seconds later. Roy received a pass from Thomas Vanek and skated the puck over the blue line. He blasted a slap shot from the low slot that beat Hedberg for Roy’s eighth goal of the season.
The Captain backs up his talk
Langenbrunner has been a subject of fan ire for most of the season. Several fans commented the captain could only talk about improvements and attitude, not display it on the ice. But tonight, Langenbrunner proved those doubters wrong. The Devils captain scored a goal in the second period, was taken out hard into the boards but came back to play, and kept the Devils alive in the shootout.
Not only that, but Langenbrunner showed his leadership after Kovalchuk flubbed his shootout attempt. He skated to Kovalchuk first and made sure he knew the team had his back. That may seem insignificant, but support like that in the locker room is huge. I thought it was a big step for Langenbrunner, and he should quiet the critics.
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After a loss to the Rangers on Sunday, the New Jersey Devils player’s spoke about the need to get away and build team chemistry. It was all fun and games during practice today, and the Devils felt confident coming into tonight’s matchup. When it came to the game, however, the Devils were unprepared for the onslaught of Joe Thornton. The former Bruin scored three goals in two periods to help the Sharks win their first game at home, 5-2, and extend the Devils early season struggles.
Thornton trick a treat for the Sharks
San Jose struggled at home this season, and entered Wednesday night’s game still searching for the first home victory of the season. Thornton made sure the fans would get their win.
Thornton’s goal at 9:57 of the first period put the Sharks ahead of the Devils, 1-0.
The play began with a turnover in the Devils zone. Dany Heatley scooped up the loose puck at the point, and sent a pass to Thornton in the right circle. The center’s shot deflected off of Devils’ defenseman Matt Taormina‘s stick, and the puck beat Martin Brodeur stick side for his third goal of the year.
Thornton’s second goal of the game, at 18:59 of the first period extended the Sharks lead to 3-0.
Marleau put a shot on net from the side boards that Brodeur should have stopped. But the Devils goalie was tangled with Thornton, who crashed the net, and the big center poked home the puck for his fourth goal of the season.
Thornton’s third goal of the night, a powerplay tally, came at 16:55 of the second period.
After the Devils benefitted from a awkward bounce from the boards, the Sharks received one of their own. After trying to clear it around the boards, Brodeur went behind the net, expecting the puck to come behind. But it bounced off the end boards and went to the front of the net, where Thornton came crashing down. The center fired the puck past a diving Henrik Tallinder for his fifth goal of the season.
The Thorton Line gets it going
It wasn’t only Thornton lighting the lamp in the Sharks victory. Patrick Marleau collected four points (one goal, three assists), including his 700th career NHL point after assisting on Thornton’s first goal of the night. Heatley also collected four points (one goal, three assists) on the night. In total, the Thornton Line had 13 points tonight. That’s almost as many goals the Devils have scored this season.
Brodeur told Rich Chere of the Star Ledger it looked like the Thornton Line was “playing against kids.” He wasn’t wrong.
Brodeur does all he can
There are some nights where Brodeur seems superhuman. Even if he gave one of those efforts tonight, it wouldn’t have been enough for the Devils. Brodeur faced 39 shots tonight – his second consecutive game of 30-plus shots – and made 34 difficult saves. The Sharks got a fluke goal and a soft score, but Brodeur was the usual rock in the net. But when the defense gives Brodeur no support, there’s only so much he can do.
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