The New Jersey Devils decisively defeated the Ottawa Senators 4-1 tonight in Ottawa, earning Scott Clemmensen's 20th win, the Devils' 30th win, and a continued winning streak. IPB did a live-blog of the game and they were
pleasantly surprised. The game as a whole was not perfect. New Jersey needs to really watch those sticks with 3 high sticking calls and a hooking minor. But the Devils were the better team tonight; and it showed - especially in the third period.
The game itself started off not quite as ideal, but the Devils had the better of the play in the first period. The Devils struck first when Brian Gionta, who must have made 3 moves or some such to get up ice. He fires a killer pass to a streaking Patrik Elias into the crease. Elias tries to stop and collect, but he's too far! Fortunately, the puck careens right off Elias' skate and in for the game's first goal.
However, the Senators battled and eventually got into the game thanks to some power plays. This game highlights the difference between a good penalty kill and a successful penalty kill. It's a success when the other team doesn't convert their power play. A good kill is when the defending team stops the other team from building anything off of their power play. Early on, the Devils took two dumb high sticking calls in the second half of the first; giving the Senators the momentum to press hard on the Devils. Clemmensen came up big and the Devils were helped out by the home team's poor passing.
Yet, they got the momentum and used it in the second period to keep on building. Bryce Salvador got caught hooking off a faceoff for the Senators' third power play. This time, they made the Devils pay. The killers close off Daniel Alfredsson, which usually means he has to make a pass back to the point, into the corner, or have it taken away. But this is a Daniel Alfredsson - an excellent hockey player, and passer of the puck. He tosses it cross ice to Alexandre Picard for a blazing shot that Clemmensen had no real chance and it ties up the game.
Proof of the point that dumb penalties are not acceptable - even if you are on a winning streak and playing against a team near the bottom of the conference. If there's one thing the Devils can stand to work on - it's that.
That wakes up the Devils and the good shifts started appearing for New Jersey. Eventually, they get another break. Johnny Oduya fires a shot wide and it bounces off the boards to Jamie Langenbrunner. Elliot turns perpendicular to the goal to face Langenbrunner. BIG MISTAKE! Langenbrunner gets the smart idea to fire it real hard at Elliot and hope for the bank, and it works. It worked so well and it breaks the deadlock. The goal really took the wind out of Ottawa's sails (and the crowd!) and the Devils start working hard on the attack. Top line against top line, the Devils win. Fourth line against whomever, the Devils win. Parise's unit? Do I need to tell you?
And then there was the third period - one of the best the Devils have played all season! It starts off with, well, just watch this:
Let me just say: Zach Parise OWNS. And Jamie Langenbrunner finishes the play perfectly to earn a brace for himself and the Devils a 3-1 lead. Excellent, excellent stuff. The Devils continue to roll until Brendan Shanahan makes a big mistake with his stick. I believe it hit Alfredsson right in the mouth. Given that he was bleeding quite a bit from there, it's a safe bet. 4 minutes of PP time for Ottawa.
And the Devils didn't put on a good penalty kill. They put up one of the best of the season. Not one shot on net by Ottawa. The key to the success on that kill was that the Devils rotated 3 units on the 4 minute kill. It was shrewd move by Sutter that paid off big. It meant more fresh guys were on the ice to make plays. The great kill was also made possible by great heads up play from the likes of John Madden (for example) and defensemen filling in those passing and shooting lanes. Even when things went awry like when Bryce Salvador had his stick break, he didn't panic. He moved it from the corner, back into the slot area for an attempt to block, and the other Devils moved the play away from Salvador, got a clear, and Bryce was able to get a stick. Penalty killed. Not one sniff for Ottawa and the boos rained down like nice sun-shower on a spring day!
Shanahan made up for his high stick just after halfway through the third. Mike Rupp takes a great breakout pass from Travis Zajac (Sutter did some line mixing at this point. Before this it was Parise-Zubrus-Gionta) into center ice. He tosses it to Shanahan on his right, and Shanahan has space. More than enough to rip one past Elliott for his second goal as a Devil, and the one that pretty much iced the game. Ottawa didn't even bother pulling Elliott late and the Devils start off this week great.
Zach Parise didn't get named as a star tonight, but I felt he was the hardest working forward out there. He was just dogged on the puck and directing the play around him. And that assist. THAT assist was glorious. He didn't score, but he gets the GSM tag anyway. I decree it! Jamie Langenbrunner, the game's first star, was just as solid. 5 shots on net, and 2 goals that both turned the game New Jersey's way and really put the screws to the home team. Great game from the captain. And so they don't get ignored: Oduya, Colin White, and Paul Martin were big on the big kill and had good nights on the blueline. White had 5 hits, Oduya had 5 blocks, and Martin had 4 blocks in his 23:33 of icetime.
Overall, it was a solid win by the Devils. They went on the road, they didn't play down to the level of their opponents, and while the first two period were just "OK," the Devils had some trouble at times breaking through Ottawa's 1-2-2 (something they'll see a lot of on Thursday). Not to mention the penalties. Regardless, and most importantly, they really stepped it up in the third instead of mailing it in and it proved to be the big difference maker. You really couldn't tell the team had 5 days off before this game; they looked solid skating and you got to feel good about this win.
Unless you support Ottawa, of course. Thanks to all who read the game threads/previews (should I split them up?)! Boston awaits!