Outworking the Rangers

I really could just say: Colin White played in this game, Scott Clemmensen was strong and finally got a shutout, the Devils battled well, they won 3-0, here's the NHL.com recap, and WHOOOOOO!!!

Of course, I have a little more to say than just that.  Josh at 2 Man Advantage has something to say in the form of pictures.  IPB said it in a liveblog.  Jersey at Imperfect Dynasty said it was fitting for Clemmensen.  And Gulitti has the Devils also saying things with postgame quotes.

Ultimately, this was a very chippy, turnover laden game.   The Rangers certainly weren't going to let a repeat of the Dallas debacle happen in New Jersey!  And the Devils were up for the task. Call it the night of a thousand stickchecks. It was often where, say, the Rangers defense would be pressured, the Devils would force a turnover, only they can't handle it, and the Rangers get it back only to lose it later.  The game became a long, 60 minute battle for the puck, leading to numerous flare-ups and - especially in the third period - glorious giveaways to the Devils.

The Devils won most of these battles, moreover as the game went on. The Devils defense became more poised in taking back possession rather than the increasingly desperate Rangers defense constantly intervening (and succeeding) at crucial times. Even then, many clearances had to be made multiple times due to blocks (by the by, Johnny Oduya had 5 shot blocks tonight!), bounces off the boards, etc.  

The only battles the Devils didn't do so well on were on the penalty front.  There were four power plays given to the Rangers in the first period alone.  Thankfully, the Rangers' offense sucks, Clemmensen was a vacuum with the puck, and the Devils' penalty killers weren't fazed by any approach the Rangers took.  Great job for that half of the special teams. While I would love to see the argument for the holding call on Zubrus, as he was getting slashed en route to the sideboards with the puck by at least 2 Rangers, some of these calls were really avoidable. Especially Rupp's ridiculous hit away from the play.

Speaking of calls, seriously, Zubrus, I don't know if it's your size or what, but you took 3 minors tonight.  Ease up, man.  You don't have to make up for the fact that you only took 4 minors in all of January.  It's OK to stay out of the box.

Regardless, despite the Rangers having ample time to get something going, the Devils outshot the Rangers 13-7 in the first period.  They came close to beating Lundqvist a couple times and if there was someone set up in the slot for some of the rebounds on those long shots, we're talking goals.  Alas, it wasn't until the second period that the Devils really broke through with the lamplighters.  Bobby Holik got it started with putting one past Lundqvist off a rebound right on his doorstep.   And when Brandon Dubinsky's response to this goal was a hold on a Devil 22 seconds later, Zach Parise made them pay the price with a similar kind of goal for his thirty-first goal of the season.  Poor Lundqvist. The fans made sure he heard about it; but those really should have been prevented by the defense - either by getting to the puck first or forcing those Devils forwards away from the crease to begin with.

While the Devils would go on to not use a 5-on-3 to their advantage, what was good was that the Devils kept pushing for that third goal.  Mike Rupp made a big interception, went in, and got the crossbar for his troubles.  Patrik Elias had two great chances, only to be denied by Lundqvist each time.  The Devils maybe were outshot in the third, 11-7, but they had more quality scoring chances.   Credit the excellent work by the Devils' defenders, and Scott Clemmensen.  He earned his shutout by keeping those rebounds in control.  And what he couldn't do, the Devils got to those pucks first.  I don't think the Rangers had too many second-chance shots, and they really could have used them!

The thing is, as the third period rolled around, you could see that the Rangers' efforts were starting to wane.  And that's how the Devils had an easier time (as it looked, it never really is easy on the ice, is it?) in repeling the Rangers and in getting better looks on net.   Scott Gomez had 3 shots, a ton of blown passes, and got beaten on the faceoff more often than not against Travis Zajac and John Madden.  Nikolai Zherdev was a nonfactor.  Chris Drury didn't lead his team to much. I couldn't tell you whether Wade Redden really did anything more than that, say, Mike Mottau did tonight.  

The Rangers eventually slowed down and gave a mediocre effort (at best) when they needed a big one for a comeback.   Instead, the Devils kept pressing, and they iced it with Zach Parise chasing down a loose puck, getting it, and going all the way down to put it in the empty net.  Parise worked hard in that whole sequence. Even those it was near the end of the game at 2-0 New Jersey, it was evidence of how the Devils performed all game - they may have not won every battle or shift, but they didn't let the game go by!  (And now our resident Goal Scoring Machine can get back to chillin')

While I'm sure Sutter isn't all smiles (is he ever?) about how the puck possession was iffy on both sides; he has to be pleased that the hardest working team of the two got the win.  What's more, it was a decisive one.  Given that it was over Our Hated Rivals, then we all can be smiles for Sutter and for our team.

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