It's so good to see your favorite team, which should be the New Jersey Devils, get a victory. It's even better when it's over a hated rival, like the Philadelphia Flyers. It's best when your favorite team gets the victory over the rival by simply outplaying them.
This is not to say the game was 60 minutes of Devils dominance with the Flyers somehow scoring 3 goals. Of course not. The Flyers weren't total doormats. They had shifts where they actually threatened to score. They had attacks that were dangerous. They capitalized on a few errors by the Devils. They had a 2-0 lead at one point in the second period and a 3-2 lead at another point in the third period. The Devils fought back to tie up the game and just couldn't get that fourth goal in regulation or overtime. A shootout was required
Nevertheless, the Devils were the superior team on the ice by several metrics. In terms of shots on goal, the Devils out-shot the Flyers 39-23. The second period was particularly filled with Devils shots as they put up 21 on Sergei Bobrovsky to the Flyers' 9 on Johan Hedberg. In terms of special teams, the Flyers had a whopping 5 single man advantages and 50 seconds of a 5-on-3. Not only did the Devils keep them from converting, they were held to mere 4 shots on net. It's arguable that the Devils had better shots on the PK than the Flyers did with any of their four. In terms of Corsi, the difference in shooting attempts which approximates possession, it was no contest. The Devils were great after the first period at +12; ridiculously ludicrous +30 after the second period; a brilliant and rare +36 by the end of the thrid period; and a still-brilliant-and-rare +33 at the end of overtime. Even the most jaded eye for Corsi values has to say "wow" at all of that.
The Devils owned the puck; had a lights-out PK unit; out-shot the Flyers; and matched them goal for goal. The Devils were better than the Flyers and simply earned two points with their performance. They got it in the shootout, and the losing streak is over. As usual, I have a lot more to say about tonight's win after the jump. For the opposition's perspective, please check out Travis Hughes' recap at Broad Street Hockey.
The Stats: The NHL.com Game Summary | The NHL.com Event Summary | The NHL.com Play by Play Log | The Time on Ice Shift Charts | The Time on Ice Head to Head Ice Time Charts | The Time on Ice Corsi Charts
The Highlights: Do you want to see six goals and a load of saves? If so, please check out this video from NHL.com:
I Hope You Liked the Forward Lines: After a performance like this (39 SOG, 3 goals), why would you want to change them? The team's first three lines were strong going forward. The Patrik Elias line had the best possession, the Henrique line scored twice, and the Carter line just kept shooting all night long. The odd man out was Mattias Tedenby, who got saddled with fourth line duty, which was quite brief. I don't think he's in the dog house as he did play quite a bit in overtime.
In Praise of...Mark Fraser: Surprisingly, the Devils scratched defenseman Andy Greene tonight. I guess it was just to give him the night off? If there's an injury, then we'll know about it soon enough. In any case, the scratch meant that Mark Fraser got to play his first NHL game of the season. It also meant some mixing up of the defensive pairings; Adam Larsson usually played with Bryce Salvador and Anton Volchenkov got paired with Fraser.
I must say, Fraser played quite well tonight. I was afraid that the Flyers would pick on him all night long, but with the exception of his two penalties, I was pleased with how he played. He wasn't sluggish, he wasn't unaware of his surroundings, he pinched in appropriately, and he was at his best during the 3:30 of shorthanded ice time he got tonight. The two boarding calls he took were dumb. I don't care if the Flyer turned or not, he's experienced enough to know you can't just shove a dude hard into the boards when he's in a prone position. That's my only beef with his performance. For his first game after being scratched for the prior 10, I was pleased.
In Praise of...the Defense: The Devils defense had a much, much, much better night than last night. They weren't perfect, but they had a good night overall. They got into shooting and passing lanes to break up Flyers' attacks. The defense generally cleaned up loose pucks and rebounds in front of Hedberg, which denied Philly from those dangerous second chances. I can't complain about the results: 23 shots against and only 4 of which came from their power plays.
Along with Fraser, I was really impressed with Henrik Tallinder. He had a real bounce-back night considering how awful he was against Toronto. In terms of moments, I absolutely loved his little swipe at a puck to deny Claude Giroux of a glorious chance on a power play; and his lofted pass to spring Ilya Kovalchuk on a shorthanded breakaway. In general, he was just solid against Philly's top six. His only major error was hitting a Flyer away from the play in the first period, which was a legit interference call. I also like how Larsson rebounded as well, he didn't look like a rookie getting exposed out there.
Legit Interference Calls and Some Not-So-Much: Devils fans have some reason to have some bad feelings towards referees Marc Joannette and Kyle Rehman. Their first interference call on Larsson and their interference call on Nick Palmieri really weren't interference calls. Larsson was just trying to skate ahead and just casually bumped Wayne Simmonds. How that was interfering with him from the play, I couldn't tell you. Palmieri was tagged for a minor penalty because he got hit by Harrison Zolniercyzk. The refs thought it was a pick play, but Palmieri had no idea a Flyer was coming at him - there was no intent to block him, he was just standing where he was on the ice. The other interference calls were fine; Larsson did hip check Andreas Nodl too late in the third period. Still, those two were bad. Thankfully, the Devils PK units made sure Philadelphia didn't take advantage of the officials' foolishness on those calls. Or the legit calls, for that matter.
In the shootout, they and the fine people in Toronto also awarded Daniel Briere a goal despite the fact that Briere clearly stopped before he took his shot. Hedberg came out way too early to pokecheck the puck away from Briere; but Briere stopped his forward progress and momentum before he shot it. By rule, that shouldn't have been a goal. How they ruled that it was good, I really do not know. Thankfully, it didn't decide the game.
One more thought about the officials, the linesmen got in the way of Devils defenders twice tonight. First, it was Volchenkov, which had some role in the Flyers' first goal. Second, it was Salvador, which slowed him up to allow
Maxime Talbot Zac Rinaldo to go on a breakaway in the second period. Come on, men.
Reviewing the Goals Against: Of course, the Devils did allow three goals and they were caused just simple errors by the skaters in front of the goaltender. Let's go through each of them:
The first one started off as a fluke, as a linesman picked Volchenkov at the blueline. The defender fell down and in the fracas, the Flyers were able to dump it in. Fraser got it to first but had to move it along as he had a Flyer behind him. No big deal, Brad Mills was able to get behind the net. Mills, for whatever reason, decided to poke the puck ahead instead of trying to catch up to it. He somehow didn't see a man in orange ahead of him. That was Sean Couturier, who took the puck and fed it right in front to Zac Rinaldo. Rinaldo delayed to let a sliding Volchenkov slip past and he fired it past Hedberg. I was surprised the scorers didn't give Mills a secondary assist on that goal. It was a bad decision and, not coincidentally, his last shift of the night.
The second goal against was just a failure by the Devils in their own end. Jaromir Jagr skates the puck in and the Devils just watch him. Well, that's not entirely true. Mark Fayne chased him a little bit to force Jagr to go behind the net. Tallinder turned and started moving towards Jagr, but by that point, the Czech sniper saw Giroux wide open on the other side of the slot. Fayne was dealing with Scott Hartnell in front of the net, and the forwards just watched as the pass slid right to Giroux for an easy one-timer. I can forgive Fayne and Tallinder somewhat; but the forwards - namely Elias - just did a terrible job backchecking there. It's inexcusable to leave an opponent that wide open, much less Claude Giroux, the Flyers' top forward.
As for the third goal, Fayne has to take some heat for this. He had the puck at the point and tried to force a shot with Maxime Talbot right in front of him. Believe it or not, it got blocked. It went right off the shin pads and with no one behind Fayne, Talbot was off to the races. Fayne kept whacking at him from behind, and ultimately fouled him. The refs awarded Talbot a penalty shot. Talbot came in wide and slow and beat Hedberg past his right side. Moose probably could have done better, but Fayne put him in the position to begin with.
Fortunately, the Devils didn't repeat these errors later on in the game and actually made up for them. The Devils had a few shifts, namely in the opening of the second and third periods, where the Flyers really came close to pulling ahead. Fortunately, they didn't get burnt from playing with that fire and ultimately took back control of the game in terms of possession in each period.
Congratulations on Your First NHL Goal: Adam Henrique played big tonight in between Zach Parise and Kovalchuk. He got 3 shots on net, had 2 blocked, played 17:56, knocked a puck to Parise for the Devils' first goal, and scored his very first NHL goal in the second period. Kovalchuk took a puck away from Andrej Meszaroes in the offensive zone and tossed a nice pass to Henrique on the makeshift two-on-one. Henrique cooly finished it for his first NHL goal. As far as first NHL goals go, it was pretty good. Not to mention important, as it tied up the game 2-2.
The Ilya Kovalchuk Section: I'm sure some fans will wish he had more than 2 shots on net, and that he scored on that shorthanded breakaway in the second period. Truth be told, he had a really good night. He attempted 9 shots, so he was in position to make things happen and made an effort. (I'd feel sorry for whoever blocked 5 of those shots, but they were Flyers so, you know.) His slapshot off a faceoff ultimately led to Zach Parise's first goal, so he got an assist there. Kovalchuk fed Henrique the pass for the game's first equalizer. Kovalchuk fore-checked well along with Parise and looked to set up his teammates well. He had a good game.
Unfortunately, there could be trouble with him. He was skating around on a shift late in the third period At the end of it, he immediately motioned to the bench and went right to the locker room. Kovalchuk did not return for overtime or the shootout. The Devils initially said it was a lower body injury. After the game, Tom Gulitti at Fire & Ice got confirmation that Kovalchuk pulled a leg muscle. Let us hope it's a minor injury and he can come back soon. The Devils can ill afford to lose another skilled forward.
The Zach Parise Section: Parise had a good bounce-back night too. He only had 3 shots, but he did score on one of them which is quite good. His forechecking was solid as ever, and he was great on the PK. Most of all he cut down on the turnovers on offense. He wasn't forcing as many passes and he wasn't making assumptions on where his teammates were. It's definitely more of what we'd like to see from the captain. Also: his goal in the shootout could be appropriately described as "sick-nasty."
I Love the Patrik Elias Line: Dainius Zubrus was big on the PK, including one massive block on the 5-on-3 kill, and was robbed by Bobrovsky twice tonight. He was definitely hustling out there, though I'm not so sure how his Corsi (+5) was less than Petr Sykora's +15 and Elias' +14. Either way, he gave a good effort. Sykora did the same, though I wish his shot selection was a little better as he was blocked four times.
As for Elias, well, he showed why Devils fans love him. Let me describe his best moment. As time went on in the third period, Peter DeBoer sent out Elias with David Clarkson and Tedenby in the hopes of "getting something going." It worked. Matt Carle's clearance up the middle of the ice was picked off by Elias, and he immediately threw it forward to Clarkson in the slot. Clarkson proceeded to beat Bobrovsky easily and tie the game. Yeah, he should have picked up Giroux on that second Flyers goal. However, Elias tried his best to make up for it with 4 shots on net and all kinds of feeds to set up his teammates. Oh, and he got the shootout clinching goal right under Bobrovsky's pad. While not perfect, well done from #26.
Hey Flyers You Can't Leave Clarkson That Open: Clarkson had a wonderful night. He had 9 shots on net. 9. He alone represented approximately 23.07% of the Devils' shots tonight. Some were basic, and others were more difficult for Bobrovsky. His ninth was the most important, his game-tying goal in the third period. He racked up a +15 in Corsi, played physical without being stupid, and did I mention he had nine shots on net. Clarkson actually could have had 11 - he missed once and got blocked on another. I don't want him permanently moved up into the top six where he'd have to adjust with other guys. I'd rather just let him do his thing on the third line right now. If need be, then mix him up on a few shifts like tonight if he's doing well.
Shhhhhh...: Nick Palmieri had a good game. 3 shots on net, 3 blocked, and a staggering +13 in Corsi. No wonder Tedenby was kept on the fourth line. Palmieri was playing too well force DeBoer to rotate him out.
What About that Power Play: The Devils had three opportunities, but one of them was abbreviated for 11 seconds. The first full power play sucked. The second one was better, but it didn't yield much on net. Chaos near the Philadelphia net, yes. Clear shots on net, no. Bobrovsky only had to stop 2 of them while shorthanded, and he did. Clearly not as good as last night, but not wall-punchingly awful either.
Backhanded Compliment: Claude Giroux is the most dangerous forward for Philadelphia. I was very concerned that he'd pull another goal or make another play when the game was tied 3-3 to break the Devils fans' hearts. His talent level is that high; it has to be respected even on a night like tonight where he played most of the game in his own end of the rink at evens (-21 in Corsi and -16 in Fenwick).
Mooooooooooose: Moose had a good game. Maybe he could have done better on Talbot's penalty shot and perhaps he went down a little too early prior to Zac Rinaldo's goal; but he made a few important stops tonight. I felt he was fine. He nearly had a horrible moment, when the Flyers dumped the puck in off the glass during a power play in the first period. While Hedberg went behind the net, the puck just bounced off a support and right into the slot. Thankfully, there was a man in white to clear it out instead of an absolute Flyers gift.
What About Bob?: I have to respect Sergei Bobrovsky's performance. It's not his fault his Chris-Pronger-less defense made two bad clearances that the Devils scored on. It was kind of his fault that Parise beat him with that backhand in the right circle, though. Still, he was the main reason why the Devils didn't blow the Flyers out of their own building tonight. That and some bounces not going New Jersey's way (e.g. Parise missing Kovalchuk on a 2-on-1 pass in the third; Zubrus hitting the post); but mostly the goaltender. I'm glad the Devils made him work hard tonight with 36 saves. I hope it becomes a trend in future games.
How Could I Forget: Tonight was the Devils' first intra-division win of the season. Woo.
Those are my thoughts on tonight's game. What are yours? Were you as impressed at how the Devils dominated on shots and shooting attempts? Were you impressed with the comeback victory? Who on the Devils impressed you the most? What would you like the Devils to improve before the next game? What from tonight's performance do you want the Devils to continue doing in future games? Are you also hoping Andy Greene and Ilya Kovalchuk will be fine for Saturday? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about tonight's win over the Second Rate Rivals in the comments. Thank you to everyone who read and commented in the Gamethread, thanks to everyone who followed @InLouWeTrust on Twitter, and thank you for reading.