New Jersey Devils Storm Carolina Hurricanes in First Period in 4-1 Win

The New Jersey Devils and Carolina Hurricanes came into tonight's game coming off one-goal wins on Friday night.  Tonight, the Devils left the RBC Center with a decisive 4-1 win.  The hot streak continues for the Devils with their seventh straight win.

In tonight's game, the Devils scored early and often thanks to some great bounces.  The first goal came a little over a minute into the game, a deflection by Dainius Zubrus on a low shot from the point by Mark Fayne. The second goal was set up by Ilya Kovalchuk, shot on net from the point by Henrik Tallinder, and bounced off a Hurricane player (possibly Tuomo Ruutu).  The third goal was a right place, right time moment for Brian Rolston. Anton Volchenkov's shot was stopped, the rebound went off Rolston's chest, and the veteran winger hit it in mid-air to make it 3-0.

While the Devils got those breaks, they were really pounding the Canes in general for that period.  Carolina really didn't respond with much offense until the second period, where they took most of the initiative because they had to.  Alas, the Moose was too good, Jussi Jokinen came the closest by hitting the outside of a post, and the Devils defense cleaned up a lot of messes.  It wasn't until 6:49 into the third period when the Canes would finally get a break of their own

All that did was make the Devils realize they needed to keep Carolina somewhat honest by attacking some more, and they were rewarded when Zubrus scored a brilliant goal with a little less than 8 minutes left. After that, there was little doubt as to who was going to win.   It wasn't a dominating performance like last night's win over the Rangers.  Still, that the Devils put this kind of performance on the road just after playing a hated rival last night is laudable.

Amid all this, the line of Rolston, Patrik Elias, and Dainius Zubrus was killing it out there. Three goals from the line, all three combined for 11 of the team's 25 shots on net, and Elias assisted on each of the goals - his third being his 800th career point. Congratulations to Elias for the achievement and his wonderful performance that greatly aided the team in their win.

I have a few more thoughts on tonight's game after the jump, along with links to the game's stats and the highlight video from NHL.com.  For a perspective from fans of the opponents, please check out Canes Country.

The Stats: The NHL.com game summary for your boxscore needs; the NHL.com event summary for your stat counting needs; the Time on Ice even strength Corsi chart; the Time on Ice head to head ice time chart.

The Game Highlight Video: This video from NHL.com has it all, including a goalazo from Zubrus.

The Elias Line Was Killing It:  I'm repeating myself but it's warranted.  Just as the Kovalchuk-Zajac-Palmieri line dominated the Rangers last night, the Rolston-Elias-Zubrus line was shining all night long.   A combined 3 goals, a combined 11 shots on net, and big Corsi values for all three, which justifies how dominant they were at evens.

The Devils as a team finished negative in Corsi at -5. That's understandable since the Devils led for most of the game. A team that is down for over half of the game will eventually just get more aggressive and attempt more shots. The Canes did just that.  Except when #26, #12, and #8 were out in white and red.  Elias put up a +14, Zubrus put up a +12, and Rolston put up a +15. This means when they were on the ice, great things happened. Each got the three stars of the game, as selected by members of the attending media, and why not? They were amazing out there.

One More Thing About Elias: As if 4 shots on net, a +14 in Corsi, and 3 assists including his 800th point wasn't enough, Elias was great at faceoffs tonight. Really! He went 9-for-15, most notably winning the draw against Eric Staal in the first period that led the Fayne shot that got deflected into the net.

The Devils as a whole were strong at the dot, winning 58% of all faceoffs.  Pelley was 4-for-6 and Zubrus was 5-for-6.  Travis Zajac was even at 6-for-12, while Jason Arnott was the only one faltering by winning only 2 out of 6 faceoffs this evening.

Believe it Or Not, This Line Had Better Corsi than the Elias Line: Do you know who Patrick Dwyer, Troy Bodie, and Jerome Samson are? They were Carolina's fourth line and their Corsi was ridiculous. Bodie ended at +14, Samson was at +15, and Dwyer finished at +17! Remember these Corsi numbers are at even strength and a line that got less than 7 minutes together were just moving the puck forward at will and put up a combined 6 shots on net.

The threesome were even out there for the one goal the team did score. Dwyer got credited for deflecting Jamie McBain's shot through traffic and Moose to break the Devils' 5-period shutout streak.   I know they are just a fourth line, but their play should have commanded more ice time in retrospect.

Corsi is Shooting Attempts: The Canes and Devils tied at 25 shots apiece in the game. At even strength, the Devils actually out-shot them 21-20.  So how did the Canes end up at +5 in Corsi, especially being at -7 after the first period?  Attempts.  The Canes finished the night with 25 shots on net, 17 blocked, and 14 missed.  The Devils only had 10 blocked and 14 missed.  So attempts were 56-49 in favor of Carolina.  While blocked shots and missed shots don't help all that much, it does mean that the puck was in an attacking position for there to be an attempt at all. The more you know.

If you're wondering, most of these came in the second and third period.  Again, teams that are losing for most of the game tend to play more aggressively, take more risks, and do what they can to tie it up.  They really pushed the Devils back in the second period by out-shooting them 8-4, but because Moose denied them all and the Devils kept them from any rebounds, it just frustrated them.  The Canes did out-shoot the Devils in the third, but it was a more modest 9-6.

The Jacob Josefson Section:  Jacob Josefson was inserted into the lineup for his seventh game of the season, his first since November.  I've already explained why playing him 10 or more games is a bad idea.  He didn't do anything tonight that convinced me otherwise. 

Jacques Lemaire gave him a chance by giving him 10:59 at even strength and 55 seconds on the power play. And the Canes loved it when he was on the ice.  Josefson struggled in his own end, notably turning the puck over twice to keep an early Canes attack alive in the second period.   But that's just one example.  The young pivot played at wing next to Arnott and they got beat on regularly tonight.  Josefson and Arnott finished at -10, suffering from the dynamos that is Carolina's fourth line in addition to seeing Eric Staal and his linemates jump on when #16 was out for some length of time. 

Look, I think Josefson has a real future. I'm not a hater.  However, he did nothing tonight to show that he's ready for the NHL.  Drowning on a bottom two line in the NHL isn't going to teach him much.  I'd rather have him get prime minutes in Albany, where he's used in all situations and has been productive. Plus, it eliminates the risk of burning a year on his ELC.

Mark Fayne on Fire?: Fayne had 4 shots last night and several important plays. Tonight, Fayne had a shot deflected on net, put 4 of his own shots on net, got 1:13 of power play time (17:51 total this evening), and made several important plays in his own end such as stopping Skinner in a two-on-one from behind without a penalty in the second period.  Fayne could very well be on fire.  His only real error was an interference call in the third period not long after Carolina made it 3-1.  The Canes really pushed on that power play, but the Devils' PK units were up to the task and killed it to avoid that error from being costly.

Get This Man an Ice Pack!: Andy Greene officially blocked 6 shots, including a couple on the PK.  He had a good defensive night in his 18:39 of ice time this evening.  Greene was tough to play against and ended up even in Corsi at even strength.

How Power Plays Help Even When They Don't Convert:  The Devils got a great break with that early deflection by Zubrus. It was enough to wake Carolina up to put the next 5 shots in the game on Johan Hedberg.   Fortunately, the Canes helped New Jersey get back into things when Chad LaRose attempted to play the puck with a broken stick. Seriously.  While the Devils didn't score on this - or any - power play, the second minute of it helped re-establish the game for New Jersey. 

About two minutes after the LaRose minor, Kovalchuk does a lot of work to eventually set up Tallinder for his goal and it's 2-0.  The next response by Carolina, down by 2 in their own rink, was to take a penalty. Jeff Skinner tripped up Mattias Tedenby and it's another power play.  While it also didn't convert, the Devils spent most of their two minutes in Carolina's end setting up shots, moving the puck around, and maintaining control.  It ensured that momentum wouldn't swing back to a Canes team that needed to get desperate.  The Devils continued to attack for much of the period, picked up a third goal, ended the period 15-8 in shots, and had the Canes booed off the rink.

The Devils would not get another power play until the third period where a post-whistle fracas earned a roughing minor for Anssi Salmela and a roughing double-minor for LaRose.  At this point, the game's 3-0 and the Devils kept it simple on the power play.  Good possession, good movement, and good shot selection.  As with the other power plays it didn't score and that's the only thing .  I still look at it as a successful one in that it rolled two minutes off the clock and it kept the Canes in their end for most of it.

The Devils only got 4 shots on net (and several blocked and missed) on 3 opportunities lasting 6 minutes.  However, given the situation and how they controlled it, I'm perfectly fine with how they did on the man advantage. They had good puck possession, they were able to set up in Carolina's zone, and they set up decent shots.  Between these three and the one from last night, I'm confident there will be some power play goals soon if they can keep this up.

Ilya Kovalchuk Did Not Have a Shot on Net Tonight: Really. He didn't. 2 attempts blocked, 2 missed shots. He only got 12:54 of ice time at even strength (19:10 total, largely thanks to 6 minutes on the PP). Kovalchuk finished a -5 at Corsi.  Indeed, he was not a beast tonight.  Incidentally, his line wasn't so hot as they were last night. Zajac (1 SOG, -1 Corsi) and Nick Palmieri (-6 Corsi, 0 SOG) were held in check. Thankfully, the Elias line was so good and the 3-0 first period made it such that it didn't matter too much.

That all said, he still busted out something brilliant as he carried the water, dug the hole, and all kinds of hard working cliches en route to Tallinder's goal.  His point streak is now 10 games with that assist.

The Goalies Were Pretty Good: Neither was bad, despite what you may think from the score.  Cam Ward could do nothing about the first three goals and he got torched by Zubrus for the fourth.  Hedberg is also not at fault for the Dwyer deflection and I suppose you could say he was more impressive given the Canes' increased attempts in the first 40 minutes of the game.  The Moose remains hot and it'll be an interesting question to see who Lemaire goes with for the Dallas game on Tuesday.  One would think that Martin Brodeur would be ready to go, but the hot hand is the hot hand.

Thankfully, The Devils Didn't Shoot Themselves in the Foot: The Devils took 5 minors this evening, all when the Devils had a significant lead.  However, two of them were negated by matching penalties by Canes: Zubrus' hook canceled by Jussi Jokinen's stick-hold; the aforementioned LaRose double minor for roughing canceling out Salmela's minor.  The other three were mixed in their silliness. The worst was when Henrik Tallinder jumped on Jeff Skinner's back and tried to clinch him. It was an easy call for the ref who was right there when it happened.   Fayne got tagged for interference and Zubrus for elbowing, I felt the former was a bit iffy and the latter was clearer. 

The real gratefulness is for Moose and the penalty killers.  The Canes did well on their first power play, and the Canes looked even more determined to make it 3-2 when New Jersey had to kill Fayne's penalty.  Overall, the Canes got 5 shots on net on those two power plays.  Interestingly, the Canes just didn't have the same intensity on their third one and so they got no shots on net and only had two attempts, both blocked by the defense. I don't mean to say that they weren't trying, they just weren't putting the pedal to the metal. Maybe it was because Zubrus made it 4-1 about two-and-a-half minutes before his penalty? Either way, the Devils killed it with ease; even Hedberg played a dump-in perfectly behind his net with a clearance.   Because of their work, the Devils didn't shoot themselves in the foot after building up a lead.

GOALAZO: Because you need to see it again, here's Zubrus' second goal of the evening.

After this, I felt the game was pretty much New Jersey's.

Final Two Fun Facts of the Night: The last time the Devils won by more than 2 goals was on February 6, when they beat Montreal 4-1.  The Devils win the season series against the Canes 3-1-0.

What did you think of tonight's 4-1 win? Who on the Devils outside of the Elias line impressed you the most? What would you like to see more of in future games? What do you want the Devils to improve upon?  Thank you to all of the commenters in the Gamethread, and thank you for reading.

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