The second half of the NHL season got under way for both The Rangers and The Devils Tuesday night, and the two sides looked hungry for points. The action got going quickly with the first real good scoring chance coming late in the 1st period, but Devils Backstop Martin Brodeur was up to the task as he made a series of acrobatic saves with three Rangers crashing the zone. However with under a minute to go in the first the Rangers were the beneficiaries of a bad bounce (sort of a theme in this game) and capitalized by scoring the all-important first goal. The Devils were resilient (all night long) and refused to lose hope which was key because there chance would come early into the 2nd period on a nice individual effort by none other than Captain Zach. Parise gained the Rangers zone off a nice entry pass by Danius Zubrus and after being stopped initially Parise did the dirty work, got the rebound, and fired it home just inside the top crossbar. The game would continue to be played at a high level and it seemed apparent that the team that didn’t make that one mistake would win this game. That mistake nearly came in the first minute of the third period off a nifty steal by Ilya Kovalchuk that resulted in a shorthanded breakaway, but Ranger’s goalie Martin Biron came up big and kept the score leveled. It was a big save because less than two minutes after that Brian Boyle was able to tuck home a rebound to put the blue shirts out in front 2-1. The Devils continued to fight and they would have a possible season changing moment because of it. On a power play with only 5 minutes left in regulation the Devils David Clarkson broke into the Rangers zone and made a sweet drop pass to Patrik Elias who proceeded to execute just a beautiful saucer pass over to a streaking Ilya Kovalchuk and he did the rest; putting the finishing touches on a tremendous team play. The goal was very emotional for him and the fans, but the hype was short lived. No more than a minute had passed by when Ranger’s All Star forward Marian Gaborik made a nice speed move to gain the Devils zone, he then waited patiently (it was a very smart hockey play) until offensive- minded defenseman Michael Del Zotto could pinch in, receive a nice saucer pass (very similar to the one Elias threw just a minute before) and beat Brodeur blocker side. The goal was undoubtedly a "softy" but I have to credit The Rangers for striking back so quickly, it showed a lot about their team’s character. But this goal would not tarnish a great night of hockey at "The Rock" (The Prudential Center) because with less than a minute left in the 3rd The Devils would finally get a bounce there way (I told you bad bounces were a big theme here) and they capitalized big time. Andy Greene was just trying to get the puck in deep so that the Devils could set up their power play (it was a 6 on 5 because Brodeur was pulled) but the puck hit a weird spot on the boards and bounced right out in front of the net and onto the stick of David Clarkson who controlled the puck and beat Biron glove side. It was Clarkson’s 17th goal (tying a career high- take notice of him fantasy owners!) and none were bigger than this one. This was a very skilled goal and a huge goal for the Devils who had come in losers of three straight.
The Devils and Rangers would each get one really good shot at ending the game in the Overtime period, but rightfully so this game went to a shootout. The Devils have been superb in the shootout this season sporting a league best 8-2 record going into this one and a lot of that credit goes to Ilya Kovalchuk. Kovalchuk (typically the first Devil’s shooter) came out and made it look real easy beating Biron five-hole and in doing so making himself 8-9 this year in shootouts; that’s right 8 for 9. This goal would prove to be the winner as Martin Brodeur came up with big stops on Derek Stepan, Brad Richards and the dangerous Marian Gaborik to seal a feel-good win for the home team. In a game where the Devils could have walked away empty handed they found a way to get a big two points and keep a rival from getting two points (The Rangers did get 1 point for reaching overtime however). The Devils could not have hoped for a better way to start the second half, now let’s hope they can turn this well earned momentum into a sustained winning streak.