The New Jersey Devils edged the Toronto Maple Leafs in overtime for the second time in Toronto this season with a final score of 4-3. I don't know about you, but I feel the player who contributed the most to the Devils win was the Monster, Jonas Gustavsson - also known as Toronto's starting goaltender for this game.
As long time readers may have figured out by now, I don't like to blame a lot of goals or games on goaltenders. Generally, a goaltender will get beat because a skater made a mistake, a bounce just didn't go their way, or the opposing attacker just made a better player. I only fault goaltenders when they I feel they truly should have done better than they did. Tonight, Gustavsson made three errors that were just shameful.
He allowed 4 goals on 32 shots, which by itself doesn't tell us much. The goals themselves say it all. The first goal was the only one that could not be pinned on him. After an ineffective power play, Adam Henrique made a lovely pass to Petr Sykora in front. Sykora's one-timer was denied but Sykora blew past Dion Phaneuf acting like a pylon and put in his own rebound. That one wasn't Gustavsson's fault. Phaneuf should have done something to deny the 35 year old from following up.
So that was the first goal allowed. As for the other three, Gustavsson can only look in the mirror. David Clarkson somehow gets ahead of two Leafs and just fires a simple shot on net. It sailed right through Gustavsson's five hole. Everyone was surprised, even the MSG+2 camera just got it at the last moment. That wouldn't be the first mishap. Late in the second period with the score 2-2, Dainius Zubrus kicks a puck backwards to Alexei Ponikarovsky. The former Leaf cut into the middle of the ice, stretched, and fired a simple and low wrist shot. Gustavsson had trouble keeping his legs closed again and the puck just trickled through and in. After all of Toronto's hard work, it's 3-2 New Jersey by the end of the second. One soft goal is bad, but two by the same way is just terrible.
Gustavsson seemed to make up for it in the third period. He denied Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise multiple times, including two breakaways. He seemed to get his game in order. The Leafs got a bounce their way late in the game when a puck played in front bounced off Patrik Elias' skate and got into a position where neither he or Andy Greene could do anything - but Phil Kessel could. Kessel bangs in the loose puck with less than a minute to tie it up 3-3 and Gustavsson has a chance to still be the hero. He had a chance to be be seen as a difference maker with a 9-not-at-all-easy-save third period. Toronto strikes first. Jake Gardiner rang one off the post with authority. Mikhail Grabovski whiffed on what could have been a put-back rebound. Ilya Kovalchuk delays, gets up ice, and gets a shot on net. Gustavsson saved it and has to still feel good. Henrique collected the puck to Mark Fayne. Mark Fayne, who hasn't scored a goal since November 16, 2011 had the puck. Mark Fayne, who was at the left point and just set himself up to dump it in close. Mark Fayne, who fired a shot that bounced on the ice. It was low, it looked like it was going wide, and just to make sure, all Gustavsson had to do was cover the left post. Nice and easy.
Gustavsson slid with his pad out, the puck bounced up over the pad, under the glove, and dropped into the net. A basic, almost routine goaltender move was botched by the Monster and it handed the Devils a 4-3 OT win. On the behalf of the New Jersey Devils and their fans all around the world, thanks for the victory, Jonas Gustavsson. Leafs fans may hate you, but right now, we appreciate you just the way you are.
Of course, the game involved a lot more than just Monster gifting New Jersey three goals and I'll go over that after the jump. For the opposition point of view, please check out Bower Power's recap over at Pension Plan Puppets.
The Stats: The NHL.com Game Summary | The NHL.com Event Summary | The NHL.com Play by Play Log | The NHL.com Shot Summary | The Time on Ice Shift Charts | The Time on Ice Head to Head Ice Time Charts | The Time on Ice Corsi Charts
The Highlights: Witness the wackness of Gustavsson on the second, third, and fourth Devils goals among the other highlights of the game in this video from NHL.com:
What About Marty, He Gave Up 3 Out of 32?: Since I spent the entire pre-jump part on Gustavsson, let's talk about Martin Brodeur. I felt Brodeur had a fine game and unlike the Monster, all three goals against really can't be pinned on him. The first one came immediately after Clarkson's goal; Tim Connolly re-directed a Cody Franson shot (that appeared to go wide) and it just got past Brodeur. There's not a lot that could have been done on that one as Connolly had to stretch his stick to get a piece of it. I wouldn't even fault the defense there.
I would fault them for the second goal. About 14:30 into the second period, Matt Taormina attempts a clearance along the boards but he didn't put enough oomph on it. The Henrique line thought it would get out, it didn't, and so Grabovski's stop at the blueline allowed for a quick strike to make the Devils pay. Grabovski got it to Nikolai Kulemin, who was positioned in a make-shift two-on-one with Clarke MacArthur against Peter Harrold. Kulemin nutmegs Harrold with a pass, MacArthur's all alone with Brodeur and he just beats him with the shot. The fault on that one lies with Taormina not getting enough on the clearance and the forwards for not hanging back, assuming it would get out of the zone. It didn't and so a called-up, otherwise #7 defenseman and the goalie were hung out to dry.
The third period featured what seemed like a lot of pressure by the Leafs and Brodeur making stops everywhere and the Devils skaters blocking what seemed like a kajillion shots. Yet in the final minute, Tyler Bozak drives forward and tosses the puck into the slot to no one in particular. Elias and Greene were there, but because the puck bounced just the wrong way off Elias' skate, it got loose to their right. Kessel, Toronto's top scorer, charged the net to knock it in. Brodeur stretched out his left pad but Kessel got it in the small window to tie it up. That was more or less a bad bounce than a failure by a player. Though, I have to wonder why Elias and Greene were down low. Maybe Elias should have went after Bozak more?
My point is that those weren't three soft goals or three goals Brodeur should have had or three goals Brodeur would have had under different circumstances. While the save percentages of both Gustavsson and Brodeur in this game are similar, the performances were different. Brodeur was strong on the puck, he positioned himself quite well, and he didn't get beat five-hole twice.
Mark it 11: Devils fans are and should be frustrated that the Devils blew a third period lead for the 11th time this season. They entered the third with a 3-2 lead and the third ended at 3-3. However, I don't think the Devils didn't sit on it.
Sure, there were shifts where the action was in New Jersey's end of the rink and the Devils were scrambling. Yet, the Devils were able to get some puck possession and charge at Toronto's end of the rink. Due to the Maple Leafs' understandably aggressive approach to the third (they were losing, they needed a goal), the Devils were able to find open ice behind them. Among the Devils, Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk did a great job exploiting it as they combined for 7 shots on net in the third period alone. Yeah, they got 7 of the Devils' 9 shots on net. The Devils certainly could have done more in the third and it would have been great if they scored. At 10-9 shots in favor of Toronto, I can't honestly say the Devils just hoped to hold onto a 3-2 lead for 20 minutes.
What helped create that perception, I think, is that a lot of Toronto's attempts ended up getting denied by Devils skaters themselves. The Devils' Corsi swung from -2 at the end of the second to -11 by the end of the third due to all of the blocks. Fenwick, which doesn't count blocks, only went from +1 to -2. I think the Corsi number is more accurate to what went on; but I still dispute that the Devils just hoped to escape Toronto with the win. They made an effort to get a fourth goal. It would have been great if Gustavsson had his five hole open on Kovalchuk's breakaway or didn't get two consecutive stops on Parise and Kovalchuk later in the third or allowed a fourth goal elsewhere, but it just didn't happen. So it goes.
Speaking of Corsi, Enjoy a Basketball Reference: The line of Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise, and Adam Henrique had a Tim Duncan night. You watch them, you think they had a good game - nothing fancy, and then you look at the scoresheet and marvel at what they accomplished. Kovalchuk had 7 shots on net out of 10 attempts; Henrique set up the first and last goals along with 3 shots on net; and Parise had 5 shots on net, 4 in the third period. I knew they had their chances but I didn't know they got that many.
They drew the defensive pairing of Phaneuf and Carl Gunnarsson along with the Grabovski line and just wrecked them at evens. OK, they should have been smarter on the play that led to MacArthur's goal; and there were some shifts where they got pinned back. But for the most part, they were giving Toronto problems. Kovalchuk was a +12 in Fenwick and a +11 in Corsi; a lot of good things happened when he was on the ice even if he did get denied on a few glorious chances. Parise missed a layup when he had an empty net in the second period but hit the post. That was harsh. Fortunately, he didn't get down on himself for it. No, he went on to have +8 in Fenwick, +5 in Corsi, and 4 shots in the third period alone. Henrique was a +11 in Fenwick, a +7 in Corsi, and the only area he struggled in was faceoffs (4-for-10). These are all great numbers, especially after a third when Toronto really swung attempts in their favor.
The only thing this line didn't do was score and that's probably why I thought they were just OK while watching the game. However, some quick reading of the stats shows that they were the team's best forwards on the ice. Just like Tim Duncan.
The Goalscorer Nights: What about the goalscorers themselves? Well, they weren't as impressive outside of the goals they scored. I'll defend Mark Fayne's night. He got 3 out of 4 attempts on net, he played 22:58, and while he finished at -6 in Corsi, he did go up against Toronto's top two lines way more often than not. Also, Toronto didn't score when he was on the ice. While it wasn't pretty at times, he got the job done as well as the game winner.
I can't do as much defending of the other three goalscorers. Petr Sykora's goal was great and it was his one highlight of the night. His initial shot and goal were his only shots on net. He did get an assist on Clarkson's goal and I hope the points help break him out of his recent struggles. Yet, outside of that goal and that assist, Sykora didn't do too much.
At least he wasn't a possession sieve like David Clarkson tonight. Clarkson had an interesting first period with scoring a goal that probably shouldn't have happened and tossing Phaneuf down in a fight after he hit Parise twice - and the second hit wasn't penalized despite it being a high hit. Yet, Toronto's skaters enjoyed seeing #23 on the ice as it meant they could attack freely. No wonder Ron Wilson tried to (and succeeded a few times) in getting the Bozak line (Lupul, Bozak, Kessel) out against him. Clarkson was a team-worst -12 in Corsi tonight and a -9 in Fenwick. The normally prolific shooter only got two shots on net of his own and neither were in the third period. As nice as the goal was and as much as his fight got people going, I didn't think Clarkson played a good game.
I also didn't think much of Alexei Ponikarovsky's game. Yes, he scored a goal, he got 3 shots on net, and I did like some of his backchecking. He was like Clarkson when it came to shooting attempts, Toronto relished seeing him on the ice at evens. Ponikarovsky was a -10 in Corsi and a -7 in Fenwick. DeBoer intended on him, Dainius Zubrus (-2 in Corsi), and Steve Bernier (-7 in Corsi) to go up against Toronto's top line. That lasted for a good portion of the game, but either the Leafs or the Devils got away from that as Kessel and Lupul got other match-ups. That may have turned out to be a positive for Ponikarovsky in the run of play.
A Quelled Top Duo: That all said about possession, Kessel only had 3 shots on net and Lupul only had 1. They each only had 4 attempts. Technically, the Devils kept them down as much as they could. I can't call it a success since Kessel scored the game tying goal in the final minute. Also, Lupul was a healthy +7 in Corsi while Kessel finished at +2. The Maple Leafs were content to have others attack and they were successful, as indicated by the 28 shots and 2 goals achieved by the rest of the skaters.
The Two Faceoffs Before Kessel's Equalizer: When the Leafs pulled Gustavsson, Zubrus was trying to get the puck up ice and saw Ponikarovsky open in the center of the ice. The pass was blocked by the defense and it forced an offside whistle. No problem, the draw came outside of Toronto's zone and the goalie had to get back in. Shortly thereafter, Kovalchuk tipped a breakout pass out of play to force another faceoff and Gustavsson back in the net.
We know what happened after that second draw, so let me ask this: why did Elias take both faceoffs? He only won 7 faceoffs prior to those two and eventually finished the night at 7-for-21 on draws. Zubrus had more faceoff wins (10-for-16) and since Toronto took a timeout after the offside, he could have had enough energy to take the faceoff. If not that one, then the second one. Had the Devils won either faceoff, they could have dumped the puck away and set up defensively or made an effort on net to either keep Gustavsson in or get an empty net goal.
At Least They Got Out There: The Devils drew their first power play since the Anaheim game against Toronto when Phaneuf took down Parise. In fact, the Devils drew three power plays tonight. Sykora scored not long after the first power play but since the players were set up, I suppose we can say that was the only positive of the night on the PP. The Devils had 4:58 of power play time and got no shots on net. None. Against Toronto's PK. Simply horrible.
Woo Kills: The Devils had two penalties to kill and they were fantastic on each of them. The Devils only allowed two power play shots and generated two shorthanded shots and more opportunities. The first drew a penalty on Toronto to cut that effort short. The second one was one of the better kills I've seen all season. Jacob Josefson controlling the puck with aplomb in Toronto's end, Kovalchuk shanking a shot on a two-on-one that could have been a shorthanded goal (and 3-1 at the time), and the Devils just playing keep away with the puck afterwards. It was masterful hockey by the Devils.
What made the second kill even better is that they dominated the Leafs for about 3 minutes. Just constant pressure on net and Gustavsson making tough stops or the Devils missing their target kept the score at 2-1. The only way the Leafs got out of it was Parise somehow hitting the post on an empty net and taking a penalty - which the Leafs easily killed and the game went back to being even. Still, the penalty killing by the Devils was sublime at times. Well done.
Phaneuf and Erik Cole Can Share Stories: Phaneuf hit Parise hard into the corner boards late in the first period. That was clean but the second hit wasn't. Phaneuf decided he needed to hit Parise again after pasting him into the boards and he hit him high. The replay on TV showed that Phaneuf's shoulder connected with Parise's head, but I could see how some would interpret an elbow coming up high. Still, the hit should have at least been interference or roughing as the puck wasn't nearby and Parise was already struck once - he didn't need a high one afterwards. Just like Montreal headshotter Erik Cole, watch Phaneuf get nothing out of it.
Drama for the Mamas and Papas and People Who Don't Listen to Lame Folk Acts: The game did get chippy at times, though the Phaneuf hit was the apex, and it just added to the overall nature of the game. In conjunction with the later offensive aggression of Toronto and the counter-attacks the Devils were able to pull off, the run of play turned into a race at times. Both goalies made difficult stops; both teams had shifts where they seemed superior but dominance didn't last for long. It made for one exciting, up tempo game. One would have thought Toronto's playing for their season - they may have been - and the Devils were more than happy to oblige.
I can't say I like that the Maple Leafs got a point out of this one. The Devils may be further up the standings than Toronto, yet the Leafs are still direct competitors with the Devils for the post season. A point helps their cause even if the Devils got another one over them. I'm sure Caps and Jets fans wished this game didn't go to OT, it furthers the drama in their respective seasons. Don't get me wrong, I'll take the win in what ultimately turned out to be an even game (shots at 32-32, Toronto made more attempts, teams switched control for stretches at a time) helped out by the opposition's goaltender looking really stupid in net. It's just that the Devils now sit 9 points ahead of Toronto instead of 10. Oh well, so it goes.
That's my take on tonight's win, now I want to know yours. Do you think the Devils deserved this win, or should they just be glad to take the points and run? Were you surprised to find out how well the Henrique line played despite not scoring a goal? Were you surprised at how the other goalscorers didn't really excel outside of their goals tonight? Why was the power play so awful while the penalty kill was so great? How much did you appreciate Jonas Gustavsson's performance? How did you react when Fayne scored not long after Gardiner hit the post? Please leave your answers and other thoughts on tonight's win in the comments. Thanks to everyone who followed along in the Gamethread and the occasional tweet from @InLouWeTrust. Thank you for reading.