After the first period, the New Jersey Devils and their fans were in a familiar spot this season. The team was losing 3-1 to the Boston Bruins after a first period where they deserved to lose. The goals allowed weren't entirely someone's fault. The first two involved unintentional deflections off Devils players. The third goal, though, was an entirely stoppable one regardless of who it was from. Adam Henrique pounded in a rebound on a power play to at least put the Devils on the board. However, the possession, the energy, the shot count, and the run of play were all in favor of Boston. It looked bleak. Peter DeBoer wasn't happy. The players seemed down about it. The fans were in a range of feelings from disappointment to resignation to anger - all negative. I should know, I was feeling all of that too.
If you were to tell me that the Devils would make a game of it, I would have said it's an optimistic hope. If you were to tell me that the Devils would come back to take a point, then I would have said that would have been fantastic but don't get your hopes up. If you were to tell me that the team would come back to win at all, I would have laughed. Yet, here I am, laughing like a child well after witnessing in glorious SD at what stunned the TD Garden. The Devils beat the Bruins 4-3. All through their power play.
Yes. The Devils scored four power play goals to beat the Bruins. Now, go back to my preview. You will read how good the Bruins are. And we saw that for the first half of this game. They clearly played like the top team in the East riding a four-game winning streak. You will also read how good the Bruins' penalty kill has been this season. While they weren't super-good at preventing shots, they weren't at all bad and Tuukka Rask was stopping nearly everything in sight anyway. On top of that, while the Devils have had a PPG streak of four games, the Devils' own power play wasn't all that effective. So the fact that the Devils not only mounted and completed a comeback but did it with the weakest part of their team to date is nothing short of impressive. The Bruins gave the Devils legitimate power plays by way of taking clear-cut penalties and the Devils made them pay over and over and over. Two within the final two minutes of the game. The equalizer in a 6-on-3. The game winner to end the double-minor that led to the glorious situation for the Devils. That's how Boston saw their four game winning streak snapped. That's how the Devils got their first road win of the season. How can you not laugh in delight at this if you're a Devils fan?
Before I get into the details of this game, there's one general point I really want to make. The Devils could have easily given up on this game after the first period. We've seen them just slog through periods and games after being down for much less. Look at the Winnipeg and Columbus losses; arguably the Calgary third period, too. While the Devils didn't take an advantage in possession and special teams carried the day, they wouldn't have come close if their mindset wasn't right. If the players collectively thought, "We stink. Again. Let's just play it out," Boston wins this game decisively. There's no comeback if they gave up emotionally. Credit Peter DeBoer, the coaching staff, and the players for not giving in mentally.
The Opposition Opinion: Most Bruins fans were shocked by what they saw, and could you blame them? But ecozens at Stanley Cup of Chowder wasn't and wrote this quick recap of the game.
The Game Highlights: It's not often you get to see four power play goals in game from any one team, much less the Devils. So watch this video from NHL.com to see what you missed or if you want to relive the moment:
Power Play Success: The Devils officially had seven power play opportunities, including a long 5-on-3 at the end of the game for 8:55. They converted four of those opportunities, including the long 5-on-3. I would say that the ones they didn't convert on were squandered as the Bruins repeatedly got pucks out by obtaining possession, collecting the puck behind the goal line, and firing it hard up the middle in between the pointmen for clears. In fact, one of them featured the old standby of the last two seasons: a shorthanded scoring chance. But the good completely outweighs the bad tonight. So much so that they deserve exclamation marks. Twelve shots on net! Four goals! Maintaining solid possession before the goals! Smart decisions made to shoot! The goals themselves were varied but all deserve notice!
The first period goal, what initially looked like the only goal the team was going to get, was Adam Henrique putting in a rebound. The rebound was created from a shot by Eric Gelinas, who displayed his great looking shot all night long. He didn't score but he kept taking opportunities and definitely got more than the three the Boston scorer credited him for.
The second period goal came late and was the second most fortunate of the night for New Jersey. Andy Greene charged in and threw a puck to the middle. It appeared to go off Steve Bernier, who re-directed it towards the net. Rask kicked it out but it went wide enough for Damien Brunner to backhand it back towards the net. And, somehow, it popped over Rask and just over the goal line. The goalie tried to sneakily cover it up but the ref had a good eye and called it a score. The goal came within the final minute of the second period; it made the game an actual game on the scoreboard.
The Devils played better and better as time went on in the third but it wasn't until the end where they would find success. Torey Krug high-sticked Brunner, which drew blood; so he got four minutes. During those four minutes, Patrice Bergeron cleared a puck over the glass. The Devils had a long 5-on-3 and after an initial clearance, DeBoer pulled Martin Brodeur to make it a 6-on-3. Patrik Elias put a cross-ice pass to Michael Ryder, missed but Ryder recovered and reset the puck back to Elias. He moved it to Marek Zidlicky, who kept it and moved to the middle of the ice. As the defenseman saw Steve Bernier standing right in front of Rask, he wound up and fired. Most of the time, that leads to a blocked shot or a missed shot more often than not. Tonight, it got through and into the net. Zidlicky tied up the game with his first of the season and his first goal in 26 games. What a time to end that drought!
But the Devils were not done. With Brodeur correctly back in his net and with 1:08 to play, the Devils approached this 5-on-4 more normally. That meant doing something dumb to try and gain the zone like dumping it in. However, enough Devils crashed the right corner and Zdeno Chara played it around the other way slowly. Gelinas recovered the puck and played it off the boards for Henrique. Henrique played it back to Jagr in the right corner, who saw Brunner open heading into the slot. Brunner gets the puck but botches an attempted shot. Brunner wanted to hammer a one-timer but only just touched it off. This was the most fortunate goal of the night for New Jersey. The puck sailed laterally across the slot to a hard-charging Andy Greene. Without hestitation, the defenseman just blasted the puck on net and found the top corner past Rask. The fourth power play goal. The fourth goal. The winning goal. I may have to break it down because it was so massive. We'll see.
All four power play goals were lovely in their own way and all of them involved some kind of good play prior to the actual score itself. I wouldn't go so far as to say that the power play issues are fixed for good. I wouldn't say the Devils have finally figured it out. But tonight, these units were amazing.
A Shot So Smooth, The Stick Motion Should Be Printed on Silk: Eric Gelinas got a lot of praise tonight from observers (myself includeD) and a lot of shifts. Gelinas actually led the team in shifts with 33. DeBoer properly kept those shifts short - the average was 36 seconds - but it was clear he earned them. He didn't get caught back too often. His passes looked good and were largely good decisions. He made some good interceptions, especially on offense to keep a few shifts on the attack from the blueline. But I loved his shooting. He didn't score but he definitely saw any opportunity to shoot to have a go at the net and they were good decisions. My favorite wasn't the one that led to Henrique's goal, but shortly after Brunner's goal in the second period. In the dying seconds, Gelinas wins a puck at the center point and unloads one right on Rask. The CBGB line swarmed the crease like hungry dogs going after a steak. The shot itself came in such a fluid motion that it could be described as lovely.
While DeBoer did what he could to keep him away from Boston's best players, Gelinas destroyed in the attempt differential department, 18-9, in 5-on-5 play. A lot of good things happened when #22 was out there and he was a part of several of them. Making that figure more impressive is the fact that Boston actually led in 5-on-5 attempts as a team 35-33. The Devils didn't win this game at evens, they did it on special teams. There, Gelinas was 10-0. Eric Gelinas had two very good games in New Jersey. Don't put him on a pedestal but appreciate that he's had two very good games so far. With Bryce Salvador coming back for Tuesday's game, he may be a victim of the roster limit. But I join the many Devils fans who hope that he sticks around. Lou, please find a way. He may not continue to make this much of an impact, but he definitely deserves more action at this level. If only for his beautiful shot.
Those Ferocious B's: It's worth noting that the Bruins did very well to start this game up until the halfway mark. They pounded the Devils for the first period and the first ten minutes of the second was largely Bruins hockey. They out-shot the Devils 8-4 within those first ten minutes of the second. Good teams keep up the pressure even with a sizable lead and they did just that. Krug came inches wide of making it 4-1, come to think of it. They generated some dangerous odd-man rushes due to catching the Devils off guard through the neutral zone.
Their most impressive unit was their top scoring line of Milan Lucic, David Krejci, and Jarome Iginla. They had a hand in all three goals. Krejci and Iginla set up Krug for a shot that went off Henrique, through traffic, and in to convert their first power play of the game. The goal was initially given to Lucic for a deflection, but there was none so it was Krug's. The second goal was Iginla's but really was an accident by Brunner. Iginla got past Anton Volchenkov, chased down a puck into the right corner, and figured on throwing it towards the middle of the ice. His linemates were crashing the net and with no other option, why not? Brunner actually backchecked and Iginla's pass went off his skate, up in the air, and past Brodeur. The third goal came from a three-on-two by this line, created right after a faceoff on a clearance by Dougie Hamilton. Marek Zidlicky and Volchenkov were back but Krejci found Lucic wide open on the left side. Lucic got the past and put one through Brodeur's legs to make it 3-1 in the final minute of the first period. Lucic and Krejci have been Boston's top scorers going into the game and Iginla was not from both. They have to be right up there now. They were kept more or less at bay later in the game but they definitely did the job early on.
Those Sloppy B's: While the Devils were taking small step after small step to get back into the game, the Bruins helped them out more and more. They started being looser with the puck movement in their own end and in the neutral zone. They gave up the puck more often. They "took their foot off the gas pedal," so to speak. It's not so much that they did nothing in the third period. Krejci had a glorious chance all alone in front early in the third and the B's put up six other shots. But what really did them in was their lack of discipline. The game was decided by special teams so they clearly mattered. Krug's high-stick drew blood from Brunner and cost them the game. Bergeron and Chara each cleared a puck over the glass and both paid the price. Johnny Boychuk interfered with Henrique and Henrique got revenge. While they didn't score on the other two penalties; Chara picked Jaromir Jagr to prevent a breakaway (I'd like to think Chara would have caught a 41-year old man but whatever) in the third period and Reilly Smith held Zidlicky for reasons unknown. Five of the six penalties came while Boston was leading and it wasn't as if the Devils were so aggressive to draw them. The Bruins who got called just did it, for lack of a better phrase. So they were really unnecessary to take. I'm sure Claude Julien is letting them know all about that right now.
The Unsung: Martin Brodeur had a good game all things considered. The first two goals allowed were deflected in one way or form. I don't think he saw Krug's shot anyway and a re-direction off your own man's skate is just bad fortune. The goal allowed to Lucic was horribly soft, though. Yes, Lucic is really good. Yes, Lucic has been hot. But a five-hole goal on an open shot is a bad goal to allow. However, there would have been no come back at all if the Bruins scored a fourth goal and Brodeur saw to it that there wouldn't be one. Boston came close early in the second but Brodeur stopped all eleven shots. He stopped all seven against in the third too, including Krejci right on his doorstep and Lucic in the slot with a lost stick also being flung in his direction. Brodeur giving up soft goals will continue to be a liability but credit must be given to the man for making the stops to keep the game within some kind of reach.
Poor Rask: He didn't have a real chance on three of four of those goals. Maybe he should have stopped Brunner's, but the puck did just sneak through inside the post. It wasn't like he made a big error. Oh well. Bummer.
Had a Role: Brunner got credited for five shots on net out of six attempts. I didn't think he had that many but he definitely played a role tonight as time went on. He scored the second goal and he inadvertently created the game winning goal. His mark on the game was obvious. However, I still got the sense that he should do more. He only got 12:37 of ice time, possibly due in part to get other lines minutes and in part that he's not doing much if he's not shooting. It's a shame that one of his backchecks ended up in the back of the net, but it's something I like to see more from him. It could get him more minutes on nights when he's not able to fire pucks on net.
Speaking of Backchecking: Jaromir Jagr helped prevent a goal tonight. Krug had a clear look at the goal off a loose puck but Jagr stick-checked him in time to have the shot go elsewhere but the net. While Jagr wasn't super amazing at 5-on-5, he helped create two goals to continue to lead Devils forwards in points. His impact continues!
Penultimate Note: I can't remember who said it, but I was told that things would be OK for the Devils even if they split the points this week. I don't know whether that's true; I'll figure it out for tomorrow's Metropolitan Division Snapshot. But who would have guessed the loss would have been at Columbus, the point would be in hosting Vancouver (and deserving of more), and the win would be a 4-3 come-from-behind effort in Boston? I wouldn't have.
To Quote a Doctor: And the Devils had them all the way.
Your Take: Well, that sure was a game! What did you think of it all? How did you react when Zidlicky tied it up? How about when Greene put the Devils up 4-3? Be honest, did you think the Devils would end the night the way it did after that first period? Who was the best Devil tonight? Who did you think was the worst? What would you like to see differently from the team for their next game based on tonight's performance? What happens now anyway? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about tonight's dramatic win in the comments. Thanks to everyone who commented in the gamethread and tweeted to @InLouWeTrust on Twitter. Thank you for reading.