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New Jersey Hits the Iceburgh – Devils Fall at Home to the Penguins

To celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, the Devils for the third consecutive year, wore their retro jerseys from 1982-1992. The sellout crowd of 17,625 at the Prudential Center was anticipating a huge win from the Devils to snap the Penguins’ 10 game winning streak. Unfortunately, the St. Patty’s Day “luck” per se, wasn’t with them today as Pittsburgh breezed through Newark with a 5-2 win.

For the first time in a while, we actually got to see some action in the early moments of the first. Just a bit over a minute into the game, Marek Zidlicky forces Chris Kunitz to go down, giving Kunitz a Penalty Shot and a chance to put Pittsburgh on the board. Unfortunately for him, Marty Brodeur shut the door! While most Devils fans were celebrating, James Neal quickly ended that with a one timer goal (his 32nd) off the faceoff from Evgeni Malkin. There was nothing Marty could do about it and the goal came a few seconds after he robbed Kunitz on the penalty shot. Keep in mind, the last time the Devils wore the retro jerseys against Pittsburgh, the Pens scored first but the Devils won 5-2 anyway. For some NJ fans, that was a bit of a motivator. Sure enough the Devils were showing signs that they were ready to fight back, starting with a Patrik Elias shot at the 13:15 mark which was stopped by Marc-Andre Fleury. Eric Tangradi of the Penguins took a penalty at the 7:50 mark, which didn’t result in much offense and concluded with a strong shot by Ilya Kovalchuk, stopped by Fleury. Petr Sykora would serve a too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty at the 5:03 mark. The ensuing Pittsburgh powerplay showed little offense and with the waning seconds of that powerplay, New Jersey took the puck down the ice for a great rush. That rush was capped off by an Andy Greene shot that beat Fleury glove-side top shelf, at the 3:03 mark. The goal was reviewed but the call stood and Greene’s first of the year was assisted by Kovalchuk and Mark Fayne. Shots-on-goal after one were 14-8 in favor of Pittsburgh.

The Devils looked to come out strong in this period and were even successful in drawing a penalty in the first minute itself! Jordan Staal was called for elbowing but the Devils had no answer for Fleury. At around the 15:50 point, no Devils defenseman picked up James Neal and Marty made a great save on him to keep the game tied at 1. By now however, New Jersey really had Pittsburgh playing the Devils’ game. An icing lead coach Dan Bylsma of the Penguins to call a timeout. Little did we Devils fans know that the timeout would change the overall outlook of the game. 17 seconds after the timeout, Pascal Dupuis wristed home his 20th goal of the season from Jordan Staal and Matt Niskanen. This goal in all honesty shocked me, every Devils fan at the Rock, and most likely every Devils fan paying attention to the game. Just a minute or so later, Matt Cooke seemed to have used his skates to put the puck in off a Sidney Crosby pass. The goal was reviewed and ruled good because Cooke turned his skate around in time and just directed it in. It was his 15th of the season, assisted by Sidney Crosby and Tyler Kennedy. Later, David Clarkson took a roughing penalty at around the 7-minute mark and the Penguins made the Devils pay. A diving Crosby (not surprised) fed it to Malkin, who one-timed it past Marty 20 seconds into the powerplay to give the Pens a 4-1 lead. It was Malkin’s 40th, assisted by Crosby and Kunitz. The moments after just gave Devils Army and I a bad feeling. Though no more goals were scored (many of the chances were of Crosby getting denied by Marty), the morale was lost. Shots-on-goal after two were 26-10, in favor of Pittsburgh.

I’m always a believer of comebacks. However, the lead the Pens took into the third didn’t allow me to even think about a miracle – especially after seeing that 2nd period collapse. Again Crosby was denied by Marty in the early stages of the 3rd. That got some cheers from the crowd. A few seconds after the stop, at the 17:34 point, the Devils had some life and so did the crowd. Sykora buried in a rebound to cut the lead in half! His 16th of the season, assisted by Elias and Dainius Zubrus, made it 4-2 Pittsburgh. To my disappointment, it took the Penguins literally 3 and a half minutes to answer back. Cooke scored again, this time on a backhand. His second of the game and 16th of the season was assisted by Kennedy. From this point on, the Devils offense and defense just broke down. They didn’t seem like they wanted to play anymore. But guess who did? Marty Brodeur! This game would have been out of hand had he not continued to make key saves. He knifed out for a Dupuis shot at the 13:10 point, kept denying Crosby on many chances, and even made a sprawl to stop Kennedy. Marty was the MVP of the Devils without a doubt. Kunitz took a penalty at the 9:41 point to give the Devils powerplay, which of course, proved ineffective. A skirmish later on gave Steve Bernier and Ryan Carter game misconducts. Another skirmish forced an altercation between Deryk Engelland of the Penguins and David Clarkson of the Devils. The two roughing penalties given to both players off-setted but Clarkson was given an unsportsmanlike conduct and a game misconduct, giving Pittsburgh a powerplay with 4:54 left in the game. The officiating was terrible today. Lots of blown calls and missed calls. It was almost as if the Devils were playing two opponents today. Though the Penguins did not score and Marty kept their tallies at 5, New Jersey just didn’t have their “Luck of the Irish” today. Perhaps the Penguins did with that officiating crew! Nonetheless the final score in this game was 5-2 in favor of Pittsburgh. Shots-on-goal were miserably 43-14 in favor of the Pens.

5 – 2  Devils Retro Logo

Three Stars:

  1. Sidney Crosby (how?! Marty definitely deserved this)
  2. Evgeni Malkin
  3. Matt Cooke

Key Notes: As mentioned before and throughout this recap, the Devils wore their retro 80’s jersey (also known as the Xmas jersey because of its red and green attributes). They are now 1-2-0 in retro games (3-0 loss to DC last year). Since Pittsburgh won today, their streak reaches 11 games. That’s by far the longest win streak in the NHL this season. I thought the November Bruins had something like that but it turns out they did not. Not sure how many Devils fans knew this (most should), but 2 years ago today, Marty Brodeur broke Patrick Roy’s record. He got his 552nd career win to become the winningest goaltender in NHL history. Bob Arsena from the Meadowlands was the PA announcer for the game, as he was last year too. Did anyone notice the old Devils’ goal horn today from the Continental Airlines Arena? Brings back a lot of memories :)

Next game: Monday March 18th, 2012 vs. the Rangers @ Madison Square Garden.

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