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Sticky Syrup – Maple Leafs Edge Devils in NJ

Devils Leafs 3/23/12

Tonight the Devils looked to carry their momentum from that previous win in Ottawa and carry that same style of play against Toronto at home. I was hoping they would transcend that and based off their play early on, I thought they would do just that. Unfortunately, though a high-scoring and tight game, New Jersey fell at home and lost a crucial game.

In the first minute itself, the Devils were just throwing pucks on net and creating chances. Though, the Leafs did respond back with some equal chances. At the 15:12 point, Marty Brodeur robbed Phil Kessel and then made and unbelievable stop on Matthew Lombardi! After that however, New Jersey just played lights-out hockey. It all started a couple of minutes after Marty’s save in which Ilya Kovalchuk nearly scored off a turnover from Toronto’s Cody Franson. A couple of minutes after that, Patrik Elias tried putting the Devils on the board but his opportunity on the 2-on-1 was stopped by James Reimer. In my opinion, Reimer was the reason Toronto wasn’t behind 5-0 in the first. At the 5:35 point, Mikhail Grabovski took a hooking penalty and the Devils were on the power play. However it was, of course, uneventful. Fans at The Rock must’ve thought that the NJ power play was more like the PSE&G power outage because the Devils just could not generate any chances. Toronto didn’t have much difficulty killing that penalty off. Apparently at the 1:21 point, Kovalchuk seemed to have an opportunity to backhand the puck home but the whistle had already blown. In my opinion, I think it was a short whistle. Nonetheless, the first period was complete domination by New Jersey, even though there was no score. Shots-on-goal were 18-7 in favor of the Devils! There were no shots-on-goal for Toronto over the last 13:37 of the first. NJ outshot the Leafs 15-1 in the last 15:09.

Once again, the Devils came out with some early minute pressure. However at the 15:30 point, the Leafs responded with some pressure of their own and kept the puck in New Jersey’s zone for 30 seconds. Either that was bad defense by the Devils or just great puck movement from the Maple Leafs. It could’ve gone either way. Soon after, a 2-on-1 generated by captain Zach Parise and Adam Henrique seemed promising, but ultimately failed. Just moments later, Lombardi essentially had Marty down and a great chance to put the Leafs on the board. However, he somehow missed. Great sign for the Devils since they caught a break…but not for long! At the 7:13 point, Toronto drew first blood as Tyler Bozak scored his 16th of the season, assisted by Luke Schenn and Lombardi. It was truly disheartening for Devils fans, and the misery continued at the 4:04 point of the second. Nazem Kadri scored his 8th of the season (a redirection), assisted by Jake Gardiner. Morale seemed to have disappeared and tension mounted on the fans of Devils fans at The Rock and at home as well. Thankfully, Jay Rosehill took a tripping call with 3:20 to go. This Devils power play looked a lot better! Slowly it seemed as if some momentum was shifting towards the Devils. The crowd was still lifeless, until the 1:03 point that is. We FINALLY got to see Jacob Josefson score his first of the year! The assists went to Alex Ponikarovsky and Dainius Zubrus. After two, shots-on-goal were 27-14 in favor of New Jersey and morale was restored!

I’m not sure which 3rd period was more action packed – this one or the one against Ottawa in which the Devils came back from 3-0 down to win 5-4. Coach Pete DeBoer, for some apparent reason(s), didn’t like our lines so he decided to switch them up. Both the offensive and defensive pairings were switched. Chances went back and forth but at one point, New Jersey was outshooting Toronto by a 2:1 margin. It was surprising for sure. Usually we’re not used to seeing that style of play from the Devils! Glad it happened yet, just as NJ thought they could tie the game up, their luck backfired. Ex-Devil David Steckel scored his 8th goal of the season, assisted by Bozak and Joey Crabb at the 10:39 point. Surprisingly, while the Devils were down 3-1, no morale seemed to have been lost and they kept firing shot after shot. At the 9:03 point, Parise whacked his stick into Reimer’s pads and with that whack, the puck (underneath his pads), went in! It was Parise’s 29th, assisted by Bryce Salvador and David Clarkson. Wouldn’t ya know it? The Devils were down by one with tons of hockey left to be played! The crowd got an even bigger boost when Anton Volchenkov flattened Grabovski at the 6:05 point. Though, that was simply just the bonus. Lately Adam Henrique’s performance was on the decline. In my opinion though, he got his morale back up and his confidence to be a goal scorer again. With just 4:42 left, Henrique redirected a shot from Andy Greene and into the net to tie the game at 3 a piece! On Henrique’s 16th (and on great timing too), the assists went to Greene and Adam Larsson. From that point on, the Devils became the epitome of an offensive juggernaut. They kept firing pucks at any angle and looked for rebounds. Truly, Toronto was blessed that Reimer was in net. Shots-on-goal after regulation were an astonishing 42-17 in favor of the Devils!

There isn’t even an argument here. New Jersey flat out dominated the overtime. Initially, Kovalchuk set up Salvador who tried to pass it to a cutting Henrique. Unfortunately, Henrique didn’t get enough stick on that pass to tip in Salvador’s pass. From there on, it was either the Devils continuing their offensive barrage or Toronto playing some boring defense. Reimer once again, bailed them out and looked to be a star of the game. I was really impressed at how the Devils got more shots from the point. Nonetheless, Reimer was Reimer tonight and the continuous pressure from the Devils resulted in only 4 shots. Shots-on-goal in the game ended at 46-17, in favor of New Jersey. To the shootout!

As always, the Devils used their standard shootout lineup. Kovalchuk-Parise-Elias. The Leafs on the other hand, put their trust in Bozak-Tim Connolly-Kadri. The Devils elected to shoot first. Kovalchuk raced up the ice and found an opening near Reimer’s glove and put it in to give the Devils a 1-0 edge! Next up, for Toronto, Bozak tried to even up the shootout. Sure enough he did so by finding an unprotected opening which wasn’t guarded by Marty. Parise was up next as the third shooter in the shootout. Similarly to Kovalchuk’s goal, Parise found an opening near the glove and put the Devils ahead 2-1! For the Leafs, Tim Connolly was up and he scored on a shot which I thought Marty could’ve stopped. Marty’s reaction even showed that he was capable of stopping it as he banged his stick on the crease. For NJ, Elias was up but unfortunately, Reimer’s right pad stopped Elias’ shot. Now the Leafs were on the verge of winning the match with Kadri up. Personally, I do believe Kadri is a great player but I’ve never liked his attitude nor his style of play. That was just an opinion but all I hoped was that Marty would stop him. That…didn’t happen. Kadri made a great move to deke Marty out of position and score on Marty’s right side. Toronto had won the game 4-3 in the shootout.

4-3 (F/SO) 

Three Stars

  1. Adam Henrique (Interesting..)
  2. James Reimer
  3. Zach Parise

Key Notes: Travis Zajac is almost back! Look to see him possibly back Sunday night @ Pittsburgh or sometime next week. The Devils certainly do miss Zajac and with his presence, the power play will improve! Attendance tonight at the Prudential Center was 16,022 (91% full). Josefson must feel proud knowing that he broke a long goal drought. His last goal was on 3/30/11 against the Islanders (NJ won that game 3-2 in OT).

Next Game: Sunday March 25th, 2012 @ Pittsburgh 7 P.M.
 
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