The New Jersey Devils hit the ice to a roar of boos from the home town Jets fans at the MTS Center, the majority, in regards to former Thrasher Ilya Kovalchuk. The Devils and Jets opened up with a handful of shots on respecting net minders, Martin Brodeur and Ondrej Pavelec. About mid-way through the first period, a brief scrum breaks out between Devil Ryan Carter and Winnipeg Jet, Mark Stuart which also resulted in Carter receiving a 2 minute minor for roughing which Petr Sykora sat out for. Winnipeg couldn’t manage to record a tally with the man advantage as New Jersey managed again to successfully kill the penalty, which has been a strong point to this point in the season being the top penalty killing team in the league and totaling 11 short handed goals through the mid way point in the season.After a very strong opening 15 minutes by Brodeur who recorded 6 saves in the first, let one slip past as Winnipeg captain Andrew Ladd ripped a shot high glove side from Marty’s right as he managed to get a large piece of the shot, but clearly, not enough to maintain a scoreless first period. By the conclusion of the 1st period, the Devils out shot Winnipeg 7 to 6 and was held scoreless due to Ondrej Pavelec who managed to stay spot on through the first 50 minutes of the game.
With the second period under way, fans saw a much more, calmer period then they were witness to in the first. A handful of shots for each team, one New Jersey penalty, but no goals. The one TRUE scoring chance was by Devils defender Henrik Tallinder as he rushed up Pavelec’s right hand side and was robbed on a tremendous sprawling stick save by the Winnipeg goaltender. Both teams remained fairly even in scoring chances, shots on net, and in the physical aspect of the game, the one true stat that shines brightest is the lack of faceoff victories for the Devils. With All-Star rookie centermen Adam Henrique out on a day-to-day groin injury, New Jersey bumped Dainius Zubrus to play first line center along side Devils captain Zach Parise and alternate Ilya Kovalchuk both on the wings. Zubrus only recorded 1 shot on net. Winnipeg, again was out shot by the Devils in the second, 9 shots to 6, and scoreless on the man advantage, as for New Jersey, scorless through two.
As the third period opened up and play resumed, nearly 5 and a half minutes into the period, New Jersey goes on the man advantage on a High Sticking call on centermen Alexander Burmistrov. The Devils continued their powerplay woes and, yet again, were shut down. With time winding down and the halfway point of the third been passed, an abrupt stop of drive from Winnipeg defense leads to one final scoring opportunity from Jets’ captain Ladd as he rings one off the shaft of Brodeur’s stick that deflects up and into the netting behind the cage. It was then when the ice began to tilt, in favor of New Jersey. The Devils managed to finally set up a well enough play to put one past the nearly perfect Ondrej Pavelec as Kurtis Foster puts the Devils on the board with ten minutes and fifteen seconds left on the board to knot the game at 1. Exactly two minutes and fifty eight seconds later, the play of the game occurs as brilliant play making by forward David Clarkson held the puck behind the Winnipeg net. As veteran forward Patrick Elias performed one of the smartest, most heads up plays of the game, as he allows Sykora’s pass to go through his legs and to the blue line to be scooped up by All-Star elected rookie D-Man Adam Larsson who directs a pass towards the right side of the crease as an un-defended Patrick Elias was waiting on the doorstep and burried New Jersey’s 2nd goal of the night on a beautiful all around team play which exemplified team work in its fullest. The clock continued to count down as Winnipeg tried to avoid a three game skid and gain two very important points to help them find their place in the thick of playoff push. 18 minutes and 24 seconds into the final stanza of the game, Winnipeg defensemen Ron Hainsey gets called the Holding call which leads to Patrick Elias’ 4th career penalty shot. Before the penalty shot occurs, Elias is found at the bench talking with goaltender, Johan Hedberg, former teammate of Pavelec possibly asking for pointers as to where to go with his shot, as pointed out by Devils broadcaster, Glenn “Chico” Resch. Elias moves in to center ice, skates up, puts on the move, and is shut down by the inside of Ondrej Pavelec’s arm, despite avoiding the poke check; Elias is now 1-4 in his career on the penalty shot. Play resumes with the draw in Winnipeg’s zone which, like many before, is won by the Jets. The puck is carted down the ice and the pressure is on. With 1:08 remaining on the clock, Winnipeg’s extra attacker hits the ice. Shot after shot after shot is fired, all but one either wide or blocked in front either by a Jet or a Devil, the one exception was gobbled up by Brodeur but could not be held for the faceoff. The clock runs down as Kovalchuk touches the puck and pokes it out of the New Jersey zone, the boos reign down from the crowed as the former Thrasher makes contact with the puck, and as time expires and the Jets loose at home. New Jersey shows how hard fought the game was in their post game celebration, showing signs of exhaustion. Its the tireless and relentless effort by New Jersey this season to come back from deficits to tie games and either pull out the “W” in regulation or force overtime, where the Devils have the best record in the league in overtime with 11 wins, 1 overtime loss, and 1 shootout loss, 8 of those 11 wins come from the shootout. But for tonight, the Devils walk away with two more points, and none handed to their opponent due to the regulation victory.
New Jersey improves their record to 25-17-2 through 44 games, amassing 52 points and holding 6th place in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. The Devils are 3 points ahead of 7th place Toronto, and 2 points behind Ottawa in 5th (which may be 3 or 4pts by the end of their game tonight versus Montreal). The next game on the Devils’ schedual is Tuesday night, January 17th, which will be the closing game of a home-and-home against the Winnipeg Jets as the Devils return home for the first time since a 5-2 victory over the Panthers back on Friday the 6th in the Prudential Center.