I had so much hope coming into this game. This “hope” per se, was a pure masterpiece. However, as you all have seen in some movies I bet, some masterpieces end up shattering and at that moment, you’re left helpless. That’s what happened to me today and most probably, every Devils fan on Earth. Thinking that the next two games would be played in Newark, one could almost be certain that the Devils would take control. Instead, this game can be described as Game 1 with a switch of jersey colors.
Well, this was an exciting start! Chances on both ends of the ice and the Devils even had a chance to score on a 2-on-1 (Michael Del Zotto saved the Rangers with a block). It seemed though as if the Devils were going to score fairly quickly due to the amount of chances they were getting. New York took a penalty at the 14:49 point as Derek Stepan went off for hooking. Honestly, if this team was the Flyers, New Jersey might’ve scored on this power play. As the Rangers mantra goes, “block the shot or get the fudge outta here”. Clearly that’s what saved the Rangers from falling behind. Around the 9-minute point, there were some great chances generated by the Devils. 3 great shots from New Jersey sticks evaded the blocking presence of Ranger defenders such as Ryan McDonagh and found their way to Henrik Lundqvist. Unfortunately for the Devils, Lundqvist stayed firm. At the 4:37 point, Ilya Kovalchuk was called for high sticking McDongah, but seriously, did no one see the retaliation punch by McDonagh on Kovy moments after? Either way, Marty Brodeur didn’t face much pressure on that power play and the Devils killed it off effectively. Captain Zach Parise missed on a 2-on-1 with Travis Zajac with 11 seconds to go, in which Parise could have passed the puck back to Zajac, but elected to shoot instead. Nonetheless, there was no score as the teams headed back to the locker room. Shots-on-goal were 11-5 in favor of New Jersey.
Like the first period, the second also had an exciting start. In the first minute, Kovalchuk took a pass from Mark Fayne and went on the breakaway but instead of scoring, his forehand shot was stopped by Lundqvist’s glove! To me, that was arguably the turning point of the match. Seconds later, a slapshot by Dainius Zubrus was held by Lundqvist. This forced John Tortorella to call a timeout for New York just 2 minutes in. While some were cheering, I felt a bit nervous because I’ve seen the end results of opposing teams calling timeouts early. An incident occurred at the 17:28 point, where Rangers forward Brandon Prust took a cheap shot on Anton Volchenkov, causing Volchenkov to go down. A replay clearly shows the elbow of Prust making illegal contact with Volchenkov. Perhaps this is worthy of a Shanaban? You be the judge http://bit.ly/KuHBl5. At the 15:45 point, Marty sprawled from one side to the other, robbing Ryan Callahan of a sure goal! This save was similar to his save on Marc Staal in Game 1. The helter-skelter moments of the second period occurred when Petr Sykora took a shot from the side which was stopped by Lundqvist. A few seconds after the 11 minute mark, Brodeur made a big save on a bad angle shot and 30 seconds after, Kovalchuk was denied by Lundqvist again on the breakaway. But wait there’s more! Immediately after Kovy’s breakaway attempt, the Rangers took it back for a dangerous 2-on-1 but Marty preserved the scoreless tie with a nifty poke check! At the 9:25 point, scumbag Mike Rupp took a tripping penalty, giving the Devils the power play, which again, didn’t do much except generate a few shots. Most of them were blocked, but that’s not much of a surprise if you’ve been paying attention to the series. The Devils had another chance to redeem themselves on the power play when John Mitchell took an interference penalty at the 5:56 point. This power play was downright awful! The Devils couldn’t generate a single great scoring opportunity, were wasting time passing, and the Rangers were blocking shots and creating shorthanded chances! Adam Henrique tried to give the Devils a lead with 7 seconds to go in the period but the goalie battle continued after two periods of play. Shots-on-goal were 26-14 in favor of New Jersey.
If you’re a big believer of superstition like me, then please feel free to rant/be mad at me because I immediately thought about Game 1 when I shouldn’t have. Why did I have to think of déjà vu for that split second? I was just hoping it wouldn’t happen now. This period didn’t start out beneficial at all for New Jersey. Brad Richards hit the post and then Marty stopped Marian Gaborik in tight. Two great chances for New York but the Devils had a bit of luck on their sides. At the 17:49 point, the Devils essentially lost control of this game. Bryce Salvador went off for hooking and the Rangers were awarded a power play. 1 minute and 8 seconds later, disaster struck as Dan Girardi fired one past Marty from Marty’s left side. Does anyone remember how Girardi broke the tie in Game 1 from that same position? Nonetheless, Girardi’s 3rd of the playoffs was assisted by Richards. The misery continued 1:57 later when Chris Kreider deflected a shot in front past Brodeur. It was Kreider’s 5th of the playoffs (3rd of the series) with the assists going to McDonagh and Callahan. Does anyone remember how Kreider made the game 2-0 in Game 1? Déjà vu hurts when you know it’s true but the reality was that the Rangers now had a commanding 2-0 lead in Game 3. New York took a penalty when Marc Staal went off for holding-the-stick at the 11:51 point. The only shot on that power play was a one-timer by Kovy that was held by Lundqvist. I wasn’t surprised that the 4th line was still trying to generate some goals (especially nearing the 9 minute point) but it’s concerning that the Devils’ top lines were asleep. As Coach Pete DeBoer said in differentiating between 1 PM games and 8 PM games, “Instead of spaghetti, you eat pancakes”. Looks like those pancakes had some sleeping potion inside. The Rangers took another penalty at the 4:54 point as Richards went off for interference. On the power play, Peter Harrold hit the post and Lundqvist covered up. DeBoer used his timeout then (too late if you ask me) in hoped of getting his troops energized again. Close but no cigar. Brodeur was pulled with 2:33 to go and 20 seconds later, Callahan finished it with an empty netter (and a hilarious celebration followed as if he scored a game winner). Callahan’s 4th of the playoffs was assisted by Brian Boyle and Ruslan Fedotenko. That’s how it would end. 3-0 in Game 1 with an empty netter as the 3rd goal and 3-0 in Game 3 with an empty netter as the 3rd goal. Shots-on-goal were still in NJ’s favor 36-22 but it’s scarcely relevant as the Devils now trail the Rangers in this Eastern Conference Finals 2 games to 1.
Next Game: Monday, May 21st, 2012 vs. New York @ The Rock 8 PM on NBC Sports Network (US), and CBC (CAN).
Key Notes: Referees today were Kevin Pollock and Brad Watson. These guys were alright but there were some blatant calls which they missed. Poor job on their part. Steve Eminger returned for the Rangers in place of Stu Bickell, and the Devils had a little trouble getting past his presence. There were no changes to the lineup as Adam Larsson, Eric Boulton, Cam Janssen, and Tim Sestito were scratched. Perhaps DeBoer should try benching Salvador or Volchnkov and put in Larsson and see what would happen. It’s worth a shot. Brian Gionta was at the game today to support his younger brother, Stephen. Lil Gio is a boss and I’m feeling a strong Game 4 for him! Today’s game was the first Devils home game to be broadcasted on NBC since 2007. Their first game on NBC was against Philadelphia on the road, also for the first time since 07 but this was the first home game. I’m glad they caught the sellout crowd of 17,625. However, how many of them were Devils fans because there was a Marty chant during the 2nd period. If it was Devils fans, shame on your part and if it was Rangers fans, that’s a concerning point that a majority of the stadium cheers for the other team. New Jersey went 1/2 on the PK but 0/5 on their power play chances. Simply disappointing.
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