In a matinee game versus the Tampa Bay Lightning, who were coming off of a BLOW OUT loss to Evgeni Malkin and the Pens. An 8-1 rout of the Bolts was led by the alternate captain when he struck for 3 goals and an assist in a 4pt game in which the centerman would end the day +3 jumping 4 points over Lightning forward, Steven Stamkos (73pts.) in the overall points race as Malkin gained points 74, 75, 76, and 77. Bolts leading scorer Steven Stamkos looks to lead the Lightning out of Pennsylvania and into New Jersey on a rebound with a “W” when Tampa netminder Mathieu Garon looks to shut down the Devils scorers Kovalchuk, Parise, Clarkson, Elias, and newest defender, Marek Zidlicky. Zidlicky was acquired Friday evening during a game between the Devils and Canucks (2-1 Vancouver) in a trade between NJ and Minnesota. The Devils would ship off defenseman Kurtis Foster, forward Nick Palmieri, winger Stephane Vellieux, a second round pick as well as an additional conditional pick to the Wild. Zidlicky will dress in the #2 for todays game; in 41 games played, Marek has 0 goals, 14 assists for 14 points, a +/- rating of -6 with 24 penalty minutes. His 8th season as a professional, Zidlicky has 298 points in his career, 160 points on the powerplay unit which is a big addition to a powerplay unit which is in need of blue line support.
The first period was quick! Fast paced, and a defensive showcase (which is good since the team traded for a defenseman) which showed a lot of “makeup” help for Marty after defensemen weren’t exactly where they were supposed to be on plays which were “made up” by big poke checks and clears out of the zone. Despite opportunities for both clubs through the first 10 minutes of play, both teams looked very good, and both teams didnt look like they had come off of defeats in their last games. New Jersey managed to stay tough and physical throughout the opening 20 minutes. Scoring would be initiated by Alexi Ponikarovsky, his 5th of the year for New Jersey, 12th of the year in a conjoined season between the Devils and Hurricanes. 23-8-3 is New Jersey’s record this year when scoring first against their opponents, a feat they had completed for 9 straight games before being scored on first against Vancouver on Friday night; the 9 straight games with a goal first is a team record. Poni’s goal was scored 12:07 minutes into the period was an unassisted goal which was put past Garon on the low glove side. Shortly after the Devils goal, it’d be Steven Stamkos with the opportunity in 1 on 1 rushing in on Brodeur before it was broken up by Marek Zidlicky on a holding call. The 2nd ranked penalty killing unit league-wide would hit the ice. Successfully killing off the 2 minute minor allowing no shots on net. After giving up 2 even strength goals Friday in a losing effort, the Devils had a message to send to the slumping Lightning who currently reside in 12th place (before todays game), 14 points behind their opponent today, New Jersey, who sits alone in 6th place with 74pts, 2 points ahead of 7th place Ottawa, and 1 point behind BOTH Atlantic Division rivals, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia who have a tie with 75pts. A win today would put New Jersey into 4th place in the East, leading into a matchup at the “World’s Most Famous Arena”, Madison Square Garden against the Rangers. The Devils and Lightning headed into the locker room’s with a 1-0 game in favor of the home town team.
In the second period, the opening 20 seconds as a matter of fact, drive by New Jersey was still in full effect. A determined effort by Henrique on a pass behind his back from his knee’s to Kovy behind the net on a wrap-around attempt that was stuffed by the leg of Garon showed they were ready for some hockey. Scoring opportunities would primarily stay on the one side of the ice, the side in which Mathieu Garon would be for the period. The second period’s scoring would open up though, eventually, for the away team. A goal scored by Lightning alternate captain Martin St. Louis 6:39 minutes in on an odd man rush on Brodeur which was due to a poorly timed line change by coach Pete DeBoer, a dump pass by Garon who would get the secondary assist on a wrister from Marty’s left, put in the cage on Marty’s right side. The game was tied. Tampa Bay would be given their second powerplay opportunity of the day on a holding the stick call on New Jersey’s Dainius Zubrus; two minutes later, the Zuby was back on the ice after a second successful penalty kill by the Devils’ short hand unit. Tampa managed one shot on net with the man advantage. Tampa Bay AGAIN would go for the man advantage, it’d be Kovalchuk this time and this time, the Lightning would strike. Again for Tampa, it’d be Marty St. Louis, his 41st career multi goal game, a powerplay goal scored by St. Louis fed from Teddy Purcell (secondary assist) and Ryan Malone. Brodeur had just finished recording one save before falling on his back and watching the black block of rubber hit the back of the twine for the 2-1 lead. New Jersey after forfeiting one goal, would then shortly after go up on the man advantage with 4:13 left in the period. The call would be on Lightning centerman Trevor Smith, a 2 minute minor hooking call which would be un eventful and goalless for either team. New Jersey was now 0-1 on the man advantage, mirroring a 1-3 effort thus far by their on ice opponents. The middle period would conclude with a few big saves by both starting goalies before the final buzzer would ring out through the arena. In the words of Chich Resch, “Hard work and effort doesnt always count on the scoreboard”, which couldnt be more true; New Jersey out played the Bolts, matching them in “shots for” with 5 a piece. The Devils would begin the 3rd period up again on the man advantage after a last second penalty was called on Steven Stamkos at the 20 minute mark for hooking on Ilya Kovalchuk in front of the net.
The third period would be a nightmare, in my eyes for that matter. New Jersey would tie it up early on a goal by Petr Sykora in the opening minutes of the period. The goal would be Sykky’s 15th, matching his jersey number scored nearly 2 and a half minutes into the period on passes from Steve Bernier and Dainius Zubrus. No sooner does the crowd get back into it, they get deflated once more on a goal scored by Matt Gilroy not even a minute later on a pass from St. Louis and Purcell. 3-2 the score between the Lightning and the Devils up until the half way point when Marty St. Louis would light the lamp one more time, his 3rd of the game, 4th point of the afternoon; Marty St. Louis scored his 3rd goal of the afternoon for the hat trick on a tip in from infront of the net, gaining his 58th point of the year, putting the Bolts up by 2 goals mid way in the 3rd. Before the period would end, Tampa scorer Steven Stamkos would head to the sin bin for a tripping penalty with just under 5 minutes left to play. Stammer’s time in the box would be cut short as he’d be released from punishment when the Devils answered 2 Tampa Bay goals with one of their own on a powerplay snap shot goal, his 23rd of the year, scored by our captain, Zach Parise! Parise’s goal would also account for Kovalchuk’s 35th assist, and Elias’ 39th helper. It wouldnt be enough… St. Louis would eventually get a penalty with 1 minute remaining in the game giving New Jersey a 6 on 4 opportunity with Brodeur on the bench, but an icing would ultimatly, ice the Devils and their opportunity for a come from behind victory. The Devils would fall for the 2nd consecutive game before a meeting tomorrow night versus the rival New York Rangers. Brodeur stopped 12-16 shots faced while being upstaged by Tampa backup Mathieu Garon, shutting down 19-22, 8 shots in the 1st and 3rd periods. In the next 7 days, New Jersey will play against the Rangers tomorrow evening to close out the month of February, openining up March on the road against the Bruins on the 1st, the Capitals on the 2nd, and the Islanders in the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, NY.