Saturday, February 16, 2008

Devils Thrashed

Well not really. With a chance to pull in front of the idle Penguins for sole possession of first in the Atlantic, the Devils had to settle for one point in a tough 4-3 shootout home defeat at the hands of the Thrashers Friday night.

Things were looking good for the Devs when they got the first two markers of the contest off the sticks of leading scorer Zach Parise and Brian Gionta (second straight game with goal). However, Atlanta cameback to knot it thanks to second period goals from Ilya Kovalchuk and Todd White.

When gritty two-way pivot John Madden somehow banked one in for his 15th off an Atlanta defender in front, it looked like it might be enough for New Jersey to come away with the 'W.' But with Johan Hedberg pulled for an extra attacker in the final frantic minute, Marian Hossa managed to net the equalizer nudging one past Martin Brodeur with only 18.1 ticks left forcing overtime.

In OT, the Thrashers were given a makeup call due to an undetected Vitaly Vishnevski slash which bloodied one-time New Jersey Devil Ken Klee. The Thrashers came close to scoring but only to see an outstretched Brodeur do what he does best thwarting quality scoring chances during the four-on-three. The three-time Cup and Vezina winner finished with 29 saves.

The game eventually would wind up in a shootout. The Devils put their perfect 3-0 record versus Atlanta on the line but this time, it was the Thrashers who came out with the victory thanks to ex-Ranger Pascal Dupuis' laser past Brodeur's glove in the 10th round. When Arron Asham's try sailed wide, Hedberg had won the battle finishing with 30 saves including stopping eight of 10 NJ shooters in the skills competition.

For their part, the Thrashers move into a tie for first with Carolina in the crowded Southeast. Combined with the Panthers' home win over the Caps, those four teams are separated by two points with suddenly resurgent Tampa Bay making a push within six of first place.

So, how crazy is it? The Rangers who haven't played since last weekend will finally take the ice later today in a matinee against the seventh seeded Sabres. They will enter with one more point than either Atlanta or Carolina.

Wins are the thing now for Tom Renney's desperate club with 23 games remaining to salvage their season.

For the Devs, they are now tied with the Pens with an identical 32-21-5 mark for 69 points with each club having 24 left. It's anyone's guess what will happen in another tight division race which sees the slumping Flyers four behind while the Blueshirts are six out and the Isles trail by 10.

We'll have much more later today.

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