While the Devils were honoring the 2000 Stanley Cup team tonight in the last of their three championship promos against the three teams they beat in the Finals, the current-day Devils were showing they might be having their own day of rememberance down the road with a dominant 4-0 shutout over this version of the Stars. After it took Martin Brodeur over two months to break the shutout record, now they're coming out of his ears as he's put up three, including the record-breaker in just over a two-week span.
Ironically it occured to me tonight that this year was the first time (other than the Sean Avery return in a wrong uniform last year where we beat them 5-0) that it didn't really feel like a Devils-Stars game anymore. So many of the Stars who were a part of that fine organization in the last decade are gone, and of those who remain - Mike Modano and Jere Lehtinen have been a bit marginalized now due to age. Their last two coaches (Dave Tippett and Ken Hitchcock) are both doing good jobs for other West teams ironically enough.
That said, the ceremony was still special. Even some of the old players and coaches I didn't expect to show up did, like Claude Lemieux who wasn't around for the '95 ceremony as far as I know. Plus Slava Fetisov made an appearance, and last I checked he was basically the czar of Russian hockey. Having the Stanley Cup in the building probably contributed to the good attendance for tonight, along with the College Night promo and many students still being home for winter break long enough to take advantage of it. While I'm not crazy about having the Cup there, so long as it stayed in the concourse (with a huge line willing to pay $20 per picture to the Devils' Alumni) and off the ice I have no real issue with it.
As for the game, the Devils overcame a sluggish start, coming on late in the period and taking the lead through an effort goal. I was only surprised it was Brian Rolston giving the effort, using his skates, stick and whatever else was available to keep the puck in the zone during a nice ten-second stretch before floating a shot from the point that Patrik Elias tipped home for his ninth goal of the year. Also getting an assist on Elias's goal at 18:02 was Dean McAmmond. Even though the Devils outshot the Stars in the first period and got a late goal, I was still a little surprised at what was to come.
Maybe I shouldn't have been, though after all we did lose to this team in Dallas earlier this year. Tonight would be a different story as first Elias beat Alex Auld with a wrist shot at 6:59 to double the Devils' lead and give Elias his second of the game. Then at 9:36 Travis Zajac finally ended a long (twelve-game) goal drought by firing a slapshot home from the point on a power play. Zajac's tenth goal of the year was set up by Jamie Langenbrunner and Nicklas Bergfors. Finally at 15:07, Zach Parise completed the onslaught with his 18th of the season after assists from Langenbrunner and Zajac.
With the Devils leading 4-0 and outshooting the Stars 22-15 through two periods, only one thing was on everyone's mind entering the third period. Obviously the Devils were aware of it too, maybe at times they were too worried about rolling up the score and passed up good scoring opportunities. Elias again passed every opportunity he got once he got the two goals similar to what he did in the Islander game, seemingly allergic to hat tricks (and that started before the game got out of hand). Plus on one shift in the third period, the PZL line had a number of different chances to score but never really got a good shot off. Still, the crowd gave them an ovation afterwards for their effort, something I really don't see too much of anymore around here.
Finally Dallas started to pepper Brodeur late thanks in part to a bad shift from Mark Fraser who was beaten to the inside two seperate times on the same shift, but finallly Elias had to take a penalty and give the Stars a power play. Put to their only real test of the night, the Devils responsed with flying colors killing off the penalty with ease and preserving the shutout, with Brodeur making 13 of his 28 saves in that third period.
Notes: So apparently David Clarkson has more than just a bruise on the right ankle after all. While not admitting he suffered a reinjury, GM Lou Lamoriello put him on IR and prounounced him out for another 2-3 weeks, saying he wanted to make sure everything is healed up and that 'no chances would be taken'. Hmmm, might be a bit late for that, but whatever. Taking Clarkson's roster spot was none other than Pierre Luc-Letourneau Leblond - who recovered from his mysterious and recurring 'illness' to play 7:39 (thankfully keeping Andrew Peters out of the lineup for another night). Danius Zubrus is also still 'weeks away' according to the GM.
BoNY Three Stars:
- Martin Brodeur (28 saves, SHO)
- Patrik Elias (two goals, +2)
- Travis Zajac (goal, assist, +1 with 22:29 TOI)