Sunday, January 10, 2010

Parise's OT winner extends Devils 'streak' - for now

After the chaos of Friday night, the Devils put in a terrific encore that was just about hockey less than 24 hours later, beating the Canadiens 2-1 in overtime in what was by all accounts an entertaining and up-tempo game. Hard for me to believe these are the same two teams that played at the Rock less than a month ago in a snooze-fest, but maybe Canadiens coach Jacques Martin is a little more willing to open it up now that they have Andrei Markov and ex-Devil Brian Gionta back in the lineup.

Can't say as I was really able to enjoy the whole game seeing as I was still wrapped up in the Jets postgame after their big playoff win. It was really the late second period when I started watching this game intently but I saw both goals - nice passing by Jamie Langenbrunner and Zach Parise that led to Travis Zajac's wrister giving the Devils an early lead at 4:07 and Zajac his eleventh goal of the season. And still leading 1-0 the Devils gave up a power play goal at 7:38 of the second when a Roman Hamrlik shot hit off the post and skidded on the goalline long enough for the notorious Scott Gomez to tap it in and again have bragging rights over Martin Brodeur (after his big season against us two years ago when he first left).

I also saw plenty of high-quality saves from Brodeur and Montreal starter Jaroslav Halak. Halak's certainly making his case to be the #1 in Montreal right now, especially when you compare his performance with Carey Price's at the Rock a month ago, where Price's bad goal allowed to Illka Pikkaranen was the difference in that 2-1 loss. Brodeur would make 29 stops and Halak 26, as the game somehow remained at 1-1 going into overtime despite both teams getting their share of real opportunities.

Interestingly, the Devils hadn't had a game decided in OT yet this year though several times they've had to play the extra five minutes before a shootout. Just as I was thinking we would have to go that route again to beat Halak, the shootout amazingly started early thanks to a break - of a Parise stick. He went to the bench to get a replacement and was still at the blueline when Zajac looped a pass out of the zone that found Zach all alone for a breakaway. He deked Halak and roofed a shot shortside for a dramatic winner 2:38 into the overtime that nearly made Doc Emrick lose his voice and gave Parise his 19th goal of the season, and an important one at that.

Why was Parise's goal so important? After all the Devils had won two straight sixty-minute games before last night (haha) and were still in first overall in the Eastern Conference. Of course the Sabres are red-hot right behind them and making up ground daily but more pressingly, the Devils will finish up a likely loss today against Tampa, then go to the Garden for the first of four tough road games on Tuesday against a suddenly hot Rangers team after all of the nonsense that's happened this week. A loss last night could easily have snowballed into a bad streak.

That said, I'm glad they're finishing up this game today. I'm not like the Bill Polian and Jim Caldwell-like Devil fans who would rather punt the game and see the team give no effort worrying about injury, the upcoming schedule and expending effort. Well gee, if last night's slate of NHL games wasn't an indicator that you play everything out then I don't know what is, what with the Wild coming from four goals down against the mighty Blackhawks in the third period before winning in a shootout and the Islanders blowing a three-goal lead (again) and giving the Coyotes a point in Phoenix.

And I'm glad my team doesn't think like that either, they'll give a representative effort although to be honest I hope they play Yann Danis for the thirty minutes today instead of having Brodeur between the pipes three days straight and four out of five, even if it does technically add up to only three full games. Then again I'm whistling in an empty room here, as Jacques Lemaire reiterated the other day there are no plans to rest Brodeur in the immediate future.

In any event, hopefully the second 'half' turns out better today than the first half did on Friday.

BoNY Three Stars:
  1. Zach Parise (goal, assist, +1)
  2. Martin Brodeur (29/30 saves)
  3. Jaroslav Halak (26/28 saves)

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