Well this morning I found one surefire way to keep the blood pressure down...don't watch West Coast games. Sometimes I decide to just go to sleep when the game starts and tape the game so I can wake up early and watch it the next morning fresh before going to work. I didn't have to check the score before popping in the tape but did anyway, when I saw a replay of Jacques Lemaire's press conference on MSG+. When he was asked about what happened when it got to 4-0 I was pleasantly surprised it'd even got to that point, but I got the impression 'well we gave up a couple of late goals, big deal'. It wasn't till I checked the box score that I found out it actually got to 4-3 with plenty of time left - yikes!
The thought of me being spared staying up till 1 AM and getting pissy about another goal bomb (an apt term I lifted from NJDevs) dropped on us was enough to make me laugh this one off...almost. You're living in a cave if you think all of these multi-goal leads that are dissapearing aren't a concern. Yes, the Devils are getting Paul Martin back - supposedly. And no I didn't expect to shut down a team as explosive as the Sharks all night, especially when you're talking about a defense where Andy Greene's basically our number one, and lately he's been looking more like Brent Sutter's nervous, offensively challenged Greene than the 2009 version since early January.
Let's be honest though there was more good than bad about last night's game, at the top of the list being the chemistry shown by our alleged second line of Ilya Kovalchuk, Patrik Elias and Danius Zubrus. Is it crazy to say Zubrus is having his best season as a Devil, when he missed like thirty games? Of course it helps when you play with talented players but even then, not everyone can produce. That line buzzed all night and combined for a couple of goals, with Zubrus opening the scoring at 11:13 of the second after a sequence where Kovalchuk put one on net and after Elias (who did get an assist earlier in the play) was prevented from cashing in on the rebound by Kent Huskins, Zubrus swooped in and put the loose puck home. Kovalchuk also scored a big goal with just eighteen seconds remaining in the second period with a hard wrist shot from the point, giving him his second goal as a Devil and a power play tally to boot, after assists from Zach Parise and Travis Zajac.
Also our top line showed they weren't allowing any post-Olympic hangover. After the two Z's assisted on Kovalchuk's goal, they scored one of their own at 5:44 of the third when Zajac beat Evgeni Nabokov with another hard shot on net, with the Olympians - Parise and Jamie Langenbrunner - getting the assists on Zajac's 20th of the season that seemingly put the game away, giving the Devils a 4-0 lead. Our other goal-scorer was a bit of a surprise - Mark Fraser potted his third goal of the year just thirty-five seconds after Zubrus broke the ice with a slap shot from the point, after a nice feed from David Clarkson, making his long-awaited return to the lineup in style with that assist, a +2 and 2 SOG in 18:31. Anssi Salmela also got an assist on that goal.
So basically our top three lines were all involved and our shaky D actually did a good job shutting down the Sharks for much of the game, allowing twenty shots total and few quality chances other than Joe Thornton hitting a crossbar in the first couple minutes. When the floodgates finally opened though, it wasn't pretty. Greene made a bizarre decision to vacate the front of the net, leaving Devin Setoguchi open in front for a one-timer that got the Sharks going at 8:46. After a bad penalty from Dean McAmmond (granted, the only one the Devils took last night), a Rob Blake slapshot rebounded right to Setoguchi for his second of the game at 10:35. Finally, Joe Pavelski scored in close just fifty-seven seconds later. So basically in the amount of time one needs to take a dump literally, the Devils took one figuratively. Within the span of 2:57, a 4-0 game turned into 4-3.
Lemaire saw enough and called timeout, fortunately whatever he said got the team back on point and they shut the door the rest of the night. Really Kovalchuk could have added to the lead twice, first on a breakaway when he got stopped by his countryman Nabokov and later on when he somehow failed to score in an empty net after retrieving the puck deep in the Sharks' zone. Still, the Devils got a much-needed win, especially with the Penguins' earlier win over a Ryan Miller-less Sabres team put them in the division lead for the first time in months. Winning in San Jose put the Devils right back in front. Of course that race is coming down to the wire no matter what, especially with the Pens' acquisitions of Alexei Ponikarovsky and Jordan Leopold yesterday.
It'll be interesting to see what other cards Lou Lamoriello, the Penguins' Ray Shero and other GM's play in the seven hours between now and the trade deadline.
BoNY Three Stars:
- Ilya Kovalchuk (goal, assist, +1 and 5 SOG in 20:39)
- Devin Setoguchi (two goals, 5 SOG)
- Travis Zajac (goal, assist)