Suddenly, home-ice isn't so friendly to the Devils anymore as their 1-0 loss in the dying seconds of OT at the Rock against Boston was the third in their last four home games, though they did get the bonus point tonight as well as in last Thursday's shootout loss to the Rangers, their goalscoring continues to be a problem, as well as their defense (or lack thereof) in any clutch situation.
Maybe it's a measure of how bad things have gotten that I'm more glad I at least got effort tonight than annoyed they lost. Oh make no mistake about it, I'm plenty annoyed at a variety of things, chief among them this team's continued overpassing looking for the perfect play. Normally I'd say our meager twenty-one shots on net in 65 minutes was the result of not coming to play but in the case of tonight's game it was just not coming to shoot. Everyone from Vladimir Zharkov to Ilya Kovalchuk was passing up glorious opportunities all night. Not to mention Brian Rolston who got two terrific opportunities but took a slapshot from too far out on the first one and then on the second one fell down before he could even get a shot off, either trying to draw a call which wasn't going to come or just being clumsy.
There would be plenty of both on the night, clumsiness exhibited when Zharkov accidentally crunched Bryce Salvador against the boards in the third period, or when Kovalchuk nearly took out Patrik Elias's knee just before the fatal overtime goal. And as far as refs Kelly Sutherland and Dan O'Rourke go...ugh. This was straight out of pre-lockout reffing to put it mildly. Not that they favored one team over another per se just that they were letting literally everything slide and Boston certainly pushed the limit of what they could get away with more than the Devils.
I had a feeling we'd be in for a long night when Dean McAmmond had a terrific scoring opportunity in front early in the first, was tripped up by goaltender Tuukka Rask in plain view (outside the crease, mind you) and nothing was called. That would be a familar pattern, even sending mild-mannered Devils like Elias and Zach Parise nuts in the postgame. Elias, for his part got a game misconduct after the final whistle for breaking his stick and giving the refs a few choice words after Kovalchuk was basically mugged for ten seconds before finally being forced into a turnover which led to the only goal of the game while Parise showed his frustration after the game as well:
“I’m still wondering,” Parise said. “I can’t agree with it because I’m
lifting the guy’s stick. I can’t agree with the call. I don’t know if he saw it
from a different angle, but I think it was a tough call, especially when you’re
on the power play. It was really frustrating. There were a lot of things that I
thought could have been called that weren’t and things that usually aren’t
penatlies that were penalties.”
Parise was in part, referring to the penalty called on him during the third period when the Devils had a rare power play which they might have actually been fortunate to get on a delay of game call when Dainius Zubrus dove into the boards and I thought touched a puck that went out of play but instead Matt Hunwick was whistled for a delay of game. At the time I thought the quick penalty on Parise was payback for a questionable call and given the fact almost nothing else got called in the entire game I wouldn't be surprised if that were true. I mean you don't often see a game where not a single penalty is called in forty-seven minutes. I was seriously starting to wonder if the NHL had ever had a game without a goal or penalty in the same game.
When the Devils did finally get a power play midway through the third, they were ineffective as they've been for most of the last three months and the crowd booed. Now here is where I think the 16,000 plus in the arena were wrong to boo, granted the Devils weren't exactly lighting the world on fire in general but the power play has scored five times in their last four games, let's give them a little slack here.
Still there wasn't much else to inspire confidence during the game, other than Martin Brodeur's performance. Brodeur made 33 saves, including some pretty good ones. One in particular came early in the third period after Andy Greene got blown by him like he was stuck in mud and Brodeur just barely kept Michael Ryder's one-on-one attempt from going in. In contrast, we barely made Rask work with our lack of actual shots on net, being outshot in every single period with never more than seven in one twenty-minute span. Our best scoring chance in fact, never got on net officially as David Clarkson hit a post midway through the third off a terrific opportunity in the slot.
As the game dragged to overtime the cynic in me thought both teams just wanted the one point and to settle it in the extra session but really the effort was there on both sides, at least physically for us though we had our fair share of mental screwups. And Boston did have their own power play near the end of regulation we did well to kill off to even get the one point. Of course then came overtime and just when it looked like another skills competition was upon us, Kovalchuk got in trouble handling the puck, nearly taking out Elias and getting mugged by Mark Recchi before finally turning it over resulting in Patrice Bergeron's rebound goal when Paul Martin lost his stick and neglected to take a penalty that would have saved the game in the dying seconds.
Then again with the way tonight's game went it might not have even been a penalty anyway short of a triple axe murder.
BoNY Three Stars:
- Patrice Bergeron (goal, +1 and 5 SOG in 20:26)
- Martin Brodeur (33/34 saves)
- Tuukka Rask (21 saves, SHO)