Of Martin Brodeur's 112 career shutouts, nine of them have come against his hometown team in Montreal, including a 3-0 win last night that gave the Devils just their second win in seven games - both of them shutouts by Brodeur. Aside from the goaltender's predictable dominance against the Habs, the story last night was a much better team effort from the Devils. New Jersey scored a goal in every period and despite being outshot 29-20 allowed fewer scoring chances than Montreal.
Granted, the Devils' first period after a four-day break wasn't particularly strong as they were outshot 10-3, but they did grab the lead when strong forechecking work from the Zach Parise-Travis Zajac-Danius Zubrus line led to Parise's second goal of the season at 4:20 from just outside the crease with assists from his other two linemates. Although coach John MacLean changed his other three forward lines for last night's game, he left Zubrus on the top line after their strong game against the Bruins on Saturday and that proved a good decision as the Parise line was again having an impact after a slow start with Ilya Kovalchuk on the right side.
Things got a little more hectic in the second period as ex-Devil and current Canadien captain Brian Gionta received two penalties for goaltender interference. On the first one he probably got schnookered by his old buddy Brodeur who got position and went down much to Gionta's frustration. In his between periods interview on MSG+ he admitted as much, calmly and discreetly making the point the first one shouldn't have been a penalty. It did seem like Gionta was going out of his way to get in Marty's grill, the way the other ex-Devils have like Mike Rupp and his hit on Jay Pandolfo last year or Scott Gomez getting into it with Jamie Langenbrunner in the 2008 playoffs.
Whatever the case, our power play wasn't particularly effective last night. Of our four chances, I counted one very good showing with the man advantage and the rest...not so much. I do think eventually new assistant Adam Oates will get that straightened out. I'd rather the power play struggle now, as opposed to later in the season - the inverse of last year where we were the top team in the league on the power play early and almost historically bad late. However, the Devils would add to their lead when Jason Arnott's quick shot deflected past Carey Price at 14:59 for Arnott's third goal of the year. Again Zubrus would get an assist, along with Langenbrunner who started the play with some more good forechecking.
For all intents and purposes the game ended early in the third period when rookie defenseman Matt Taormina's blast beat Price through traffic in front at 3:39, giving the Devils a 3-0 lead and Taormina his second goal of the season, off an assist from Arnott. Under normal circumstances, with the defensive woes we've had this season I wouldn't have thought this game was over but really, there was no way Brodeur was blowing a three-goal lead in Montreal of all places. We did give up fourteen shots in the third plus one missed open net by Gionta, who had a tough night against his former team, but the real quality scoring opportunities were few and far between.
Johnny Mac rolled his defensemen pretty evenly with Henrik Tallinder leading in icetime at 20:51. While you would have expected rookie Olivier Magnan-Grenier to be sixth in icetime, he definitely had an impact - playing 16:12 and finishing with a +1 and one shot on net in his NHL debut, also in his hometown. In a nice gesture, the coach let his kid defenseman take the opening shift and get introduced in front of at least twenty-five members of his family and friends in attendance at the Bell Centre. Also, the forwards' icetime was somewhat spread out with only Kovalchuk and Zajac getting over twenty minutes with fourth-liners Adam Mair and Tim Sestito being the only skaters with under ten minutes of icetime (both had just over eight).
In every way possible last night's game was just what the doctor ordered, especially this early in the season when you want to see how all of your players can respond to different situations. And after our mini-crisis of a 1-4-1 start with 21 goals allowed in those six games, a strong performance was definitely welcome. Our next step is to do it at home, since we're 0-3-1 at the Rock to start this season compared to 2-1 on the road...and our last chance at improving the home record will come tomorrow against the Sabres before a six-game road trip that will be crucial early.
BoNY Three Stars:
1. Martin Brodeur (29 saves, SHO)
2. Jason Arnott (goal, assist, +2)
3. Danius Zubrus (two assists, +2)