It wasn't pretty but the Devils will take it. Ilya Kovalchuk's first goal of the season 53 seconds into overtime made a winner of new coach John MacLean. His first win behind the bench. Martin Brodeur stopped all 24 shots as New Jersey prevailed over Buffalo 1-0. It was Brodeur's record 111th shutout- third career against the Sabres, including a 0-0 tie over a decade ago when he and Dominik Hasek shared the game puck.
The victory was the Devs' first in four tries, pulling out the win despite using only 16 skaters. One better than their 3-1 loss to Pittsburgh Monday. Former Sabre Adam Mair signed for one year, $500,000- debuting yesterday in a familiar setting against the club he spent the past seven years with. The gritty fourth line center replaced Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond, who cleared waivers. He wasn't the only one to have a successful return to Western New York with former Sabre defenseman Henrik Tallinder putting forth his best effort thus far. It helped the shorthanded team earn the 'W.'
“We’ve had a lot of changes, we’ve had injuries, and we’ve played with 15 players, and now 16 players,” Brodeur said. “It’s been chaotic a little bit. So for us to finally get one under our belt, now we can start playing our season.”
With Brian Rolston diagnosed with a sports hernia which could keep him out six weeks, the veteran center was placed on Long Term Injured Reserve, clearing space for Lou Lamoriello to recall reinforcements from Albany for tomorrow's home game against the Avs. Maybe the NHLPA can investigate that as well.
Predictably, the two clubs played a tight checking low-scoring affair which emulated last year's season series. With the Devils still short two, it favored them. You have to wonder why Lindy Ruff's club didn't try to open it up until late in the third when they had quite a few chances to pull it out in regulation.
“We’re four games in, and there isn’t anything to freak out about,” second-year defenseman Tyler Myers said. “We had a lot of chances, we just didn’t put them in.”
A couple of point blank rebounds went wide, pushing the contest to OT. In it, all it took was one mistake when Devil rookie Matt Taormina recovered Andrej Sekera's turnover and dished across for an isolated Kovalchuk, who buried it past Miller off the post and in giving his team a much needed win. In a nice gesture, captain Jamie Langenbrunner rewarded Taormina with the game puck for his first NHL career point.
“I didn’t like the play with us coming back in the zone,” Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff lamented. “We could have at least competed harder.”
Brodeur credited MacLean for igniting a fire after sending the Devils off the ice after just 20 minutes of practice during the morning skate, fuming following an errant Zach Parise pass.
“It was almost like Mark Messier,” he joked. “We have to be prepared to play a certain way and act a certain way. He wants us to act like a professional and do what we need to do to get ourselves ready, and he wasn’t happy about what was going on at the morning skate.”
"I think they woke themselves up, too. I've always said we have a good hockey team here and we're going through growing pains early, but they put the effort in for 60 minutes, which is what they were looking for and they did a nice job. It was great from Marty all the way out. They played very well," praised MacLean.
For Buffalo, it's back to the drawing board after dropping a third straight on home ice. The first time they've done that since 1993. They haven't won since an opening season 2-1 victory at Ottawa. Their next chance comes tomorrow when northern enemy Montreal pays a visit to HSBC Arena for the final game of a four-game homestand. The Habs should be in a foul mood following a bitter 4-3 overtime defeat to Tampa Bay in their home opener.
Meanwhile, the Devils get Colorado and Boston at The Rock this weekend. They'll do so with a full roster following Rolston's successful hernia surgery, which freed up $5 million in cap space. The club recalled centers Tim Sestito, Jacob Josefson and defenseman Matt Corrente. It was also determined that defenseman Mark Fraser sustained a broken hand stemming from a fight with Buffalo's Cody McCormick last night.
BONY 3 Stars:
3rd Star-Ryan Miller, Sabres (34 saves incl.15/15 in 1st)
2nd Star-Ilya Kovalchuk, Devils (OT winner-1st of season)
1st Star-Matt Taormina, Devils (primary assist-1st career NHL point)