Sunday, November 13, 2011

Devils show resilience in weekend split with the Caps

After Friday's 3-1 loss to the Caps in regulation and with the team falling in an early 2-0 hole last night, I was setting up to write another blog either during the game or this morning. One about how the Caps were showing us how far we were from being a good team, that wins over Winnipeg and Carolina were illusory, and the Caps games were providing a severe reality check. I was that convinced we were getting curbstomped last night. How could you not be, with the Caps' talent compared to ours right now? Not to mention the fact we were outscored 5-0 from the first period Friday to the first period Saturday.

Yet, somehow for the third time this season we came back from down two on the road against a playoff team to take the mighty Caps to a shootout, where a surprising winner from David Clarkson gave the Devils an unexpected two points from the nation's capital and our third road win this season whencoming from two goals behind. For whatever issues this team has right now, effort and resilience haven't been among them. Neither has goaltending, as both Martin Brodeur and Johan Hedberg turned in strong performances against a terrific offense.

Granted, Friday we weren't really outclassed per se, but with our offensive struggles you're just not going to beat the Caps scoring one goal. Even with Brodeur looking strong in net until he got beat with a deflection by Alex Ovechkin late in the second period to tie the game then the Devils' power play of doom cost the team in the third period when a Mattais Tedenby turnover and a bad line change by Clarkson led to Jason Chimera getting a one-on-one chance against Adam Larsson. Chimera deked out the rookie badly, and easily beat a helpless Brodeur for what turned out to be the winning goal. Though the Devils played well for forty minutes, for all intents and purposes the four minutes of power play time at the beginning of the period where we didn't score and gave up a short-handed goal decided the game.

While the offense itself has been bad for a long time, it's just unreal how bad the power play is. As of this point in the season (fifteen games) the Devils have five power play goals - while giving up three shorthanded ones. So basically the Devils have a net of two power play goals for the entire season. Some other teams can get two power play goals in a single game, as foreign as that concept seems to us. Funny how Kovalchuk's misadventures at the point were dissected to kingdom com but without Kovy and Patrik Elias taking his place at the point, the power play has been just as bad...with Elias doing his best Kovy impersonation by slipping and losing the puck at the point constantly.

My mood Friday wasn't helped by the two mongloids sitting behind me in 120 who were screaming nonsense the whole game, the Devil fan of the pair in particular was annoying - calling for the Moose after Brodeur gave up the shorthanded goal early in the third period, as if he was gonna stop the play once Chimera deked out Larsson and had all day in front? Not to mention later in the period when the same bozo said rather causally that 'Kovy isn't really hurt, he got tweaked up a little bit and DeBoer's benched him the last couple games'. They weren't the only clowns I had to deal with, walking back to Penn Station after the game and using the turnstile, some idiot decides to spin it around real fast - with me still in it. Thankfully I got out of there just in time and almost shot the guy a look but stopped myself and just did a slow burn.

I wonder if the goofball who wanted Moose was paying attention last night in the first period when Moose gave up two quick goals - one on an Adam Henrique turnover and the other by Chimera again, after the Caps showed us what an NHL power play was all about (though later the goal was ruled to have been scored a second after the power play ended, keeping our PK numbers near pristine). Not to mention the clowns who said we played better for Moose than we did for Marty, after Moose's winning streak earlier in the year. All this conspired to put me in a bad mood and I was just hoping we would somehow find a way to win in Boston to avoid a three-game losing streak and slipping back under .500.

Then, strange things started to happen. Our defense stepped it up big-time, allowing the high-octane Caps a mere eight shots on goal after the first period, including two in the second period - while the Devils' offense creeped back into the game. First, Elias and Petr Sykora turned back the clock to combine on another classic Sykie goal, with Elias winning the faceoff right onto Danius Zubrus's stick, and Zubrus quickly passed the puck back to Sykora for a one-timer, almost a carbon copy of Syk's other goal this season. Sykora's goal at 12:18 cut the deficit in half and gave the Devils momentum, but even then I wasn't sure we could get a positive result out of this game. That is, until we got an unlikely contribution from our fourth line, with defenseman Bryce Salvador of all people finding Ryan Carter in the slot for an oddly perfect deflection past Michael Neuvirth at 18:54.

Though that goal was Carter's first as a Devil, it needs to be said he's had a positive impact since he's gotten here, filling in at center and providing a touch of a physical presence...not to mention adding another capable penalty-killing forward on a unit that was already doing well. Still, when you get a rare goal from the fourth line you need to take advantage. And the Devils did, though at times it felt like the Caps dominated more in the third period than the 5-4 shot total indicated, the team did manage to overcome a late penalty on Zubrus to take the game into overtime. In OT, each goalie only had to face one shot but Hedberg's save was a doozy, robbing Dennis Wideman with the glove on a wide-open one-timer. A Parise deflection got stopped by Neuvirth just before the buzzer, sending the game to a shootout.

Things began predictably with Hedberg stopping Matt Hendricks of all people, and Parise scoring first to give the Devils a 1-0 advantage. Ovechkin tied it with a wrister, and Henrique missed the net badly on his attempt (this was the same guy that scored two breakaways last Saturday?!). Hedberg then had to stop Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin to give the Devils a chance. After Elias got stopped himself, Pete DeBoer's next choice was an interesting one - Clarkson. With the number of important goals he's scored already this year, including a breakaway against the Leafs, why not? Despite that and the fact he had converted on his only other shootout attempt, I was still surprised and amused that he wound up getting the winner, beating Neuvirth with a backhand deke.

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