Wednesday, November 9, 2011
More Henrique heroics help Devils squeeze by Canes
After scoring a game-tying goal in Philadelphia on Thursday and two breakaway goals including an overtime winner against the Jets at home on Saturday, there wasn't much rookie Adam Henrique could do to surpass that. Except perhaps adding yet another game-winner late in the third period of last night's game against the Canes, which prompted chants of 'Henrique! Henrique!' from the home crowd, the rookie's fourth huge goal in the Devils' three-game winning streak.
Last night couldn't have been a much better night for me at the Rock, especially since I got my season ticket holder one-game upgrade into the club section. For those who don't know, the clubs at the Prudential Center are the padded black seats in the lower bowl from blueline to blueline on each side of the ice. The main lure of them however, is the free food and soft drink (plus hot drinks like coffee and hot chocolate) that you can get in the two lounges throughout the game. As I described to my friend - who was experiencing the clubs for the first time - it's like a ginormous barbeque. I think both of us are still recovering from all the food, drink and snack we had last night.
Technically it wasn't a free upgrade, since I had to trade my regular seats in for the club seats inside one of the towers an hour before the game but hey, $22 apiece (my season ticket cost) for a view just several rows from the ice and free food and drink throughout? A total steal. There was just about everything me and my friend could have wanted from sushi - one of her favorites - to chicken fingers and fries to pizza, hot dogs, lamb, cheesesteak sandwiches, numerous snacks like cookies and zeppoles and literally too many other things to name. Both lounges have a few private bathrooms as well. The view was pretty good too, though as is often the case with the lower bowl you can't see certain spots very well the closer you get to the ice, for us it was along the boards where the view was lacking a little.
With all the food and drink in the clubs, we happily arrived at the arena 6:30 for a 7:30 game, saw both lounges and had plenty of time to eat and look around before the opening faceoff. While the Devils played well in the first period, they couldn't beat nemesis Cam Ward - who made sixteen saves - and wound up giving up a shorthanded goal when Patrik Elias of all people slipped on the point, leaving Brandon Sutter streaking down the ice for a breakway goal, which I predicted seconds before he scored. He had enough time to pull a Danny Briere and stop for five seconds before doing what he wanted in front of Martin Brodeur (he actually beat him with a quick wrister).
Despite the power play futility throughout the game (0 for 3 in the game, including a missed 5-on-3 chance), the Devils kept fighting and Danius Zubrus eventually scored on a nifty deflection at 10:56 of the second period, though we had to wait a few anxious minutes as the goal was looked at by the video review boys in Toronto. They couldn't determine whether Zubrus deflected the puck above the crossbar, so the call on the ice stood. Elias and Anton Volchenkov got the assists on Zubie's fourth goal of the year.
Going into the third, it was anyone's game. Our second goal provided a Back to the Future moment with Elias assisting Petr Sykora, who scored on a hard wrister from beyond the faceoff dot, reminiscent of a couple of Syk's goals against us in the 2003 Finals. This goal was Sykie's second, and gave us a 2-1 lead at 2:37 of the third. Instead of sitting on the lead, the Devils traded chances with Carolina in a suprisingly up-tempo game. For a brief while, it reminded me of Game 5 in 2009 with both goalies alternating eye-popping saves. Just when I was starting to think we were playing too up tempo with a slim lead, we wound up paying for it when Joni Pitkanen fired a wrister towards the net at 6:06 that beat Brodeur, with the help of Henrique's stick. Ironically, the rookie looked like he could be the goat by deflecting Pitkanen's shot past Marty, tying the game.
With barely three minutes remaining, Henrique atoned for his mistake, with lots of help from Zubrus, whose board work started the offensive possession that led to Henrique scoring on a wraparound at 16:41, giving the Devils the lead. Zubrus and Mark Fayne got the assists on Henrique's fourth goal. To think, the rookie centerman had zero NHL goals a week ago. Showing some defensive poise down the stretch, the Devils didn't give up too many chances to the Canes after that, and their surprising faceoff prowess (going 38-18 as a team in the dot, including a couple of key defensive zone wins late) helped keep the lead and the two points safe and sound.
Notes: While Ilya Kovalchuk missed his second straight game due to injury, Andy Greene returned to the lineup in Mark Fraser's place. Fraser and Rod Pelley were both put on waivers over the weekend, presumably since they had been put on waivers and recalled earlier in the season, with the stipulation that the Devils either needed to send them down or expose them to waivers again in thirty days. Both cleared waivers again, and neither factored into the game much, with Pelley only playing 2:46 and Fraser again a healthy scratch. After Zach Parise, Zubrus had the most icetime on the team, having a rare 23-plus minute night.