Wednesday, May 16, 2012

BeDeviled: Clarkson, Brodeur even series

David Clarkson celebrates his winning goal in Game 2.

Something had to change and it did. It was the guys in black, white and red who played more desperate. They got just reward with the Devils bouncing back for a hard earned 3-2 victory to take Game Two- evening the Eastern Conference Final at one apiece. David Clarkson scored the game-winner 2:31 into the third period and Martin Brodeur made it stand up, finishing with 23 saves.

The Battle Of Hudson now gets two days off before shifting to Newark for a large Game Three Saturday afternoon. Much like the series 18 years ago, both teams are tied. Similarly, the games have been tight. But tonight, the Devils owned the Rangers at even strength, earning the split. It was a more wide open game with twists and turns. The turning point was New Jersey's fourth line tying it up with under two minutes left in the second. Simply put, our top line embarrassed itself. Marian Gaborik's failure to clear the puck resulted in Ryan Carter deflecting home a Bryce Salvador shot. Travis Zajac screened Henrik Lundqvist on the play that gave the Devils momentum.

Drawing inspiration from their energy line, the Devils seized control early in the third with Clarkson beating Lundqvist on another redirection in front. Most notably, Pete DeBoer caught our third pair out with Stu Bickel actually on for a rare shift with Mike Del Zotto. The result was disastrous with both Del Zotto and Ryan Callahan failing to take Clarkson, who had all day to tip home Adam Henrique's shot. Clarkson dominated the entire shift by taking the body to keep the play alive. Eventually Marek Zidlicky worked it back to Salvador who dished to an open Henrique. That kind of determination from their most effective player is what won the game. A guy many Ranger fans love to hate did more than either Ilya Kovalchuk (PPG) and Zach Parise.

It was the play of the Devils' third and fourth lines that helped them come out of MSG with a split. DeBoer's reunited lines paid dividends while John Tortorella flipped Artem Anisimov and Mike Rupp while benching Gaborik for the first half of the third. That included the Rangers' fourth power play following Clarkson's third of the playoffs. The no-nonsense coach was justified. Gaborik didn't compete and his weak attempt to clear the zone came back to bite us. Overall he, Brad Richards and Carl Hagelin had a night to forget. Outplayed by the Devils' fourth line. Humiliating. They must be much better when the series resumes this weekend.

Early on, it was all Devils. As expected, they came out hitting everyone and carrying the play. Only Lundqvist prevented a blowout. Brian Boyle got outmuscled by little Stephen Gionta, resulting in a hold. On the Devs' second power play, they cashed in when Kovalchuk stepped into a Zidlicky feed and went high glove on Lundqvist. His sixth of the postseason came from Zidlicky and Parise, who was strong on the wall. They didn't have a problem getting shots through, firing quicker and going to the net.

After being passengers for 20 minutes, the Blueshirts joined the fray. Benefiting from a make up call on Alexei Ponikarovsky, Marc Staal's funny carom went off Brodeur with Derek Stepan searching for the rebound. Initially, they credited Stepan but replays confirmed that it was Staal's third. Richards and Girardi earned helpers. Suddenly alive, they reversed course by taking the play to their opponent. In particular, the Stepan line with Chris Kreider and Callahan stood out. Ironically on a more obvious call on Zajac, Kreider redirected his second of the series on an Anton Stralman shot. The Devil penalty kill spent most of it forcing the action. But our second unit got set up with Anisimov dishing for Stralman, who waited before firing for Kreider, who got it with his shaft for his fourth.

With the crowd giving it to Brodeur, he saved his team's bacon. Some big saves along with Kreider hitting the far post allowed the Devils to breathe easier. If that shot goes in, we might be talking about a 2-0 lead. Instead, New Jersey pushed back with their aggressive attack. Gaborik's laziness led to Carter tying it. From there, the Devils took over to level the series up.

BONY 3 Stars:

3rd Star-Adam Henrique, NJD (set up Clarkson's GW, won big draws: 10-7, +1 in 18:04)
2nd Star-Martin Brodeur, NJD (23 saves incl. some big ones with his team down)
1st Star-David Clarkson, NJD (scored game-winner w/17:29 left, dominant in 19 shifts, +1 in 15:05)

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