Game 11: Butler, Matteau Firsts Spark Devilsgame recaps February 9, 2013
Who is this group of hockey players and what have they done with the Devils? Four power play goals in the last two games? Can’t possibly be the Devils.
New Jersey’s power play propelled them to its fourth-straight win, receiving third period power-play goals from Adam Henrique and Bobby Butler to down Pittsburgh 3-1 on Saturday in a battle between Atlantic Division rivals. Martin Brodeur turned in an outstanding effort against one of the league’s top attacks, denying all but one of the 25 shots he faced including a late-game save on Evgeni Malkin from close range. The Devils killed off five of the six power plays Pittsburgh were awarded. New Jersey has now killed off 20 of the last 21 penalties against them, even chipping in a shorthanded goal on Thursday; the Devils’ team’s power play has converted six of its last 16 chances dating back to last Sunday.
Butler showed himself to be a heady addition to the team as he found space for himself to operate on the power play, setting up Henrique’s winning goal with a bullet of a shot off the post for Henrique to finish. Butler finished the contest with his first two points as a Devil and 6:33 of his total 12:43 of ice time on the man advantage. Butler fired home a slick wrist shot from the right circle with 6:52 remaining in the contest to secure the victory.
However, Butler was not the only Devil to notch a first in the matinee.
Rookie Stefan Matteau, given a permanent roster spot on Thursday, as well as a role on the top line alongside Ilya Kovalchuk and Travis Zajac, scored his first NHL goal. Matteau tied up the game with 4:29 remaining in the second period, finishing off a perfectly placed slap pass from Andy Greene, who added another two points to his rapidly accruing stat line. Greene has eight points in the last five games and is showing the poise and vision that allowed him to snag 37 points three seasons earlier.
New Jersey now ascends to the top of the Atlantic Division in addition to erasing a forgettable performance one week ago in Pittsburgh where the Penguins secured a 5-1 victory. In a game punctuated by physical play and 48 penalties minutes, there was not much space to maneuver at even strength. Krys Barch and Derek Engelland gave fans the only fight of the game and there were several big hits in the contest from both teams. Pittsburgh opened the scoring just 1:23 into the game on a power-play goal from Brandon Sutter, son of former Devils’ coach Brent Sutter, who deflected in a Simon Despres point shot.
The Devils have been playing a strong, aggressive team game of late, getting balanced scoring from their stable of forwards and outstanding special teams production.
-Dainius Zubrus missed his second straight game with an upper body injury the Devils fear could be significant, according to the Newark Star-Ledger’s Rich Chere. With performances like Saturday’s and Zubrus potentially out, Matteau could have a chance to secure more ice time.
-Ilya Kovalchuk was double-shifted on occasion with Bobby Butler and Jacob Josefson on the fourth line. Kovalchuk had two assists in the game, giving him four points over the last two contests; all four of those points have come on special teams.
-Devils’ analyst Glenn “Chico” Resch gave a “MATTEAU, MATTEAU,” shout when the rookie beat Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury to tie the game. Matteau, however, had one of his lowest ice-time totals of the season, playing 6:48.
-Adam Larsson assisted on Matteau’s goal, giving him his first point of the season.
-Marek Zidlicky led the Devils in shots on goal, putting six on Fleury. He has failed to register a point in the last six games, but is still seeing first-line power play duty.
-You have to believe Andy Greene will start to eat into Zidlicky’s power-play time with the first group. Greene has been one of the league’s hottest defensemen the last week with eight points in the last five games, five of which have come on the power play.
-Don’t be surprised to see Johan Hedberg in goal Sunday against the Penguins.
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Follow Dan Pennucci on Twitter @dpennucciTags: andy greene, bobby butler, Martin Brodeur, Stefan Matteau