Talking Red

Game 17: Special Teams Spark Wakes Up Devils

Posted in on by Dan Pennucci

There was certainly some residual effect lingering over the Devils during Thursday’s 3-2 victory over Washington in the heart of our nation’s capital. Whatever ills the Devils carried with them from Monday’s mind-numbing loss to Ottawa definitely factored into the team’s play during stretches against the Capitals on Thursday. However, New Jersey did just enough to hold on for a 3-2 victory thanks to a bullet of a one-timer from sniper Ilya Kovalchuk, whose sixth goal of the season stood up to defeat former New Jersey assistant coach Adam Oates and the Good Ship Ovi.

Kovalchuk blasted home a one-timer on the power play with 8:20 remaining in the contest off a Patrik Elias assist and essentially a dummy run by Marek Zidlicky, finally allowing the Devils to breakthrough against Washington’s penalty kill. The Caps kill in the third period almost singlehandedly thwarted New Jersey’s efforts to knot up the contest and looked more Dale Hunter at times than Adam Oates. You would have thought you were watching last Spring’s second round series against the Rangers where the Blueshirts and the Caps clogged every passing and shooting lane with remarkable precision.

The Devils had a 5-on-3 power play early in the third period where simply nothing could get through the Caps’ triangle of penalty killers, be it a Marek Zidlicky shot, pass directed to Ilya Kovlachuk at the point or a highly ill-advised cross-crease attempt. Nothing was getting through and the Devils started playing with a sense of urgency they hadn’t shown for some time on Thursday in an attempt to knot up the game.

The tying goal came from one of the team’s most unlikely sources: recent call-up Andrei Loktionov, on a play he created. With just under 10 minutes remaining, Loktionov won an offensive zone draw clean from the Caps’ Mike Ribiero back to Adam Larsson, who put a relatively unthreatening shot through traffic onto Washington goalie Braden Holtby. The rebound was unable to be corralled by any Capital player and Loktionov finished from close range after he escaped Ribeiro, giving him an easy first goal with the Devils.

Prior to Loktionov’s goal, New Jersey looked a bit disjointed at times against a Captial’s team that isn’t the mound sound in the neutral zone and their own end, but Holtby and the Caps were fending off the Devils.

While the Devils looked askew in the first period, they did have some solid offensive zone time to open the contest, notching the first five shots of the game. However, neither team played crisp offensively or could generate many quality chances, but it was the Capitals who broke through with just over 10 minutes remaining in the second period thanks to budding power forward Troy Brouwer.

Brouwer maneuvered quite easily around Devils’ defender Henrik Tallinder on a power-play rush, turning the veteran defense around and giving Brouwer an easy path toward goal only to see the puck fall to Washington’s Matheiu Perreault for a backhanded finish after the Devils couldn’t clear the puck.

Moments later, Zidlickly committed a poor interference penalty to remind the Devils’ he was in fact playing in the game, putting the Caps back on the power play. However, it was the Devils who struck first as Adam Henrique created a shorthanded chance through dogged forechecking, finding Patrik Elias for an easy finish to knot up the game. The tie was short-lived.

Washington secured a second-period lead on a Ribeiro power-play goal midway through the third 1:24 after Elias tied up the game. The Devils were unable to control a loose puck and clear the zone thanks to Washington’s aggressive efforts to keep the puck around the goal.

Ribiero almost sent the game to overtime, firing a blistering one timer just wide of the top corer from the high slot with under a minute to play in the third period, cracking the glass behind Martin Brodeur, who looked beat on the play. The Devils kept Washington to just three shots in the third period while the Devils managed 15, most coming on the several power plays the team was awarded.

Notes:
-David Clarkson left the game briefly in the second period with an apparent arm injury, but did return.

-Ryan Carter missed the game with a head injury sustained in Monday’s loss to Ottawa and likely won’t play Saturday in DC when the same two teams meet at noon.

-Stefan Matteau was reinserted into the lineup, but only saw 7:15 of ice time. He was one of four New Jersey forwards to play under 10 minutes with Loktionov, Bobby Butler and resident pylon Krys Barch, who saw a mere six shifts and 4:46.

-It wouldn’t be a surprise if Henrik Tallinder is out of the lineup for Saturday, although that was thought to be a foregone conclusion for Thursday. Mark Fayne was a healthy scratch despite being the team’s best defenseman statistically in 5-on-5 situations.

-Patrik Elias continues his strong season with two more points, giving him two goals and six assists in the last six games.

-Andy Greene has not registered a point for six games while Marek Zidlicky put up his fourth point in six games, but while presenting a severe detriment to the team’s defensive success.

-There is no official word yet, but expect Johan Hedberg to start Saturday’s matinee in Washington, if not Sunday’s early evening contest against Winnipeg. Moose has received at least one game in back-to-back situations all season.

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