Game 24: Dramatic Win Staves Off Seven-Game Skidgame recaps March 8, 2013
To say the Devils needed a win is a bit of an understatement. Playing with more urgency than they’d done in recent weeks, the Devils delivered the season’s biggest victory in exciting fashion in front of a home crowd dying to see some life out of the team.
Patrik Elias potted two of the Devils’ biggest goals of the season in Thursday’s 3-2 shootout win over Buffalo, tying the tilt in a dramatic manner with 1:06 left and then sliding home the winning shootout attempt past Ryan Miller. The Devils received several huge saves from Johan Hedberg in overtime to keep the score knotted and Hedberg denied Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville in the shootout. New Jersey was able to stymie Miller, something they couldn’t do Saturday. Miller entered the game following New Jersey’s tying goal in the third period after starter Jhonas Enroth suffered an apparent leg injury in an attempt to stop Elias’s shot, leaving the former Team USA goaltender to deal with overtime and the ensuing shootout. Enroth was helped off the ice.
Prior to Thursday’s contest with the Sabres, a team they had a rather chippy affair with last Saturday, the Devils had lost six straight games, several in disappointing fashion. Midway through the third period, trailing 2-0, it looked as if the Devils were going to make the losing streak seven, the longest in franchise history. The Devils were able to claw their way back into the game thanks to Adam Henrique on a power-play marker before Elias’ dramatic equalizer.
Following the second period, the game looked as if it had been following the same tired script as the Devils fell behind yet again. The Devils were outshooting Buffalo by a slim margin heading into the third period yet, again trailed 1-0 thanks to the ever-dangerous Thomas Vanek and his power-play goal at the 7:56 mark of the second period.
The Devils were not giving Johan Hedberg, making his seventh-consecutive start, much help in goal, but the Sabres added another tally to their lead at 9:56 of the third period on a shot from Brian Flynn. It was a goal that trickled through Hedberg’s pads.
The Devils had several close-range chances off of rebounds denied emphatically by Jhonas Enroth; one each from Patrik Elias off a turnover then in the second period Enroth denied David Clarkson with an open goal begging. New Jersey could not solve the Sabres backup netminder despite getting the better of scoring chances.
-In one of the most uncharacteristic fights you’ll see in the NHL, Travis Zajac went after Tyler Ennis after Ennis poked at a puck being covered by Hedberg. Ennis had started with several of the Devils’ players in Saturday’s game and got a few chips in on Thursday.
-Tom Kostopoulous made his Devils’ debut on Thursday, skating on the right side of Brian Gionta and Ryan Carter. Kostopoulos played 10:33 with no points and two blocked shots. Kostopoulos was claimed off waivers from Pittsburgh this week and gives the Devils yet another checking line veteran to plug into their bottom six.
-Slick, almost Datsyukian forehand-backhand deke by Clarkson on Ryan Miller for the Devils first goal before Patrik Elias shook Miller out of his pads on the winning tally.
-Still without Martin Brodeur (back) the Devils retuned Keith Kinkaid to Albany (AHL) and recalled Jeff Frazee to serve as Hedberg’s backup. The Devils are adamant that Brodeur is recovering as expected, but he remains out, as noted by the Bergen Record’s Tom Gulitti. There is no word yet as to whether Brodeur will be available to Saturday’s contest against Carolina.
-The Devils started the game with Adam Henrique in between Patrik Elias and David Clarkson with Travis Zajac skating with Ilya Kovalchuk and Alexei Ponikarovsky.
-Adam Larsson and Mark Fayne were slated to be healthy scratches for Thursday’s game, giving way to Peter Harrold and Anton Volchenkov. Fayne was slotted into the lineup late after Henrik Tallinder was a late scratch with a lower-body injury.
-The Devils gained two points on idle Ottawa but remain in 7th place in the Eastern Conference, one point ahead of the Rangers, who defeated the Islanders 2-1 in overtime while Pittsburgh added two more points to its division-leading total, beating Philadelphia 5-4.
-I realized that as Kovalchuk was being denied by Ryan Miller on the Devils’ first attempt, that Kovy facing Enroth would have been a rematch of 2010’s famous “Kovalchuk Lost The Puck,” moment. Easily one of the defining moment’s in Kovalchuk’s career despite it being one of the nadir moments in a season teeming with disappointment.
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Follow Dan Pennucci on Twitter @dpennucci.Tags: adam henrique, Buffalo Sabres, david clarkson, Johan Hedberg, Martin Brodeur, Patrik Elias