….It was all knotted up at 3 a piece, the clock read 4:15 left in the third. The Devils began to cycle the puck down low…they needing to break free of this tie or else face serious consequneces in this series. The clock ticks down to 4:04 when Dainius Zubrus makes his way to the front of the net and with the help of Zach Parise, he shoots the puck over Boucher’s blocker and they take the lead. When it happened it real time, it seemed like Zach got the goal, but it was in fact Zubrus who had the stick on the puck that just got past Boucher, but with Zach’s stick pushing his – I guess you could say it was a shared goal – but the stat sheet doesn’t have those.
It could very well be a signature moment in this series should the Devils go on to win it. There can be a lot taken from a game where a team is involved in a physical battle, it’s tied up and it’s in late in the third – all the while you are trailing the series 0-1. It showed the where-with-all the Devils have and speaks volumes of what they are capable of if they play well enough. They needed this win, they surrendered a one goal lead late in the second, but were able to overcome that and bear down to get that much needed fourth goal as the period was winding down.
Was it a pretty win? Not by any stretch of the imagination, but in the playoffs, a pretty win rarely comes around because in the playoffs a team wins by an means necessary. That is what Jersey did in Game 2. What will they have for an encore when they take to the Philly ice in game 3? Who knows right now, but I have an idea of how the game will shape out.
The series now shifts to the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia, a well known hostile environment for the visiting team. You add an atmosphere like the playoffs and on top of that the Flyers are facing their second biggest inter-division rivals, it looks like Game 3 will be quite physical, very quickly. I would not be surprised if Carcillo tries to get into a scrap early on with either Clarkson, Leblond or anyone willing to toss the gloves. I mean let’s face it Carcillo will throw down with anyone, the Devils just have to keep the cooler heads and not get sucked into Philly’s game. They have bruisers, no doubt about it. Their fourth line is a hard working, physical, work-horse kind of line that will try to wear you down both physically and mentally – that’s how they get their goals. It’s exactly how Asham got his goal in Game 2 and i expect Philly to succeed in that area more in Game 3. In order for the Devils to put a halt to this is simple. Fight fire with fire and continue the physical play they brought in the last game. But, they can’t get carried away after the whistle blows (i.e. Ilya Kovalchuk the other night against Darroll Powe). When speaking to Tom Gulitti about this, Captain Jamie Langenbrunner had a few words for his teammates regarding just that.
“We need to be a little more disciplined,” Langenbrunner said. “We were toeing that line last game and got ourselves in a little bit of trouble with penalties, but we were able to win and I think tried to send a message that we’re not going to get pushed around. I think we did that a little bit, but we have to be a little smarter and not those ones after the whistles that really don’t do a lot of good.”
With all that said, sure it’s easy to see the onset of Game 3 to be a physical one – why wouldn’t it be? But there is a lot more to tonight’s game than the physical play. For one, it is how the Devils start tonight’s game to counter the riled up Philly crowd, as well as that bone crushing aspect the Flyers will look to bring. I imagine they will try to slow things up – as only the Devils can – and try to take their fans out of things early on. They need to take control early on, dictate the speed of the game by controlling the puck in the neutral to Philly zones, as well as finding that balance between discipline and physicality. With the beginning of the game more than likely being chippy, I look for Philly to take those patented penalties of theirs. This will get the boo birds from the fans out early (but they will be directed toward the refs because any call against a Philly team is a bad call of course) meaning we have to execute on the power play – or at least try to.
The Devils finally got off the schnide in Game 2 on the PP, getting a goal in the second from….ANDY GREENE! An unlikely scorer, but often that is how you get these things to come together, from the most unlikely of players. They went 1-3 on the night, a much better percentage than what they put up in the first game. However, for Game 3, they need to draw the Flyers out more, and get them to take those penalties we need in order to connect on the power play. It looked better in Game 2 and I feel it will only get better as time progresses – remember it isn’t easy to score against Philly’s PK unit.
As far as individuals go, Zach Parise played like a superstar last game. He was all over the ice, busting his behind on every shift. This is what I love about Parise, he never takes a shift off. Another good performance came from Patrik Elias who had three assists for his guys, making some great passes in clutch situations. Kovalchuk also had a good game, even though he was losing his cool a few times, it made for a good balance between his offensive game and the physical play that he doesn’t always get to show off. He finished with a goal (empty netter) and two assists. He has not found that Kovy scoring touch just yet, but if and when he does, it will add a whole other element to the Devils game. Hopefully it will come out in Game 3 so we can shut that Philly crowd up. GO DEVILS!