The Devils kept the dream alive this weekend with two RIDICULOUSLY dramatic games.
Friday, the Devils and Penguins took a 1-1 tie into overtime. The Devils received their first powerplay of the game in the extra session. Ilya Kovalchuk hammered home a Patrik Elias saucer pass with 24 seconds remaining for the win in front of a sellout crowd. When Kovalchuk scored, the building erupted almost louder than I’ve ever heard it before.
On Sunday, it looked like the same old story again when Ilya Kovalchuk scored in the third to give the Devils a 2-1 lead. It was not meant to be as the Islanders were able to get the game tying goal. No one scored in overtime and the game went to a shootout. The skills competition was tied 1-1 when Jacques Lemaire sent out Brian Rolston. Everyone was expecting to see Rolston fire a slapper. That’s what he is known for. Instead he pulled off a last minute deke and scored the game winner. After the game, the Devils were seven points out of the 8th spot which was held by Carolina and the Devils had a game in hand. Sunday night, however, the Buffalo Sabres defeated the Minnesota Wild in overtime to jump over Carolina into the eighth spot. Now the Devils are eight points back with no games in hand on Buffalo. The goal stays the same; overtaking the Rangers.
The Rangers had a great Sunday afternoon. Ryan Callahan scored four times as the Rangers pimp-slapped the Flyers by a score of 7-0. The Flyers were derailed in the first period after a string of bad luck helped by some shaky officiating. Mike Richards was parked in front of Henrik Lundqvist. Lundqvist took some liberties in slashing and chopping the Flyers captain. Richards finally turned around to tell Lundy to cut it out and gave him a slash of his own. Richards gets called for a penalty. After that, Ryan McDonagh backhanded the puck over the glass in his own zone. While it should have been a delay of game penalty, the refs missed it. Ryan Callahan made the game 2-0 on the ensuing power play. The Flyers had plenty of time to get their composure back in line and start fighting back, but they just sagged and let the Rangers walk all over them.
The Devils are off on Monday but they will surely have a practice. The Ottawa Senators come to Newark on Tuesday. The Sens are 5-4-1 in their last 10 and are playing a bit better with Craig Anderson in goal. The Devils have to take advantage of the Senators and score a few goals. They cannot afford to keep winning games 2-1. Once they have the 2-1 lead, they sit back and ride the defense and Marty Brodeur for the rest of the game. That is not going to work every night. Through all of the winning, players like Nick Palmieri, Patrik Elias, Mattias Tedenby, and David Clarkson have stopped scoring. These guys need to get it going. If Ilya Kovalchuk has a few games without a goal, the team will be in trouble. That being said, the young kids are playing excellent defensive hockey. Vladimir Zharkov is going to be a mainstay on this team for years if he keeps playing like he is. He will have to learn to be a little more offensive, but goals are not being scored by the opposition when he is on the ice.
There are still a lot of non-believers in the media and hockey fans throughout the league. While they try to find reasons the Devils will not make the playoffs, they ignore the fact that already what the team has accomplished is amazing and should not be ignored. I am still confident that the Devils will be gearing up for the playoffs in mid-April.