After winning yesterday’s Super Bowl Sunday matinee at the Nassau Coliseum against the New York Islanders, the New Jersey Devils have improved to 4-1-3 on the season. Steve Bernier collected two goals late in the third period, and David Clarkson added an empty net goal to pace the Devils to a 3-0 victory. Yesterday’s win was one of only two games this season in which the Devils have been close to their level of play in last year’s playoffs. Below is a quick recap of each game thus far this season and how the Devils have fallen short.
1/19 @ New York Islanders (Season Opener) W 2-1
As you would expect the Devils were far from perfect in their season opener following the 119 day NHL lockout. The nerves and excitement were visible at the Nassau Coliseum, but they got the job done and started the season off right. The Devils outshot the Islanders 28-19, and Martin Brodeur and the defense played well. The penalty kill allowed the lone Islanders goal. David Clarkson picked up where he left off last year on offense, scoring the game winning goal in the third period.
1/22 vs Philadelphia Flyers (Home Opener) W 3-0
The score might make you think otherwise, but the Devils did not really play well in their opener at the Rock. The Devils jumped out to a 3-0 lead with 17:16 remaining in the second period. After taking this lead, which many refer to as the worst lead in hockey to have, the Devils were unable to score on six power plays, including two 5 on 3’s. The Devils also invited the Flyers back into the game, taking eleven penalties up 3-0. However, eight of those penalties ended up being coincidental roughing and fighting penalties. Luckily, Martin Brodeur was stellar, and the Flyers unsuccessfully tried to bully their way back into the game, taking multiple roughing and other unnecessary penalties.
1/25 vs Washington Capitals W 3-2 (OT)
The Devils made this game a lot closer than it should it have been. They led 2-0 after two periods, but could have led by more if they were able to convert on one of five power plays. Similar to the previous game, they invited the Capitals back into the game by taking five penalties in the third period, three of which were bench penalties. The Capitals RSVP’d to their invitation scoring two goals, including one on the power play, to tie it. Ilya Kovalchuk won it for the Devils on a sharp angled shot after a beautiful passing play from Marek Zidlicky and Patrik Elias in overtime.
1/27 @ Montreal Canadiens OT L 4-3
The Devils fought back to tie the game at 3, scoring the final two goals of regulation in the third period. The Devils’ defense was average and Martin Brodeur was solid. But a 4 on 3 power play in overtime, after Andy Greene took a holding penalty, led to an Andrei Markov game winner on a perfect bounce off the end boards. Overall, the Devils put in a good effort, but I would not characterize it as their best by any means.
1/29 @ Boston Bruins SO L 2-1
Other than yesterday’s game, Johan Hedberg’s season debut was the Devils best played game of the season even though they only earned one of two points. Throughout regulation, Hedberg was stellar, but gave up the game tying goal with 4:05 left in the third period. The defense played well and the penalty kill was perfect. The Devils produced chances, but couldn’t finish including three chances to win it in the shootout. Tuukka Rask stood on his head in goal for the Bruins.
1/31 vs. New York Islanders OT L 5-4
The fireworks were not in short supply at this contest at the Prudential Center. After a low key first period, in which the Islanders scored the lone goal, the teams erupted for seven goals in the next two periods. The Devils offense performed well, and the defense was not awful. But the Devils special teams cost them the game. The Islanders scored three power play goals, and the Devils were 0/5 on the man advantage. Martin Brodeur had an average night in net.
2/2 @ Pittsburgh Penguins L 5-1
The Penguins had the Devils number at CONSOL Energy Center on this Saturday matinee. The Penguins were solid on offense and Martin Brodeur did not have his best performance of the season. The defense did not help him out and the shot differential was 30-16. Most notably, Anton Volchenkov turned the puck over after fanning on a pass, and Chris Kunitz lit the lamp for the Penguins. However, Andy Greene scored his first goal of the season, which was also the team’s first shorthanded goal of the season.
2/3 @ New York Islanders W 3-0
The Devils responded yesterday to their first regulation loss with their most impressive performance of the season. The offense produced scoring chances throughout the contest. The defense was solid. The penalty kill was perfect, not allowing the Islanders to score on seven power play opportunities. Johan Hedberg was superb between the pipes, stopping all twenty one shots and earning the shutout.
These recaps do not show up in the standings, which obviously mean the most. The Devils sit in second place in the Atlantic Division with 11 points through 8 games played. But the Devils still have a long way to go as the 2013 NHL regular season is only 1/6 complete.