Leftovers From Thursday Night

I got a lot of postgame info last night. Most of it I used in Postgame Thoughts, yet some spilled over into today.

Here are some leftovers from the Devils’ 3-2 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins.

For whatever reason, the arena seemed exceedingly quiet until Travis Zajac’s second-period goal.

Maybe the Pens were playing a perfect road game. Maybe the 16,122 were tense and sad about the Devils’ final home game. But whatever the reason, the crowd was very quiet.

Even as the Devils mounted their comeback it seemed quiet. I guess that’s what happens when you’re unaccustomed to missing the postseason.

Still, Devils coach Peter DeBoer credited the team’s supporters.

“Fans have been amazing,” DeBoer said. “I can’t thank them enough. I really feel badly that we’re not giving them playoff hockey this year.”

Pittsburgh’s much-heralded trade-deadline additions have been outstanding.

Jarome Iginla has nine points in 12 games. Jussi Jokinen scored on Thursday– his fifth goal in nine games as a Penguin– and Brenden Morrow’s assist last night gave him 12 points in 14 games.

I nearly tweeted during the second period Thursday that if the Penguins were going to play defense like they had been, and Sidney Crosby and James Neal return, no one would beat them.

Then Pittsburgh gagged a 2-0 lead and lost 3-2.

Pittsburgh has an embarrassment of riches offensively, and the Pens are pretty strong on ‘D’ as well. Marc-Andre Fleury is a Stanley Cup champion. Still, there’s something lingering I don’t like about this team.

Patrik Elias told reporters last night “They’re good at making plays, and they turn the puck over quite a bit to. You can get some opportunities. “

Teams like that don’t typically win the Stanley Cup these days.

After falling behind 2-0, against the east’s best team, the Devils could’ve packed up the tent but didn’t.

“We played well against them all year,” Devils goalie Johan Hedberg said. “I can’t say that we’ve had very many off-nights the whole season.”

The first two periods seemed like a microcosm of the Devils’ season: outplay and outshoot the competition but trail.

“We’ve outplayed teams, we’ve outshot teams, we’ve done everything right,” Devils forward David Clarkson said, “and we’ve had bounces go against us.”

Still, the Devils caught some breaks. The puck appeared to hop on Evgeni Malkin as he was all alone in front of Hedberg. That brief miscue allowed Ryan Carter to backcheck and deflect Malkin’s shot into the protective netting over the glass.

On Ilya Kovalchuk’s third-period game-winning goal, the Devils’ winger attempted a pass to Andrei Loktionov, which found Brandon’s Sutter’s stick instead. Pittsburgh’s forward redirected the pass into an open net, putting the Devils ahead.

Postgame Thoughts: Devils 3, Penguins 2 (4/25/13)

The Devils obviously will not be playing postseason hockey this year.

Yet, somehow they still managed to claim the season series from the Eastern Conference’s top team.

New Jersey came from 2-0 down to send its home crowd out with a 3-2 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday night at Prudential Center.

“We played well against them all year,” New Jersey’s starting goalie Johan Hedberg said. “I think tonight we got a couple of bounces … and it was enough.”

Ilya Kovalchuk recorded a goal and an assist, and Patrik Elias recorded two assists, as the Devils won for just the fifth time this year when they did not score first. New Jersey improved to 19-18-10 and 3-1 against the Penguins.

“When you play against the best players in the league, it always fires you up,” Kovalchuk said. “They have a few of them out there.”

New Jersey will close its regular season Saturday at Madison Square Garden against the New York Rangers.

“This is a big rivalry,” Devils forward David Clarkson said. “We’re going to come out and play hard.”

Matt Cooke and Jussi Jokinen each scored for Pittsburgh, as the Penguins fell to 35-12-0.

Making his NHL debut on Thursday, Devils defenseman Eric Gelinas admitted he was nervous.

Gelinas was a minus-1 in 15:59. He started the game on defense along with Peter Harrold.

“I was surprised to be on the starting five,” Gelinas said. “That made me more nervous. After the first shift, I think I felt better out there and just realized it was another hockey game.”

Devils coach Peter DeBoer admitted he liked what he saw from the 21-year-old defenseman.

 

“He was solid,” DeBoer said. “He moved the puck well. He gave us an element that you can never have enough of: a big, solid puck-moving defenseman.”

Hedberg concurred.

“I thought he played very well,” the netminder said. “You couldn’t tell it was his first game … he looked great.”

DeBoer told the media Thursday morning he’d try to keep his young defender away from Pittsburgh’s superstar-forward Evgeni Malkin, though Gelinas did meet Malkin for a few shifts.

“[Devils defense coach] Scotty [Stevens] believes on throwing them into the fire,” DeBoer said. “He did a good job.”

New Jersey’s defense as a whole was great, limiting Pittsburgh to just 18 shots on goal.

“This is a team that’s averaging 30-plus [shots] per night,” DeBoer said.

Hedberg, making his first start since March 19, stopped 16 shots to earn his first win since March 13.

“It was nice,” Hedberg said. “You want to finish strong, you want to finish with a strong feeling to walk away with … that was good for us.”

Hedberg’s best save came early on the second period when he stoned Pittsburgh’s Jarome Iginla with his left pad. Hedberg also stopped Kris Letang’s point shot with about four minutes left on what was Pittsburgh’s last real chance.

“He played unbelievable,” Kovalchuk said of Hedberg.

Clarkson was happy the 40-year-old backup could earn a victory in what likely was his final start of 2013.

“Moose is one of the best teammates you’ll play with,” Clarkson said. “It was great to get that win for him.”

Kovalchuk’s goal at 13:50 of the third turned out to be the game winner.

Kovalchuk received a pass from Steve Sullivan and cruised in on right wing. He sent a pass towards Andrei Loktionov that hit a Pittsburgh’s Brandon Sutter and beat Marc-Andre Fleury, breaking a 2-2 tie.

Kovalchuk admitted he was trying to pass but caught some luck.

“I was passing,” he said. “[Loktionov] was wide open. It doesn’t really matter.”

Kovalchuk also admitted that he and Loktionov would join Team Russia in the upcoming IIHF World Championships in Sweden and Finland.

“We’ll play together there,” Kovalchuk said. “It’s an honor to play there for your home country … they’re the reason why I am where I am right now.”

Kovalchuk also admitted how difficult 2013 has been on him. The superstar winger missed 12 games with a shoulder injury and has registered just 11 goals and 20 assists in 36 games.

“I think, overall with the injuries, this was the worst season of my career,” Kovalchuk said. “It’s not easy.”

Prorate Kovalchuk’s stats for a full season– including the 12 missed games– and he’d have 60 points, which would be a career low.

With his two assists, Elias boosted his team-high point total to 36.

Elias, who will be an unrestricted-free agent at season’s end, received chants of “Pat-ty” from the crowd throughout the night, including at the end when he was being interviewed by MSG’s Deb Placey.

“It’s great,” he said. “They showed their appreciation. I was trying to do my best job out there, and the fans recognized that out there. It feels great.”

The Devils were happy to send their fans out with a win in the team’s final home game.

New Jersey posted 18 sellouts in 24 home games this year. Thursday night’s attendance was 16,122.

“We owe it to our fans,” Clarkson said. “Our fans have been fantastic. They’ve been supportive, so we came out and we played hard there tonight.”

DeBoer admitted the team’s last home game was “bittersweet.”

 

Gameday: Penguins at Devils (4/25/13)

Who: Pittsburgh Penguins at New Jersey Devils
When: 7:30 p.m. ET; Pregame show at 7 p.m. ET
Where: Prudential Center, Newark, NJ
Media: TV – MSG-Plus, NBC Sports Network (Channel listings); RadioBloomberg (1130 AM)
Twitter: @Pat_Pickens

Stats & Notes (via Devils PR)

  • New Jersey will close out the home portion of its 2012-13 schedule tonight. The Devils are 18-8-3 in their previous 29 home finales. New Jersey is 6-0-1 in its last seven home-closers (last loss, April 4, 2004 vs. Boston, 3-1).
  • With their win Tuesday night vs. Montreal, the Devils posted consecutive home victories for the first time since winning three straight March 7-13.
  • Tuesday vs. Montreal, New Jersey improved to 14-1-4 when scoring first this season. The Devils are 4-17-6 on the year when allowing the first goal.
  • On Tuesday, New Jersey scored twice on the power play for the fourth time this season and the first time since March 21 at Carolina.
  • Johan Hedberg will make the start in goal tonight, his first since March 19 vs. the New York Rangers.
  • Patrik Elias scored his team-leading (tie, David Clarkson) 14th goal of the season Tuesday. It was his fifth on the power play which also ties him with Clarkson for team lead.
  • Also Tuesday, Jacob Josefson scored his first goal since March 29, 2012 vs. Tampa Bay.
  • Steve Sullivan recorded 1g-1a-2pts Tuesday for this first multiple-point game as a Devil since February 15, 1997 at Montreal.

Expected Lineup

Forwards

Henrique-Loktionov-Kovalchuk
Elias-Zajac-Clarkson
Zubrus-Josefson-Sullivan
Carter-Gionta-Kostopoulos

Defense

Greene-Larsson
Volchenkov-Zidlicky
Harrold-Gelinas

Goalie

Hedberg

Inactives:¬†Barch, Bernier, Ponikarovsky, Urbom, D’Agostini, Gelinas, Pesonen, Sislo

Sidelined: Salvador (wrist), Fayne (nagging injury)

Playing Out The String: Tonight is the Devils’ 24th and last regular-season game of 2013. New Jersey is 12-9-2 in its previous 23.

New Jersey has also sold out 18 of those 23 games. With the popular Pens coming to town, expect a 19th sellout on Thursday.

Wings Clipped: The Penguins are still without forwards Sidney Crosby and James Neal, who have been sidelined much of this month with injuries. Defenseman Paul Martin is also injured and will not play.

The End?: Elias, Clarkson, Dainius Zubrus and Marek Zidlicky are all unrestricted free agents at season’s end and tonight could be each player’s last home game as a Devil.

Elias is the franchise’s all-time scoring leader, Clarkson has become a fan-favorite, Zubrus has been here six years — I know, time flies — and Zidlicky’s the team’s only offensive defenseman.

Sullivan and Alexei Ponikarovsky will also be UFAs, and the Devils have six restricted free agent candidates too. This team could look very different next year.

Quote: Clarkson Unsure About Future

Postgame Thoughts: Devils 3, Canadiens 2 (4/23/13)

Corey Griffin

Links: Pregame thread | Twitter | NHL.com recap

As I said on Twitter postgame, this was an impressive win for a lot of reasons. Yes, the Devils probably should’ve played like this at some point during their 10-game slide. No, two more wins like this won’t drastically change how we look at the season. However, there were bright spots in this game that lend themselves toward a positive look for next season and it’s possible missing the playoffs flipped a switch in the psyche of a lot of these players, which is another topic for another day. As for¬† tonight’s game, some thoughts…

Fortitude: At least for me, the most impressive part of tonight’s win came after the Canadiens scored two unanswered, the second of which came including one in the final minute of the second period. We’ve seen the Devils melt down multiple times in that scenario, giving up an early goal in the third and going on to lose in regulation or in extra play. It’s been one of my biggest criticisms of this Devils team, particularly during their recent slide. This team lacked a strong enough mental edge to their game to rebound from “woe is us” moments. Tonight, though, they didn’t need a timeout to correct them and while they struggled to get shots on net in the third, they still kept the Canadiens at bay for long stretches. Also, the Habs came out in the third and tried to bully the Devils, who fought right back. Ilya Kovalchuk, for one, went right at the Canadiens after he got hit from behind. Kovy’s response, along with the the energy he’s played with and the way he drives the train (so to speak), has me wondering if it should be Kovalchuk with the captain’s “C” next season. I know Salvador is respected in the room and a lot of guys like him, but would it kill them to give it to Kovy and have Salvador take an “A?” I think it would be a wise move that would help shape the team’s mindset going into next season. Food for thought.

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Postgame Thoughts: Rangers 4, Devils 1 (4/21/13)

Corey Griffin

Links: Twitter | NHL.com recap

A lifeless start, a couple of bad penalty calls and suddenly the Devils were frustrated, losing and on their way to playoff elimination. All in all, a sad but fitting end (as far as playoff chances go) to a season that was flawed from the get-go. Some thoughts…

Two things: When you combine a lack or energy with some questionable officiating, you usually get one of two results. Sometimes the team will take on an “us against the world” mentality, snap out of their funk and go on a tear the rest of the game. That didn’t happen today. Instead, the Devils went further into their shell and seemingly quit on the game and essentially their season. Even Martin Brodeur admitted that he felt his teammates gave up when things didn’t go their way. The Devils basically mailed in the first period, negating to forecheck or apply any sort of offensive pressure on the Rangers. It was almost like the Devils came out assuming they were already eliminated from the playoffs. While it was a mathematical eventuality, it’s still disconcerting to hear players after the game talk about how they knew it was just a matter of time. When you hear stuff like that, you can understand why you get a first period like the Devils had today.

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Postgame Thoughts: Devils 6, Panthers 2 (4/20/13)

Links: Pregame thread | Twitter | NHL.com recap

If you didn’t watch the first 10 minutes of today’s game, you’d think it was one of the Devils’ best efforts all season. Despite that (very) sub-par start, the Devils once again managed to “turn it on” after Pete DeBoer’s timeout and just dominated the Panthers for the next 50 minutes. Some thoughts…

Wake-up call: The Pete DeBoer First Period Timeout should be sold in pharmacies across the country. It’s best wake-up call I think I’ve ever seen. Why the Devils continue to need it — especially in the throes of a desperate playoff chase — is beyond me, but it certainly is the magical elixir this roster covets. The Devils came out painfully slow and were lacking any sort of energy. The Panthers were skating circles around them, getting to every loose puck. Both of Florida’s goals were a result of out-efforting New Jersey, but that changed as soon as DeBoer called his infamous timeout. You could see him rotating his hand, signaling the Devils needed to pick up the energy. This wasn’t one of those “settle down” timeouts. This was the “well-time expletive” version and it worked. Boy did it work. It took a few minutes but before long New Jersey was all over Florida, like a train that takes time to build up speed and then all of sudden is barreling down the tracks at 80 miles per hour. I know I’ve spent some time cracking on the Devils for their slow starts this season and their reliance on the P.D.F.P.T. (we might need a better acronym), but at this point, a win is a win is a win.

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