That the game started at 1 PM EST, or the fact that the Flyers played the night before, or the fact that the Devils played on Friday night didn't really have an effect on either team's performance. I expected an intense game and I think it's fair to say we got one. Fatigue was not a factor. However, this game was just plain sloppy. The offense on both teams were out of sync or perhaps the ice was poor or something. But it seemed like any pass to an open player or to a prime position was to either miss it's mark, hit the intended target's skate, or get intercepted or deflected by the defense. At least in the shootout, you'd know all the shots would be clear on net. Sloppy would be the word to describe the 3-2 shootout win by New Jersey.
The first period were two teams trading off chances that would just be off by a bit. Moreso by New Jersey, I think, and as it turns out, the Devils had twice as many missed shots all game than the Flyers. Not that the Flyers didn't have their own set of "d'oh!" moments when they should fired the puck right on net. Anyway, the first period also featured three Devils power plays wherein not much was done, due to the aforementioned passing issues. The Flyers didn't fare much better on offense either. In the second period, it didn't get any better but at least some goals were scored. Patrik Elias scored off a loose puck on their fourth consecutive power play of the game, at least showing that the Devils can, in fact, take advantage. Brian Rolston slotted home a puck that bounced off of David Clarkson's stick to make it 2-0. But that's all the Devils would get on the scoreboard in regulation.
The Flyers got only one power play of the game, but they made it count. A puck was slotted right to Jeff Carter in the slot who got barely enough on it to slide it through Scott Clemmensen late in the second. Colin White was standing in front, but I felt Jay Pandolfo was supposed to pick up Carter. My evidence for this feeling is that Jay was trying to reach for Carter, missed an attempt to lift his stick, and was just too late in getting to where he needed to be. I know the Devils were shorthanded; but you can't leave the NHL's leading goal scorer in a good position in the slot! That's just asking to be scored on! So Jay missed his mark. The two teams battled in the third, with I think the Flyers having the better run of play with more shifts that pressured the Devils' D into their own zone and by being less sloppy with their passing that New Jersey. Joffrey Lupul struck gold on a re-directed puck from Jeff Carter for an equalizer late in the third. He did quite a bit for the Flyers today, putting 6 on Clemmensen in addition to his goal and an assist for the night.
Overtime was more open, but with more sloppiness from both teams. Paul Martin didn't have a good game on the offensive side of things, with pucks bouncing over his stick and making terrible passes. I don't want to single him out, but when you have the league's leader in over time goals rushing up in open space and you just have a clear lane to pass it to his left side, you got to make that pass! If it was placed where it needed to be, maybe Elias would have burned Niittymaki for the winner. Because this stuck out, I pick Martin out here; even though every Devil (and probably every Flyer) was guilty of this at one point in the game or another. Alas, it was not to be, the two teams repeled each other further, and so we go to a shootout. The 2-2 score at the end of 65 minutes was fair, as both teams got good goaltending in net, both sides had some moments of offensive success, both defenses were adept at breaking up plays, and both teams just blew so many chances.
Now, let me state this, I like the shootout. I think it's a good compromise as to how to decide games in the regular season, since ties go against the whole point of competition (to see who prevails on a given day/night) and the fatigue of the players and the fans would be too great to have playoff-style endless sudden death overtimes to decide the game. Also, they are very exciting, as nearly everyone in my section got up when a Devil took his turn; and sat and worried and hoped Clemmensen would make a big save when the Flyers went. So don't tell me that this is some mere "skills competition" or that "proper hockey fans" should despise the shootuout or arrogantly claim "well the fans like it but I don't" or that it's boring. If enjoying the shootout and always being on the edge of my seat (at home or in the Rock) for every one since they instituted it in 2005-06 makes me less of a fan, then so be it. Put your snide remarks and whining about it back in your pocket. Anyway, my spiel is over. Clemmensen came up big in the shootout with 4 out of 5 saves; and in the 5th round, Travis Zajac sealed the deal to win New Jersey 2 points and put this intense yet sloppy game to rest to the jubiliation of the more-than-several thousands in deviled-NJ jerseys and attire in the stands (who brought the noise supporting the Devils for most of the game).
It's good that the Devils won, it always is and it's really the important thing. The Devils are now only 2 points behind the Flyers with 2 games in hand on them. However, they really need to tighten up their passing. Boston is coming on Tuesday and the Devils will need their A game to take down a team that has been firing on all cylinders in nearly all areas all season.