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A Scare Thwarted, A Streak Continued

The Devils nearly committed one of the biggest failures of the season so far: a blown lead after two periods.  The Devils have been 22-0-1 when leading after two.  A good bet, they'd come out with a win.  But they were in the house of the Boston Bruins and the Bruins eventually pulled back to tie it up and take the lead themselves in the third period alone.

However, I said nearly committed.  The Devils cleaned up the mess, equalized, and sealed the deal in overtime to win 4-3.  As usual, before I get to my thoughts, let me point out that IPB did a liveblog, and go to Gulitti and Chere later for quotes and other post-game news.  Check out Stanley Cup of Chowder later for Bruins thoughts.

The game itself was exciting, if a bit sloppy.  The Bruins either didn't throw their 1-2-2 out or the Devils just blew it up from the start with speed, a strong forecheck, and with hardworking hockey.  The game opened up, as both teams would register 40 total within the game's first 40 minutes.  The first period tended to favor the Bruins, who slowly started putting the pressure on as the minutes went on.  Yet, the Devils put on a strong kill resulting in Jamie Langenbrunner forcing a puck into Tim Thomas' legs. And the first of the flukes were scored, as Thomas inadvertently kicked the puck just over the line.  The ref saw it and that's a shorty for Jamie.

The second period started off splendidly for the Devils, who registered 8 of the team's 14 shots that period within the first 5 minutes of the period.   The Parise-Zajac-Langenbrunner line were amazing tonight, but they had a shift in this span where they must have kept the puck in the Bruins' end for a good 2 minutes or so.  The best team in the East, pinned back!  Too bad the Devils couldn't score then.  The Bruins benefited with some power plays in the middle of the period; but they wouldn't get much on net - only 5 shots.  The Devils took the period, and what would have been the game, on Zach Parise scoring from behind the goal line.  He just tossed it hard at Thomas, and the puck just bounced in off the shoulder! When you're a goal scoring machine, you can do that.  OK, OK, second of the flukes.

So the Devils are leading after 2, played a good period on the road, and as a fan, you're feeling good at this point.  They are playing like they want to and  you would hope that would continue. Yet, it all went awry in the third.  The Bruins are one of the best teams in the league and they got the momentum back with a fluke of their own. Scott Clemmensen gets fooled on a dump in and Chuck Kobasew seemingly has the whole net to shoot at. I say seemingly because he missed and hit the post. Yet, the puck is flipped up - by Andy Greene? Bryce Salvador? Kobasew? - and just over the line before Clemmensen snags it.  The ref initially says no goal, but the review says otherwise and it's 2-1.

The Devils, at this point, stopped - or at least slowed down - the forechecking effort.  That was a mistake.  It really gave the Bruins more of the opportunity to drive through the neutral zone and create more havoc.  The Bruins didn't get much on net.  Credit to the defense and some poor shooting for that.  However, the momentum gained by the increased puck possession was all too real. Yet, at about 5 minutes after Kobasew's goal, Phil Kessel feed Marc Savard, who shanks a shot by the right post.  Clemmensen was sliding to the post, but he did it in an odd form.  So the puck hits Clemmensen's side and dropped in the triangle-shaped hole between the flexed right arm and the pad.  The shank wasn't much of one after all. Fluke #4. Equalizing goal for the Bruins.  Concern for the Devils. 

It gets worse about 8 minutes later - right after a power play.  Mike Rupp called for a cheap holding call - the Bruin was leaning right on the stick!  Yet, he sat.  The Bruins did well on the power play, but it was just after it ended did they strike gold.  It wasn't a fluke, though.  Dennis Wideman took a shot from the point and it hits...something but it beats Clemmensen through the legs.  I thought it was a deflection, but no matter! 3 goals in the third by Boston! They showed up for this period and it clearly showed! A blown lead by the Devils!  They sat back for much of the period and they paid the price. Could this really be a loss?

The Devils' forecheck were awaken by it though.  Out of necessity, the forwards played more aggressively and they were rewarded handsomely.  Brian Gionta won the puck from a Bruin defender and took it to the corner on his offwing.  He was then able to repeat what he did against Ottawa.  He fires a killer pass to the crease and catches Patrik Elias driving to the net.  This time, it hits Elias' stick and it just burns Thomas.  Nothing Thomas could have done about it, the defense is looking disappointed, and the game is tied and the momentum is back on the Devils' side.

Fortunately, the Devils learned from the third period and kept the strategy of forechecking through overtime.  After a dump-in, the Devils applied the appropriate pressure and won the puck back. Travis Zajac and Jamie Langenbrunner did the dirty stuff and it went back to the point.  Colin White took the first shot, Zajac took the second, and Langenbrunner slides it under a diving Thomas to end the game.

Langenbrunner was clearly class tonight with a brace, an assist, 5 shots on net, and the game winner.  Another great game from the captain and he made the difference tonight.  That whole line was great.  I didn't like how the Devils stopped doing in the third what made them so successful in the first two periods.  I also didn't like some of the dumb penalties the Devils committed (e.g. Holik's holding call - completely avoidable) However, I definitely like that the Devils are playing well enough to bounce back from in-game faults to earn the win.   

It wasn't pretty, but it got the job done. Now the Devils have won their last 7, and this has to be their biggest success given how the game went, that it was on the road, and it was against Boston.   If you don't know now, then you should be aware that this team can play with anyone in the league and come out successful.