The Devils won 4-2, but anyone who saw the game would tell you that it wasn't really all that of a decisive win for the New Jersey Devils. The effort featured the very good, the not so good, and yet it turned out all right for the Devils. For other thoughts on the game, Scott Mackie has his post-game comments up at 2MA. Dom at Lighthouse Hockey should have his thoughts up later.
First things first, the Islanders came to play to a point. There were shifts where they would make a good defensive play or win the puck back, only to dump it far enough to lose it. They had moments and some opportunities to prey on a Devils defense that was a bit iffy. But they blew it or the Devils defenders intervened (Johnny Oduya comes to mind on some of those interventions) or Kevin Weekes got a piece of it.
On other shifts, the action was all in the Islanders' end. Sutter must have sent the message to shoot because the Devils did plenty of that. Fifty shots on net, to the Islanders' twenty five. 50 shots in a game is just remarkable. Moreso when you consider the Devils missed 13 attempts on net and had 8 attempts blocked. Joey MacDonald was excellent tonight. He had to be, otherwise the Islanders were sunk!
Nevertheless, the Devils couldn't close the deal on an early 5-on-3 (with had 6 shots in about 1:38) or a myriad of other scoring chances throughout the game. Whereas the Islanders got a fantastic chance, with Radek Martinek all alone on the flank, burying that chance for the game's first goal on the Islanders. And later on, Kyle Okposo made a strong individual effort and put in his own rebound. While the Devils had stretches where they were clearly dominant, they played most of the game from behind or tied. Can you really be dominant if the score doesn't reflect it?
Especially when some Devils had some poor games. Kevin Weekes looked shaky in net. Where his last three starts made the case for more minutes for Weekes, this game would argue against it. Brian Gionta had 6 shots on net (I feel more than a few went right to MacDonald's chest), but on some chances wherein he couldn't get it done, including whiffing on a loose puck in the slot on that 5-on-3. Andy Greene didn't look poised and got burnt to cause one of the Islanders' scoring chances. Bobby Holik took a stupid penalty and great quotes aside, it's starting to get old. I feel that if the Islanders had some more fire in their skates and, well, were a better team, I'm not sure the Devils win this game.
Again, it's not all that simple. Some Devils had very strong games. Dainius Zubrus worked it all around the boards all night long. Johnny Oduya was solid, making plays when necessary. Jay Pandolfo returned to the lineup and he looked like he wanted to make a statement. He even set up a few offensive chances. For Pandolfo, that's big. For Sutter, it could convince him to give him some more minutes. Patrik Elias kept motoring and was rewarded with an assist assists. Paul Martin made the most important puck movements, the ones that led to goals.
But the man of the night was Zach Parise. He was a magnet with the puck tonight and it showed. The first goal for New Jersey, tying it up in the first period? Parise popping in a rebound. The second goal for New Jersey? Parise set it up to Martin, who got it to Langenbrunner who powered home a shot through a screen on the power play. The third goal for New Jersey? Another rebound, this time from a shot from Martin, and Parise took the lead on the power play. He was given the puck in the corners on the empty net, dished it to Langenbrunner for the game icing goal. It made the score look better than the game was, but more importantly, it made sure the Devils won. Lots of credit should go to Parise, he was a beast tonight. Gulitti says Parise's brace puts him second in the NHL in goal scoring. Who would have ever thought a Devil would be that high in goal scoring (Brian Gionta aside)? Fantastic game by Zach Parise.
Hopefully the Devils can play with strength more evenly. Unfortunately, the next two games will definitely not be easy wins. For now, savor the win.