The New Jersey Devils beat the Philadelphia Flyers 3-2 in a comeback win in at Prudential Center in their forth preseason game. Trailing 2-1 late in the 3rd period, Travis Zajac scored a power play goal and Ilya Kovalchuk scored on a rising shot over Brian Boucher. Though the result is nice for the Devils, it means nothing. From John's preview, the goal tonight was to play smart hockey and concentrate on special teams. The Devils got plenty of looks on the man-advantage. Minus the Zajac goal, which was the Devils first of the preseason, the power play wasn't very good tonight, going 1 for 5 while even playing 5 forwards a couple times.
The Devils were able to stay out of the box this game, only committing two minor penalties and letting only 3 shots hit Martin Brodeur when shorthanded. Speaking of Martin Brodeur, he played well tonight, making a number of tough saves. He stopped 26 of 28 shots. He did have one turnover during a 2nd period power play to James van Riemsdyk, but it didn't lead to much. The Devils gave up an early 1st period goal to Jeff Carter 1:28 into the game. It looked like he was trying to set up Nikolai Zherdev, but the puck went off Brodeur, who was also playing the pass. It was a very on and off game, with some stints of energy between both teams. The Devils play improved as the game went on, especially after a slow sluggish start. Adam Mair scored the equalizer at 8:42 in the first period from a redirect set up by David Clarkson. Zherdev scored a few seconds after a Devils power play off his own rebound for the lone goal in the 2nd period.
Again, it's nice to get the win, but there are some things to collect from this game. Some more notes and such after the jump.
*UPDATED: NJDTV put up a video of Kovalchuk's game winner. I embedded it at the end of the post. Thanks to elesias.
A few notable Devils did not play tonight, like Zach Parise, Patrik Elias, and Henrik Tallinder. They don't need to play and the coaching staff want additional looks at the prospects. After the Devils assigned 11 players to the AHL today, a few of the remaining Devils prospects and try outs suited up. Head Coach John MacLean used a number of different line combinations compared to the previous preseason match ups. Mattias Tedenby lined up with Jason Arnott and Jamie Langenbrunner, and Jacob Josefson played between Dainius Zubrus and Clarkson. Alexander Urbom and Matt Taormina had a number of minutes after Bryce Salvador left the game midway through the 1st period after he was checked by van Riemsdyk. Per Gulitti, Salvador is fine and I;m assuming leaving him out of the game was precautionary.
Despite going into the first intermission tied, the 1st period wasn't very productive. Carter's goal in the beginning of the game was mostly due to the Zubrus-Josefson-Clarkson line chasing Flyers' around. Clarkson was behind Zherdev, who was approaching the net, which made Carter make the pass/shot. If Zherdev received the puck, it would have been a tough save for Marty to make. That line redeemed themselves as the game continued though. Clarkson had a semi-breakaway shortly after the goal and he set up Mair, his second goal of the preseason, later in the period. Around the end of period, the Devils were struggling against the Flyers 2nd line, having difficulty getting the puck out. The only big chances the Devils had was Kovalchuk on a one-timer (wide) and a golden opportunity when he skated into the slot with the puck and ripped a shot low on Boucher (also wide). Tedenby took a lousy tripping penalty at the end of the period. Philly was leading in shots on goal 11-5.
The 2nd period started a little better for the Devils. Both teams exchanged some bad angle shots and limited time in their own zones. The Devils picked it up a little bit with a good chance by Brian Rolston, who was playing with Zajac and Kovalchuk, took a nice shot between the circles that went off Boucher. It landed right on Kovalchuk's stick and was redirected/shot wide. Clarkson also had a nice high shot on Boucher (which was the area the Devils were aiming for majority of the time), who also gave up a big rebound. This led to the Devils drawing a couple of Scott Hartnell penalties. Unfortunately, they were dismal, and in between them Zherdev scored his 4th of the preseason. Hartnell was coming out of the box, the Devils (was it Anton Volchenkov?) turned the puck over while the forwards were changing. It led to a 3 on 2 and a 2-1 Flyers lead. The Devils played a better period, yet did not capitalize on the two power plays.
The 2nd power play in the 2nd period actually rolled over into the 3rd period, which again, didn't do much. John MacLean decided to make some adjustments on the next man advantage. He played five forwards at one point; it was uneventful and the Devils were 0 for 4 at this point. Ben Holmstrom took a tripping call at 13:45 in the period. The Devils and Maclean decided on five forwards again: Zajac-Arnott-Zubrus-Clarkson-Langenbrunner. Jason Arnott muscled his way along the boards to enter the zone, and threw a cross ice pass to Travis Zajac for the game-tying goal. It wasn't the type of power play goal we were looking for (setting up and passing around the point to create space), but it is a power play goal nonetheless. Clarkson got his 2nd assist of the game. It seemed the Devils would yet again go into overtime, yet a few minutes later and a few minutes remaining, Kovalchuk has possession of the puck outside the left circle, passed it to Tedenby who dishes it right back. Kovy made his way into the corner and quickly headed to the net on the sharp angle. He snapped a shot right over Boucher who was huggin the post. Though I didn't see it (Flyers feed just went out), it sounded like a nice goal. The Flyers pulled the goalie with over a minute left, but Marty, Urbom and Marcus Nilson made some nice plays at the end of the game to clear the puck just enough.
Overall, the Devils played OK. I felt Rolston kept his own with Zajac and Kovalchuk. They combined for 8 shots (4 were Rolston's) and 2 goals. Tedenby also showed his shooting capability by getting all 4 of his shots on net; he also added an assist. Clarkson netted 2 assists. Arnott, Volchenkov, and Taormina also had 1 assist.
Because of Salvador's injury, it left five defensemen to cycle six positions. Perhaps this is the reason why MacLean used five forwards on the PP? Mark Fraser, who didn't have a very good game at minus-2 tonight, and Matt Taormina wrapped up 18:39 and 20:40 TOI respectively. Kovalchuk led the Devils with 23:12 and Volchenkov led the defense with 22:57.
One good thing was the hitting. The Devils through out 28 hits (just as many as shots). Volchenkov had a game high 6 hits. Something the Devils stunk at: face-offs. Winning only 15 out of
31 41 (37%) is disgusting, including 3 for 10 on the power play and 0 for 3 on the penalty kill. Adam Mair going 2 for 7 and Josefson going 2 for 8 won't help.
The roster is dwindling, moves have to be made, and with three preseason games left, the Devils still have a number of issues to address. The penalty kill was good, and the hitting was good. It's also nice that Zajac and Kovalchuk aren't slowing down. The come from behind win, and a win overall is good for the team. The power play again was just awful, as well as face offs. If the Devils want to be a more offensive team, these two aspects of the game must improve.
So what did you think of the game? Do you notice something or someone I didn't mention? Leave your thoughts in the comments, and thanks for reading.