Heading into the second intermission, the general feeling was "Not this again." The New Jersey Devils were down 1-2 to the Carolina Hurricanes. While the Devils scored first - a Ron Hainsey-deflected shot from Mark Fayne - the Canes responded quickly in the middle frame. The equalizer came from Jeff Skinner off a fortunate bounce in the slot from a Ryan Murphy shot. The second goal came from a breakaway by Jordan Staal, who had acres of space between Marek Zidlicky and Eric Gelinas. The team was out-shot 6-8, they hit a post, Cam Ward got in front of everything else, Brett Bellemore denied an empty net for Dainius Zubrus, the power play was again a waste of time, and the Devils would have to kill the first 91 seconds to start the third. The team wasn't in a deep hole like they were on Wednesday night. But a fourth loss loomed in the distance regardless of how much better the Devils played. Given how things were going plus the sad reality that the Devils have not scored many goals this season, it was understandable to feel pessimistic.
The last twenty minutes of the game did everything to erase such things. Carolina only got five shots on net, with their most dangerous coming early off a turnaround shot by Eric Staal during a Canes power play. The Devils hit back with a 2-on-1 that was never realized as Patrik Elias' obvious pass was blocked away. But the Devils steeled their resolve and continued to attack. They drove to the net, they fired from different angles, and eventually, the Devils broke through Cam Ward. It came from Andrei Loktionov, a man who hasn't scored in over a month. After covering Zidlicky on a pinch, he got the puck up to Michael Ryder. He fed it to Damien Brunner after gaining the zone, who touched it off for the young pivot. The shot itself was low and just slowly trickled through the goalie. It was a fortunate break in that it got through Ward and led to a flood of offense.
The Devils never let up on the attack at 2-2. Ryder drew a hook from Riley Nash in Carolina's end and the Devils would spend the next 1:04 in their end. The Devils' power play couldn't break out of a paperbag so winning the faceoffs and controlling possession made them threaten. They were rewarded when Gelinas blasted a shot that Bellemore got in the way of. As he fell (and it must have stung), the puck bounced to Adam Henrique, who chipped the loose puck in. Minutes later, during another Devils' attack, Jon Merrill wound up for a slap shot. As it was sailing up a bit, Dainius Zubrus banked it down to make it wobble through Ward's legs to make it 4-2. About three minutes later, Travis Zajac found Jaromir Jagr wide open through the zone and hit him with a perfect pass. Jagr drove in, took a shot, and banged in his own rebound just off Ward's pad (and before rookie Ryan Murphy got there) to make it 5-2. It was icing on a delicious cake made of chocolate, possession, shots, chocolate, offense, and chocolate. Eleven shots on net, dominant play on the puck, a functioning power play, and four goals in the third period. The team cruised to a 5-2 victory after the Jagr strike. Snapping a losing streak is always good but the Devils' third period made it look especially good tonight.
This isn't to say that it's foolish to be worried when losing while going into the third period. It's not to say that the Devils didn't have flaws in this game. It's not even to say that everything is going to be all right. But what is true is that the Devils did play a very good game. They out-shot the Canes 31-18, out-attempted them 68-38, and got contributions from nearly everyone. With this in mind, it's not that much of a surprise that they got the win. But it was a very pleasant surprise that they racked up a score against a good goalie in one period. We saw it tonight and it was good.
The Opposition Opinion: Bob Wage's teaser headline for his recap at Canes Country states that "Jersey Rules." Indeed it does, Bob. That's where I'm from and where the Devils play. Semper Jersey.
The Game Highlights: Tonight was a night where Fayne, Loktionov, and Henrique broke their goalless streaks, Merrill got his first NHL point, and Jagr scored his 692nd career goal. If you don't want to see these highlights for those reasons, then I don't know what to tell you.
Everybody Helped: Only Anton Volchenkov didn't register an attempted shot tonight. Only he and Damien Brunner didn't get a shot on net tonight (Brunner was blocked three times, missed once). Everyone else had at least one attempt and one shot on Cam Ward tonight. All four lines were even at possession or better. Five out of six defenseman were even at possession or better (Gelinas was slightly under by being out attempted 13-14). There were attempts from the points, attempts from the center, attempts at angles, attempts off rushes, and even some jam plays and rebounds. It's rare for the Devils to put up over 30 shots on net this season but they did it with a diverse attack. Very good job from the team in general.
Ryder Was Actually Good Tonight: I'd never thought I would say this, but I was really impressed by the line of Mattias Tedenby, Jacob Josefson, and Michael Ryder. Were they kept mostly against Carolina's lower lines? You bet. Did they constantly get into Carolina's end and make things happen? Absolutely. Josefson won draws, Tedenby continued to hustle, and they were together for many more attempts for than against. That's big from a fourth line. It was to a point where I was wondering why Peter DeBoer broke them up in the third period. He moved Ryder with Andrei Loktionov and Damien Brunner.
But it worked! That unit had some strong shifts of their own before Loktionov powered a shot through Ward. Ryder continued to impress. Sure, he only had the two shots on net, but he was moving the puck well. It wasn't just lamely coming off his stick. He even showed some snarl when he threw a check at Riley Nash after a whistle. OK, he was pushed by another Cane but still, that's way more contact that what he usually does. He even drew a hooking penalty from Nash that the Devils later converted on. I really liked what I saw out of Ryder. I hope I see more like this from him because the points will come from performances like that, and I don't just mean secondary assists.
Brunner's Redemption: He didn't register a shot on net, but Brunner looked a million times better than he has in recent games. He was actually involved in plays. He used his speed to help win some pucks. He didn't take a needless penalty. While his pass to Loktionov was a close touch pass, he's not just dealing with his frustration by being a black hole. He was distributing the puck well from what I saw. He'll get his chances at shots in time. Now that he's got a point, he can at least feel a little better. I still don't like him on power play breakouts (or anyone on them based on tonight's game) but I think tonight's a big step in the right direction from him.
Volchenkov's Return: Anton Volchenkov returned to the lineup tonight and had himself a nice game. He didn't get beaten badly. He wasn't picked on. He was calm and collected in his own end. For a defensive defenseman, a quiet night is a good one. There was a scare when he got hit along the boards by Tuomo Ruutu and he went right down. It appeared to be his shoulder that took the brunt of that hit; but he got up, skated to the bench, and continued to take shifts. He played 19:11 and it was a successful return.
DROP A BOMB ON IT: Goodness, Eric Gelinas' shot should be called Paul Pierce because it's the truth. It's hard, it's threatening, and it was on full display in Raleigh, North Carolina. Three shots on net, four blocked, two missed, and one post. It created Henrique's goal at the expense of Bellemore's leg. In addition to the post, he came close to bombing one in during the first delayed call that led to the power play. Canes forwards kept giving #22 space and he took advantage. I enjoyed it greatly, and I'm sure you did too. I hope to see more of this as the Devils don't have many players who can just take that many attempts without it feeling like a waste of energy.
Of course, he looked like a fool when he was caught wide (possibly heading to the bench?) when Jordan Staal got sprung for a breakaway. But at least he made up for that error. There were times where Zidlicky and Gelinas seemed to make life more difficult than it had to be, but the offense the two had helped the play go forward. Gelinas' firing away was more comforting than seeing Zidlicky pinch and then pass up a shooting opportunity, but, hey, all's well that end's well I suppose.
Merrill's First: Jon Merrill had a nice game of his own. He was good in his own end, I think he possibly denied a killer pass as the lone man back in the neutral zone after the first Devils power play, and he got his first point in the NHL. Merrill was solid on the puck and his shot that led to the deflection was quite good. Smooth motion, fairly low, and it was going to be on target even if Zubrus didn't get it. I liked his game tonight and so did DeBoer since he even got some PK work.
Schneider's Start: Cory Schneider had an OK night. He didn't have a ton of work to do, though he made some good stops here and there. He did over-commit in response to Skinner getting the puck, which is why he went far post to score. That didn't look so good, but I understood why it happened. I don't want to fault him on the breakaway as I think Zidlicky trying to "chip" Staal failed (Staal rolled away from the contact into the middle) and Gelinas getting caught out wide just hung him out to dry when Justin Faulk hit him with that long pass. But he had a good enough night and I suspect we'll see more of him soon enough.
Murphy Schooled: Ryan Murphy is a rookie defenseman. As a rookie, you try to learn new things in the league whenever possible. Tonight, he learned that one has to skate like mad towards the lone skater breaking on in to his goalie and clean up any loose pucks. Especially when that lone skater is Jagr. The 41-year old legend got a shot and then potted in his own rebound, which wasn't a big one from Ward. Murphy was there in body, but didn't make a move to deny Jagr's stick, go after the puck, or do anything. One day, you'll learn.
But let's write a bit more about Jagr. I honestly think we're going to see him score his 700th goal as a Devil. I don't think anyone can convince me right now that Jagr's not going to score eight more goals with the way he's playing. He has an outside chance of doing it before 2014, actually. That line of Jagr, Zubrus, and Travis Zajac didn't dominate in possession but when they got going, they gave the Canes all they could handle. Keep it up, men. Keep putting up multiple-point nights, Jagr. Keep being yourself.
The Power Play Mostly Sucked: The first two for the Devils were exercises in banging your head at a wall and hoping it would turn into a pillow. They couldn't make a single pass going forward, much less two or three to gain the zone. The two shots they across both were almost accidents in retrospect. The team's play during the delayed whistle before each were more productive and efficient (the first one, especially since it went on for at least a half-minute). The third power play looked very good - and successful - precisely because the Devils won their offensive zone faceoffs and controlled the puck smartly so they didn't have to break back into the zone.
At least, the Canes' own power plays weren't much better. They generated only three shots on net, conceded a two-on-one that left begging because Elias telegraphed a pass that the defense stopped, and had to skate back to their end of the rink quite a bit. Andy Greene and Volchenkov were bosses on the PK and .
Canes Miscellany: Carolina's fourth line made some noise on Wednesday. The noise they made tonight was minimal. While he scored, Jordan Staal had one other shot on net and then spent the rest of his night mostly in his own end. Mike Komisarek was on the ice tonight as Andrej Sekera picked up an injury. He was, well, not at all good. Ron Hainsey got a deflection of his own past his own goalie and also got pinned a lot. Eric Staal remains the true shining player for Carolina not named Ward. Ward himself, I think, was unfortunate as he got beaten by a two deflections, a bounce in front, and a small rebound. The goal he allowed to Loktionov was ugly as Mike Ricci (the former player, not the MMA guy), though.
Who I Didn't Miss: Stephen Gionta, Peter Harrold, and Cam Janssen. And I don't think I'm alone.
Not to step on Karen's toes, but I want to see this lineup (with Martin Brodeur in net) stays together for the Buffalo game and smashes them in possession, shots, and hopefully goals.
Reminder: Bring a new or gently used coat to the Rock tomorrow. It's the annual coat drive so help someone out when you go to the game on Saturday night.
Your Take: How did you feel when the Devils finished the second down 1-2? How did you feel when they not only tied it up but took and extended a lead to finish it 5-2? Who on the Devils impressed you the most? Who frustrated you the most from the Devils tonight? Will the Devils carry over this good play into Saturday's game? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about this win in the comments. Thanks to those who commented in the Gamethread and followed @InLouWeTrust along on Twitter. Thank you for reading.