Goaltenders generally do not drive shooting percentage up for their own team. They stop shots and nothing more. Martin Brodeur managed to be an exception with a goal credited early in the game. Yes, Martin Brodeur didn't just return to the net. He didn't just make saves. He got a goal awarded to him. He got the one thing goalies don't get except once in a rare moment - and it was in his return game from injury. All thanks to a great bounce off the boards; a Jordan Staal pass missed Tim Gleason, went off the boards and sailed into an empty net during a delayed penalty call. Brodeur last touched it with a save on Patrick Dwyer. He gets the credit for the score.
After a deluge by the Carolina Hurricanes in the following six to eight minutes, the New Jersey Devils built from that fortunate bounce in the second period. They went from being out-shot 11-4 in the first to out-shooting the Canes 12-3. They got two shots past Dan Ellis in his net thanks to bounces. Adam Larsson kept a puck in and fired a high shot that hit Ilya Kovalchuk in the back. It dropped right for Adam Henrique, who fired it off the post and in. In other words, a shot off a fortunate bounce. During a four-on-four situation, Travis Zajac drove in, won the puck, and fed Patrik Elias towards the slot. Elias spinned, fed Peter Harrold coming in, and Harrold fired a hard shot on Ellis. The defenseman followed the rebound perfectly and backhanded one past Ellis. In other words, Harrold got to the right place at the right time off a rebound. The Devils were the better team and for what seemed like forever, they got the bounces to put up a strong 3-0 lead.
The third period went pretty well but Carolina got a lifeline past halfway through the third period. Jeff Skinner fired a shot from beyond the circle, it may have been tipped a bit by Bryce Salvador's stick, but it beat Martin Brodeur for his first goal against since his injury. It wasn't a great goal to allow. But Brodeur rebounded, the Devils didn't let the Canes get out of control too much, and Andrei Loktionov - also returning from an injury - finished a shot in the slot on a late power play to make it 4-1. How did he get it alone in the slot? A puck from Zajac bounced off Steve Bernier's outstretched stick and just dropped in the middle for Loktionov. Another goal involving a bounce. The New Jersey Devils won their first game in a week, they beat the Carolina Hurricanes 4-1, they're back in seventh in the Eastern Conference for now, and they did it with the return of Brodeur and favorable bounces.
The Stats: The NHL.com Game Summary | The NHL.com Event Summary | The NHL.com Play by Play Log | The NHL.com Shot Summary | The NHL.com Faceoff Comparison | The NHL.com Devils Time on Ice Report | The Time on Ice Corsi & Fenwick Charts | The Time on Ice Head to Head Icetime Charts
The Opposition Opinion: Bob Wage at Canes Country was brief in his recap. He did highlight that head coach Kirk Muller was not happy with his team's performance.
The Game Highlights: Martin Brodeur's back and got credited for a goal. Additionally, Henrique, Harrold, and Loktionov also scored. You'll want to see it all in this video from NHL.com:
Brodeur's Return: Brodeur was tested a ton after his "goal." Since Marek Zidlicky fouled Dwyer prior to Staal firing an angled pass into an empty net, the Canes had a full power play. They did not waste it. The Canes stormed the net, Adam Larsson seemingly spent an eternity with his back to the slot (and fished out two pucks, which great, but he maybe could have stopped a shot or something facing forward), and Brodeur had to dive, twist, and quickly react early and often. The Canes only got two shots on net but they had at least double that in attempts. The Devils were all out of sorts after that PP for several shifts afterwards, so the kitchen sink kept being thrown at the net. The Canes put up ten unanswered shots before the halfway mark of the first period. Brodeur had to be great and he largely was; though a crossbar saved him from an early GA from Jussi Jokinen within the first few minutes of the game.
From then on, the Canes managed to jack up the missed shot count rather than the on-net shot count. In total, the Canes had 23 shots go wide and/or high and 20 of them were at evens. Great for Fenwick, bad for trying to come back from a deficit. Brodeur did pretty well on other shots save for the one that beat him. Skinner's a great shooter and the shot was tipped somewhat. Nevertheless, a shot from outside the circle should be stopped and it's not like the deflection really changed it up that much. It wasn't a good power play goal to allow. Still, Brodeur got the other stops and he moved the puck well. A successful return for a legendary goaltender.
Some High Shooting Team: The Canes have averaged a lot of shots for per game this season. Tonight, they got 18 with 23 missed and 14 attempts blocked. Again, great for Fenwick & Corsi, not so for trying to win a game. I did like how the Devils backchecked after the game's first twelve minutes and they only got pinned a couple of times. The Canes were just off with their shooting tonight. Jeff Skinner was one of the few Canes with more than one shot on net; and he had six out of ten attempts. The only other Carolina Hurricane with more than one shot on net tonight was Jokinen with two, which includes a shot from the neutral zone but not his rebound attempt that found iron. As much as I was concerned about the line of Eric Staal, Alexander Semin, and Jiri Tlusty, they only brought attempts (+5, +8, +9, respectively) yet only two shots at evens between the threesome. Credit the Devils' defense and Carolina just having an off night.
John Tortorella Would Appreciate This Game: Score effects would dictate the Canes running away with this one in possession. The Devils got an early goal and put up two more in the second. After two periods, the Devils were at -6 Fenwick and +8 Corsi because the Canes blocked 16 shots from Devils players. The Right Way™. Amazingly, the Devils were not blocked at all in the third period but they got ten on Carolina. The Devils' Corsi fell to -3. It's all good because, again, the Devils were up by two to three goals throughout the third period.
Peter Harrold had the most mind-boggling night. In addition to a goal in 4-on-4 play, he drew the cross-checking call on Alexander Semin that ended by Brodeur/Jordan Staal, he had a +7 Fenwick and a +6 Corsi in 17:59 of even strength play. He mostly saw the bottom six of Carolina's forwards, which helped. But his usual partner, Anton Volchenkov (who also had a good game), was only a +2 in Fenwick and a -1 in Corsi. Harrold got shifts with Greene for a bit later in the game, which, I think, helped him out. Still, good things happened when he was on the ice. Except when he needlessly iced the puck but whatever. Tonight was a night that justified his inclusion in the lineup after a poor game against Our Hated Rivals.
The Return of the Fifth-Round Pick Reward: Andrei Loktionov didn't have a huge impact on the game. He looked OK away from the puck and didn't do too much harm. He was OK in possession: a -1 in Fenwick and a +4 in Corsi. He only got one shot in his 13:57 of ice time tonight. Loktionov did make that one count. He was all alone in the slot thanks to a fortunate bounce off Bernier's stick, kicked it to himself, and backhanded a beauty past Ellis. The power play goal ensured that there wouldn't be a late comeback by Carolina. It also made Kings fans sigh too. I'd like to see more from him in future games but I have no complaints.
Strong Nights: I certainly have no complaints about how Harrold played outside of some now nitpicky icings. I did like Bryce Salvador's performance. He ended up a -2 in Fenwick, even in Corsi, and played a lot against Carolina's top line. He didn't get horribly torched and he was steady with the puck.
I really liked how Travis Zajac played tonight. While he didn't register a shot on net, he was very good at the dot by going 14-for-21, he hustled for pucks to win them, and he had two secondary assists that were pretty sweet. The only reason why he was down in possession (-3 Fenwick, -3 Corsi) was because of the aforementioned misses and blocks by Carolina. He made his work count.
I enjoyed Ilya Kovalchuk doing Kovalchuk things. He was quiet in the first period but he roared in the second period with four shots on net. He got a primary assist the hard way but a point's a point. While he only had one shot on net in the third, he still had his requisite large number of attempts with twelve total. He also opened up Brett Bellemore's eyes wide open late in the game with a sick move that unfortunately ended with a backhander going wide. Still, I liked how he played in his 19:47 of ice time. As he plays like that more and more, the goals will come.
I felt bad for Ryan Carter in that he had five shots on net and they were good, close opportunities for him. He came close to scoring a garbage goal or getting one fortunate deflection, but not tonight. He played a lot more than I thought with 17:06 total. Peter DeBoer felt comfortable with CBGB tonight and they didn't get wrecked in possession. I have no problems with that.
I'll say it, I liked the fourth line tonight too. Tim Sestito put in a perfectly acceptable performance. Tom Kostopoulos continues to show what a fourth liner looks like and it's not Krystofer Barch. Harri Pesonen had a lively game, took on a defender one-on-one for one of the Devils' four shots in the first period for a nice, low shot, and banged around well. The line's only blotch of the night was when Pesonen lazily tripped Bobby Sanguinetti. That call hurt two ways. The now minor way was that it led to a power play that Skinner converted on. The major damage was that Sanguinetti hit the ice, slid a little bit, and crashed into the sideboards awkwardly. He left the ice in major pain, clutching his arm. Hopefully his injury isn't too bad as the Canes defense really doesn't need another defender on the shelf. Still, other than that, I have no issues with a fourth line performing as they did tonight.
Lastly, I really enjoyed that second period. Out-shooting a team on the road 12-3 while leading was great to watch. Henrique's goal took the wind out of the sails as it came after a long possession shift by the Eric Staal line. The Devils didn't let up either. Great work, New Jersey.
What I Didn't Like: I wasn't a fan of Patrik Elias' game. Yes, he got a primary assist, drew a tripping call on Eric Staal that led to Loktionov's score, and two shots. But he looked off tonight. He whiffed on a couple pucks, so a few shots left begging. Zajac hit him with a killer pass to the middle in the first period that he just lost off his stick. It was a wonder he held onto the one he did get to Harrold in the second period. He wasn't hurt too bad in possession, but given that he didn't look so good, it may have "helped" David Clarkson also not have a good night. Additionally, Clarkson, man, you had no shots on net tonight. You were a -4 in Fenwick and a -7 in Corsi. I think a reason why the Devils only got 22 shots on Ellis was because Elias and Clarkson really didn't get going and Zajac didn't get shots either. If that line functions as we've seen, then the game would have been that much more decisive.
Adam Larsson and Andy Greene were picked on early and often when the Canes brought the house in the first period. Larsson just looked out of sorts at time. He skated past a rebound that thankfully only led to Jokinen hitting the crossbar. He was facing the wrong way for seemingly forever during the Zidlicky penalty kill, and therefore couldn't do all that much to stem the pressure. He even tripped over his own blueline and had a few giveaways. Larsson did make some good stops later on, but his faults just stuck out to me. In terms of possession, he was the worst of all the Devils at -6 Fenwick and -8 Corsi. In his defense, he did see plenty of Carolina's top six. But it's telling that Larsson only got 16:35 of ice time at evens while Greene got 20:38. Maybe this will lead to Mark Fayne's redemption shot at the lineup? (I wouldn't get my hopes up.)
Poor Ellis: Dan Ellis gets dinged for the Brodeur goal because he didn't get to the bench. He also got beat through traffic, on a rebound, and by an open man in the middle. Not an easy night for Ellis after he called out his team after getting flooded by Florida on Tuesday. Ellis didn't finish the game. As there was a post-whistle beef with fifty seconds left, Ellis skated to the bench and the TV cameras saw his hand was covered in blood. Even in SD, it was clear that it was pretty bad. I'm not sure how it happened but it meant Justin Peters ended the game. A rough ending to another significant loss that wasn't really his fault. It's not like Ellis can control his team to play hard for more than 10-15 minutes total in a game.
Don't Say It: The Devils got bounces in their favor tonight. Let's not start acting like the goals are now going to come more often. The Devils' offense was mostly inept in the first period and the third period wasn't all that hot, though somewhat understandable since they had a lead. They need to keep working hard and looking to get shots to the net and not in defenders' legs and avoid lulls where the other team just does whatever they want. This means a power play that isn't salvaged because of one great goal still needs to be more willing to pull the trigger (e.g. Harrold taking a great pass from Kovalchuk down low and passing it away instead of firing). This means avoiding or limiting lulls in performance to not get bossed around and suddenly give up goals. This may sound overly critical, but I don't want this bump to the team's shooting percentage to be an oasis in a desert, I want this to be the beginning of good land.
This was a good win. It was important as it snapped a three game winless streak and moved the team up in the standings. Now they need to continue building off of it. When that happens, then we can say the Devils have worked past their issues. But not now. Not yet, I hope.
One Last Point: Brodeur's power play goal was the third of his career. No other goalie has ever had three goals. Just another record for the legend.
I'd like to thank everyone for following along in the Gamethread and on Twitter through @InLouWeTrust. I now want to know some opinions and feelings about this game from you. Do you think the Devils deserved to win this game 4-1? Who do you think was the best Devil in this game and why? What part of the team's performance did you enjoy? What do they need to work on before their next game on Saturday? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about tonight's game in the comments. Thank you for reading.