Less than a minute into the second period, I and a lot of New Jersey Devils fans let out a loud noise. Whether it was a sigh, a groan, a lament, a profane word, or anything else, it was warranted. Martin Brodeur not only gave up a goal, but a game tying goal. From Nicklas Grossmann, who hasn't scored all season. From a shot taken from the sideboards. From a low shot that didn't get deflected, blocked, re-directed, or touched. Right through the legs of Brodeur. The puck went in, he fell back into the net, and it was ugly. It was the eighth shot of the game from the Philadelphia Flyers. I thought it was going to be the beginning of a long, ugly forty minutes for #30 in net.
Instead, I was impressed. Martin Brodeur had a very good game. As tissue-soft that goal against was, that would be the only time he was beaten. Brodeur faced 31 shots and got 30. It was important that he had to be good because the Devils' offense was quelled. There was no quick double from the team to bolster the score. There was no magic from Adam Henrique, who saw his goal and point streak end. The Devils scored only twice against Steve Mason. The first came from a lovely move by Travis Zajac right in front; he delayed and put it up over the goalie. The second was the result of great down low play by Marek Zidlicky. The play ended with the puck on Jaromir Jagr's stick, who put it in. Good goals and not the only time the Devils had opportunities. But that would be all that #30 had to work with, which only makes his performance more impressive.
Adding to the degree of difficulty was the sheer amount of special teams in this game. The Flyers got six power plays tonight. While a few of the calls were generous from the refs, handing a team six power plays is just asking for trouble. The Flyers were absolutely dominant on their first two advantages, only denied a goal either by Brodeur, luck, or Claude Giroux missing from the Ovechkin zone. They got nine out of their 31 shots on net across their power plays so they did what they could. But Brodeur kept it all out and the penalty killers eventually got clearances on the later situations. He even stopped a shorthanded shot, no thanks to the wasteful play of the Devils' power play (again).
I did write before this game that Brodeur was the inferior goalie and should not have started. I still think Cory Schneider is better and should be the main man. However, I give credit where it's due. Brodeur was very good and the Devils would not have won this game in this way without how he played. Well done.
Flipping it around: the Flyers put 31 shots on net, out-attempted the Devils 67-46 in all situations, and got six power plays. They only beat Brodeur legitimately once. Remind a Flyers supporter of this when they inevitably complain, whine, moan, and groan about the end of the game.
The Opposition Opinion: Is Travis Hughes at Broad Street Hockey mad? Oh, yeah, he mad. He is a Flyers fan, so of course he doesn't understand concepts like "crashing the goalie isn't a legal play" and "running into the goalie isn't a reviewable call." I expect Ed Snider to throw a temper tantrum to Gary Bettman about the latter, by the by.
Delightfully repeat the following to any Flyers fans still complaining: Thirty-one shots, six power plays, a 41-year goalie who's past it, and one goal scored.
The Game Highlights: Plenty of saves, three goals, here's the video from NHL.com.
The Ice Was Tilted Overall: The Fenwick graph in Extra Skater's game stats is telling. There were a lot of horizontal lines for the Devils, which indicates long periods of time without a shot, goal, or missed shot. Of course, the six power plays for Philly had a hand in that. After all, the Devils were only out-attempted 40-38 in 5-on-5 play. But the Flyers really rebounded after a very good first period by the Devils. They caught the Devils too deep on offense at times, they got longer attacking shifts, and they were very aware in the neutral zone. Philadelphia adjusted well, they just couldn't solve Martin Brodeur tonight.
15-19-68 is the New 8-19-68: Tuomo Ruutu got another game with Travis Zajac and Jaromir Jagr. For the most part, it worked out very well. This line scored both goals for the Devils tonight. They applied the most pressure in the first period. In the second and third periods, they weren't as effective. But they created the go ahead goal in the third and Ruutu very nearly got a third assist tonight as Mason denied Jagr right in front a little later after that. The big negative from this line were the penalties. Jagr took an unhelpful hooking call near the end of the game. Ruutu got hit twice for minors; his "contact to the head of Steve Downie" may be reviewed, the hook was a little weak. Nevertheless, I want to keep seeing them together.
Surprise - This Pairing was Good at Evens: Bryce Salvador and Anton Volchenov as a pairing on paper is not at all appealing. Especially on the road against a team deep with attacking forwards. Amazingly, they were the Devils' best in possession in 5-on-5 situations. Salvador was on the ice for only four shots against; only five for Volchenkov. By contrast, they were present for 13 and 10 shots for, respectively. Given that the Devils got 26 shots on net, that's actually impressive that 24-28 at least didn't kill it. In fact, they had a hand in the play that resulted in Zajac's goal. As with Brodeur, I wouldn't want to see the Devils ride this pairing. Likewise, I have to give credit where credit is due. They did well at evens and held on during a ton of penalty kill time. If only Salvador didn't high-stick Downie.
About that Salvador Call: The refs did make the right call. Salvador was too reckless with his stick and caught Downie high. What made it interesting was that the whistle came while the Devils had the puck, the refs initially announced that Downie was getting two minutes, and not long after a replay appeared on the big screen, the refs conferenced to change their decision. I understand why Peter DeBoer was upset. Penalties aren't reviewable. That said, the refs did get it right so I can't begrudge their move. Besides, the Devils' power play was mostly wasteful outside of their first one so I can't complain about an advantage (in theory) lost.
Another Surprise - These Guys Showed: Damien Brunner only got a little over ten minutes, managed three shots on net, and looked like an inchworm laying on the ice defending a potential shorthanded rush. He doesn't belong on the power play point, but if he can provide bursts of offense like that more often, then I'll be more pleased with his play. Dainius Zubrus had a more stable night with a lot of PK time. He wasn't losing pucks left and right. It was a solid effort from #8. The last few games didn't put these two in a good light, so when they're not so bad, then it must be noted.
Newlostline: The Newfoundline really had a tough game. Adam Henrique wasn't notable at all. He ended his streak with a shotless game. Michael Ryder had four shots and a really good opportunity at the beginning of the game. But because he's colder than the ice sheet, he didn't score. Ryane Clowe was also not notable. This line got pinned back more often than the rest at evens and it was ugly at times. Just as the Zajac line did well and the Patrik Elias line was rather positive, this line had a lot of issues. In their defense, they did face Philly's top line more often than not: Claude Giroux, Scott Hartnell, and Jakub Voracek is a tough assignment for anyone.
Mark Fayne and Andy Greene were pinned back the most among the Devils' defensemen. They had to do a lot of scrambling in their own end of the rink. Like the Henrique line, they got a lot of time against the Giroux line. That means they also had Clowe and Ryder "helping" out in the way they could. I'm confident this pairing will do better next time. As for the Newfoundline, I wonder about shaking it up.
Gross, Man: Nicklas Grossmann isn't that good of a defenseman normally. Tonight, he was excellent. He not only scored Philly's only goal, but he came close to a second only to be denied by a glove save from Brodeur falling forward. Overall, he was 26-14 in terms of shot attempts for-against at evens. He's usually on the other end of that. All that and he got away with a potential boarding major for hitting Ryan Carter in the numbers and drawing blood (and Carter losing a tooth).
Sadly, This is Goodbye: The Devils will not be able to play against the likes of Luke Schenn and Andrew MacDonald again in this regular season. That's sad because when they were out there at evens, the Devils went on the attack. In terms of for-against attempts in 5-on-5 play, Schenn was 9-20 and MacDonald was 8-23. In terms of shots for-against in 5-on-5 play, Schenn was 2-9 and MacDonald was 2-12. Amazingly, they didn't get scored on together - MacDonald was notably in the wrong spot on Zajac's goal. Goodbye, MacDonald and Schenn. Look forward to future games as you'll both likely stay in Philly!
Did You Know: Brayden Schenn played in this game? It's true!
Massive Result: With this win, the Devils held the Flyers back in the standings (you're welcome, Columbus), moved themselves past Washington for now (thanks, Pittsburgh), tied with Detroit in points (they have one less game played, so they have the wild card), and are now just two points behind third in the Metropolitan. Yes, winning this game was big for the Devils.
The Flyers have a game in hand and others will play, so this may be a brief point of triumph. Given that the Devils have to claw their way up the standings, every little bit of progress should be celebrated. Besides, it's always fun see your favorite team beat a rival. As they continue to cry about the refs not counting Hartnell crashing Brodeur and the puck into the net, be confident that you have another reason why they are the Second Rate Rivals.
Your Take: What did you think of tonight's game? The result was good, but what did you think of the Devils performance? Are you pleased with Brodeur as I was, despite the hideous goal allowed to Grossmann? What do you think of the six penalties the Devils took, did the refs get them right? What would you have liked to have seen done differently tonight, other than scoring a third goal? Have you told a Flyers fan that their team couldn't beat Brodeur legitimately twice? If not, then when? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about tonight's win in the comments.
Thanks to those who commented in the Gamethread and followed @InLouWeTrust on Twitter. Thank you for reading.