The New Jersey Devils were full of energy from the drop of the puck tonight. The Devils offense erupted for five goals and Johan Hedberg was excellent between the pipes as the Devils beat the Washington Capitals 5-0 Monday night. This is exactly the type of performance the Devils needed to establish a building block for the next few games that lie ahead. The fact that it came against the team that sits atop the Eastern Conference will go a long way to provide the Devils with some confidence for the future. Not only were the Devils relentless on the offensive end, but they stifled the Capitals top line of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin. Anton Volchenkov blocked a handful of shots, and his teammates made sure to have their sticks and bodies in any and all shooting lanes.
The Devils line of Jason Arnott, Patrik Elias and rookie Mattias Tedenby was easily the Devils best line tonight. That trio accounted for all three of the Devils goals in the opening frame. Tedenby set up Elias with a lead pass as Elias was driving to the net. The puck was deflected by the stick of a Capitals defender and bounced off of Elias and past Capitals netminder Braden Holtby. After their last game in St. Louis, it’s about time the Devils had a bounce go their way. Arnott scored the Devils second goal on a wrap-around after Holtby was caught too far out of his crease and way out of position. Tedenby closed out the first period scoring with a beautiful penalty shot goal. Capitals defenseman John Erskine tripped Tedenby on a breakaway late in the first, and Tedenby converted his ensuing penalty shot with a nifty forehand-backhand deke for the goal.
I thought it was very important that the Devils came out for the second period with the same energy level they had for the first. The Capitals are an offensive juggernaut, so it’s imperative that you continue to attack them even when playing with a lead. The Devils did just that, adding two more goals in the second period. Arnott scored his second goal of the game – and team leading eighth of the season - just over two minutes into the period, and Dainius Zubrus closed out the scoring near the midway mark of the second.
Something else the Devils can take away from this victory is the emergenceof some chemistry amongst their lines. Arnott, Elias and Tedenby are a good mix of power (Arnott), speed (Tedenby), and finesse (Elias). They were in-sync the entire night, with the young rookie with the gap-toothed grin acting as the catalyst. He utilized his speed to get to loose pucks and blow by defenders to make plays for his linemates. The line of Ilya Kovalchuk, Dainius Zubrus and Alexander Vasyunov was also buzzing and creating scoring chances all night. Zubrus is a good pivot for Kovalchuk because he has the ability to create chances for him, and he is not afraid to park himself in front of the net to provide a screen. Vasyunov is talented and agile, and he and Kovalchuk work well with each other. In the third period Kovalchuk fed Vasyunov with a beautiful saucer pass on a two-on-one, but the young Russian’s shot was met by a nice sprawling save from Holtby. Finally, the line of Brian Rolston, Travis Zajac and David Clarkson were matched against Washington’s top line all game, and did a stellar job of limiting their scoring chances. If the Devils can have this type of continuity and production from their top three lines, it could go a long way to helping them climb in the Eastern Conference standings.
Although he was disappointed he didn’t get the start in St. Louis, Johan Hedberg showed tonight that he is ready and capable of filling in while Martin Brodeur is on the mend with an injured elbow. Hedberg saved all 30 shots that he faced; no small feat considering the caliber of players that were aiming and firing at him. He controlled his rebounds well, and the rebounds he did give up were cleared out by the defense in front of him. As the clock was winding down, Hedberg was serenaded with chants of “Moose” by the appreciative crowd at the Prudential Center. The smile behind Hedberg’s mask was as wide as the goalposts as he was congratulated by his teammates after the final buzzer.
The Devils next game is Wednesday night, as they welcome a familiar face back to Newark. Brent Sutter will be behind the visiting bench, at the helm of his Calgary Flames who look to bounce back from a 2-1 loss to the Rangers. Hopefully the Devils can take all the positives from tonight’s game and channel it into Wednesday’s game against the Flames. I can’t imagine that the line combinations will change after tonight’s results. Prior to Monday night’s contest, Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said not to sleep on this Devils team. Let’s hope that tonight was the waking of a sleeping giant.
About the Author
Written by Matt Pellicane
I am currently pursuing a master's degree in Journalism from Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut. I graduated from Quinnipiac in May 2010 with a bachelor's degree in print journalism. While at Quinnipiac, I covered various sporting events on campus for the online newspaper The Quad News. I was born and raised in Bridgewater, New Jersey and have been an avid sports fan all of my life. I am a fan of the New Jersey Devils, New York Giants, New York Yankees, and the Boston Celtics.