The way the New Jersey Devils have been playing over the past few games doesn’t look like a team that occupies the cellar of the NHL standings. The Devils have taken seven out of eight possible points in their last four contests, grabbing points 28 and 29 with a 5-2 victory over the New York Islanders in a Monday matinee.
Lately the Devils have been using an offensive barrage, tallying 18 goals in the past four games after netting only 16 goals in their previous 11.
Vladimir Zharkov staked the Devils to an early lead with his first career goal. Teammate Ilya Kovalchuk doubled the lead 57 seconds later with a power-play goal. Kovalchuk unleashed a one-timer that blistered past Islanders rookie goalie Kevin Poulin on the short side. Kovalchuk has been finding his groove recently, potting three goals in his past three games.
Coach Jacques Lemaire, while pleased with Kovalchuk’s goal scoring, was quick to praise his efforts in his own end of the rink.
“Your talking about points and I’m going to tell you that he’s more aware of his defensive game,” Lemaire said.
Lemaire finally inserted rookie Mattias Tedenby into the lineup after the young Swede had been a healthy scratch for the past six games. Tedenby responded from the outset as he started the game with a lot of energy, showcasing his speed on every shift. He was rewarded for his efforts in the second period when he scored a nifty goal to give the Devils a 3-0 lead. Corralling the puck of a blocked shot, Tedenby skated into the slot, faked a shot and then roofed a backhander past Poulin.
The Islanders closed the gap in the second period, getting two goals less than a minute apart from P.A. Parenteau and Michael Grabner respectively. Lemaire called a timeout after Grabner’s goal made it 3-2, and it seemed to resonate with his team.
Rod Pelley put the Devils back ahead by two after he found the puck off a rebound from a point shot by Mark Fraser. Pelley chipped the puck over a diving Poulin to make it 4-2 with about three minutes to play in the second period. Dainius Zubrus capped the scoring not even a minute after Pelley’s goal to put the final nail in the Islanders’ coffin.
Although there was no scoring in the third period, it wasn’t without controversy. The Islanders appeared to have scored their third goal of the game, but the goal was waved off after it had been determined that Grabner had interfered with Martin Brodeur. It appeared as if Devils defenseman Mark Fayne pushed Grabner into Brodeur, but all four officials discussed the play and ruled that the goal would not count.
Brodeur was happy that the officials gathered and discussed the goal in question, saying “It was pretty nice. You don’t see that too often.”
Something else Brodeur hasn’t seen too often this year is the offensive display he’s seen from his teammates in the past few games.
“Give me five goals every game, we’ll win a lot. Trust me,” Brodeur said.
The level of the Devils upcoming opponents is set to ramp up in the next few games, but if the Devils can continue to consistently light the lamp, they’ll be able to compete with any opponent. The Devils return home on Thursday to face the Pittsburgh Penguins who may be without the services of captain Sidney Crosby as he continues to deal with the effects of a concussion.
For now the Devils just need to build on their recent run of strong play. Just by watching their past few games you can see a difference from where they were a few months ago. Their compete level has been much higher, which Ilya Kovalchuk has credited to more intense practices. More importantly, it looks like the guys are starting to have some fun despite their current place in the standings.
Maybe winning does cure everything, for the time being at least.
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.