It was not a typical start to the game for the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night.
They did something they had not done for the past 16 games – they allowed a goal in the first period. In fact, they allowed two goals to the visiting Thrashers in the first period. However, the Devils chipped away at the early two-goal deficit and came back to beat the Thrashers 4-2 on Tuesday night.
The game got off to an inauspicious start for the Devils after Tim Stapleton put the Thrashers on the board first. Evander Kane found a streaking Stapleton with a blind, backhand pass from the side boards, and all the diminutive Stapleton had to do was direct the puck past Martin Brodeur to give his team the early lead.
Chris Thorburn put the Thrashers up 2-0 just over a minute later on a fierce drive to the net. Thorburn skated down the left side, dipped his shoulder and chipped a shot through Henrik Tallinder’s legs and under Brodeur’s armpit for the goal.
With just under two minutes to play in the first period, Travis Zajac trimmed the Atlanta lead to 2-1 with his 13th goal of the season. Zajac beautifully deflected Mark Fayne’s point shot past Ondrej Pavelec to give the Devils some momentum heading into the first intermission. Despite cutting the lead in half, Devils coach Jacques Lemaire was not pleased with his team’s start.
“Our start wasn’t good,” Lemaire said. “We weren’t skating hard, but the guys knew what they had to fix and they talked about it after the period.”
The Devils dominated the second period, generating a slew of chances. After Blake Wheeler could not connect with a centering pass, Patrik Elias found the loose puck and turned up the ice to give the Devils a 3-on-2. Elias crossed the blueline and fed the puck to Brian Rolston. Rolston quickly gave it back to Elias for a one-timer that beat Pavelec to tie the game at two just over five minutes into the second period.
Jacob Josefson brought the Devils all the way back, giving them the lead at the 4:14 mark of the third period. Mattias Tedenby dug the puck out of the corner and fed his fellow Swede who was stationed just above the left circle. Josefson’s low snapshot beat Pavelec through the five-hole and put the Devils ahead 3-2.
After giving up the lead, the Thrashers looked like a desperate team. Countless times they used lob passes to get out of their own zone and attack the Devils net. Blake Wheeler found a bouncing puck and came in 1-on-1 with Brodeur, but the savvy netminder poke-checked the puck off Wheeler’s stick to negate the scoring chance. Brodeur had 18 saves on the night and earned the praise of his coach.
“Marty was really good,” Lemaire said. “In the first period they had a lot of good shots and Marty came up good. He kept us in the game early on.”
With under a minute left, the Thrashers pulled Pavelec for an extra attacker. After a faceoff in the Devils zone, Thrashers winger Bryan Little threw a wristshot towards the net. Evander Kane, who had been a thorn in the Devils side all night, deflected the shot out of mid-air and past a stunned Brodeur with 37.4 seconds left in regulation. As Kane and his teammates celebrated, referee Wes McCauley immediately waved off the goal, indicating it had been deflected with a high stick. After a review, the call on the ice was upheld, keeping the Devils ahead 3-2.
Ilya Kovalchuk sealed the victory for the Devils with an empty net goal.
With the win, the Devils are over .500 (33-32-4) for the first time this season. They now sit in 10th place in the Eastern Conference. The Devils win, coupled with the Buffalo Sabres loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, leaves them just six points out of a playoff spot.
Lemaire, who was unaware that his team had moved up to 10th in the standings after the win, chuckled when he was told of their ascent in the standings.
“We did tonight?”, Lemaire asked. “That’s good. We’re moving up.”
The Devils look to continue their playoff push when they head north to Ottawa for a St. Patrick’s day tilt on Thursday night. They should have no problem getting motivated for this game, as the Senators stole two critical points from the Devils on their home ice one week ago today.
All the Devils can do is take it one game at a time. That technique sure has been working for them lately.
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.