Sunday, February 25, 2007

Devils Lull Caps into Submission [Capital Fanatic]

This Time Bounces Go the Devils Way as Teams Split Weekend Home-and-Home Series

New Jersey Devils 3, Washington Capitals 2
(Photo Courtesy of Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

After yesterday's disappointing loss at home, the Devils made sure they established their style of play in today's game. And they accomplished that to perfection, using their neural zone trap and sound defensive positioning to lull their opponents and everyone in the Verizon Center to sleep.

The home team was able to strike first however, taking a 1-0 lead after a John Erskine shot from the point deflected off a Devils defenceman right to the front of the net, where Brooks Laich snapped it home into the wide open net. The goal by the fourth line winger was Laich's 7th of the season and 1st since his demotion from the second line center position.

The 22-year old Zach Parise was able to strike back for the Devils just 5:34 into the second period, taking a nice feed from the left corner by Travis Zajac and beating goaltender Brent Johnson five-hole along the ice from point blank range. The play followed a couple of unsuccessful attempts by the Caps to clear the defensive zone.

In the third period the Devils were the recipients of a couple bounces. They struck early again, this time just 1:37 in as a Brian Rafalski shot from the point hit traffic and front and bounced directly to Zajac for the easy goal.

At the 9:13 mark, Alex Ovechkin was able to answer and tie the game at two after he used defenseman Paul Martin as a screen and wristed a shot high off of goaltender Scott Clemmensen and in. It was Ovechkin's 1st goal in his last 6 games, giving him 35 now on the season and hopefully putting his slump behind him.

But the Capitals were not able to celebrate for long, as only 35 seconds later Brian Pothier was called for a questionable tripping penalty after a diving poke check to the right of the net dislodged the puck from the Devils forward, but also sent him to the ice. The Devils capitalized with the extra man and tallied the game winning goal on another lucky bounce, as a Jamie Langenbrunner shot deflected off of Johnson's right shoulder high into the air and somehow found the back of the net. It was Langenbrunner's 20th goal of the season as he sent the Devils back to New Jersey victorious.

After seeing the Devils in action it's not hard to see why despite their success on the ice, they fail to draw crowds at the Meadowlands. Their style of play is just so boring, and while the lack of energy from the fans may have been somewhat attributed to the bad weather on the trip in, it was more a result of the slow play because of their defensive approach.

Game Notes:

Brent Johnson had another solid game in net, keeping his team in the game with a number a quality stops on his way to 26 saves on the afternoon.... In what might have been their final game with the Caps, Danius Zubrus won 10 of 11 faceoffs and Richard Zednik notched a secondary assist on Laich's opening goal.... Scott Clemmensen gave Martin Brodeur the day off and stopped 23 shots in the Devils win.

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