By Mark Krulish
What Happened: Five penalties in the third period nearly derailed the Devils, and did allow the Capitals to earn their first point of the season, but Ilya Kovalchuk’s overtime-winner, on a feed from Marek Zidlicky, gave the Devils their third-straight victory of the season. Stephen Gionta scored his first goal of the year, on a beautiful pass from Jacob Josefson in the first period. That score held until Patrik Elias deposited a rebound on a 5-on-3 to extend the Devils lead to 2-0. Mike Ribeiro and Mike Green scored in the third period for the Capitals to tie the game at 2, setting up Kovalchuk’s winner.
Star of the Game: Jacob Josefson made that gorgeous move to set up the first goal of the game and was an absolute terror on the penalty kill. The young Swede had a couple of high-quality chances with his team down a man, although he was not able to convert on either. Josefson is showing promise as a top penalty-killer and defensive center. Thanks to his role on the PK, he received a significant bump in ice time, playing 18:52.
Goat of the Game: The Devils bench. Two too many men on the ice penalties and an abuse of official penalty were part of that awful third period run that allowed the Capitals back into the game. That is completely unacceptable with a two-goal lead in the third period.
Turning Point: The five penalties the Devils took in the third period completely turned the tide and allowed the Capitals back into the game. Three of them were bench minors which showed a very uncharacteristic lack of discipline.
Offense – A - Parts of this game looked like two mismatched high school teams with the Devils keeping the Capitals hemmed in their defensive end for significant amounts of time. The Devils continue to do their best work off the rush, but the in-zone offense is improving. Gionta’s short-handed goal and Kovalchuk’s game-winner were both pretty plays executed by a savvy, talented team.
Defense – B - There was definite improvement over the first two games from the defense, but a bad defensive-zone turnover led directly to the Capitals’ tying goal. Taking care of the puck in their own zone is probably the biggest issue facing this team at the moment as they are still giving up too many chances with bad clears and generally lackadaisical play.
Goaltending – A- - Martin Brodeur was solid once again, stopping 26 of the 28 shots he faced in the contest. He had no chance whatsoever on the 5-on-3 goal by Ribeiro, but perhaps would like Green’s goal back, despite the traffic in front of him. Nevertheless, the Devils asked an awful lot of their goaltender in this game and he came up with another fine performance.
Special Teams – A - The penalty kill finally broke and gave up a goal, though the score came on a 5-on-3, but the Devils penalty kill continues to completely dominate opposing power plays. They had three high-quality scoring chances on breakaways or odd-man rushes while a man short, and converted one for the first goal of the game. The power play went 1-for-6, scoring on a 5-on-3 opportunity, and looked better than it has in the first two games of the season.
Instant Analysis: Again, the uncharacteristic lack of discipline in the third period was somewhat alarming, but it will not be an issue as long as that was a one-game aberration. It was certainly a game of peaks and valleys, but in the end, the Devils got the big goal and the big save when they needed it most, and earned two more points. The offensive chemistry of this team has really shown in the early going, and it’s a very encouraging sign, as head coach Pete DeBoer is able to change up some personnel and still get results out of the forward unit.