By Mark Krulish
What Happened: New Jersey opened its home schedule at The Rock with two first period goals that buried the Flyers en route to a 3-0 victory. Travis Zajac struck just 1:07 into the game and David Clarkson scored a power play goal at 19:35 of the opening period. Ilya Kovalchuk converted on a penalty shot with a beautiful move early on in the second to provide Martin Brodeur with all of the offense he needed.
Star of the Game: Brodeur was outstanding, stopping all 24 shots he faced and picking up his 120th career shutout. After the Devils picked up an early goal in the first, he held down the fort with several excellent saves, giving his team enough time to put the game away. He was not called upon as much as the game wore on, but he made every stop he needed to make.
Goat of the Game: While there were plenty of mistakes made on both sides, Braydon Coburn made two errors that were magnified by their consequences. He was on the ice along with Andrej Meszaros early in the first period when Zajac was left all alone in front to deposit an easy goal. The nine-year veteran defenseman also took a bad interference penalty late in the first that led to the Devils’ second goal.
Turning Point: Brodeur really got into the heads of the Flyers’ shooters after the second of two saves he made on a wide-open Scott Hartnell. By early in the second period, the Flyers were noticeably hesitant to pull the trigger, especially on their two power plays early in the middle frame. The Flyers looked frazzled as they desperately tried to solve Brodeur.
Offense – B – The offense was not particularly impressive, but there is something to be said for efficiency. The Devils scored three goals on their first four shots of the game, and that was enough to win. They were not as crisp as they were in the first game, but the forwards played well in spurts, especially early on with their dump-and-chase attack and hard forecheck that wore the Flyers down. Dainius Zubrus looked right at home on the top line with Kovalchuk and Zajac. He may not have the same scoring ability as the player he replaced, but he has the same work ethic and high motor, using his big frame to protect the puck and create space for his skilled linemates.
Defense – B-minus – The defensive unit was a wreck in the first period, giving the Flyers several chances on weak clearing passes and bad turnovers. Anton Volchenkov and Marek Zidlicky were the biggest culprits, playing far too casually with the puck in their own zone. However, they got stronger as the game wore on and did a great job clamping down on the Flyers in the third period. For the second game in a row, they get a better grade than they deserve thanks to their goaltender’s performance.
Goaltending – A – Brodeur pitched a shutout and was the clear star of the game. He frustrated the Flyers at every turn and bailed out his defense several times in the first period.
Special Teams – A – The power play was iffy for the second-straight game and still has plenty of things to work on. Although they did register a goal with the man-advantage, it was a fluke goal on a centering feed that bounced in off of a defenseman’s skate. However, the penalty kill continues to read off the charts and carries the special teams to a high grade. The forwards in particular did a great job of getting into the shooting lanes and jamming things up for the Flyers.
Instant Analysis: It was a bit of an ugly win for the Devils, but nevertheless an important one, picking up two points over an Atlantic Division rival. Wins in regulation against divisional opponents will be a huge part of making the playoffs, and the Devils have gotten off on the right foot in that department. It was an overall solid victory, and there is definitely room for improvement on the defensive side of things and on the power play, but the two points were the bottom line in this one.