By Jeff O’Connor
What a comeback. On Friday night in Newark, the New Jersey Devils rallied back from a 3-1 deficit at the end of one period, to win the hockey game 5-3 over the rival Philadelphia Flyers.
I really can’t ever remember much more of a nightmare first period. Three goals allowed in 2:36 elapsed? That’s got to be a record of some sort for the Devils. All of this coming after Travis Zajac ripped home a wrister 40 seconds into the game!
I will say this and take it for what it’s worth. After that goal, the crowd wasn’t much into the game and I thought the Devils defenseman were moving and performing like they did under the John MacLean era. It was frightening to watch. They were getting to the puck first and not knowing what to do with it. So many turnovers and that finally led to said awful three minute stretch of hockey. Thankfully, it didn’t burn them.
The end of the first period was key for the Devils. They started buzzing in the Flyers end of the rink. David Clarkson rung one off the pipe and Adam Henrique missed a wide open net on a bouncing puck.
All I was telling my buddies during the intermission was that the Flyers were extremely sloppy in their own end. I actually texted a friend that the Devils were going to tie it up but I wasn’t sure if that would be enough to steer them to victory.
That momentum carried right over to the second period as Alexei Ponikarovsky scored in his first game back for New Jersey on a roof shot against Philly goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov in the opening minute. Ilya Kovalchuk rushed the puck to the middle and twisted his hands to make a tight pass (anyone else think that goal looked exactly like the setup of Kovy to Zajac in Game Six vs. Florida last year?) to Poni who buried it.
On the Patrik Elias goal, if that’s any other goalie besides Bryzgalov, it probably doesn’t go in. He finds the way to give up the weirdest goals against New Jersey for some rhyme or reason. That was a big one, because they outplayed them the WHOLE second. It would have been slightly discouraging to not walk away with a tie into the second intermission.
Then their hard work paid off even more halfway into the third period, when David Clarkson tipped home an Adam Larsson shot to give the Devils the lead for good. What more is their to say? Any more Clarkson doubters out there? The guy just knows where to be.
Steve Bernier added an empty netter for good measure. If I would have told you before the year that “Bernie” would have one less goal than Kovalchuk and be tied for third in goals on the team at this point in the season, you probably would still be laughing at me. What a nice start for him.
Let’s wrap this puppy up shall we? Four unanswered goals. No penalties taken in the final 40 minutes. Five different goal scorers. A pair of defensemen record points. Your two best players (Kovy and Elias) tally six points, including five assists. Though he didn’t have his sharp game, some key saves at the end of the first period sprung Martin Brodeur to a fantastic final 40 minutes or so.
That’s what I call a good night.
Elsewhere In The Atlantic:
Penguins 3 (10-5-0), Winnipeg 1 (5-7-1)
Up Next: The Devils head out to Long Island to take on the New York Islanders tonight at 7 p.m.