By Mark Krulish
What happened: The Carolina Hurricanes got a third period power play goal from Jiri Tlusty that turned out to be the game-winner on their way to a 4-2 win over the Devils at the Prudential Center. Ilya Kovalchuk struck first for the Devils with a power play goal on a blast from the point that had to be reviewed. It was ruled no-goal, but replay confirmed it hit the back bar in the net. Jussi Jokinen‘s first goal of the season tied the game at one early in the second period, and Patrick Dwyer gave Carolina a lead late in that middle frame. Ryan Carter stripped the puck from a Hurricanes defender to tie the game early in the third, but Tlusty scored the winner and then an empty-netter to secure a win for Carolina.
Star of the Game: It was a game that didn’t feature a true standout player, but Jiri Tlusty, who spent several years shuttling between the minors and the NHL before finding a home in Carolina, notched the game-winner and sealed the win with the empty-netter.
Goat of the Game: Mark Fayne took an extremely undisciplined penalty that led to Tlusty’s winner. While he did not have a bad game overall, taking a bad penalty like that in the third period of a tie game just is not acceptable.
Turning Point: He has been the hero many times this season, but when Adam Henrique whiffed on a loose puck in the crease on what looked like a sure goal, it felt like a bad omen. Just moments later, Tlusty recorded the game-winning goal.
Offense: C-plus – For a combined ten or eleven minutes in this game, the Devils offense looked outstanding. Unfortunately, it looked pretty flat the rest of the time. There were several terrific offensive flurries in the game, but they were always followed by long periods of malaise. Extra credit to Bobby Butler for selling out to try and score late in the game, he just missed.
Defense: C-plus – The weak links are still getting way too much playing time. On Tlusty’s winner, Anton Volchenkov suddenly forgot he was a defenseman and tried to play goaltender instead of challenging the shooter’s shot. He has a big contract, but he is playing like a sixth defenseman, and his ice time needs to reflect that.
Goaltending: B – Not a whole lot to complain about for Martin Brodeur tonight. He was not perfect, but pretty sharp overall and made some good saves. Despite only facing 24 shots, Carolina logged plenty of attack time and Brodeur did a good job to keep Carolina at bay.
Special Teams: C – It was the first bad night the penalty kill has had this season. The PK got a few chances short-handed, as usual, but did not convert and Carolina moved the puck freely during their time in the offensive zone. The power play continues to look improved, but there is still much more room for them to get better.
Instant Analysis: It was a bad night, and bad nights happen in the NHL. The Devils did not have their legs early and were hemmed in their own zone throughout much of the first period. Their energy picked up a little as the game wore on, and they played very well in spurts, but not nearly well enough for enough of the game. It’s one of those games that you have to throw away and forget about and get ready for the next one.