Instant Insight: Game Twelve – Devils 3, Penguins 1

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What happened:  The New Jersey Devils got off to a quick start, scoring the first three goals of the game and taking down the Pittsburgh Penguins for a second straight night, defeating them 3-1 up at CONSOL Energy Center on Sunday.  David Clarkson scored a pair of goals around a tally from Ilya Kovalchuk.  Johan Hedberg made 23 stops.

Star of the Game:  Has to be Clarkson.  After the Devils faced an avalanche of chances from the Pens in the initial moments of the contest, Clarkie got up the ice on a two-on-one with Patrik Elias and he roofed the chance to silence the crowd and give the Devs the lead after a rocky start to the game.

Goat of the Game: I say Sidney Crosby.  He was held without a point for the second straight night.  He had four shots on goal for the night, but he was very quiet.  He’s normally an impact player and he didn’t create any strong scoring chances.

Turning Point:  Clarkson’s second goal on the power play in the second period.  Let’s take a look into the moments that led up to that point.  Kovalchuk scores at 11:27 to stretch the lead to 2-0.  James Neal takes a cross-checking penalty at 12:09.  Clarkson stuffs in a rebound at 13:20 on the PP to make it 3-0.  If you get chances to bury a team when you’re on the road, you do it.  If the Pens kill that PP, it may swing the game.

Grades

Offense: A – They scored a pair of odd-man rush goals and capitalized on a garbage power play goal.  They took advantage of the Penguins aggression in the neutral zone.  They had a couple of takeaways at their own blueline that sprung those odd-man rushes the other way and they didn’t miss their chances.  How about the power play again?  Another lamp lighting for them.  I see a lot of passing on the PP.  They’re not shoveling shots at the net like Matt Shaw said he would try to incorporate.

Defense: A – Another great step in the right direction.  This looks like the strong defense we saw through the Philadelphia and New York playoff series last spring.  I don’t think any one guy got exposed or didn’t play at least a solid game.  Encouraging to see against a team with oodles of talent upfront.

Goaltending: A – Johan Hedberg was unreal.  He thwarted every big chance in the first 10 minutes that the Pens threw at him, while the Devils skaters tried to get their legs.  He didn’t have to make too many point blank saves in the final 40 minutes.  No big deal on the goal he allowed; an odd-man rush while his squad was shorthanded?  I think most Devils fans can live with that one.

Special Teams: B-minus  – They capitalized on their only power play chance.  After going up 2-0 in the second period, the Pens quickly took a penalty and Clarkson made them pay.  On the PK side of things, they went 2-for-3.  They allowed a PP marker to Neal just moments into the third period, which could have turned the tide of the game.

Instant Analysis:  Didn’t think I could be prouder of a team effort than I was on Saturday.  Happy to be wrong!  What a performance on the road.  They survived the first 10 minutes or so, and then for the most part they dictated the tempo of play.  They did a solid job of slowing down the Pens through the neutral zone and Hedberg made just about every great stop.  The defense is starting to come together as a unit.  Meanwhile, the offense is doing what they do.  Get a garbage goal, capitalize on a special teams chance and add in a timely goal as well.  This team has found its rhythm and identity just a dozen games into the season.  We know what type of game they can play when they need to be at their best.  They’re not going to play like this all year long, it’s a ridiculous expectation.  They just need to grab as many points as they can.  Good night and good hockey!