NEWARK, NJ – The night was dedicated to man whose voice has defined the modern era of hockey, and Mike “Doc” Emrick asked the two teams on the ice to play hard and to give the crowd a great game.
Doc’s request was honored, as the team on the ice gave a fitting tribute, as the Devils came back from a 3-1 deficit to win 4-3 against the Pittsburgh Penguins in overtime.
“We played pretty darn well here tonight again, we were down two goals but we played well and that was the encouraging side of it. They stayed with it,” said Coach Brent Sutter.
The win continued the Devils winning streak to eight games, which had boosted the team into second place in the Eastern Conference and first in the Atlantic Division coming into Friday night’s game.
Pittsburgh seemed impatient during the ceremonies honoring Mike “Doc” Emrick, but the pent up energy was put to good use as the Pens scored two goals within 20 seconds in the first period.
Max Talbot deflected a shot by Ryan Whitney over Scott Clemmensen’s left shoulder and in 9:33 into the game. Moments later, Sidney Crosby took the puck up the right side and fired a laser of a shot in the same spot.
“Playing every night against those types of players, you get used to it. It doesn’t get any easier though,” Clemmensen said about facing scorers like Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. “They’re very shifty with their feet. You never know when the shot’s going to come.”
New Jersey answered, scoring with 11:21 off the clock, when Bobby Holik converted on a deft pass from Brendan Shanahan. Shanahan was pinned behind the net and made a back handed pass to Holik as he skated past the net. Holik put the puck on the back of his stick and tapped it past Marc-Andre Fleury.
Neither team scored in the second period, although the Devils increased their shot-on-goal total to 26-13.
Brian Gionta nearly deflected in a shot, and Travis Zajac took a pass from Jamie Langenbrunner and rifled the puck off of the post.
New Jersey went on the power play with 53 seconds left on the clock and peppered the net with shots, but Fleury was able to skate into the locker room unscathed.
In the third period, Malkin seemed to put the game away by scoring 8:35 into the third period. Malkin took a pass from Crosby while flying into the offensive zone, and fired a shot five-hole on Clemmensen. The puck trickled through Clemmensen’s legs to give the Pens what seemed to be an insurmountable 3-1 lead.
But the Devils came back from a 3-2 deficit Thursday night in Boston, and knew they could do it again.
New Jersey received its first break when Petr Sykora took a four minute penalty with just under 10 minutes to play. Sykora was called for hooking, and discussed with the referee how much he disliked the call, which earned him two more minutes in the box for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Shanahan took the opportunity, and in a flash, the puck was in the net. Dainius Zubrus and Brian Gionta worked the face-off win to Shanahan at the left point, and the newest Devil torched Fleury for his third goal with the team.
“In the first period, we won the draw and I gave the one-timer to (Rolston) and then I thought that they cheated toward him off the draw, so I just wheeled and fired,” Shanahan explained.
As the Prudential Center crowd came back from the dead, the Devils continued to dominate the control of the puck. New Jersey out shot Pittsburgh 13-3 in the third, and the pressure paid off.
Clemmensen was pulled with under a minute to go, and the extra attacker meant the difference in the game.
New Jersey kept the puck in the zone, and Jamie Langenbrunner put a shot on net from the right side of the crease with 30 seconds left. The puck bounced off of Pittsburgh defenseman Ryan Whitney and into the net.
Clemmensen returned to the ice, just in time to make one last game-saving stop as the clock expired.
The extra session was an extension of the offensive energy displayed in the final minutes of the game.
New Jersey put the only four shots on goal in the over time, and with a minute to go before the game would have to be decided by shootout, Langenbrunner decided it was time to go to the locker rooms.
Zajac saw Langenbrunner open in the left face-off circle and made a pass to the captain from the right circle. Langenbrunner wound up and sent the puck past Fleury and into the net for his second overtime game-winning goal in as many nights.
“I saw Jamie was open for a one-timer, I put it on his stick and he did the rest and made it count,” said Zajac.
“I guess I’ll ride this as long as I can,” said Langenbrunner of his six goals in the last three games.
The Devils will try to keep the winning streak going on Tuesday when Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals come to The Rock to try to regain the second slot in the Eastern Conference.
Emrick was honored for receiving the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award from the Hockey Hall of Fame for outstanding contributions as a hockey broadcaster. The pre-game ceremony included his family and fellow broadcasters. Emrick was honored with a replica antique microphone with “Doc” engraved on it, a crystal commemorative plaque, and a painting done by a New Jersey artist.
Doc has been the voice of the Devils for 16 consecutive seasons, and 19 overall.