NEWARK, NJ – There is nothing like a hockey team on a roll. When everything is clicking on offense and defense, the goalie is absolutely confident and the coach trusts his team to go out and just play, the results can be magical.
A spark of that magic was visible in Saturday afternoon’s 7-2 win by the New Jersey Devils against the Florida Panthers. The Panthers entered the game as one of the hottest teams in the league, recently knocking the New York Rangers out of the sixth Eastern Conference playoff spot.
Despite being blanked on the road by the Panthers just 10 days ago, the Devils cooled down Florida with some hot shooting of their own.
The Devils’ scoring spree began with Zach Parise netting his 37th goal of the season only 1:18 into the game.
Paul Martin swiped the puck away from a Panther at center ice, and Jamie Langenbrunner scooped it up and passed to Parise charging down the left side. Parise fired and Panthers goalie Craig Anderson made the save, but lost sight of the rebound.
Parise found the puck in front of Anderson and tapped it through the goalie’s legs one-handed to give the Devils a 1-0 lead.
Later in the period, Parise fought relentlessly to keep the puck in New Jersey’s offensive zone. After gaining control and out-skating the last Panthers defender, Parise wristed the puck over Anderson from directly in front of the net.
The crowd showered the league’s second leading scorer with chants of “MVP,” and Parise solidified his spot as one of the league’s most creative players in the second period.
After a Brendan Shanahan goal opened the second session, the frustrated Panthers took several penalties. Stephan Weiss was called for goalie interference at 15:19 in the second.
During a time out before the power play, the special teams unit for the Devils gathered at the blue line and began pointing at the net and explaining.
At 15:56, Patrick Elias sent the puck at the net from the right corner. At the right post, Parise made a backwards, no-look pass across the crease to Travis Zajac, who put the puck in the net from the left post.
After the game, Zajac explained that Parise had come up with the play and planned it with his teammates during the time out.
While the Zach Parise Show was going on, the Devils’ defense was quietly protecting goalie Martin Brodeur from facing too many scoring opportunities.
Brodeur saw seven shots in the first period and six in the third, and held a shutout for the first 38:30 minutes of the game, extending his scoreless streak to 98:30 since he returned from injury.
With 1:30 left in the second, Ville Peltonen knocked in a shot from Radek Dvorak to get the Panthers on the board, the score now 5-1.
David Clarkson made the score 6-1 going into the third period, and each team would add a goal in the final period.
Despite the huge lead, New Jersey continued to protect Brodeur like one of the wonders of the world. Brodeur did not see his first shot on goal until 9:13 into the period.
Shanahan laid out in front of a Brian McCabe shot at 14:46, but instead of the puck bouncing back out of the zone, it deflected off of Shanahan’s leg and into the net.
Dainius Zubrus finished the scoring barrage with 2:39 left in the game, closing the books at 7-2.
New Jersey out shot Florida 46-17, and 12 different Devils earned a point. Defensemen Johnny Oduya and Martin each were +4 for the game and +7 over the last two games.
The victory comes in the middle of a three-game home stand packed into four days. The Devils next take on the Philadelphia Flyers Sunday at 1 p.m. in a match up of the two teams fighting for control of the Atlantic Division.
While Philly has the Devils in its sight, the Devils are chasing down the Washington Capitals. New Jersey is two points behind Washington for the second seed in the Eastern Conference, and Parise is chasing Capitals star Alexander Ovechkin for the goal scoring lead. Ovechkin has 45, seven more than Parise.