NEWARK, NJ – The New Jersey Devils were determined to not let a big loss on Saturday “snowball” into a losing streak, and Tuesday night they turned up the heat on the Calgary Flames in a 3-2 win.
In a game that some predict may be a Stanley Cup Final preview, the Flames took an early lead while the Devils continued to figure out what the rarely-seen Western Conference opponent had in store.
“That’s a pretty patient team. When you play teams you don’t see often, you don’t know what they’re going to do,” said Zach Parise.
Trade deadline acquisition Ollie Jokinen, one of the biggest names involved at the deadline, continued to make a positive impact for the Flames, scoring at 10:22 in the first.
Jokinen positioned himself on the far post, and was able to put a pass from David Moss behind Martin Brodeur.
Down 1-0, New Jersey began to respond with increased energy and physicality.
Mike Rupp and Andre Roy dropped gloves at 12:58 after Rupp hit Roy into the side boards. Rupp, who was out of the line up for the previous five games, over powered Roy and sent the Prudential Center into a frenzy.
When asked about how Rupp responded to returning to the lineup, Head Coach Brent Sutter said he was pleased.
“Exactly what I wanted. We need that aggression and we need that physicality, and I’m not talking about the fight. I’m talking about finishing checks,” Sutter said.
Despite having to switch up the forward lines because of Rupp’s time in the penalty box, the Devils tied Calgary in shots on goal by the end of the period.
“Later in the first period, we started moving better. In the second period, our game went to another level,” explained Head Coach Brent Sutter.
At 5:10 in the second period, with the Flames on a power play, defenseman Colin White cleared the zone and had Jamie Langenbrunner with him on a odd-man rush.
White brought the puck up the left side of the ice, and passed to Langenbrunner in the slot. Langenbrunner fired, and the puck bounced pass goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff to tie the game.
“Whitey was able to freeze the ‘D’, and I was able to get a quick shot off,” said Langenbrunner. “I got a pretty good shot off there.”
The goal marked the 22nd of the season for the Devils’ captain and the 11th shorthanded goal of the season by New Jersey.
The special teams did it again for the Devils at 18:01 in the period.
On the power play, Niclas Havelid passed the puck from the point to the left face-off circle, where Brendan Shanahan was waiting. With Dainius Zubrus and Brian Rolston positioning themselves on each post, Shanahan threw the puck on net, and while Kiprusoff was sprawled in the crease, Rolston controlled the rebound and scored on a wide open net.
“Brendan made a really smart play. He found the seam to put the puck towards the net. He was patient there. That’s why he’s so effective,” Sutter said of Shanahan’s assist.
The secondary assist for Havelid marked his first point as a Devil in his second game with the team.
With a 2-1 lead, it did not take long in the third period for the Devils to establish their control of the game.
With just over a minute gone in the third, a pile-up occurred in front of the Flames net. Langenbrunner pulled the puck out and fired a shot from the right side that was saved, but Parise was able to poke the puck under Kiprusoff before he fell on top of the goaltender.
The goal was reviewed, but was upheld after video judges deemed the puck had crossed the red line before Parise toppled onto Kiprusoff.
Kiprusoff was pulled in favor of Curtis McElhinney after the goal, ending his night allowing three goals on 28 shots.
At the other end, Brodeur was challenged often but, after the first goal allowed, he stopped opportunity after opportunity.
With 4:33 gone in the third, Jamie Lundmark had two point blank shots on Brodeur, who stacked his pads make the saves. That would be his biggest challenge until the final moments of play.
Calgary made the game a 3-2 final with .9 seconds left. With White in the penalty box for a delay of game and the Flames having an empty net, Curtis Glencross put the puck past Brodeur as the final buzzer sounded.
Brodeur finished with 35 saves on 37 shots faced.
When asked if he was upset with the last second goal, Brodeur responded, “A little, you don’t like to get scored on, but it doesn’t matter. We’re here to win.”
The team first approach gave Brodeur his 549th career win, two short of Patrick Roy’s record. His first opportunity to tie the record will come on Saturday in Montreal, his hometown.
But that would mean the Devils would need to continue to win, a “snowball” effect in the right direction.