The Devils 4-2 victory over the offensive force that is the Tampa Bay Lightning was impressive for many reasons.
First, the team came out of the gate running. They were able to dictate the pace of the game, and play the Devils system of hockey: get in the offensive zone, cycle and keep steady applied pressure on the Lightning. They didn't get many shots in right from the get-go, and allowed the Devils to out-shoot the offensive powerhouse Lightning 27-19.
Second, the Devils special teams were red hot. The penalty kill was solid, killing all four Tampa powerplays. The power play was equally outstanding as the Devils converted twice late in the game on consecutive 5-on-3 power play situations.
Third, Ilya Kovalchuk scored. While he has been hot on the penalty kill, and has been playing outstanding, the superstar hadn't found the back of the net in awhile. It was nice to see him score. It was double nice that he did it while shorthanded, and triple nice that it was his second and the team's third shorthanded goals of the season.
Fourth, Patrik Elias continues his season onslaught with a goal and two assists in the game. And let's not forget about David Clarkson tallying an assist and Adam Henrique scoring his third goal in five games back with the team.
The Devils needed a win like this. A win where they came in and from the get-go dominated the opposition. Last week's devastating loss to Pittsburgh seems to have been a wake-up call, as the team has won three straight since that game. This weekend the Devils get another crack at the Penguins, and need to win both to reclaim the top spot in the Atlantic (OK they need to win one and at least make it to overtime in the other, but seriously they need to win). The difference is both teams are hot and it is bound to provide exciting Devils hockey this season.
An odd note on the game: each team, at different times were given bench minors for "abuse of officials." It isn't easy to get a bench minor like that, so I'm a little curious as to who said what to which ref.
Just as an aside, this was the first game I was able to make it up to the Rock to see the team live. It is always more fun to watch the game live. My girlfriend and I hung around after the game to watch the MSG team (Chico Resch, Ken Daneyko and Deb Placey) record the post game show. Seeing Chico hang around to talk to three youngsters about hockey was really awesome. He went out of his way to take pictures with the kids and their fathers and talked hockey for about 20 minutes. he could have walked out and gone home, but Chico was just as warm and happy as he is during the telecasts. A genuinely nice guy and I just wanted to give him some props for being an alright dude.
Let's go Devils!