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This game started like a barnburner with two goals in the first two and a half minutes, one from Patrik Elias off of very springy end boards and one from Sidney Crosby before it settled into the sort of familiar dump and chase exhibition one gets when taking in a Devils game. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, the first period ended in what seemed like five minutes after a ton of blocked shots for Penguins--punctuated by a pipe from Alexei Ponikarovsky--and for the Devils.
The second period started out with a holding penalty on Kris Letang followed by a patently ridiculous charging major plus game misconduct called on Craig Adams, who not only clearly wasn't taking strides before checking Martin Skoula into the end boards, but also pulled up a bit before making contact. I'd have agreed with a 2 minute boarding, but the call was insane. However, the Devils' mediocre power play wasn't even able to get anything started in those five minutes, and the Penguins used the boost to...take more penalties.
Marc-Andre Fleury was sharp, though, and that enabled the Penguins to get through the multitudinous penalties, including a penalty shot for none other than Ilya Kovalchuk, career 9-for-36 in the shootout.
The final regulation stanza started with a fight between Matt Cooke and Rob Niedermayer. Niedermayer apparently was channeling Maxime Talbot, because shortly after the fight, Andy Greene launched an absolute rocket over the glove hand of Fleury to give the Devils a 2-1 lead.
Not to be outdone by Cooke and Niedermayer, Jamie Langenbrunner decided to shove Chris Kunitz into the Penguins bench and then join him there in one of the most bizarre situations I've seen in recent years. Unfortunately, the Penguins couldn't take advantage of the ensuing power play. Instead, Travis Zajac knocked Fleury's glove out of the way while he was trying to make a save on a Kovalchuk floater from center point, and the shot sailed into the goal free and clear. The refs decided to swallow their whistles, and so the Devils took a 3-1 lead.
After a few game-saving stops from Brodeur and a fantastic stacked-pad save for Fleury on Langenbrunner, the Penguins net stood empty. The Penguins prevented the extra goal, but their offense couldn't bridge the gap. Game.
- Martin Brodeur looked like his typical overworked self to start with, having started seemingly the last 62 games in a row (albeit "only" 13). He woke up, though, and held off quite a few flurries in front of his net in the first and third periods.
- Even though the Penguins had 13 shots in the first period, they were from an average of 35.5 feet away. Only five were from areas that are actually high-percentage areas like the slot or crease. One of them went in off the stick of Crosby.
- Continuing in that theme, in the penalty-ridden second period, the Devils had 19 shots, 11 of them in the prime scoring area. The Penguins had 7, only 2 of which were quality. This is the sort of thing that happens when you take a ton of penalties against a team that plays the trap.
- Both Devils goals in the third period came from outside 40 feet: the first on Greene's rocket, the second on Zajac's uncalled goaltender interference.
- The Penguins took 10 penalties. True, the Devils didn't score on the power play even once (going 0-for-5), but the Pens spent a substantial amount of time playing down a man and that cut into their offensive zone time significantly. This cannot continue if the Penguins expect to continue to lead the division.
- Evgeny Malkin was nigh-on invisible.
- If you want good news, Sid went 11-for-18 at the faceoff dot tonight, continuing his dominance in that realm.
All in all, the Penguins fought off a tough Devils team through two periods before finally caving in the third. The score seemed to be about right to me given the flow of the game, even though I'd have expected the goals to come during the second period when the Penguins were outmatched rather than in the third while the Penguins were actually getting some offensive pressure.