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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Devils work OT, end losing streak

The Devils played against the Florida Panthers on Saturday night. This was their third game of a 5 game road trip. It was an important game for the Devils who were on a three-game losing streak, their second of the year.

The Devils needed to straighten their ship to avoid seeing the Penguins join them at the top of the Atlantic Division. Pitsburgh did tie the Devils after beating the Thrashers earlier in the day. The win last night was important on many aspects: end the losing streak, retain sole possession of the division, stop slumping, the Devils were 3-5-2 in their previous 10 games.

New Jersey won the season series from the Panthers 3-1 by beating the Panthers in the shootout 4-3.

The Panthers failed to hold on a 2-0 lead on goals by Jokinen at 12:18 of the first and Stephen Weiss at 9:25 of the second period. Despite Florida's good record when leading after the first period, the Devils were able to come back with a goal by David Clarkson, the rookie recalled from the minors after the groin injury sustained by Patrick Elias.

The feel good story of the night belonged to Jimmy Dowd who scored twice to tie the game at 2-2 and then at 3-3 after Peltonen scored early into the third period.

The game eventually went to the shootout where Ville Peltonen and Zach Parise both scored. Zajac scored the winning goal after Nathan Horton and Olli Jokinen both failed in the second and third round.

The win obviously
It was most needed. The team has been having a really bad time lately. Since Mar. 2 and the game against the Leafs, they had a 3-5-2 record. Three of those losses were bad enough to raise a few concerns. The Boston, Pittsburgh and Carolina games were huge losses at home. The Devils were outscored 14-3 in those games.
They now have a more respectable 4-5-1 record in their last 10 games.

The two goals Jim Dowd scored
The veteran stepped up to record his first two-goal game in the NHL. He has 65 goals in 648 career NHL games but the last time he scored for the Devils was on Nov. 7. His production last night occurred while Langenbrunner felt ill in the second period and Julien moved Dowd to the Parise-Zajac line. A versatile player, Dowd came to training camp without a contract and was signed after the season started and Lou Lamoriello cleared the cap mess. Dowd got praises from Jay Pandolfo:"He's such a great team guy and it's a great feeling to see a guy like that do something special" and from coach Julien "I talked to Jimmy in the morning and told him we needed him ready because we were going to end up spotting him in different places, That's where Jimmy's very good. He's versatile."

Zajac and Parise scoring in the shootout
With so many injuries to key players, the Devils need offensive production from anyone. Even though it came in the shootout, the goal scored by Zajac proved to be the key to victory. Parise also scored and I like to see young players like the two Z's answer the call in clutch situation. Parise is having a great year and Zajac is very promising also. Last night they both scored in a pressure situation. That kind of attitude can be the difference maker in the playoffs.

Clarkson stepping up
Just a rookie called up because of injuries to Madden and Elias, the young player scored his second goal in five games, on the power play no less.

Brodeur's 43rd win
Brodeur is having an other great season. Last night's win was his 43rd of the season. It is the fourth time he reached that number, a career high. He won 43 games during the 1997-98, 1999-2000, and 2005-06 seasons. When many goalies or sports writers get excited about 30-wins or 35-wins season, Brodeur piles up the numbers. He is still within reach of Bernie Parent's record for wins in a season (47) or Phil Esposito's modern record for shutouts in a season (15). Knowing Marty and his humility, he is probably more worried about the way the team plays than personal achievements as stated in the Bergen Record: "Now, we're just trying to get our game back."

Elias back
According to the Bergen Record, Elias and Rasmussen are expected to return for Tuesday's game against the Islanders.

Losing Langenbrunner last night
Jamie Langenbrunner was feeling sick all day and had to leave the game during the second period. Dowd took his place on the second line and we know what happened. Of course it is an undisclosed illness. He has been ill for a few days according to Rich Chere of the Star Ledger. Coach Julien asked Dowd to get ready for the game.

Resting Brodeur
With all the injuries and the Division title in jeopardy, it might be harder than ever to squeeze Clemensen into a game. Despite what Marty says, many people believe he should rest to be fresh for the playoffs. I understand his point and his will to play a large amount of games but I also believe he could use a rest once in a while. There are only seven games remaining and it might be too late to get him that rest.

Well I will spare the ugly for today. The losing streak is over and right now I will take that.

Check out those articles that feature Brodeur:

- Brodeur Should Have Hart. Hartford Courant's writer Jerry Trecker explains why Marty should be rewarded with the MVP award, although Hartford is probably a long way away from Pittsburgh or Vancouver. Do I hear bias or lack of respect?

- Top 10 NHL goalies (post-expansion). The Calgary Sun has a ranking of the best goalies since the expansion. Marty is in second place behind Patrick Roy. When all is said and done the order might be reversed.

Brodeur reflecting on Dowd's performance in the Star Ledger
"I think it was great for Jimmy, He's been great for this hockey club. He brings that veteran leadership. For him to chip in has to be great for him. He's a positive guy. Everybody knows how laid-back he is, although I don't remember him being like that early in his career. He loves New Jersey. To him it's like paradise. He's pumped we're going back to paradise."

The Devils play 4 games this week. They will visit the Islanders on Tuesday and then will take on the conference leading Sabres on Wednesday. The back to back games feature a team that is still fighting for a playoff berth (Islanders) and the once within reach Sabres. That will conclude a 5-game road trip.

They will play Friday against the Flyers. Even though the Flyers are out off the playoffs, they have always given the Devils a run for their money. It will be a good opportunity for the Devils to get reacquainted with winning at the meadowlands. The playoffs are around the corner and they certainly don't want to be struggling any more than they have at home.

The Devils begin their month of April with a game at home against the Bruins. It will be a good opportunity to avenge the Mar. 4 loss. The week ahead is pretty crucial to the Devils. They have to start tightening their game and get into a playoff mode. It would be good to go on a roll like they did after their first three game losing streak in December.

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