As they say, what goes around comes around. As Jordan Leopold converted the Sabres’ lone regulation goal from the bizarre carom off the stanchion, it was easy for Devils fans to lift their head up in disgust and curse the hockey gods, wondering when they would catch a break.
After outshooting the Sabres at a rate of 2:1, and losing in a heartbreaking shootout, the Devils had scored one goal in each of their last three games before the All-Star break. All this despite getting rubber consistently at the net (averaging thirty shots a game) -- but their pucks were not finding the twine.
Well, karma is a funny thing. The Devils returned from the break with a mix of good and bad. They had a familiar face returning to the lineup (Welcome back Andy Greene!), but still were without leading Calder Trophy candidate Adam Henrique. They were facing the Eastern Conference-leading Rangers, but between the pipes was the stellar Martin Biron instead of the NHL’s best goalie Henrik Lundqvist. So after three straight losses, the Devils had a mixed bag going into the game, which is more fortunate than a pot of bad luck.
The only goal of the first period came shortly after Volchenkov made a nice play (he has been awesome of late) and got his stick in to block a shot by Marian Gaborik on an odd-man rush led along the right-wing boards. The puck lost momentum and skipped into Brodeur, who directed the bouncing puck away from the net.
Unfortunately, however, the Devils had their fourth line on, who cost them not one, but two goals in this game. The poor defense from the three stooges’ backchecking (Mills, Boulton, and Carter) forced Foster to face two charging forwards unchecked: Carl Hagelin and Anton Stralman. Forced to decide, Foster covered Hagelin, which was the understandable choice since he is the more dangerous player and was closer to the front of the net. Stralman made a nice play, positioning himself on the far post backdoor, and picking up the rebound to give the Rangers the 1-0 lead.
The Devils’ star players finally stepped up in this game, and Parise’s goal was vintage. Parise got a no-look, backhanded, cross-ice saucer pass from Zubrus (high degree of difficulty -- great play by Zubrus recently). It met Parise’s stick as he was entering the offensive zone, and he was able to control the puck and keep it from Gaborik. Parise came in on defenseman Stu Bickel with some speed, utilized Bickel as a screen, and shot a low nearside wrister that Biron corralled to the side of the net with a toe save. Parise zipped around Bickel and shot the puck nearside high, doing so fast enough that Biron was unable to reposition himself to protect his nearside post. If this stirs a memory of a previous Parise score, then possibly you are thinking of his goal 2/26/09 against the Avalanche.
The goals are virtually identical and show what a special player Parise is when he is playing his best.