After being snowed in figuratively (with losses in their previous two games) and literally on Saturday with the second of three major storms in the area so far, the Devils and the weather both finally seem to be warming up a little. Last night the Devils won their second in a row, beating a surprisingly inept Ottawa Senators team 5-2 in a game that prompted a stern closed-door meeting from the visiting team after the game. Things couldn’t have gone much better for the home team though, with Stephen Gionta scoring a shorthanded goal in a triumphant return to the lineup after an eleven-game absence and Reid Boucher getting his first NHL goal, both in the first period. For a rare time, the Devils got the lead and didn’t look back, never leading by less than two the rest of the night after Boucher scored at 12:08 of the first. Martin Brodeur made 23 saves for his second consecutive win, and even quipped after the game he allowed Milan Michalek‘s third-period goal so Jaromir Jagr could (finally) pass Gordie Howe to get the game-winning goals record – as Jagr had scored the third goal early in the second period.
Last night was a game you draw up on the blackboard and wish you could bottle and open at will. Contributions from young and old, along with production from every line. Only our special teams were substandard last night, allowing both goals on the power play (out of three chances) and going 0-4 on their own power play. Other than that – and how Mark Fayne and Anton Volcheknov allowed Michalek to hit the turbo button and speed through both of them right down the middle on what essentially became a power play breakaway at 8:35 of the third period – things went well otherwise, in an understatement. With Bryce Salvador allegedly ticketed to return to the lineup soon…perhaps next week, someone’s going to have to make way for the captain and that someone’ll probably be Fayne who has been uninspiring in recent weeks with a legit chance to earn his way back in the staff’s good graces. Our walking wounded returned up front too, with Gionta getting a nice ovation before the game when he was announced on the roster, and responding with an early goal after a Volchenkov clear hopped over the stick of Joe Corvo, leading to a two-on-one break with Adam Henrique. Henrique made the perfect pass past Erik Karlsson over to Gio, who wristed it past Robin Lehner into the open part of the net.
Belying their offensive production so far this season, the Devils offered up highlight goals du jour last night with a vet and two kids combining on the second. Michael Ryder gained entry into the zone, then teed it up to Eric Gelinas for one of his deadly one-timers, though this one missed the net entirely and hit the boards. Showing great hand-eye coordination Boucher quickly batted home the rebound from off the board for a highlight-reel first NHL goal. Jagr’s power play goal at 2:08 of the second was noteworthy because for all his production so far it was his first man advantage goal of the season. Andy Greene made a nice play on the rush shielding the puck for Travis Zajac who made a move and then found an open Jagr in front for a routine (certainly for him) goal. After Colin Greening‘s tip-in goal on a power play at 5:32 that gave the Sens their first, it looked as if it would be 3-1 going into the locker room. Until a suddenly resurgent Damien Brunner struck with one of the highlight-reel goals of the season abusing Jared Cowan by going through and around him to score. Perhaps somewhat illegally if he knocked the stick out of Cowan’s hand, as Sens coach Paul MacLean bitterly protested he did. You be the judge (see above). Either way you can’t let that goal happen if you’re Cowan.
Although Michalek scored his goal at 8:35 of the third period, briefly bringing back flashes of prior Devils collapses with the lead, it was Gelinas who sealed it once and for all just forty-five seconds later with Brunner going behind the net and finding the young defenseman streaking towards the front. Gelinas calmly gained control with his skate and wristed one past Lehner to restore the Devils’ three-goal cushion, which would be all they needed on the night. Aside from Clarke MacArthur‘s shenanigans at the end of the second and third periods (jumping Volchenkov at the end of the second and getting matching misconducts with Cam Janssen towards the end of the third) the rest of the game went by without much incident, at least on the ice.
In 208 it was a different story with the entire first row acting like total dirtbags, throwing stuff, standing up, cursing people out. Amazing it took till the third period for a lax security to throw them out. I didn’t want to get as involved as my old seatmate and his dad were in showing anger about or towards them since I was an interloper visiting my old section for the night lol. I was in my normal seat to start the game then saw them in the hall during intermission and figured why not go over there for old time’s sake, with my more recent seatmate not at the game anyway and me being one of the five people sitting in a fifteen-seat row. Didn’t exactly take much time getting used to the view or the company although there weren’t very many people in 208 left that I really ‘knew’ besides the two of them. I did notice some people wearing #ThanksHugh shirts with a picture of co-owner Hugh Weber on the front, presumably sarcastic because it is current ownership that took away the goal song. Always entertaining and loudmouthed Tony Goomba was still there though, amazing his voice hasn’t given out yet though I suppose the same could be said of singers and other entertainers who use their voice for a living.
Clearly even the extreme corners, which couldn’t help but be filled most games a few years ago, are sparsely populated now. Between season ticket prices jumping from $10 to $18 and fewer game-day tickets being made available in the $11 line the corners are now just as empty as the rest of the upper bowl, sans the center ice sections. Sad really, for all my complaining about the Diablos’ noise this season I don’t much like the alternative of no noise either. And ironic that I thought I was at least getting away from the noise for a night and wound up having the mascot beat his drum right in front of me for half the third period. At least in 120 the mascot’s on a pedastal by the camera and thus safely away from my eardrums.
Speaking of the camera pedastal it was so quiet early in the game when I was in 120 I thought I was going crazy hearing something that sounded like a movie projector. It turned out it was the camera moving back and forth. Which is telling because it’s the first time I’ve ever heard that sound before. Fans can’t even blame the unusually late (7:30) start time though it did seem like a lot of the crowd filed in towards 8 and there was traffic on the road for sure. Partly because one car was having problems and had to pull over on the exit towards Broad Street, slowing up traffic considerably. Our 14,000+ total was healthy for a mid-week Sens game, but some of those were probably voucher totals too. I did actually like the pregame video montage which included some 2003 playoff highlights. They should do that for Friday’s game too, against the Ducks (who we beat after the Sens in that playoff year) ironically enough. And the opera singer that did both anthems actually did most of O Canada in French. I couldn’t figure out what he was even doing at first until it occured to me ‘my god, he’s doing this in French!’. It was a nice touch although you have the typical yahoos that when it gets to god keep our land shout ‘You can have it!’.
Even going home there was some traffic because of a couple of work zones so I didn’t get back till 11 (left the parking lot at 10:15), which isn’t terrible though on a normal day I can usually make it back in around 35 minutes or so. At least I finally started to feel a little normal last night after taking a spill – and when I say spill I mean I went flying up in the air – on a patch of black ice last Thursday and fell on my side. Needless to say I’ve been battling rib pain there for about the last week which made it difficult to sleep and hurt while breathing or pretty much doing any other activity. If this game had been two days ago I probably wouldn’t have been able to cheer or even jump up to clap after goals, but time’s finally starting to heal this wound a bit. I’m already sick of this winter and it hasn’t even officially started yet. At least I was able to see only my second home win in a month since I was snowed in on Saturday.
Whatever winter Mother Nature brings us, hopefully the Devils can continue to burrow their way out of their early-season hole and back into playoff position.