Sitting at the Rock watching the Devils fail to score 5-on-5 yet again (or for nearly 52 minutes failing to score period), I had more than a feeling of same old crap with this offense, which hadn’t scored a 5-on-5 goal since the first five minutes in Tampa Bay – an entire week and three games ago. In total, the Devils went approximately 225 minutes without scoring an even strength goal…until P.A. Parenteau finally brought the house down by firing a slapshot past Devan Dubnyk in the third period of tonight’s game against the Wild to tie the game at 1 and provide an electric shock to a previously comatose offense. It was a more ballyhooed offseason acquisition who eventually provided a winner just thirty seconds into the 3-on-3 OT, as Taylor Hall and Adam Henrique recreated their juniors magic in one spectacular give and go that resulted in Hall’s third goal of the week and second game-winner at the Rock in two games.
Such is life in the NHL where one shift and one period can dramatically change perception. Instead of the Devils being 1-3-1 and having me moan and groan about an offense that’s been a joke since the lockout and rant about how advanced stats are crap to me since they somehow never apply to us, I’m in a much better mood with the team 2-2-1 and their key offseason acquisition off to a dream of a start. Certainly Hall’s beginning has been to this point much better than Ilya Kovalchuk‘s beginnings both after being traded here, then after signing a big contract with us. Though I don’t want to even utter his name for obvious reasons, the KHL star was one of the most hyped acquisitions the Devils have ever made and the only one I can think of in recent memory that compares to Hall for the advance sizzle factor. Unlike the KHL star though, Hall isn’t yet about the money or about fame, he just wants to win.
In the vein of ex-Devil star wingers, clearly tonight’s sellout crowd at the Rock hasn’t curbed its venom toward Zach Parise one bit for leaving, mercilessly booing every time he touched the puck Scott Gomez-style. Unlike Kovalchuk, he was a home-grown star, a salt of the earth kid who was going to be the next great Devil and have his number one day raised to the rafters alongside Martin Brodeur and Scott Stevens (both of whom were in the house tonight). After claiming for months he only wanted to stay, Parise shocked many by taking a 13 year, $98 million deal from the Wild to go home becoming just another big name who left for greener pastures in the end. Personally I’m over the drama of the summer of 2012, especially in comparison to what the KHL star would later do to the franchise. Merely leaving as a free agent doesn’t compare to breaking a 15-year contract after just three and leaving the franchise in a lurch.
Past and future collided at the Rock tonight as the Devils dedicated a statue to Brodeur outside the Rock in a drizzling rain before the game, while Stevens returned as an assistant coach for the Wild after his long coaching stint with the Devils ended before last season. Both got well-deserved standing ovations when introduced in stoppages during the first period. Despite the presence of both icons, tonight was about one thing for the Devils and their fans – getting a much-needed win. Although Hall got the team off the schneid on Tuesday with two power play goals in a 2-1 win over the Ducks during the home opener, the team followed that up with yet another typically annoying loss at Boston, losing 2-1 on a goal from Patrice Bergeron with 75 seconds left in regulation. In our last several seasons it’s been the same script, with only one meaningful win over the Bruins during that time while they’ve won tight game after tight game, usually with late finishes like Thursday night’s stunner.
Despite dominating early, the Devils fell behind on a fluke goal early in the second period and had zilch to show for all of their first period offensive pressure. I was already sharpening the knives for this blog until the fantastic finish saved our bacon. Really aside from goaltender Cory Schneider, it’s been the new guys that have saved our bacon through the first two weeks. Parenteau’s goal in Florida got us to overtime and was our first point of the season. Hall’s two goals were the margin of victory against the Ducks on Tuesday. Of course tonight Hall and Parenteau both scored in another 2-1 win. Five straight one-goal games to begin the season suggest something we pretty much already suspected – that this team doesn’t have much of a margin for error, but conversely they have a goaltender that will keep them in almost every game. Even with a defense that is still finding its way with three newcomers, Cory’s been the rock back there a couple of bizarre goals and puckhandling aside.
Tonight’s game marked the beginning of a four-game homestand, with all three games next week to be played at the Rock – against Arizona on Tuesday, the Blackhawks on Friday and Tampa Bay on Saturday. Despite home cooking those certainly aren’t easy games though the Coyotes with a backup goaltender you would hope could be a salve for our still struggling offense. After the upcoming week, the Devils play 12 of their next 16 on the road until early December so it’s imperative to keep the early good vibes going at the Rock.