Sometimes you hear the phrase instant classic after a dramatic finish, this afternoon’s matinee between the Devils and the Bruins was certainly one of those games where that would apply. From a team perspective it’s too early to tell whether this afternoon’s 2-1 win over the Bruins will be a significant marker or a footnote long-term, but from a fan and individual player perspective it was huge in the short-term. To get three points off the President’s Trophy Bruins in the first two games after not having played for ten months is just what the doctor ordered to get some excitement back with the fanbase. And for the hero of the afternoon, scoring a buzzer-beater of a goal was quite the coming out party for Yegor Sharangovich.
What’s ironic is you would think a game with just three goals wouldn’t have much excitement or many highlights, especially compared with the pond hockey that’s being played around the league so far in this wild, strange season. Yet even with a meager amount of goals, the fireworks started early in the afternoon when Kevan Miller dropped the gloves with Miles Wood on the first shift of the game. Wood, as you may recall got two goaltender interference penalties on Thursday night and apparently the Bruins were none too pleased about that, with coach Bruce Cassidy and at least a couple of players making reference to it after the game.
If you’re in the hockey world, you pretty much knew that there would be some repercussions and Wood answered the bell in more ways than one first with the fight, then by getting the last laugh with a goal later on in the period. During his first intermission interview with Erika Wachter, Wood was quite analytical about the fight itself.
Admittedly I’m only catching up on most of the first period stuff since I was slow to pick up the game. I did start watching in the second period though and the Devils were playing well for the most part, until the return of the power play of doom which struck late in the second period and was part of a double momentum swing. First, the Bruins had scored an apparent goal earlier but the goal was disallowed, and Boston picked up a minor penalty for a failed coach’s challenge. However, basically our entire PP unit got punked by Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron – mainly Marchand who beat a slow-footed Kyle Palmieri and got a pass off to Bergeron, who powered home a one-timer. There was plenty of blame to go around on that goal however, from PK Subban who played too passively on D to Jack Hughes and Pavel Zacha who were just floating around behind the play.
In a weird way I was looking forward to the intermission segment to see what Bryce Salvador had to say about the goal since there was so much you could dissect from that one, but apparently that was too negative for our broadcast lol. In any case the game was tied at one and stayed there through a tense period, although the Devils nearly won it on a power play at the end of regulation, finally putting together some good chances but failing to connect. Once we didn’t score on the PP it looked like it was going to be a reprise of the other night – team plays well but comes up short in the skills competition and only has two points to show for the first four games. Which wouldn’t have been terrible, but if you’re a young team looking to get some belief in yourself (and build some from the fanbase) you really need to steal some games early in the season.
Not only did the Devils manage to do earn the all-important two points, but they found the most dramatic way possible when Palmieri (who had a rough game otherwise) made a good play to get the puck up to Damon Severson, whose turnaround pass found a streaking Sharangovich for a breakaway toward the end of OT, and the unfazed rookie put it past Jaroslav Halak with just 1.7 seconds remaining before the shootout. From a personal standpoint I got as excited as I’ve been in quite a while for any of my teams. Not quite Ken Daneyko when Anssi Salmela scored in OT type excited – look it up on YouTube – but close enough.
It was reminiscent of one of my other favorite finishes – the Marek Zidlicky buzzer beater against the Panthers I even put in my top ten memorable games of the 2010’s in a blog last year. He actually scored with a similar amount of time remaining off a faceoff back in 2014, I think it was. Of course I was actually in the building for that one, which is part of what made it so memorable and I probably would have been for this game too but…2020-21. Oh well.
At least this game was won by guys you hope will be a part of the long-term solution around here, and that doesn’t just include the guys who combined on the winning goal. I’d be remiss if I didn’t bring up Hughes getting his third assist in two games and leading all forwards in icetime, or rookie Ty Smith getting a point in his second straight game and playing a solid 17:28 overall. Not to mention Mackenzie Blackwood, who looks in midseason form (what ten month break?) with his second straight dominant performance. This time he only needed twenty-seven saves to keep the Bruins’ powerful offense at bay, only allowing three goals in the first two games.
Many of our 25-and-under players – Blackwood, Hughes, Wood, Sharangovich and Smith all getting off to good starts is the kind of thing that can build optimism back up in a fanbase that’s been battered by years of losing. Not to mention Sharangovich’s on-ice interview was a charmer. Put it this way, sometimes the less English you know the better. When Erika asked him about what he was thinking on the breakaway, Sharangovich said ‘I think I can score and I score’.
I couldn’t have put it any better myself.