In years past, the New Jersey Devils won Stanley Cups with a dominating, suffocating defensive approach. Todays Devils arent as stifling as the older brothers with the rings on their fingers, but from time to time they can strangle out a win and they did that in Washington tonight, winning 3-2 in a shootout.
This was a game in which the checkers could revel. It was played along the boards and it was physical, and each team had to fight just to get the puck into the offensive zone, much less get a shot on goal.
Even though the goalies were far from over-worked they both were strong when called upon. Michal Neuvirth suffered his first loss in five tries against the Devils, but he appeared to be extremely sharp in the first half of the game. He saved his best work for Petr Sykora, twice denying him with impressive glove saves.
Johan Hedberg was equally tough to beat at his end of the rink. Long ago dubbed the Moose, he stubbornly refused to let the Caps back on the board after the home team jumped to a 2-0 lead in the first period.
Troy Brouwer gave Washington the advantage after he stole a pass from young Devil center Adam Henrique. Henrique forced a pass into the middle of the ice where Brouwer was waiting to pounce. He broke in alone and beat Hedberg with a quick move to his forehand.
Jason Chimera would be right on the doorstep to deflect a John Carlson blast before the opening frame was done. The puck glanced in off Chimeras shin and it appeared as if Washington was on its way to another home-ice win.
But Devils goals from Peter Sykora and Ryan Carter would change the complexion of the game in the second period. Sykora still has a lethal wrist shot and he showed it off to Neuvirth soon after the Devils won an offensive zone draw.
The Devils like to use a deflection play from the high slot and it worked to perfection on the Carter goal. The Caps were held to a mere 2 shots in the second period, their lightest output of the season in a single frame.
Neither team would score in the third period, as both teams put on the clamps. Jeff Halpern had a fantastic opportunity in the third period only to meet Hedberg and the post on his forehand.
The Caps squandered a late third period power-play, which actually trickled over into overtime. That glorious chance to win it late went up in smoke, and the Devils wound up victorious for the fourth time in a shootout this fall. Half of their eight wins have come through the skills competition. Zach Parise is just plain nasty with his 1-on-1 moves, and David Clarkson salted the win with a slick backhand. Alex Ovechkin scored in the shootout, but Matt Hendricks, Alex Semin, and Nick Backstrom were all turned away.
The Caps start a week long road trip in Nashville Tuesday, with stops in Winnipeg and Toronto to follow while Cirque du Soleil takes over the spotlight at Verizon.
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