(Final Score: Devils 3, Lightning 2)
Our pre-game predictions, based on the Devils long and storied history of choking in possible elimination Game 6′s, hover between 4-0 and 6-0 TB.
Oh no. Pierre McGuire’s working the game. He starts out with an interview with Vinny and it looks like Pierre is trying to climb into Vinny’s uniform with him, then when the angle cuts in closer to show Vinny’s face, you can see Pierre’s lips moving hungrily. He could not possibly be more creepy.
We really don’t like watching the feeds on NBC. Yes, the HD is nice (no Devils HD availability here in Flyer Country), but the three-man “booth” makes for very awkward chemistry. Could they possibly make Pierre behave like a sideline reporter rather than a second color guy? Doc ends up not doing play-by-play but rather serving as an Eddie-Pierre facilitator, and the dynamic between those two always reeks of pathetic toadyism on McGuire’s part and thinly veiled disgust on Eddie’s.
19:51 Icing already? SERIOUSLY???
19:42 Madden and Pando on a two-on-one, Madden misses the net. Pierre is horrified Torts is going with the checking line against Vinny. Um, that’s not been a bad matchup for TB.
18:55 The shift counters on NBC make it look like a penalty. So dumb.
17:54 The Poppers come SO CLOSE and can’t bury it. Nice to see some jump from them. The ensuing replay of the pressure on the other end shows Matviclutch making more huge blocks. And Pierre tells us excitedly, “Oh you need good goaltending and we see here Brodeur….” but the shot hits the outside of the net. Yeah, Pierre.
17:12 Too many giveaways in the zone… TB looks really hungry and ready.
16:36 Matvisuck makes his triumphant (?) return — puck bounces over his stick, Paulie is forced to desperately try to stave off a robo-Vinny.
16:36 “Inside the Glass”: the benches seem farther apart than usual to be as distant from Pierre as possible. Pierre tells us how impressive it is that the Devils make changes. Yes, that’s a very difficult concept. Boomer wishes we had a selective mute so we could not have to listen to Pierre’s gross shouting. (And Pierre’s not allowed to talk about the ‘unsung’ Paulie — he’s ours. Hands off. PaulieMartinNation never issued Pierre a visitor’s visa.)
15:57 Gio gets the puck all alone, Holmer makes a save and no one can get on the fat, juicy rebound.
15:22 Devils can’t pounce on loose rebounds, the ensuing offensive rush forces Brylin to take a penalty. Pierre is getting hyper-excited about the mundane and regular — he’s losing his mind over line changes and the fact that both officials spotted that infraction by Brylin. Pookie wants to see 90% less Pierre.
14:22 For all that Patty’s been driving us nuts in this series, we’re excited to see him on the PK, with Brylin in the box. We wish he could get more time there, but what can you do? This team is deep with penalty-kill capable forwards.
12:09 Pierre must not have a crush on any of the players in this game; instead of his usual “Oh my god, guys, [so-and-so] is standing two feet away from me and I think he just looked at me!” he’s just rhapsodizing about line changes. Do no other teams in the NHL work matchups? Has he never encountered this concept before? And whatever happened to his crush on Zach? Is Zach wisely trying to never skate close enough to Pierre for him to be able to get all swoony over him?
12:00 Schnookie apparently doesn’t pay enough attention, she is curious about the little insert interview where St. Louis is posed in front of a roll of tin foil. Apparently they always do that on NBC.
10:41 Madden has a skate problem. Zach had one in Game 5. Do we have a problem with our equipment preparedness?
10:34 We are invited to spark the debate between Eddie and Pierre. We don’t even know where to go with that. Schnookie used to work in a day-care program, and when kids got really clingy and annoying during playground time she used to suggest they compete to see who could go the slowest down the slide. Pookie suggests Eddie and Pierre debate on that topic, starting with a little field research. Boomer suggests they do a “who can be the quietest the longest?” contest.
9:54 Zach and Langer both get great opportunities, but again, no one on the rebounds. We would be up 3-0 right now if we were playing more heads-up in the offensive zone.
8:13 A really nice rush by Gio and Patty, and again, a juicy rebound with no one following up.
6:24 A scrum erupts in the corner, and drifting in down from the slot we get Gio and St. Louis punkily jawing at each other. We would pay to see them fight. Pierre McGuire tells us a penalty “for something” will be called. Why do they pay this guy? What input is he providing that improves this broadcast?
5:31 Smooth rush by Patty, sweet pass to Gio, super finish by 14. Gorgeous. See? We can give Patty the dap when he deserves it.
4:38 We hate to harp, but Pierre is killing us. He brings us back from commercial by saying something about “the great Martin Brodeur” but does his over-the-top French accent. That is so show-offy and stupid. Pierre, we don’t care that you speak French.
3:51 Huh. Boomer and Pookie were right. Marty’s insert interview is also in front of tin foil.
3:13 Paulie coughs the puck up on the blue line. This is not the time to return to his putrid ways. The linesman bails him out hugely, and the Lightning feel terribly put-upon, as he seems to conveniently be in their way at all the worst moments. IPB is not complaining.
2:09 Devils can’t get past the red line. We need to slow this down, and Choco comes out to do just that.
1:52 Choco’s snooze-out behind the net turns into a fantastic passing play breakout, with Patty and Gio both coming thisclose to putting another in. After 7 years, we are still amazed every single time we see Gomer slingshot through the zone with the puck on a string. Pookie can’t figure out why no one else can do that, since we all know Gomer neither works hard nor pays attention. Why can’t the guys who do work hard and pay attention learn how to do that themselves?
1:27 Doc promises, as the penalties are sorted out after a scrum, that the intermission will feature the guys in the studio offering “interesting chat”. He can’t make it sound convincing.
0:32.7 Vinny flattens Matvichuk with a crosscheck on the power play. That was idiotic by Vinny, and we are stunned that our hearts are in our mouths. Please be okay, Matvichuk. PLEASE. Dude, St. Louis takes an unsportsmanlike, too? If the Devils can’t put one away here, they don’t deserve to win. Oh, never mind. Madden took one, too. It’s 4-on-4. Thanks, Pierre for making it sound like we were getting a great chance here.
0:00 Huge sighs exhale all around. We like being up 1-0. We didn’t really love the pace in that period. We are worried for Matvichuk. We can’t decide what heavy item (Schnookie: “A girder.” Boomer: “The Jumbotron. A girder’s not big enough.” Schnookie: “But the jumbotron falling would disrupt the game.” Pookie: “How about Thunderbug falling from the jumbotron?”) we’d like to fall on Pierre during intermission.
18:52 Patty busts his ass on the power play and draws another penalty. Who is this guy, and what did he do to the Patrik Elias of the last 5 games? Pierre is amazed to report the Devs have, in their lineup, some offensive potential. (Pookie: “This just in: Pierre McGuire has unearthed a dusty old scouting report that never found its way to the Dallas Stars in the 2000 Finals. It says the Devils have a number of players who are capable of scoring.”)
18:39 WOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!! Raffie makes it 2-0 on a shot from the point on the 5-on-3! On the replays, Eddie first proves Pierre’s a dumbass for not thinking the penalty was a good call, then we get to see Raffie blow it through Holmqvist. (Pierre praises his boyfriend Zach for being “a tough cat” in front of the net.)
17:32 Power play ends as Raffie is forced to hook Perrin on a break. Marty makes a nice save on the play too.
17:06 This 4-on-4 looks like the 4-on-4 in Game 4 where we let the Lightning back into the game. This is not cool.
15:25 Great kill, and Raffie almost scores coming out of the box. On the ensuing change, though, it all goes sideways. Too many men. This seems like a really bad tactic, begging the Lightning to get back in this. (IPB’s TV is so shocked at this sequence that it actually spontaneously turns off.)
14:50 Gah. Stupid penalties lead to stupid goals. The lead is cut in half.
14:11 That was the weirdest goal ever. How did that happen? That whole shift was just staged inside a cuckoo clock, and ended with a pile of Lightning in the crease, sitting on Holmqvist, going, “Wha happened?” Gio happily takes advantage of the yawning net on some nifty passing from Patty and Gomer. After looking like they wanted to let the Lightning back into the game, we’re glad to see the Devils pouncing on this chance after giving up a goal.
11:33 Doc and Pierre make us happy by talking up how genius the Devils are at finding undrafted college guys like Madden, Raffie and Greene. We do love that kind of talk.
9:43 We realize we are whimpering. There is still half of this game left.
9:23 Marty makes a monster save on Boyle (after Pierre, coming out of commercial break, makes a mockery of the fine art of telestration trying to demonstrate what he means when he says the Devils are keeping the Lightning to the outside), but Zach takes a penalty.
9:12 Marty should have covered that rebound. Instead he shovels it just too far for Pando to take it, and Richards ends up scoring from the point. Pookie: “Our new game plan: no more penalties.”
8:23 Brylin puts a nice shot on net; we’re glad to see even the checking line continuing to pressure. No sitting back, Devils. There’s still too much time.
7:41 The Lightning are coming hard again. We want the Devils to get some more control here. Not cool.
6:04 The Poppers put in a solid, uptempo shift. We think Zach owes us one here — seriously, what has he done for us lately? Take bad penalties, that’s what. Come on, Zach!
4:47 The Tampa fans’ thunderstix can be heard (Doc calls them “those plastic things you bang together”), and it sounds empty, pathetic and soulless. We’ve said it before: any team that hands out thunderstix should automatically be eliminated from playoff contention.
3:31 WHAT???? Travis loses his balance, and gets called for a dive on a breakaway. That is one of the most egregious calls we’ve seen in a very inconsistently called series. Just AWFUL. But they call a trip, too, so at least it’s only 4-on-4. (Pookie wants that official to watch the replay and publicly issue Travis an apology. She is concerned that dive penalty will be put on his permanent record and he will be tagged a diver.)
2:05 While we’re glad this wasn’t a power play for Tampa on the bullshit call, 4-on-4 really does favor them, doesn’t it?
1:22 Travis gets a chance at redemption but can’t score on the breakaway. (Gorgeous pass from Raffie, by the way. Also, what do we love about Travis? He sticks to the play and tosses the puck in front for a decent chance for Zach.)
0:16 Langer is the new Patty. Travis tosses a pass to him, wide open, in the slot, but it bounces over his stick. Is Travis pissy about those breakaways and the bad call?
The ice surface seems to be falling apart. Perhaps Zach melted it? (Both teams were in agreement between Games 3 and 4 that the ice in Tampa is better than in New Jersey. Wow, but the CAA ice must suck.)
Ahh… the prolonged delay to put the ice back together again give Doc a chance to wave his PandoNation flag. The Least Penalized Player In NHL Playoff History. It never, ever, ever gets tired to hear Pando get praised on a nationally televised game.
19:19 Eddie is gushing about Pando’s smarts (or, as Pando would call them, “smahts”). We are almost too nervous to type.
18:51 Pando (Pando??? Doc, stop tempting the Hockey Gods!) takes a high sticking penalty. Pookie: “Why are we not sticking to my game plan?”
17:13 – 16:41 Oduya is an absolute BEAST behind the net. Madden gets a chance going down the other way, and Richards breaks it up brilliantly, then going the other way Matvichuk makes a MONSTER block. Finally the whole sequence gets shut down with a sassy glove save by Marty. We are rocking silently in our seats.
15:40 This pace is just going to be the end of things for the Devils.
13:44 The Poppers swagger in to take matters back into their own hands, and, while not scoring, they do draw a penalty. This is all more than we can handle; we’re so tense now we barely even notice when Pierre is speaking.
12:55 Nice puck movement, nice passing… all gone off track thanks to a lazy pass by Patty. There’s no margin for error for him, in our minds. There is such a fine line between love and hate.
12:06 Paulie goes putrid and coughs the puck up at the offensive blue line. This is so wretched.
10:41 Doc says this even-strength shift by TB is “almost like a power play”. Yeah. It’s been like that ALL PERIOD.
10:10 Icing. Crap. The Devils seem to be trying to pretend they’re not thinking like they have a three-goal lead, but we can see they’re sitting back. You can’t fool us, Devils. We’ve seen it too many times. (To be fair it’s less that the Devils are sitting back and more that the Lightning Big Guns are coming on hard. But still…)
9:25 The hollow booming of thunderstix echoes lamely through the arena.
8:35 “Come on, come on!!” We lean forward in our seats as the puck squirts out and it looks like a Devil might get a break, but we settle back when we realize it’s just Pando. We end up just happy he got a shot off on the semi-break; we love him dearly, but we are realistic.
7:44 The EGG line gets some pressure thanks to a clever dump-in, then a nifty steal. Patty even rips some quick shots off, prompting Pookie to marvel, “Who knew he could think so quickly?”
7:21 Doc tells us the Lightning have gone 8 minutes without a shot. Schnookie declares it “the most threatening 8 minutes without a shot I have ever seen.” Of course, the ensuing sequence evolves into a point-blank chance for Kuba that Marty comes way out to stone.
6:33 We love this not-putrid Patty — he’s taking swift shots every time he gets the puck. Pookie declares non-Putrid Patty is welcome to play in the next Devils game, whatever game that may be.
4:44 Zach pushes the puck deep into the offensive zone, and Doc describes it as “the perfect shuffleboard.” Pookie suggests Zach lettered in shuffleboard at Shattuck St. Mary’s.
4:00 Madden and Pando are being skated into the ice to be out there every time St. Louis and Vinny are. Schnookie: “This can’t go on much longer. Madden and Pando can’t skate like this; they don’t have the legs.” Pookie: “They’re just so much older.” Schnookie: “Even when they were young they didn’t have legs like that.”
2:10 Pookie is moaning “We can’t give one up…” The Devils look exhausted. They will not succeed if this goes to OT.
1:42 The Poppers get the puck out after Travis does his best Matvichuk and makes a clutch, clutch, clutch block.
1:00 Empty net.
:45.6 Icing. Dear God. Do we have a defibrillator here at stately IPB Manor?
0:00 Put the defib away until the next round, ladies. Holy. Shit. Unbelievable. As soon as the players congregate around Marty, Boomer asks, “So who do we get next.” We realize it’s Ottawa. You know what? We’re not going to think about that until tomorrow. Today is for much rejoicing!
Pierre is interviewing Gio, and Zach is standing there next to Gio like, “Don’t you want to interview me? Don’t you? No? Oh.” But his insistence works, so he gets some mic time with Pierre. We are not surprised Pierre needs no more than 10 words to name-drop Shattuck. This seems like a little gift of mercy from NBC; after subjecting us to Pierre’s miserable presence during the game, we get this little valentine of an interview. Thanks, NBC. You don’t completely suck.