This is a good day at stately IPB Manor: Paulie Martin re-signed (for three years) and we finally have a Game To Remember in which Sean Avery does not appear! Can it get better than this? Anyway, we actually don’t remember this game at all, so let’s sit back, relax, and enjoy a journey into FSN’s vaults.
Hm. Our intro includes Doc informing us the Devils were coming into this one on a three-game losing streak. We guess we have now entered that “sucktastic” stretch, which ran from March until… well, technically we guess we’re still in it.
19:31 As Doc sorts us through the lineup, he informs us Gio is out, and Whitey injured himself mysteriously during warmup. Oh, it’s that game? (Seriously, he seemed to do that every single night.) Thanks to Lou’s excellent salary cap comprehension, the Devils have only 16 skaters tonight.
17:22 PaulieMartinNation rejoices as he makes a fairly routine play at the boards. What can we say? We’re just happy about his signing.
16:55 Ah, the Pittsburgh fans were still in the throes of their “we’re so delusional about how good this team might be that we actually think we’re Cup contenders, yes, even with this defense and goaltending” phase. There is the slightest of “confrontations” between Rupp and Laraque after Fleury freezes a puck, and the entire arena leaps to its feet in full roar. Seriously, people. Calm down. We’re from the future, and trust us — Sid alone is not enough to overcome the D and the goaltending.
16:16 In a mano a mano contest between Pando and Sid, Pando wins. Decisively. Doc even coos, “Jay is so smooth.” PandoNation says, while rewatching Pando stripping the puck from a swirling-through-the-offensive-zone Sid, “Yes. Yes he is.”
14:42 Zach clearly still has the echoes in his head from the Jersey crowd from his NHL debut against these Penguins. You can almost see him mouthing along, “Parise’s better! Parise’s better!” as he leads the Poppers on a hard-working, spunky shift that even generates a point-blank shot missed by Langer.
14:27 After missing by a mile on his shot from the point, Raffie decides to show off exactly what $6 million can buy an NHL team on the open market for UFA d-men these days: not much. He loses the puck at the point and ends up taking a hooking penalty on Ryan Malone while still being muscled around.
13:12 The Penguins dart around the zone and Sid, on successive plays, zips gorgeous passes across the slot to wide-open wingers facing gaping nets. On the first such play, the Pen totally shanks the shot. On the second such play, Recchi shovels the puck into the one spot Marty can get a piece of it, but it skips across the crease onto Malkin’s stick, and Malkin manages not to shoot wide. We do not like that Malkin is becoming the new Gagne. We really don’t need to have more than one certified Marty-killer in our division.
11:17 Paulie holds the puck for several moments behind the net while the forwards change. The fans start a restive booing as Gomer slowly makes his way back for handoff, and we bristle. Don’t boo him! That’s Paulie Martin.
10:04 Malkin gets a full-speed point-blank crack at Marty, and Marty manages to hold fast. Doc remarks, “Boy, does he make it look easy!” Well, yes, it is easy when Paulie’s passing the puck blindly into the slot just as Malkin is skating there.
7:55 Rupp is absolutely flying in this game; he answers Sid’s one-on-five rush (that results in a twisting, backhand pass to… Raffie) with one of his own and actually gets a decent backhand shot that Fleury handles well. He was probably excited because he knew he was a few days from meeting us in Buffalo. (Paulie, meanwhile, is clearly nervous about his impending meeting with us.)
7:40 Chico is discussing how the Devils are struggling right now, and comments that, while the team has had its share of slumps this season, “this one feels a leeeeeetle different.” Yes, Chico, we felt that too. It was the way we could see the wheels falling completely off during this slump that differentiated it from the others. (He also tells us that Julien “knows what the team is up against”. Or not.)
5:59 Zach and the Poppers put on another fantastic, creative, jump-on-every-loose-puck shift that keeps Fleury on his toes, and then Sid, perhaps noticing Zach’s still chanting “Parise’s better” to himself, decides to come out of nowhere and match the Poppers’ display and then some. He leaves Doc breathless for the way he makes passes out of nothing, leaps into spaces defenders thought he could never get to, and gives third-liner, junkyard-dog hustle for pucks. He is skating our team into the ice, and we can’t help but wonder how people can actually watch the guy play and not walk away impressed.
5:35 Scuderi hooks Gomer. Silly Scuderi — he wasn’t going to do anything with that open ice! Doc lets us know the Devils are on an 0-for-7 PP run. That seems like a pretty short goalless streak, actually.
3:35 Make that 0-for-8.
2:16 Chico is hoping the Devils might be able to create a good bounce or two as they are struggling to find some semblance of being a playoff-caliber team; he floats the radical notion that Fleury has been known to give up a softish goal or two.
1:22 Malkin takes a hooking penalty about 55 miles away from the puck, and does a dazzlingly bad job of looking sheepish as he skates to the box.
0:57 Malone gets a great shorthanded chance, and as Langer tries to defense him out of the crease, he jostles Marty and knocks his mask off with his caboose. The mask flies off and lands well outside the crease; Doc chortles about goalies whose masks fly off at the slightest hint of trouble (no names are mentioned, but *cough*Roloson*cough*) and as the replay unspools, Pookie marvels, “Wow! It’s like his mask was spring-loaded!”
19:17 After the penalty expires Rupper gets two more great chances — he was clearly trying to soften us up before Buffalo.
18:55 Doc is blathering on about the endless, soul-sucking, boring saga of the Penguins arena deal. Pookie speaks for all of us when she rolls her eyes, “God. I am so glad that storyline is over.”
18:07 Can we make it 0-for-10? Ouellet takes the umpteenth hooking penalty of the night, and Chico remarks, on the listlessness of the Devils attack, that Julien was telling him that morning “he doesn’t recognize his team right now.” We decide that’s because in the Devils’ most recent attempt at coach killing they all switched sweaters at practices and wore those glasses with fake noses attached. (We also assume that’s how they drove Larry Robinson crazy in the previous season.)
17:51 Paulie and Zach try to show off how great they are in celebration of their recent contracts, with Paulie feeding Zach for a Sid-esque diagonally-across-the-slot pass, but Travis is bested by Fleury on his shot after receiving Zach’s pass. Travis doesn’t look very contrite, and if you look closely you can see Zach narrow his eyes and vow revenge for the assist lost.
16:31 Pookie starts a proclamation, “You know what I’d like to see Patty do?” She pauses for effect, and Schnookie responds, oozing sarcasm, “Where to begin?”
16:26 The streak is broken! The Devils score on the power play! Greene lofts a bubbly shot from the high point that gets through a brilliant screen from Rupper (seriously, Mike, it’s getting embarrassing. We noticed you. You can stop now) and past an oblivious Fleury. Well, Andy Greene’s first NHL goal certainly makes this a Game To Remember, especially considering how most Devils rookies score their first career goals in games the Devils lose by five or six.
15:14 We really, really love when Rasser is skating with Pando and Madden. On this shift he charges down the ice to beat two Penguins to a slow-moving puck in Fleury’s zone, muscles Orpik out of the way, then flings the puck back to a wide-open Pando. Despite being, surprisingly, a Fleury-killer (FSN tells us later he has 3 goals this season alone against him), Pando can’t score.
14:33 Gomer proves his worth by taking a moronic interference penalty by shoving a Pen into Fleury’s net. Thanks, Gomer.
12:33 Despite some fancy Pens passing, Marty and the PK units don’t break. Chico sniffs that Pittsburgh’s reliance on faked shots leading to cross-zone passes is going to bite them in the ass because eventually the opposing team is just not going to respect the original shot. That may very well be, but in this case, it very nearly paid off for the Pens.
7:34 We seem to have lost a few minutes of time. We went into commercial break on a wonky camera flip-out that makes our TV look like a kaleidescope of Travis, and come back to hear Chico talking about Christensen being hurt on a hit at the other end of the ice. It is strangely less jarring an edit than in previous games; perhaps FSN should consider kaleidescopic Travis wipes all the time?
5:06 With every close-up of the Devils, we notice they all look freshly-shorn. This was not the first game this season where we strongly suspected they get team haircuts. (Pookie suggests Lou shows up one day with a bowl and a pair of sheep-shears, and that the Kool Aid is distributed on haircut day just like those sheep innoculations.)
5:03 The Devils website, in their program guide to the “15 To Remember”, described this game as featuring “Brylin’s great goal”. Before this very moment, none of us remembered what in the hell they were talking about. But now? Wow. That really was a great goal. Gomer wins an offensive zone draw back to Oduya, Oduya cranks a low, hard shot from the point, Fleury fumbles the rebound forward to Sarge while coming way out to challenge, and Brylin kicks the puck to his stick, gets pushed over by the defender, then, flat on his stomach on the ice, sweeps the puck around Flower and in. 2-1 Devils.
4:30 Sid bulls out of the corner, through a handful of D, and powers a shot at Marty, then relentlessly digs in after any molecule of loose puck he can get his stick on. Marty, losing his balance, falls backward as he flips the puck just over Sid’s stick to safety. That, folks, was your 2006-2007 Hart Trophy finalists going toe-to-toe.
4:12 Ah, we were feeling it was time for an Oduya Special, and here it is: a delay of game penalty when he flips the puck over the glass without any forecheck bearing down on him. Nice!
2:32 Sid gets the puck deep in the corner, and as Paulie drifts toward him with a mind to shutting down his passing lanes Sid just dumps the puck off and skates away. He is clearly afraid of Paulie!
1:00 Doc delights himself (and his corny viewers, amongst whom we count ourselves) by saying, “John Barbaro, the PA announcer here,” just as Mr. Barbaro intones, “One minute to play in the period.” Boomer, from the depths of her chair, murmurs, “John Barbaro: America’s PA Announcer.” (And no, the Barbaro jokes never get tired at stately IPB Manor.)
18:38 We’re from the future. We know how this ends. And you know what? As much as we’re enjoying the tempo of this game, we are not enamored of this tendency of FSN’s to think we want to keep revisiting games in which the Devils coughed up third-period leads to give a point to a division rival and then “win” in a shootout. Not to give anything away.
16:46 Tonight’s trivia question is “Who scored 40 goals as a Penguins rookie along with Mario Lemieux during Mario’s rookie year?” The answer is Warren Young, of course. Doc marvels, “Remember what a name he made for himself that year?” and Chico answers, “Remember how he turned that into a huge contract with Detroit?” We can only hope in a few years we’ll be able come back to this diary and add, “And you know who else disappeared into oblivion after signing a huge contract with Detroit?” Oh, Raffie. We kid because we love. Or not.
16:05 Langer feeds Zach on a suddenly-developing two-on-one and Zach rips a perfect shot that Flower manages to get a cuff on. Doc marvels at how “someone as hot as Zach has been” manages not to score. Pookie: “Indeed.”
13:11 The Pens get possession in the offensive zone thanks to a bungling play behind the net between Marty and a handful of Devils D, but somewhere in the middle of this sequence, Recchi takes a slashing penalty.
12:28 Oh yeah, we remember this game now. It’s almost like a message from the Hockey Gods about what’s to come for our boys. Doc and Chico are discussing, while the Devils hand the puck to the Pens at the offensive blue line, how the Pens have 12 shorties and the Devils have given up 10 this year, and Pookie cracks, “Well, something’s gotta give.” The puck drifts into the near corner, Gonchar goes after and and just whips it on goal from behind the goal line. Marty, warming up for the post-season, lets it squirt between his pad and the post. Pookie, after a moment of disgusted silence: “Didn’t he do that in the playoffs? A lot? Against Tampa?” Schnookie: “Yes. And Ottawa.”
10:01 On a Brylin/Gomez/Elias “rush”, Gomer gets a little revenge for Patty’s Gomer-killing by skating straight into Patty from behind and taking his legs out from under him. As Patty crashes to the ice you can almost hear him saying, “It won’t work, Gomer — I am perfectly capable of humiliating myself, thank you very much.”
8:22 The Poppers manage to connect the world’s only broken tic-tac-toe passing play, as each one connects a pass with a bouncing, mis-hit puck, and Travis ends up awkwardly shoveling it in past a falling Flower. He then proceeds to hop around in the kind of relieved celebration that can only come from a man who knows he just notched an assist for Zach, thereby getting one of the counts against him in Zach’s Revenge Justification Ledger struck from the record.
2:38 Okay, we would really, really like to be disgusted with this. We would like to be nauseated by the way, after Doc and Chico spent the last 5 minutes of play talking about how the Devils were righting the ship and “finding themselves” again after a 3-game losing streak, they gave up the tying goal with just over two and a half minutes left. But the goal was scored on the kind of Gomez giveaway that we haven’t seen since Game 4 of the ECF in 2000. He just backhands the puck to Malkin, who says, “Thanks mightily, asshole” and dishes to Ouellet in the high slot, who cranks a great shot past a helpless Marty. And frankly, we really, really enjoy Gomer failing. Chico wails, “Oh you’ve really got to feel for Marty Brodeur and Scotty Gomez…” to which Pookie snarls, “Yes, and no.” (Doc calls the scoring on the goal, “The only assist goes to Malkin,” and Chico chirps, “And to Gomez.” Pause. “Sorry, I don’t want to have to say that…” Hee! We guess Chico wasn’t sorry to see him go either.)
0:55 Madness is breaking out on the ice; everyone is scrambling all over the place, boarding each other, throwing elbows, falling to the ice, getting up screaming at the refs, just completely losing control. Pookie remarks: “This is one of those shifts where you just have to wonder how anyone can not like this sport.”
0:08 Even as the Devils (led by Paulie, natch; he really is the best Devil at standing behind his own net and holding on to the puck) try to calm things down and just hang on for OT, Colby Armstrong does what he does best: make us wonder why we like him. He throws a cheap-shot elbow into Lukowich’s face that goes uncalled (and ultimately unsuspended); even Chico, who apologizes for everyone, can’t come up with a nice way to explain this one off, other than to suggest that CheeseTed needs to “take those hits cleanly.” Um, yeah. Come on, CheeseTed — we really don’t enjoy having to feel bad about liking you.
4:12 Raffie tries really hard to make this game a one-two punch of “why we aren’t going to miss our UFAs”, but his attempted backhand turnover to a Pen deep in the defensive zone is not capitalized on.
2:49 Perhaps feeling like they let a lot of shit go that they shouldn’t have in the final two minutes of regulation, the officials call a blatant even-up set of penalties, Malone for a corkscrew tripping from behind, and Oduya for a flailing, operatic dive.
1:04 No Penguin-killer is Madden. He cuts off a Sid pass deep in the defensive zone, and just chugs up the ice in what very slowly turns into a clean breakaway… and as he gets in close on Flower, the puck rolls harmlessly off his stick. The shrieks of laughter emanating from stately IPB Manor’s living room can be heard as far as 200 miles away.
– Christensen shoots first. We do not understand teams who opt to go first in shootouts. He goes glove but Marty is underwhelmed and bats it away easily.
– Buckling under the weight of his own “Parise’s better” chants, Zach makes about 7,000 dekes but Flower stops him with his toe on a great split-save. Doc and Chico both spazz over how great that shot and save were, and Chico shouts, “I thought Zach had him!” Zach probably did, too, Chico, so don’t worry — Flower’s name is on the list now.
– Malkin makes a staggeringly weak attempt at Marty, just pushing the puck at a five-hole Marty never flashed at him. That was Jagr-esque, how petulantly Malkin was making it clear that he is neither good at shootouts, nor enjoys participating in them.
– Langer, Mr. Automatic in shootouts, demonstrates the limits of the term “automatic”. Flower beats him with his glove, and Chico says, “Hubba hubba.”
– Sid stickhandles as quickly as he can, back and forth in little zippy moves, then whips the puck low to Marty’s glove. Marty is impenetrable.
– Patty, as putrid at shootouts as Jagr, steps in for the win… and are you kidding us? He goes a mile wide, meanders in at Flower, then calmly slips the puck in five-hole. According to Doc, that was his first game-winning goal of the year. Yes, Gentle Reader, that’s our captain.