We barely know what to expect here tonight, with the Devils on an unheard-of three-game winning streak. Doc and Chico lead things off by talking about the improved team defense in Atlanta last night, but then kill our buzz by bringing up Vinny Lecavalier’s numbers. Nothing like Tampa’s one-two punch of Marty killers to make our holiday weekend complete!
Steve gives us a soundbite with Langer in which we hear about how the Devils’ room was “too quiet” when he came back from injury. Langer tells us, with an embarrassed smile, that there are “a couple of things Pando does” that have become “tradition” in his efforts to loosen up the room. Boomer suggests it’s his Raccoon dance, and Pookie wonders why Patty’s animal noises aren’t enough to keep the guys loose.
The Sutter Era might have all kinds of differences from other eras in Devils history, but one thing remains the same: Marty is in goal tonight.
19:35 We have advised Kate the Great to watch for Lecavalier and St. Louis; Marty doesn’t make us look like geniuses, though, and stops St. Louis’s first chance.
19:05 Zach comes out looking like a guy who remembers he scored at will against this team last April. On this shift, Vinny takes a hooking minor.
18:54 Gio punches a point-blank shot right into Holmqvist’s crests. Pookie: “Gio, you’re fired.” Pause. “Well that didn’t take long.”
16:47 Madden, Pando and Clarkson get their 400th great chance on a strong shot by Pando and a heads-up, net-crashing follow-up by Clarkson.
14:31 When Doc brings up Tortarella’s recent run-ins with officiating and the league’s disciplinary system, we begin discussing Sutter’s lack of charisma with Kate the Great, who suffered through a post-game interview with him last night. Schnookie explains his demeanor best by saying, “He doesn’t want to show any spirit because if he did it would give the Devils hope that they could kill it.”
12:29 When we come back from commercial we are shown the Shanahan “covering the puck after it crossed the goal line” incident that Torts lost his shit over, and we have to agree with the Lightning’s beef on that one. Chico gets going on the issue of how close the standings are in the East, and how teams need to keep their cool, and ends up reminding his viewers, “The Devils got called for a bench minor that cost them a game.” Pause. Pookie: “Twice.”
12:05 Ranger high sticks Gio off the play, and the Lightning again get to face the wrath of the Devils PP.
10:05 Whatever the prize is for Sutter’s PP competition can’t be that great. Pookie thinks it might be a certificate, like the one she got for successfully completing the “Tech Challenge” at her workplace. We think it’s fair to say Zach is the only Devil who would skate extra-hard for a certificate. Patty would hold out for a pony.
8:48 Doc’s discusses some Lightning grinding behind the Devils’ net. Pookie: “Did he just call Marty ‘Marvin’? Or am I drunker than I thought?” It totally sounded like Marvin.
6:36 We get a big close-up of Pando working the corner boards in the Lightning zone. As the play continues, and continues, and continues, Pookie suddenly says, “I bet I know what Pando does to keep the room light – he makes fun of Patty’s animal noises.”
6:18 Greener delights us with a super-casual pokecheck on Lecavalier. He makes defending him look so easy.
2:52 We are still sitting here stunned by the stat Chico unloaded on us a few minutes ago – Zach has more shots this year than Lecavalier. Vinny’s probably like, “Yeah, I don’t have to keep shooting repeatedly because my shots go in.” Zach’s then like, “I say!”
1:50 Ouellet suddenly has the look of Marty-killer to him (although on this sequence of rapid-fire shots at the Devils net, Marty bests him) – what is up with the Lightning having so many guys who are so good at scoring on the Devils?
0:00 The period ends with a scary sequence by St. Louis and Lecavalier, but they’re going to have to save their busting out for the second period. This was a fun period, with lots of chances for the Devils, only a few breakdowns when the Lightning had the puck, some great saves by Marty… we enjoyed it. Or it was the combination of Boston Crème Martinis (girly!) this afternoon and wine with dinner that has given the world a rosy glow.
We get an interview with Madden. He gives a Miss America style “I want to be the captain” interview and makes us deeply suspicious that he’s made his “A” bigger than the other guys’ “A”s.
MSG is making no bones about the fact that they let their entire production staff take this weekend off. Our intermission entertainment is a feature on the California Seals.
19:25 As we are gravely concerned for Clarkson, who crumpled to the ice after having his arm ripped off by the photographer’s hole in the glass, Marty gives up a soft goal to Vinny from about a mile out. 1-0 Lightning.
18:17 The Devils respond marvelously to the swing in momentum and someone takes a penalty for something (MSG doesn’t think it warrants mention); it takes the Devils about a week to get possession for the whistle. Madden then doesn’t bother to step in to take the offensive-zone faceoff when play resumes. It’s like the ghost of every crappy Devils second period past.
16:55 When the penalty killers decide to cough up a series of awful turnovers in their zone, Doc puts things best by saying, “Things have gotten weird.”
16:11 The weirdness continues unabated when Gratton is unable to convert on a wide-open chance at the side of the net, then high sticks Madden in pursuit of the rebound. The Devils go back on the power play.
15:25 The weirdness escalates when Ranger takes a baseball swing at a bouncing puck and ends up hitting it over the glass to give the Devils a 5-on-3.
15:08 WOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Langer whips a crisp pass to Zach just above the goal line, and Zach laces a pass to Gio across the crease for the simple (even for Gio) tap-in. 1-1 game. Chico tells us JP is in the building tonight, and Pookie declares, “JP is like the new Larry Robinson – we always lose when he’s in the house.” And no, we don’t have the stats to back that statement up.
12:31 Marty is called on to make about 60 saves, each one more awkward than the last. There’s no way this defensive scheme can fail.
12:13 Modern medicine continues to amaze us, as Clarkson’s arm has been reattached and he’s out on the ice again.
11:46 Hm. The arm may not have been reattached very well – Clarkson gets a pretty good chance storming in one-on-one up the wing, but can’t beat Holmqvist to the blocker side.
10:57 Marty drops a rebound right into the blue paint at his feet on a sneaky Richards shot, and some anonymous Devil (we think it may have been Mottau, but everything races back up the ice before we can get our bearings) makes a great play to clear the puck out of danger just before the Lightning can reach it.
8:41 The Devils can’t quite connect on a broken little two-on-one sequence, and we go to commercial in a state of confusion about the linemen’s salaries. Doc explains to us that they start at $94,000 and “after twenty years you can work your way up to 190K.” Boomer: “Did he just say they can work up to a million?” Pookie: “Did he just say Marvin makes 100 million dollars?”
7:41 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Travis bests Lecavalier to get the puck at the Devils blue line, then sets Gio down the other way on a two-on-one with Mottau. Gio, sensing now’s the time to try to gain some ground in our eyes as our not-least-favorite Devil (with Patty out of the lineup again with the flu), blasts the puck past Holmqvist, off and handful of goalposts, and in. 2-1 Devils.
6:59 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Pando does Travis one better by forcing a turnover at the blue line, but falling over while doing it. He launches Madden onto a two-on-one with Clarkson, and Madden threads an unbelievable pass the Clarkson finishes gorgeously. Pookie: “That goal was so beautiful I’d almost describe it as Clarkson.” 3-1 Devils.
5:41 We are groaning that the Lightning have just gotten one back, but somehow, insanely, the wide open shot, with the down-and-out Marty, turns into… we don’t know what. We wait with bated breath to see the replay, and wow. Marty stuffs a wraparound attempt on one side of the net, then dives across to get an elbow on a follow-up shot. It’s times like these we are reminded that, despite so much evidence to the contrary so far this season, Marty is a really good goaltender.
4:49 Clarkson giveth and he taketh away. He takes an incredibly dopey hooking penalty against Vinny in the offensive zone.
3:17 Gio is not kidding about wanting to pass Patty out of the basement of our Favorite Devil standings. He steals the puck from a Lightning, falls over, digs it out of the Lightning’s feet from his knees, falls over again, and just doesn’t quit on the PK.
1:25 Oduya invents a new way to turn the puck over coming around behind his net; he beats Gratton to a puck, then wipes out in the corner to give Gratton the chance to feed a great pass out in front. Even while rolling his eyes at his hapless defender, Marty manages to make the save.
0:31 Marty is not thrilled about the goal he gave up to Vinny – Lecavalier explodes down the zone to meet a feed from behind the net, punches it goalward, and Marty makes an amazing stop on the play.
0:00 Now that was a fun period of hockey. We love the end-to-end action! We love the identical two-on-one rushes stemming from identical Lightning turnovers at the point! We love the breathless pace! And yes, we fully put forth we’d hate it if Marty hadn’t been standing on his head all that time.
We get a Clarkson interview, which is quite the upgrade from Madden. Okay, just an aesthetic upgrade. He says the Devils were “working hard” out there by “working hard.” He hopes to keep “working hard”. Pookie: “I wouldn’t say Clarkson’s a beautiful genius.”
MSG treats us to an NHL Productions clip about Sittler’s 10-point night. Sheesh. Couldn’t they have at least spent five minutes asking the American Devils what their favorite Thanksgiving memories are? Or shown us footage of Pando’s Raccoon Dance? It’s just not that hard.
We come back from intermission to see a montage of Chuck the Duck enjoying this road trip. The culminating shot is one of him perched in a cigarette girl’s tray, and Chico sighs, “Chuck sure has a good life.”
19:37 We get a long look at Sutter pinching the bridge of his nose and trying to find an inner reserve of patience after Clarkson takes an interference penalty.
19:24 Ward bangs a shot at Marty from the side of the net, the rebound flips high off Marty’s pad, and falls slooooowly down into the net. 3-2 Devils.
18:46 The Devils respond well to the Lightning goal by promptly getting called for icing.
15:57 After trading some frenzied chances, the Devils look slightly calmer in their own zone, culminating in Paulie psyching a Lightning into passing the puck off the boards to him in the slot.
14:51 Just when we think the Devils are figuring this “defense” thing out, they suffer a shift against the St. Louis/Lecavalier unit where they repeatedly pass the puck gently up the boards to a Lightning attacker in lieu of doing productive things like clearing the zone.
12:21 The Clarkson love is getting out of control here at stately IPB Manor: Pando makes a great play to break up a Lightning rush in the neutral zone, and Schnookie cheers, “Way to go, Clarkson!” Pause. “I mean, Pando.”
11:42 Zubrus is so sneaky. He flattens St. Louis from behind while charging out to challenge a point shot, and St. Louis falls to the ice, blocking the shot with his helmet in the doing. Chico trys to tell us Zubie couldn’t help it because he was so focused on the point man, and Pookie says, in her Zubie voice, “Zubie can’t help it! Just so big, and St. Louis just so tiny. Can’t see little tiny man!”
9:54 Pando and Clarkson get a long two-on-one, but without the glorious end results of the Madden-Clarkson two-on-one combo.
9:22 We go to commercial after a whistle with the Devils vehemently shouting for a two-many-men penalty on the Lightning. Pookie is convinced she reads Langer’s lips, and he’s saying, “That was so not five.” There is no call.
8:35 A Devil makes a lobbing dump-in to get a change, and somehow Clarkson’s passive, one-man forecheck turns into madness when the puck plops to the ice at his feet and just stops there, waiting for him to drive to the net. Clarkson’s as surprised as everyone else by this turn of events, though, and nothing comes of it.
7:39 Chico points out the Devils are in a prevent-defense 1-2-2. Doc says dryly, “I can only think of 30 teams that do this.” Touche!
6:24 Zach concludes a shift that Pookie declares was “not his best ever” by taking a ridiculously bad hooking penalty.
6:05 Marty looks like he’s moving in slow motion, but somehow manages to make saves going back and forth, from side to side, on shots coming from everywhere in the zone.
4:49 After a sequence of great penalty killing and awesome goaltending, an Ouellet shot up the middle on the rush squirts through Marty, Greener and Mottau both swing at the puck as it lies in the crease, a mass of humanity collapses in on the goal, and in the crush the net gets knocked off and the referee indicates a goal was scored. The replay shows the puck never crossed the line, being stopped by Ouellet’s skate, and then kicking out in front to be covered by Marty. We can’t figure out why this was ever indicated as a goal, but the fans are, not surprisingly, furious when it’s waved off. (During the video review, we get a glimpse of Mottau and Pando chatting at the bench. We declare it was probably the best conversation EVAH!)
3:41 Doc tells us the shots this period are 12-1 Lightning. Nothing like sitting on a 3-2 lead like it’s 6-1.
1:49 Puck possession is apparently anathema to the Devils right now.
1:30 Holmqvist goes to the bench while Lecavalier and St. Louis stage a shooting gallery in the Devils zone.
0:42 Whitey ices the puck; timeout Lightning. We enjoy the respite in our freaking out.
0:23 The Lightning buzz around the zone, and a great chance by a defender sneaking in just misses the net and takes a great Devils bounce to careen out of the zone and all the way down the ice.
0:16 Vinny, that bastard, stones Pando on an empty-net chance from a crazy angle. Pookie marvels that Pando got down the ice so fast to get to the loose puck in the first place, and Boomer remarks, “After getting that empty-netter in Atlanta, he smells blood with the goalie pulled.”
0:00 WOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!! The Devils look ecstatic as they parade out to congratulate Marty and celebrate the win. Chico exults in his wrap-up, “You’ve got to give Marty most of the credit for this one.” Pookie: “Most of it?” As much as we like to see the Devils win as an offensive juggernaut, it’s reassuring to see Marty steal one, too. It’s fair to say that we’re deeply satisfied by this road trip.