This is madness — a 5:00 Sunday start? But this is the time of day we feel like we should be watching harness racing or the daily roundup from the dogtrack and feeling like toothless degenerates! Well, we’ll instead turn our degenerate attentions to the Devils-Thrashers game, which is, bizarrely, the first weekend home game for the Devils since opening night, or something like that. Who came up with this schedule, anyway? And should we expect the usual “Devils home matinee against a Southeast team” outcome (read: “awful”), or does this count as a night game? Will the Devils only be half sucky?
Doc and Chico set the broadcast going with a cheerful revisiting of Zach’s hat trick from the Canadiens game. We don’t complain. (And it’s noted Zach is now in the top 20 in scoring in the NHL! Holy jumpin’!) We then turn our attentions to Marty’s awesomeness; Chico says, “It’s hard to come up with new things to talk about with him, but all you have to do is wait for the next game and he’ll so something new! Then you’ll have something to talk about!” Oh, Chico. Don’t ever change.
18:55 Chico tells us that, based on there having been an exchange of long-range shots by the teams, both teams are really showing off that they’ve got great legs today. It never ceases to amaze us how he loves to make these sorts of proclamations after just a minute of play.
17:30 The Devils have a long shift of sustained offensive-zone pressure, complete with good bounces off the backboards, beating flat-footed defenders to loose pucks, and missing chances with wide-open nets.
17:01 A wonky change by the Thrashers leads to an almost-two-on-one for the Devils, led by Asham, who seems to have been on the ice for the entirety of this game. Schnookie: “Tonight is going to be all-Asham-all-the-time.” Pookie, who is feeling unwell today (yes, she’s trying to turn stately IPB Manor into a plague house): “He’s trying to make me feel better by pleasantly surprising me.”
14:44 The Thrashers mount a bit of pressure in response to the Devils’ efforts, and in the course of the play-by-play, Doc mentions the Thrasher named Haydar. Schnookie can’t help herself: “I can’t believe they have a guy named Gaydar on their team.” Yeah, it’s a 5:00 start for us, too. (And come on – Boomer laughed at it.)
12:37 We have noticed a couple of plays that we might have considered penalties (a high stick against Gionta behind the Thrashers net and a slash against Clarkson as he swooped around a defender), and when Schnookie wonders aloud whether those should be calls, Boomer says, “No, they’re only calling offsides and goals tonight.” Schnookie: “I can’t blame the officials on a 5:00 start. In and out, boys; let’s just get this one over with.”
10:41 Sarge and Madden get a long two-on-one, but Sarge’s pass is up in Madden’s hands, so nothing really comes of it.
9:20 Okay, so Chico was right – both teams brought their skating legs with them. This period has been a fantastic display of smart passing, good chances, and sterling goaltending. The Devils are definitely not treating this like a matinee.
6:49 Clarkson steps up and flattens Kovalchuk in the neutral zone about 700 miles away from the puck. The penalty killers roll their eyes at him as they step out onto the ice and pray Kovalchuk’s aim is as bad in this game as it was last time the Devils saw him.
5:09 We hope Clarkson really enjoyed hitting Kovalchuk, because it’s made the rest of us sad now. Hossa circles behind the net, finds Enstrom sneaking down from the point, and just like that the puck is behind Marty. 1-0 Thrashers, with the goal credited to Todd White for the tip.
3:48 Zach, Gio and Patty come out flying in the hopes of getting back in this, but the best scoring chances end up being blocked by the D.
2:48 Zubrus, Travis and Greener engage in an endless sequence of short-range passes up around the Atlanta blue line, prompting Schnookie to sigh, “Guys, shoot.” Pookie, speaking for the Devils: “Schnookie, no.”
0:51 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Paulie is a Thrasher killer! (Pookie: “Gophers hate Thrashers.”) Madden makes a great play to control a lob-pass that went long into the neutral zone, feeds it to Paulie, and Paulie does what he does best in the waning moments of a period in which the Devils are trailing to Atlanta. He calmly carries the puck around the defenders, going deep toward the goal, then whips the puck netwards. Sarge is in the right spot following up on the play, and being the clutch little interchangeable part that he am, he buries the rebound through the collapsing Thrasher D. 1-1 game.
0:00 That was one hell of a zippy period, fairly well played by both teams. Should we be assuming the entertainment level is going to drop off soon? Because this is looking like three straight games on Devils ice that have been full of all kinds of bang for the fans’ buck. That seems unheard of.
Stan interviews Bobby Holik. We deploy the mute button.
Steve and Dano think the Devils were crappy in this period. Okay. Someone here obviously isn’t as good at being positive as we are.
Chico gives us a tour now of the fast-food sushi at the arena. Doc marvels at Chico’s chopstick skills, and Chico has to admit he did not learn to use chopsticks while growing up in Regina, and that his wife finally “made [him] learn some culture” later in life.
19:54 Chico tries to say he’s not saying Kovalchuk’s a dirty player, but the fact is, he gets called for hooking on what was clearly a slew-foot against Clarkson right off the period-opening faceoff. Chico pussyfoots around, implying it was a dirty play, but then backing off to say it was borderline. Boomer: “I think that was well across the line.” PaulieMartinNation is most outraged by this play because Clarkson’s skates nearly cut Paulie’s pretty face as he flailed to the ice.
17:54 Despite FSN’s graphics people insisting the Devils PP is really good, the Devils PP is not really good here.
16:00 Chico tells us the Thrashers are well represented on the league-leader list for defenseman shot-blocking. Travis promptly shoots a puck right into a defender’s face to illustrate the point.
15:15 The puck is cleared out of play, and in the ensuing stoppage, FSN tells us Marty is the goalie with the most all-time wins against Atlanta. That seems impossible to us, considering the Devils’ history of woe and misfortune in the Thrashers’ building. Enstrom ends up getting called for delay of game. (The prolonged discussion among the officials affords FSN a chance to show us a replay of Zach dumping the puck in with some showoffy between-his-legs stickwork. This is why Brent Sutter should never, ever, ever publicly compare Zach to Sid.)
14:33 Exelby eats up a big chunk of time on the PK by collapsing onto a puck in front of the crease; the fans boo lustily as the officials just stand there, casually telling Exelby to keep play going, but not doing anything to either blow the whistle or actually encourage Exelby to move the puck.
14:30 Patty gets called for hooking when Holik falls over standing next to him after losing a faceoff.
13:03 Travis yoinks the puck from a Thrasher in the neutral zone, shows off some fancy puck control as the Thrashers tie up Zach in the offensive zone, and ends up putting together his own decent scoring chance. He might not like actually getting acorns, but we appreciate his confidence with the puck.
12:41 Pelley unleashes Gio on a two-on-one from the Devils blue line, but Hedberg gets a shoulder on Gio’s midrange shot. The two-on-one actually gets opened up in the first place because Kovalchuk is running around all over the ice, his eyes rolling around in his head, looking to hit anything in red. Doc and Chico sound delighted that tempers are starting to flare on the ice.
11:12 We come back from commercial to get a bit of advertising for the HD broadcast, which we’re suddenly glad we’re not getting, because while Chico’s reading the ad text, we’re looking at Patty blowing snot rockets on the bench.
10:34 Marty goes behind his net to wave a dump-in around to the corner, and is very nearly caught out of position when the Thrashers get to the puck before a Devil can.
9:05 Depth perception fails us as Clarkson cranks a giant shot that trickles off to the side of Hedberg – we think it’s creeping behind him into the goal, but when Madden leaps to the loose puck and Hedberg lunges to cover it, we see it’s actually not anywhere close to going into the net. What can we say? We’re living in a plague house – we can’t be expected to see these things clearly.
7:56 They’re definitely only calling offsides and goals tonight: Marty goes for a sweeping pokecheck at the guy coming around from behind the net and misses the puck completely, just taking out the Thrasher. The official just nods and says, “Carry on.”
6:48 Doc: “Ooooooh-kay.” Chico: “What was that?” Guys, that was the officials calling only goals and offsides. Kozlov is clearly tripped up by Elias as he buttonhooks high in the Devils zone, but play continues.
6:28 What the hell? Hossa casually gets a stick near Mottau’s legs near the boards deep in the Devils zone, Mottau goes down… and the Devils get a power play. Inconsistency, thy name is McGeough.
4:55 Mottau makes an hilarious and magnificent keep at the point when he tries to make himself as small as he can to not get killed by a hard clear, and somehow it hits him without hurting him, and then bounces straight to Patty in the clear further along the blue line. Just the way Mottau planned it.
4:14 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Mottau and Brylin launch some gorgeous passes up out of the zone, Rachunek gets the puck on the fly going up the wing, and he fakes the hell out of Zhitnik with a fabulous stutter-step. He then fires a laser-beam pass across the front of the net, and Madden finishes with a sharp-angle tap-in to make things 2-1 Devils. Holy crap, but that was a quietly fancy bit of offense.
1:58 Marty shuts things down when Boulton gets through a chaotic bit of defensive scramble and finds a shot at the side of the net.
1:40 We would all swear that Doc just said of Enstrom, “She’s a good defenseman.” Really? Enstrom? Her?
0:42 Hey, they’re not even calling the offsides now! A broken play at the blue line leads to Zach passing ahead to Patty, who was clearly waiting inside the zone for the puck.
0:31 What goes around comes around, and Holik gets called for a ticky-tacky trip against Zach along the boards to the right of Hedberg.
0:00 The period comes to a close with Doc exhorting us to vote for the Devils to go to the All Star Game. Schnookie: “I now fully love this team, and I still wouldn’t vote for them to be All-Stars.” Pookie, looking at the pictures of Gio, Patty and Marty: “Well, I wouldn’t vote for those guys.” Yeah, seriously. Pando much, people? (Just kidding. She meant Zach.)
Stan interviews Brylin, and introduces him as the best utility player in hockey. Pookie: “Sarge is like, ‘Yeah, I’ve never heard that before.’”
It’s more of the same from Steve and Dano, but we do get a little plug for the Devils Den as Steve suggests we do our holiday shopping there for that special Devils fan in our lives. He tempts us dearly with the promise of “stylish ladies’ apparel.” Ohhh… pink jerseys. Thanks, but we’d rather not ruin Christmas this year, Steve.
18:57 Exelby smashes Zach to the ice from behind after Zach taps a puck at Hedberg from in tight. Zach gets up jawing, and we like to think he’s saying, “I say! If Rupp was in the lineup he’d be beating you up right now!”
17:16 Kovalchuk cranks a monster shot from above the dot into Marty’s feet, and Marty does one of his “how the hell did he do that?” rebound-control, masterful saves, minimizing the damage on the rebound, and then coolly covering from an awkward position in the face of the charging attacker. Chico tells us to take a moment to appreciate our goalie. Sure thing, Chico.
14:45 A missed puck in the neutral zone by a Thrasher turns into a short little three-on-two led by Gio the other way. Hedberg is unimpressed by Gio’s shot.
12:56 The Devils seem content to sit back here. Have they not noticed that they only have a one-goal lead?
11:50 Rachunek steams down the wing, heads deep toward the Thrashers goal line, and then flings a bad-angle shot at Hedberg that says, “I’m not trying to score, per se, but I’m showing off how supremely confident I am right now.” Chico suddenly can’t help but rave about how magnificent the Devils have looked of late, and starts to say something about “when you have the best coaching staff in the league…” Schnookie interjects: “Oh, and who is he saying has the best coaching staff in the league? Because I know it’s not the Devils.”
10:26 Just as the play-by-play is settling into “this one’s over” territory, Madden turns the puck over on a bad pass toward the Thrasher blue line, and the play heads up the other way. Kovalchuk ends the sequence by blasting a one-timer through Paulie (who is playing him too passively) and Marty from the high slot. 2-2 game.
8:33 The Thrashers are playing somewhat passively on a change, and the Devils prove, for the umpteenth time this period, that they’re not really serious about getting the puck over Atlanta’s blue line. Now it’s like they’re sitting on this 2-2 tie like it’s a three-goal lead.
8:12 Thorburn gets called for hooking Langer at the side of the net. The whistle blows while the Devils have possession, sending Chico into a downward spiral of confusion and dismay.
6:45 Patty finds a swath of ice to walk out in front of the net from the corner, but Hedberg makes a great stop on him after initially going down too soon. We hate it when an overcommitment to the butterfly doesn’t end up burning a goalie.
4:45 A Thrasher gets a deflected puck in the face in the neutral zone, and Doc reports blandly, “He’s going straight to the bench… and got hit by another puck on his way.” When it rains it pours.
3:39 Todd White strips Zubrus of the puck right outside the Devils zone, and Vish-Dog steps up to defend his forward’s honor by calmly flattening White.
2:40 They aren’t calling the icings anymore either. The Devils miss a home-run outlet pass, and Doc calls the play as the Thrashers touch up, “And icing is… not called?”
2:14 The linesmen call an even-up, whistling a little rush by Gio and Zach on an offsides that eludes us.
2:10 We have to admire the crowd at the game today – they’re in full voice today, which is way more than we can say. The living room at stately IPB Manor has been deathly silent today. We’re really not good at these weird Sunday start times.
1:24 Doc begins to lay out our options with the clock having hit his favorite milestone (that would be 100 seconds, of course). The Thrashers are undefeated when they’re tied after regulation. The Devils, meanwhile, are totally defeated. We like our chances!
0:10 Marty holds his ground on a relentless scramble in tight in front of his net, and despite Pookie sickly moaning, “This has ‘goal’ written all over it,” the Thrashers fail to convert.
0:00 And we’re going to overtime. FSN gives us a graphic showing the teams’ records, just in case we couldn’t figure out from Doc’s discussing this earlier which team has the advantage here.
4:45 Paulie looks like he really wants to make up to his teammates that mistake he made on the Kovalchuk goal. But his unbridled enthusiasm leads to naught but an icing.
4:05 It takes the Devils some scrambling time to do it, but they finally clear the zone. Pookie: “Now it’s a blank slate. If the Thrashers score it’s no longer Paulie’s fault for that icing.”
3:34 Marty faces his 14,000th shot of the overtime. The Devils have not demonstrated any real interest in mounting any semblance of offensive pressure since the start of the third period.
3:16 Rachunek coolly picks off a Thrasher pass on it’s way into the Devils zone and just misses sending Gio in on a breakaway. If only Gio’s arms were three inches longer.
2:34 Paulie finds himself carrying in on a two-on-one, and fine-tunes his shot to be the conquering hero… but misses wide.
1:49 Hossa rips what looks to be all winner, but Marty snags it out of the air. Smoke billows off our keyboard as we try to keep up.
0:22 Patty and Havelid decide to freeze the puck in the tangle of their feet behind the Thrashers net. We begin to lament, as we often do in these situations, that this well-played, evenly-matched game can’t just end in a tie.
0:00 Pookie, at the buzzer: “Blech! Devils, you were supposed to make me feel better, but now I want to throw up.” That’s right, NHL – the shootout makes Pookie physically ill.
As Doc and Chico discuss the strategy of shootouts, Pookie finds something far more interesting to talk about: “Huh. I’ve been sitting on a saltine cracker this whole game.”
The shootout comes down to Gio being able to beat Hedberg on a fantastic backhand, and Kovalchuk not being able to get the puck past Marty’s glove. Marty gives a saucy little bat of the puck with the paddle of his stick, and the win streak is, at least officially, kept alive.
We thoroughly enjoyed this game – we’re learning that the Sutter Era Devils, when on their game, are a speedy, fun team to watch. And when they’re not on their game, as was the case in the final period, they’re at least not as crappy as they were at the start of this season.