We’re super-excited tonight to see the Devils playing one of the few teams in the NHL that we don’t out-and-out hate. Of course, ask us again after 60 minutes of hockey whether we still feel that way about the Lightning. It’s always nice to get to scout future Devil Vinny Lecavalier, right? Right?
Steve leads into the broadcast with the awkward declaration that this is, “The only home game to be played [by the Devils] in the first 18 days of March.” Well, since he puts it that way… He then goes on to discuss the jockeying for first in the conference by saying it’s “a race that makes Obama/Clinton look one-sided.” Crickets chirp. Pookie mimes a rimshot, and Schnookie says, “Thank you! Steve’ll be here for the first 18 days in March.”
Doc and Chico discuss Marty a bit (while joking about how they never give him any talking-up) and then they tell us Vinny and Marty St. Louis are both in scoring slumps. They wonder aloud if they’ll break out of them tonight. Pookie: “Almost certainly yes.”
19:00 After one minute has passed, we’re fairly confident that Vinny is looking longingly at the engma on his opponents’ sweaters.
18:07 It’s the first shift for the Zubrus/Rupp/Travis-as-winger line. Travis is doing a very good job of not saying to Zubrus on every move, “Oh, you’re doing that? Because when I play center, I do it differently. Oh, you’re doing that, too? Because when I play center, I do it differently.”
16:56 We still like Gio on the Madden/Pando line. Like our not hating the Lightning, though, this too could change over the next couple of hours.
14:47 Doc tells us Salvador is the third Devil (after Tallackson and Malmivaara) to wear 24 this season. Pookie: “He’s the first to wear it in the first 18 days of March, though.”
12:49 The play so far has been an up-and-down affair, with a nice pace but no overwhelming urgency (in other words: “pleasant”), but we’re pleased that the Devils are flying up the ice every time they get a chance to start a rush. They’re not exactly setting up in the zone and pressuring Ramo, but they’re at least moving up the ice with speed.
11:57 Marty has to make a quick, high save on Tarnasky, and Chico mentions the Devils’ long and storied history of underestimating the Lightning.
11:10 Zach tries a no-look drop pass that leads to a turnover. Pookie: “Zach looks kind of off tonight. I think he’s upset that he no longer has everything special in his rivalry with Travis.”
10:57 FSN shows us a graphic of the players with the most goals against Marty. Vinny is one of them, along with Jagr, Gagne and Leclair, but the most surprising name is the one at the top of the list – Lindros. Even Chico is stunned. Of course, this should come as no surprise since “Who’s scored the most goals against Marty” is the trivia question at least two times a year; and at least two times a year we’re all shocked at that answer. Maybe next time we’ll be more prepared. Yeah, we didn’t think so either.
9:22 Pookie: “Travis is going slowly tonight because every time he gets the puck he thinks, ‘What would a wing do? What would a wing do??””
8:42 As the Lightning set up in the Devils zone (Mottau makes a nice play clearing a rebound off a point shot), Steve gives us a sideline report about Andre Roy facing internal discipline from the Lightning after his throat-slashing gesture directed at Riley Cote in Philly last night. Steve explains Cote and Roy fought twice before the incident happened. Chico dryly snarks, “I’m guessing he lost the fight.”
7:44 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The Patty line puts on another gorgeous rush, and Zach buries his shot off a glorious feed on an in-close two-on-one with Patty. Pookie: “Zach likes scoring against the Lightning.” 1-0 Devils.
5:39 Travis tries to lead the Devils into Tampa’s zone when he jumps onto the ice on a wholesale change, and when he skates over the blueline ahead of his linemates, he suddenly lets up on his drive up the middle and tries to veer more wingishly toward the boards.
5:15 The best shift of sustained pressure by the Devils follows Travis’ lead, and the towering-giants line of Zubrus, Travis and Rupper are too towering for the Lightning to handle. They get a flurry of great chances thanks to their giantness but nothing comes of it.
4:59 Zubrus tries to keep the quick pace going after a Devils defensive stop, but he ends up blindly skating in the neutral zone straight into a brick wall in the person of Picard.
4:22 The frenzied pace finally comes to a stop with the Lightning touching the puck after Picard trips Asham in the neutral zone. We go to commercial and let our keyboard cool off a bit.
3:17 After Chico raves about how much he loves slo-mo, Doc delights us by making fun of him for not having a cell phone. Seriously. Chico tries to change the topic back to the invention of slo-mo, and we have to admit, we’d never given much thought to what an incredibly awesome invention it is.
1:48 Marty goes out to play a soft dump-in by the Lightning, and in trying to clear it high off the glass, he shows exactly how invisible Mottau is to him by firing it straight off his head. Mottau knows which side his bread is buttered on, though, and just laughs it off. Marty’s probably like, “It wasn’t a joke.”
0:00 After 20 minutes, we don’t hate the Lightning any more than when we started, which can only mean one thing: it’s been a good one for the Devils. They were all skating! Madness!
We get an interview with Patty. Pookie is crushed. Her Zach Goggles are back and better than ever. Patty jokes that he’d like to score more goals, to go with the assists he’s been racking up lately. Yeah, Patty, that wouldn’t suck.
As usual, we don’t pay attention to the intermission programming. Too much Stan, MSG. Too much Stan.
19:03 Doc informs us that in honor of International Women’s Day, the French-Canadian feed on RDS of this game is being staffed by an all-female broadcast team. He gives us all a minute to think, “That’s cool! Good for them!” before he adds that the Devils are, of course, proud to have a full-time radio colorwoman.
17:28 Absolutely nothing is happening as Karlsson and Pando stand behind Ramo’s net with the puck basically frozen at their feet, and the camera angle cuts to the ice-level, in-the-corner cam just in time for us to see the official standing right next to them put up his arm for the least apparently penalty we have ever seen. Boomer suggests the Lightning off the puck is getting called for being bigger than Sarge. Replay shows the penalty is for holding, because Karlsson couldn’t stop himself from hugging Pando. We can’t blame him.
16:45 Patty coughs the puck up in his own zone, leaving Ward on what looks to be a clear breakaway, but suddenly Mottau lurches off-balance at the last second and manages to poke the puck away with a vast sweep of his stick.
15:28 Well, that power play was awful.
13:43 We fall behind on a bit of unintentional TiVo delay after our sump pump battery sends up a distress signal from the basement, where the steady rain from the last few hours is starting to make itself known. We decide it’s a wise move to address the pump’s issues now, rather than waiting until later. And by that we mean that we sit on the couch with the game paused while Boomer fixes the pump.
12:17 Clarkson is so happy to see us back and our sump pump up and running that he tries lobbing a few good scoring chances (better chances than shots, in the end) at Ramo, and then fights Tarnasky. It’s not the world’s most scintillating fight. In fact, Pookie declares, “I’d give them two for delay of game.”
It seems we could have left the game on while Boomer was in the basement, because nothing is going on. First we have the lousy fight, and then we have Ramo going to the bench for repairs to his mask.
12:09 Play resumes and Tampa’s on the power play. We don’t know why.
10:09 That power play wasn’t very good for Tampa, so the teams are even, we guess. Although Marty did have to make a couple of good saves, one of which kept Vinny from ousting Lindros from his perch atop the “most goals scored against Marty” list.
9:59 Asham totally pleasantly surprises us with a power move to the net after being released from the penalty box that yields another Tampa penalty, this one on Ranger for slashing.
9:10 A perfect, deliberate passing sequence sets up a brilliant back-door play for Brookbank sneaking down from the point, but the only thing the Devils didn’t take into consideration on the play is that Brookbank doesn’t have perfect finish.
9:30 Ramo makes another great save on what we think is a sure-thing shot from a Devil, and Pookie insists, “Those shots are going in and then bouncing out off the back of the net so fast it looks like they didn’t score.”
8:19 The PP puts together another great passing sequence that culminates, on the rush, in a cross-rink pass from Zach to Rachunek, but Rachunek’s one-timer hits the post.
5:27 Madden and Zach both get to the puck above the Tampa blue line at the same time, and Madden softly dumps it deep, then goes to the bench. Zach, meanwhile, sprints after the puck, and this sets us off onto a lengthy discussion of how Zach probably fetches pucks like an overeager dog.
4:50 We come back from commercial to a cheering crowd and the report from Doc that there has been a marriage proposal – and FSN shows us the happy couple, Kelly and “Devil Guy”. The moment is purely, utterly fantastic, as Kelly is a pretty, normal-looking woman in a Devils sweater, tearing up in the moment, and “Devil Guy” is, in all likelihood, an equally good-looking guy, but it’s hard to tell here because he’s wearing a full devil costume. With the red paint all over his entire head, the horns, the devil-hand gloves, and the crushed-velvet cape. Seriously, congratulations to the happy couple; that’s adorable.
3:34 Mottau is swept up in the romance of the moment and takes a penalty holding Vinny up in the corner to Marty’s left. The Lightning are showing signs of life.
2:30 It wouldn’t be a Devils/Lightning game without the Devils letting up, and this game is no different than the rest, as Ouellet ties the game at 1 here on the PP. The shot is one that Marty misses badly enough that even Chico is forced to admit he made a mistake on it.
0:50 Pookie: “This game sucks.” She’s just jealous that no one (*cough*Vinny*cough*) has proposed to her.
0:00 If the period had only been, say, ten minutes long it would have been a decent one for the Devils. Unfortunately, it wasn’t.
We zap over intermission to counteract the sump pump delay (even the appliances at stately IPB Manor hate Stan!).
“Chico Eats” tonight is grilled chicken sandwiches. It seems very “arena food”. Although the feature starts with “Devil Guy” asking Chico what he’s eating tonight, so that’s pretty cute.
19:10 On a bit of forecheck by the Towering Giants line, Rupp absolutely smushes Boyle with what we think is a flying elbow.
18:54 Travis decides that he can best contribute to the collapse tonight by taking a slashing penalty behind Marty’s net. FSN decides to just show us two replays of the Rupp-on-Boyle hit, so we can only assume the call is bullshit.
16:59 Madden and Pando get a long two-on-one, and everyone in the building is ready for the dynamic duo to go hard to the net on another dazzling play… and Madden decides to telegraph a weak pass up high that is easily tipped away by the defender. Do the Devils not want to score?
16:13 What the fuck?????? What the FUCK?????? Play is going along all normal-like, and all of a sudden the whistle blows, the crowd is roaring… and Boyle is fighting someone in front of the net… and that someone is Zach. What the hell does he have henchmen for if he’s going to have to fight these himself? Replay shows the whole affair started with Zach slew-footing Boyle, then Boyle getting pissy and coming back at Zach with a few shots to the face before they threw down. And as with most bantamweight fights, this one is actually not bad. The novelty factor is always entertaining. Pookie is unable to even speak for how delighted she is by all of this.
And the end result is that Boyle gets an instigator and an extra roughing minor, so the Devils get a four-minute power play. One they’d probably like Zach on, but… whatever.
13:48 The Devils do not look like a team that’s interested in beating a non-playoff squad to take over first place in the conference.
13:10 Sutter calls a timeout to lecture his skaters that the least they could do on a four-minute power play is get a shot. The players look confused by this notion.
12:24 Pookie: “The Devils look like they think they have a two-goal lead.” She’s only able to say that because Zach is still in the box.
9:26 We are distracting ourselves from the listlessness that is the Devils right now as we imagine how Zach is probably hyperventilating for how badly he wants a whistle so he can get back on the ice. Pookie: “He’s saying, ‘Just… shoot the puck over the glass! You can do that Oduya. Take a bullet for me! I need to skate!!’”
8:55 Gio suddenly puts on his winged skates and pounces on a loose puck in the neutral zone, tears up the wing, and flings a tricky shot at Ramo. Pando, however, is covered by three guys when he tries to follow up on the rebound.
8:06 Zach explodes down the far wing after getting a hold of the puck at the Devils blue line, and we joke that he’s trying to show Sutter that he’s rested enough after his time in the box that he can just stay out for the last eight minutes.
7:26 After Ramo freezes a puck, Zubrus and a Lightning jostle in front. Suddenly Rupper swoops in from the point to try to stand up to the Lightning. Zach is probably wondering where that henchmanry was when he needed it.
6:42 Chico updates us with the disheartening news that Whitey has left the game, most likely as a result of a hit earlier when he took what looked like an elbow to the “midsection”.
3:30 Apparently Gio has left the ice, too, but it’s because there’s something wrong with his skate blade.
2:06 Ranger tries to give the game away by coughing the puck up to Patty directly on Ramo’s doorstep, but this is Patty we’re talking about, so nothing comes of it.
0:32 The Lightning motor toward Marty, with Halpern carrying the puck wide to feed St. Louis across the crease, and Rachunek makes a desperation blocking play to break up the pass. Marty, meanwhile, goes into a reflexive mini-split in anticipation of the cross-crease feed, and gets a crotchful of a backchecking Madden for his trouble.
0:25 Gio races down the other way and cranks a shot that kicks off Ramo’s glove and almost trickles over the goal line.
0:00 Well, we’re going to overtime. We don’t mind Tampa getting the point, but we wouldn’t have complained if this had been a Devils romp. And while this was hardly the Devils worst performance of the year (their friskiness on the offensive rush was encouraging), it was hardly their best. Would it kill them to put on some killer instinct against a lesser team?
4:14 Pookie is still talking about the bit of Zach’s bare skin we saw when his shirt was pulled up at the end of his fight. She says, “At least we know now that he doesn’t have ‘PARISE’ tattooed in gothic letters across his shoulders. He might have ‘ZACH’, though, and it only goes across one shoulder.”
3:26 Patty does a great job with a second-effort protection of the puck while breaking up the Lightning attack, but Zach undoes all his hard work by promptly turning it over at the blue line.
1:19 Travis and Zubrus put together a really nifty two-on-one, kickstarted by Zubie’s clever tap-passing while skating backwards toward the Lightning zone, but they can’t quite get the finish on.
0:57 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Patty artfully strips a Lightning of the puck near the Devils blue line, swoops up center ice, then dances into the Lightning zone and whips a great shot that handcuffs Ramo and slips through his glove. And our very own Mr. Overtime has done it again, giving the Devils a 2-1 win. (As an aside, that was Patty’s 14th career regular-season OT goal. If only there was a way to convince him the other three periods matter, too.)