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EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!! There are full-blown riots of joy happening all across the formerly lost civilization of PaulieMartinNation, as its emperor-god is back! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!! We never thought we’d see the day!

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We spent some time before the broadcast here started by reading the totally awesome series, Top Ten Reasons Why This Feminist Is A Sports Fan from Bitch Media. If you want to feel great about sports and why you enjoy watching it, male or female, feminist or no, take the time to check it out (it’s only reasons 10-2 as of this writing). We’re feeling all warm and fuzzy and choked up right now. Being a sports fan rawks, doesn’t it?

Oh, there’s a hockey game on! Let’s get to it, shall we?

FIRST PERIOD

Wait, no Doc? BOOOOO! This blows!

18:13 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!! What the hell? Boogerfors is standing at the near boards, just a bit north of the corner, his back to the goal, with Travis working a little bit of puck-loosening forecheck, and suddenly Boogerfors whips the puck toward the goal and it goes right though Johnson into the net. 1-0 Devils, and we haven’t even had time to feel insulted that Fleury isn’t in net. Pookie wonders if maybe the NHL isn’t suffering an epidemic of crazy-ass, what with the Pikkarainen, Salvador, and Mason Raymond goals recently. She might be on to something.

14:49 Lemaire must read IPB, because he’s placated the militant LandZharkNation by putting their emperor-god on a line with Clarkson. Considering all the unrest between those nations’ borders recently, this could help facilitate a détente.

12:40 Gel-O and Chico are chortling about how Mike Rupp was in the starting lineup so he could be cheered by the Devils fans when he was announced over the PA, but Pookie speaks for all of PandoNation when she snarls, “Or they could boo him. Like the butcher he am.”

10:59 Hambone makes a great defensive play to help Marty with a juicy rebound under Pens pressure, and the fans cheer when Marty finally covers the puck. The audio is kinda bizarre, though, like we’re hearing the fans through a seashell or something.

10:25 Gordie Howe is in the house again! Yay!

9:29 Land Zhark touches the puck during a nothing kind of sequence in the Pens zone, and after a few seconds, Schnookie mutters into her bowl of soup, “Candygram.” Pookie: “Thank you. I’m so glad that’s caught on. Here. With you guys. It hasn’t taken the entire fanbase by storm yet, but it will. Someday Zharkov is going to be a Folk Hero, and Doc’s call will be, ‘BIG DRIVE! And CANDYGRAM!‘” What can we say? Pookie’s a dreamer.

6:11 We’ve been chuckling all evening over our new tranny gentleman callers’ approach to righting their epically sinking ship; it seems the Blue Jackets have gotten t-shirts that say “It Starts Now”. That’ll make it all better! Anyway, we’ve been trying to think of what dumb-ass acronym that could be, along the lines of those idiotic t-shirts teams invariably cook up during the playoffs, and Boomer suggested the guys are all required to carry the t-shirts in their pockets with them at all times. As the Devils let a power play chance peter out with a whimper, Pookie starts in again on the BJs. She suggests that Rick Nash’s new approach to captaining is to be all “Good Will Hunting” on his teammates, randomly hugging them and repeating “It starts now” over and over like the “It’s not your fault” scene.

4:09 Pookie, watching the Devils wheel pointlessly in the Pittsburgh zone: “This game has been like watching paint dry.” Pause. “It’s like watching a very thin coat of really beautiful paint dry.” Pause. “It’s been like watching the paint dry on the canvas after Monet’s painted.” Pause. “Just kidding. It’s like Klimt.”

4:02 Our Geico Quotebook is Langer’s remarks about how great a captain Captain Hugs will be for the Czech Olympic team. Chico tells us that Langer would be a reliable judge of that, because he knows a lot about what it’s like to be a captain. Schnookie: “He knows a lot about what it’s like to wear Patty’s C.”

2:08 MSG+ gives us our favorite stat screen so far of the season: the Devils have played the fewest games in the conference, and have the most points. It’s been a great slightly-less-than-first-half-of-the-season, hasn’t it?

0:00 Well, we’ve got no complaints about that period!

SECOND PERIOD

18:26 Just as Gel-O is telling us that the Applesauce/Whitey d-pairing is staying intact while Lemaire deals with the Iron Boar being out of the lineup, the Devils commit a series of defensive blunders that lead to a dazzling five-man turnover. That is some marvelous ineptitude in action there.

17:52 Applesauce shows off that he doesn’t need teammates to help him commit egregious defensive-zone turnovers. He can do that all by himself, thankyouverymuch.

14:41 So far, the Pens look like they might be remembering how to play hockey in this period. Marty is called on to hold fast as a handful of Pens get some pressure right on the doorstep. Meanwhile, we’re discussing the time that Pookie had a patron request the Clive Cussler book “Med U.S.A.”, which took her forever to realize was actually “Medusa”. When Marty has to make a snappy glove save immediately off the ensuing faceoff, Pookie steps away from her contention that “Med U.S.A.” totally sounds like it could be a Clive Cussler title (“It would be about a submarine class called ‘Med’ that belongs to the USA…”) to interject that she is confident the Pens are scoring the next goal. To which Boomer adds, “The next goal? Is huge.”

12:55 Why is all the background noise being muffled when Gel-O is speaking? This game sounds so weird. Like we’re watching it underwater or something, almost as if we’re aboard the Med U.S.A. There is now no audible sound from the crowd, and only the tiniest bit of schuss-schuss and clatter and clack from the ice.

11:36 Rolston goes offsides on a three-on-two. Pookie neglects to boo, but does remark, “He’s like the new Brian Gionta.”

10:33 There’s a stoppage in play, and the officials give a long lecture to Bylsma. Chico tells us that he wouldn’t want to conjecture about what it could be, but it could be because of verbal abuse from the bench. Or something. He wouldn’t want to say anything, since he doesn’t know for sure. Pookie, as Sid: “You can go fuck yourself!” (After the talk with Bylsma, the ref gives a shorter talk to Lemaire. When he finishes and turns back to the game, Jacques breaks into a smirky, shit-eating grin. We wouldn’t want to make anything up about what happened there, since we don’t know for sure, but we like to think that whatever it was, Jacques well above it all. Heh.)

8:37 Gel-O tells us the Pens are clearly showing frustration now. Which can only mean they’re about to score.

8:11 Whoa! Malkin, not looking even remotely frustrated, turns Fraser inside-out and appears to be about to score a highlight-reel goal with absolute ease, but Marty challenges hard, skating out of the crease to meet him, and makes a gorgeous stand-up save to stop Malkin in his tracks. It’s neither the first nor the last time that a defender is grateful for having Marty in the goal behind him. Rolston and Rupp take matching minors in the ensuing scrum.
We come back from commercial to find out that Clarkson has left the bench.

7:16 This four-on-four has been insane. First , Marty makes a lightning-fast save off a wildly clever faceoff move by Sid, then Sid humiliatingly shanks on a one-time attempt on the next rush, and then Travis gets in alone on a two-on-one with Zach, but can’t beat Johnson. Schnookie: “Argh! Those always go in against Fleury!”

4:21 The last few minutes have been utterly fantastic and uptempo. We’re sure the Pens announcers are currently telling their audience how boringly trappy this game has been, though. It is 1-0, after all.

3:31 Chico tells us that the Pens’ secondary is obviously going to have to score, since the “big guns” aren’t getting anything against the Devils this season. Schnookie: “Please. There is plenty of time for Sid and Malkin to score in this game.”

0:59 Pando yoinks the puck like the yoinking supahstah he am, then springs Langer in alone on Johnson, but stupid Langer doesn’t convert for a goal. Pookie speaks for all of PandoNation when she grumbles, “If he wasn’t saddled with such crappy linemates…”

0:00 We don’t have much to complain about with that period either.

THIRD PERIOD

17:45 Oduya puts on a little bit of a show, stutter-stepping around a defending Penguin, then circling behind the net, then lacing a perfect feed through a thicket of players in front, but his set-up comes to naught when the recipient of his pass, Pando, fires an eminently stoppable shot on net. Pookie: “If only Oduya wasn’t saddled with such terrible forwards…” Not. Funny.

16:48 Official word: Clarkson has a lower-body injury. Isn’t it reassuring to get that official report?

16:43 Cooke gets called for slashing and Chico insists that he has no idea what happened. Neither, apparently, does the director of tonight’s broadcast, because there is no replay. Hey, if we wanted that kind of coverage, we’d watch Versus or NBC! (Chico does assure us, though, that just because he didn’t see it doesn’t mean it wasn’t a good call. Thanks, Chico. We were wondering.)

15:40 MSG+ is married to the behind-the-net overhead camera during this PP, even with play in the neutral and Devils zones. Pookie’s eyes suddenly start watering and she declares that her allergies always flare up around terrible live-action camera choices.

14:43 That was not a power play for the ages.

12:18 It looks like Blandy has just thrown his glove and stick at Dupuis while skating out of the corner to Marty’s left, but when the officials blow the whistle and call a penalty, it’s to Kunitz for slashing Blandy’s stick (and glove) out of his hands. That’s kind of sad. It looked like Blandy was losing his mind for a second there. When actually it’s just that he’s like a hockey-playing robot, who can’t be swayed from his mission to defend against Dupuis, no matter how bereft of stick and glove he might be.

11:14 Zach is stopped on a great set-up by Blandy, and Chico informs us that the Devils might not be scoring on their PPs, but they’re getting ever-so-much-closer with every chance. Schnookie, ever the optimist, says, “Cue: short-handed goal.”

10:52 Marty makes a snazzy glove save on a backhand shorty attempt by Sid, then feeds the puck up to Land Zhark for a three-on-two on which no one wants to shoot, but on which Zharkov emphatically launches one of the zippiest drop-passes we’ve ever seen. We’d still prefer to have seen a goal, though.

10:47 Sid attempts to make a rink-length clear, and instead lofts the puck and gets what is nearly a rink-length delay-of-game penalty. Pookie: “He didn’t know his own strength. He used his buttcheeks just a little bit too hard.” It’s now time for the Devils’ brutal five-on-three.

10:18 That five-on-three was, as advertised, brutal. Even with Gonchar hobbled (Boomer: “He’s hopping around on his bloody stump.”), the Devils can’t score. Chico cautioned us during Jacques’s timeout before the two-man advantage that scoring on the five-on-three “isn’t automatic”; we’ve been watching this team all season, so we didn’t really need that heads-up.

8:16 Gel-O alerts us that Bylsma is shaking up his lines. Malkin’s out right now with Rupp and Butthead. We wonder how Malkin feels skating with two butchers. It’s like an unholy monster line, with one Marty-killer, one Pando-killer, and one Paulie-killer.

5:53 Pookie has a coworker who recently lamented that she doesn’t know what to do with her free time since finishing grad school, and Pookie suggested she try watching hockey. The coworker’s response was that she can’t watch sports, because they’re too confusing. There is nothing confusing about what’s going on here – end-to-end, wild action, with Marty making a save at one end that draws a “Marty! Marty!” chant that even we can hear on the bottom of the sea in the Med U.S.A, and then a three-on-one the other way that leads to a great shoulder save by Johnson on Zach. Sports are great.

3:24 Gel-O’s play-by-play remarks that “the Pens captain” was met by Blandy behind the net, and Pookie finishes for him, “and the Pens captain is bested by Andy Greene.” This prompts Schnookie to start muttering, “You’ve bested my giant…”, and soon we’re imagining the Vizzini/iocane powder scene from “Princess Bride”, featuring Bylsma against Blandy. Pookie: “Clearly the poison can’t be in the burrito in front of me!”

1:26 Travis decides to be a human blanket on Malkin in the corner to Marty’s right, and when he gets called for it, it’s the Pens’ first power play of the night. The Pens call a timeout, and when they come back to the ice, Johnson’s on the bench for the extra attacker. Thank heavens Marty got 104 against these guys already, or we’d be losing our minds right now.

0:11 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! What does it take for Langer to score into an empty net? Getting past the guy at the point and being able to skate the length of the ice to score from two feet out. 2-0 Devils, and honestly, the last minute and a half has been just fantastic goaltending, defense, and awesomeness in general.

0:00 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! What a game! It might as well have been 1-0, and don’t let anybody ever tell you that a 1-0 game is inherently boring. This was 60 minutes of kick-ass marvelousness. Hockey is awesome, and right now, the Devils are awesome.

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Stay tuned for our musings during tonight’s game:

PREGAME

— We might be totally off-base here, but we’re thinking we might have gotten a sign about winningness being in the air — mere moments ago we received notice that we won a big fabric giveaway from our favorite online quilting store! We won some very spicy, foxy fabrics, and that can only mean the Devils are going to win a very spicy, foxy game tonight. Right?

— The MSG+ intro includes this fun factoid: the Devils and Penguins are the winningest teams in hockey. We literally had no idea about that.

— The game can start now that we’re all caught up on Carol Browne’s fantastic “XMAS Bandit” blog series. If you combined the charm of V.E. Mats, the fun of Christmas spirit, and the genius stylings of Carol, you’d get the XMAS Bandit.

FIRST PERIOD

— Look who’s back! It’s ol’ butterfingers Oduya! How charming was that when Doc had to call during some frantic Devils backchecking, “Someone has lost their stick… It’s Oduya…”? It felt like the good old days.

— WOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! Just when we’re saying to the TV, “Give it to Travis — he’s a beast in this building,” the Devils give it to the Iron Boar and he scores from the point. Well, it’s not Travis, but we’ll take it. And meanwhile, they are loading kindling into cars to set fire to them all across IronBoarsylvania.

December 18 2009

— Our Geico Quotebook is something about Marty talking about how much more pressure is on Sid in Canada than on the rest of their Olympic team right now. In it, Marty says, “We’re all superstars.” We hope when he said that he turned to teammates like Egg and Hambone and Pando and said, “I mean, you guys know how it is to be a superstar, right?”

— Doc tells us the Penguins PP is 30th overall. We’re very suspicious of these numbers — winningest teams, 30th-best power play, etc, etc, etc. During the commercial, we determine the only possible explanation for this is that Pookie, who is notoriously bad at math (let’s just say she may or may not have shown up to a house closing with a check that was significantly short due to a little problem with decimal points), was the one reading the stats sheet. As if on cue, Doc says, “The Penguins are 4 for 20 on the PP, which is easy enough math that even I can tell you is 20%”. Pookie, “Wait, lemme carry the two… minus four… divide by… uh… sure, Doc, sure. 20%. *shifty eyes*”

— We are discussing how much Hambone might possibly be transcending just being pleasantly surprising. After he attempts a power move to the Pens net, Pookie suggests that Hambone County is pleased with its emperor-god. Schnookie then suggests Hambone Township, or the Incorporated Village of Hambone. Pookie then floats that the District of Hambonia is growing so rapidly in population that it might be getting its own train station soon. Boomer: “A train station isn’t that big of a deal. It would be more impressive if it was getting its own cellular tower.”

SECOND PERIOD

— BoogerforsNation doesn’t even bother rioting anymore when its emperor-god scores, because it’s just such old hat. And Sid is obviously not a citizen of BoogerforsNation, because after Boogerfors scores to give the Devils a 2-0 lead, Sid lashes out by petulantly flicking Niedermayer (the Lesser)’s stick out of his hands and getting called for interference on the play. Pookie: “Sid has such a short fuse when it comes to the Devils.”

— Good grief! We’ve managed to go 34 games this season before the word (“word”?) “rabbydoo” gets pulled out on a Devils broadcast. And it’s Doc who brings it up. Chico sounds surprised by it, almost as if this time around it’s his mind being blown.

— One of our favorite gauges of how shitty the Flyers are on their broadcasts is their power play contest for the fans. Each power play chance will net a lucky selected fan $25 if the Flyers score, and with each PP on which they don’t score, the $25 accumulates. So if they fail on a PP, the next lucky fan will win $50 if they score on the next one, and if they don’t score then, the next lucky fan will win $75, and so on. At one point this season, the kitty was up to almost $700. Anyway, the point of this is that when the Devils take a too many men penalty early in the period here, Pookie remarks that the Devils could have had their own similar sweepstakes, but where a lucky fan wins the kitty every time the Devils take a too many men penalty.

— Gronk gets a faceful of puck when he decides to lean into Whitey’s clearing attempt behind the goal line with his head about a foot off the ice. He explodes, with blood everywhere. The fans figuratively shower the ice with beer-soaked mousepads, and we wonder why Gronk doesn’t wear a shield (not that it would have helped there, but maybe we should be wondering why Gronk was trying to stop that clear with his head at knee height).

— During the absolutely kick-ass shift by the newly-minted Z.E. Hambone line that yields the Devils’ third goal, Schnookie mercilessly derides Oduya for passing when he should have taken a chance at an open net down low. Then she mercilessly derides him for having a history of dropping his stick. After the goal, Chico exults, “That was a great shift by Oduya!” Schnookie, shiftily: “Yeeeaaah. That’s exactly what I was saying at the time.”

— And Z.E. Hambone does it again with its sheer, unmitigated awesomeness, Fraser makes it 4-0 Devils, and Doc says, “Perhaps it’s time for a change.” Chico then gets the line of the night by saying, “Yeah, but how many guys can you change?” What a rabby-doo!

THIRD PERIOD

— The period starts a little quiet and tense. Finally we realize the problem: things just aren’t the same since Hambone got that 10-minute misconduct.

— With 7:12 left in the game, we’re all officially well past the point where we are so tense we feel like we’re going to puke.

— That. Was. Awesome. It was dead silent in the arena for the entire third period, as well as dead silent at stately IPB Manor, and even Chico marveled at how nobody wanted to do anything other than just shut up and watch to see if it would happen. AND IT DID. WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!! 104th career shutout for Marty!!!! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!! What else is there to say? It just Marty, and it just WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Watch this space for some woolgathering thoughts on tonight’s post-Christmas match-up. In the meantime, please enjoy an open thread!

7:00 PM The game opens with Doc’s voiceover about the previous matchup between the Pens and Devils, and Doc sounds like death warmed over. Poor guy.

7:08 PM The Penguins get a rush going in the midst of a line change, and as the camera pans down into the Devils zone, we see the Pens are on a two-on-none because Paulie is sliding on his caboose into the crease, all ready to bowl over Clemmer. Fortunately, the Pens on the play are as bumbling as Paulie, and fail to capitalize. Doc and Chico literally just crack up in response as we watch the replay of Paulie pratfalling around, and Pookie decides the only explanation is that Paulie’s point-shaving tonight.

7:10 PM Doc sounds so terribly ill that Pookie suggests, “I’d like to figure out a way to remaster this recording of his call to say, ‘I’m sorry [Pookie’s boss], but I’m not able to come to work today.'”

7:15 PM A freshly-shorn Zach gets called for goaltender interference. Boomer is only barely paying attention to the play, and sums up pretty well how dumb a penalty it is by asking, “Was that Blobby?”

7:20 PM The Pens don’t get a shot on the power play, and would have given up a shorthanded rush if Madden wasn’t so impossibly slow. Schnookie: “I think Madden still looks sick/hurt.” Pookie: “I think he’s point shaving, too.”

7:25 PM Applesauce is such a dirty player! He can openers Talbot, rightly getting two for tripping (Cooke manages to pick up a responding ten-minute misconduct during the ensuing commercial break), but all the penalty leads to is some kick-ass PK, particularly by Travis and Pando.

7:33 PM Tonight’s Geico Quote of the Game is Therrien saying “We better wake up soon or else…” This is followed by a chorus in our living of “… Or I’ll lose my job!” Chico suggests the “or else” refers to missing the playoffs.

7:36 PM Schnookie suggests another possible explanation for Paulie’s poor skating this evening — he got new rollerblades and is wearing them instead of skates. It’s either point shaving or rollerblades; there are no other explanations.

7:37 PM Travis misses a wiiiide-open net thanks to some pressuring from Malkin. Chico says Travis will be talking to himself about that one. We think he probably talks to himself to look busy so he can get out of the intermission meetings of “Shot Club”.

7:45 PM HOLY CRAP! The intermission show gives us a look at a picture of wee baby Dano, when he was, like, 20. Our minds are blown.

7:56 PM Chico and Doc spend a good amount of the beginning of the third period talking about where Grand Rapids, MN is. We are constantly impressed with Chico’s encyclopedic knowledge of geography west of the Mississippi, and the hockey players who have come from there.

7:58 PM The Devils go on the PP and we are informed that the Pens PK is catastrophically awful. Great, so we can be that much more depressed when the Devils don’t score. (Meanwhile, Doc’s gravelly voice prompts Pookie to remark, “This sounds like if Ursula the Sea Witch was calling the game.”)

8:00 PM It is a rare game where the color guy is musing aloud, “I can’t tell whether the power plays are this bad, or the penalty kills are this good.”

8:07 PM Doc and Chico are hopelessly bored right now, and Doc’s too sick to bother pretending otherwise.

8:15 PM The boredom is broken by Fedotenko firing a puck softly through Clemmer, making it 1-0 Penguins. Okay, we’re totally lying when we say the boredom is broken. The boredom is just made more excruciating. Doc almost immediately mistakenly refers to the Pens as the Islanders, and Pookie says, “That’s right. It is as bad as an Islanders game.”

8:20 PM Pando draws a penalty, then the Devils proceed to give up a series of short-handed rushes. Pookie: “I’m reaching the point in this game where I’m just hoping no one except Clemmensen gets hurt.” Long pause. “Just kidding.”

There is, at the end of the penalty, a pile-up in front of the Penguin goal, and it looks like the puck has crept all but an eensy-weensy bit over the goal line before being kicked out by Eaton. Promptly thereafter, Gio takes a tripping penalty. Oof.

8:45 PM The third period is kicked off with a “Chico Eats!” in which Chico makes funnel cake. In dusting the cake with powdered sugar, Chico does his “LeBron James move” of dusting his hands and then tossing the powder into the air. Chico says, “I have no idea why he does that, but I did it because I got to like my fingers afterwards!” Doc’s response: “Good luck to us all.”

8:46 PM Langer is fired a thousand times over, for being the culprit on the third time this game (second for him) where a Devil has had the puck right in front of a wide-open net and not being able to score. We are getting very strong “the Devils are getting shut out again tonight” vibes. Because who doesn’t want to go into a game with the Rangers riding a two-game, team-wide scoreless streak?

8:53 PM Paulie is living in a vortex of putridity these days, and a few minutes after getting tripped by Malkin while skating through the neutral zone with the puck but not drawing a call, he gets sent to the box himself when a Pen goes down easy after a soft, high cross-check. Pookie: “If I were Paulie I would refuse to believe in any kind of justice in the world. So I’d go on a giant crime spree, knowing I’d never get caught.”

8:56 PM There is a merciful god! After going to commercial midway through the third, we come back to find that croaky, miserable Doc has been replaced by Steve. We never thought we’d see the day where we’d actually want to hear Steve instead of Doc. All of a sudden the game feels like it’s got tons more jump. (It might be because Patty, Gio and Zach manage a very feisty shift, as if they were waiting for Doc to leave because they didn’t want to tax him.)

8:59 PM Sutter’s changing up his lines and Steve can’t handle it. Langer and Travis are out with Zubrus, and the hybrid beast “Zabrus” makes his first appearance. Meanwhile, Langer, being the totally awesome captain that he is, takes an outrageously awful tripping penalty in front of Fleury’s net. We hope the Devils are riding the bikes after this game.

9:13 PM It is an interesting statement about how shittily the Devils are playing offensively that Chico can’t, when asked by Steve, give credit to either Thomas in the last game or Fleury in this one for being especially good in these shutouts.

9:15 PM We get a brief moment of comedy as Whitney commits a “playing the puck with a broken stick” penalty of such hilarious idiocy that if Doc were still calling this one, he’d describe it as “Hartnellian”.

9:16 PM Our moment of levity comes to a crashing end when Gio takes a boneheaded slashing penalty in front of the net while the Devils are setting up their six-on-four, empty-net, final-minute stand. Have we mentioned that we hope the Devils will be riding the bikes tonight?

9:19 PM The game ends 1-0. Every hockey season is paced like the tides, and it would seem the Devils are currently experiencing this:

The Ebb

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So we meet the Penguins again. This… should go well?

The highlight of our evening so far, by the way, has been Boomer pronouncing solemnly, while watching the news scroll on the bottom line of MSG+, “Well, it’ll be a very merry Christmas at the C.C. Sabathia household.”

Before this game starts, we just have to say there are many, many ideas we will never understand that come from the brain of Brent Sutter. Dressing PL-3 instead of Rupper is one of them. Unless we’re shopping PL-3, in which case, why yes, Lightning Bolts, we will take Lecavalier for him!

FIRST PERIOD

20:00 There is an inexplicable delay to the opening faceoff, and we get a lingering shot of Sykora standing next to Patty at center ice, wearing a smile that looks like one of those fake, plastered-on grins that say, “No, I don’t mind at all that my former best friend isn’t talking to me right now.” (We might be projecting.)

18:59 Patty gets the puck at the near boards shallowly in the Penguins zone, and weakly gives it up at the slightest hint of physical contact. It not being overtime and all.

18:33 Shocking development: all that talk this week about how Madden and Pando were never ever ever going to play in any kind of checking role for the Devils ever ever again was not necessarily true. The Madden line has risen from the dead and is out against Sid. Pookie: “Pando and Madden are like, ‘I’m not dead yet.’”

16:37 Pookie, slightly tipsy, proclaims, “Right now, this very minute, the Devils all kind of sound like they did back when they liked having Larry as their coach. The way they’re all, ‘We’re all getting along so well, and we all love playing for this team so much.’” Pause. “Which means Sutter’s on a one-way trip to a nervous breakdown.”

16:07 Clarkson and Talbot agitate against each other all over the ice (and get matching minors), and Chico says, “Clarkson… not quite happy to be playing on the fourth line. But who would be?” Rupp, from the Halo: “Me.”

15:47 All of Zach’s mightiest “lying in the crease and whacking over his head at the puck” powers don’t put the puck into the net. Chico said before the game that Zach’s approach to playing hockey is “There’s only one puck, and I’m going to get it.” That statement and this play are sort of Zach in a nutshell.

13:54 We should point out that Chico has been expounding at length about how Blobby “Stitch Boxhead” Holik has never needed the trainer to help him off the ice after an injury. Because he’s such a fucking hero. It’s not the fourth line Clarkson has a problem with – it’s the Stitch Boxhead.

13:18 The hell? Sid has a wide open net (at a pretty sharp angle), but manages the impossible by shooting the puck into a prone Clemmer. Wow. He really is a singular talent. Every other guy in the NHL would have scored there. (A later replay shows he hit the post. Fine. We’ll let this one go. This time.)

8:59 Some snazzy passing between Zubrus, Patty and Gio leads to a two-on-one down low, but Gio is slow to pull the trigger, so Sabourin has no problem stopping the shot.

8:02 PandoNation is delighted that its emperor-god isn’t dead yet, especially on this shift. The Pens set up with the puck carrier behind Clemmer’s net, and after about a week, the guy finally makes his move to pass to a Pen at the side of the slot, but Pando is waiting there calmly to just whisk the puck away to safety. He’s so dreamy.

7:20 Wallace hits Paulie pretty hard against the far boards and Doc’s call is, “Wallace doesn’t show Martin any respect.” Pookie, aghast: “Well I know who my least favorite NHLer is.” Pause. “Alex Ovechkin.”

6:18 Our Geico Quote book is Clemmer saying, “I’m not trying to go out and do what Marty does.” As we puke on the floor we also roll our eyes furiously and grumble, “Thanks, Clemmer. You were in real danger of doing what Marty does, too.” He could go undefeated for the rest of the year and we’d still hate him and his $30,000 of capped teeth.

6:05 The Poppers have a feisty shift that leads to not a whole lot, and Chico starts waxing poetic about ye olde days of yore when Turner Stevenson (T!!!!) was on the Devils’ “Chaos Line”. He takes a long time to get to his point that the Poppers’ tactic is to create chaos in the offensive zone themselves. Pookie: “That’s why I call Travis ‘Mr. Entropy’.”

4:18 We are hugely distracted by this Pen named Ben Lovejoy. Pookie marvels “Ben” even sounds like “Rev.”. She posits, “I bet Sid is his Ned Flanders.”

3:32 There’s some kind of scrum behind the net after Clemmer covers a puck. We can’t be bothered to care, because Stitch Boxhead is in the middle of it. Chico seems to think we should be happy that Blobby’s well enough to be sassing it up on the ice, but all we notice is that the Devils get the extra minor (ostensibly to Leach, but that’s just the home scorekeepers trying to protect Blobby’s reputation).

1:32 The Pens get absolutely nothing on the PP because they spend the entire time standing around flat-footed and passing the puck around the perimeter before Malkin lazily lets a pass to him at the high point miss his stick and clear to center ice. Chico marvels, though, at how amazing the Pens PP is, and how helpless the Devils were against them. Any other team and he’d be praising the PK for keeping the passes to the outside. (Not that the PK had anything to do with it, but still.)

0:15 Rolston shoves Eaton near the top of the crease and Eaton careens into the goalpost while the Devils are setting up behind the net with the puck, and Eaton knocks the cage off the moorings. He gets called for delay of game. We’d be livid if that call went against us, but we figure the Pens are probably due a shitty call going against them for a change.

0:00 That was not the greatest period of hockey that we’ve ever seen.

FIRST INTERMISSION

Life is too short to pay attention to intermissions.

SECOND PERIOD

18:40 The Devils are getting healthy, but their power play still sucks.

18:18 A rambling discussion of player conditioning wends its way to Doc telling us Sid is going home for the Christmas break and is very excited to eat his mother’s special turkey dinner. We can only assume she bastes it in a mix of grape jelly and Heinz chili sauce.

17:03 Doc tells us, while the teams back and forth pointlessly, that we’re in the middle of a “scoreless tilt.” Pookie editorializes, “An exciting scoreless tilt!”

16:15 Fun fact: the Pens are 5-0-1 in their last six games in New Jersey, and the Devils have won 15 of their last 21 games in Pittsburgh. These two teams really hate their fans, don’t they?

15:54 After yet another uninteresting whistle, Chico says very gently that this period hasn’t been “as up and down” as the last one. “That’s right,” says Pookie, “This one’s even more boring.” Chico ignores her and continues to tell us about how the longer a game goes scoreless, the more the teams buckle down to not give up the first goal, because “to score the first goal you just need one, but if you give up the first one you need two.” He pauses. “I know that sounds stupid, but it’s true.” You can’t really argue with that.

11:25 Nothing interesting is going on yet. There is apparently a Penguin who played on the same team in Alaska as Scott Gomez during the lockout, and they were, in fact, linemates. Pookie: “He probably caught douchebag.”

10:40 Stitch Boxhead (Pookie mutters, “Bitch Stockshead”. See what she did there?) takes an idiotic offensive zone high-sticking penalty against Gronk. The scorekeepers struggle to find a way to pin this on someone else. Our joie de vivre is seriously diminished when he’s on the ice. Just saying.

9:13 After several failed clearing attempts by the Devils, the Pens put together some good passing and spring Gronk for a Grade-A scoring chance in the crease. After the shot, everyone stands around watching while Sykora stands in the foreground with his hands over his head in celebration, but the actual result of the play was the puck hitting off the crossbar, then the goalpost, and finally coming to rest near Clemmer’s scrambling blocker.

7:23 It seems like the Devils have collectively stuck their fingers in an electric socket, as they spend a wild few minutes cramming all the excitement and energy this game has been missing into just one shift. The best scoring chance comes when Applesauce misses a long-range crack at a wide-open net, and the whole thing culminates in a tripping penalty to Wallace.

6:51 Patty’s totally, completely, utterly fired. He lackadaisically pursues a puck sitting loose on the vacated side of the crease in a goal-mouth scramble, thereby giving Scuderi time to get back and get a stick on it and stymie the scoring chance.

5:10 Schnookie, watching as everyone on the ice takes a turn having a pass roll lamely off their sticks, “The interesting part of this game appears to be over.”

4:16 Holy crap! Sid sucks! Dupuis lasers a glorious pass across Clemmer’s crease to Sid, giving Sid a week and a day to shoot at the entirety of a gaping, yawning, unbelievably empty net. And Sid clanks his shot off the goalpost.

3:06 Clemmer mishandles a rebound into Oduya’s feet while there is very little Pens pressure, and Oduya, facing flat-footedly into the net and playing with Gio’s stick, dully shovels the puck back into Clemmer’s pads. Clemmer freezes up, the puck squirts behind the net, and it seems like everyone is moving in slow motion as the Devils begin panicking, the Pens realize play is still alive, and Clemmer inchworms behind the net to cover the puck. The officials rightly call a delay of game penalty, and while we’d love to blame Clemmer (and make some crack about how, no, he’s really not going out and doing what Marty does), this one is just as much on Oduya.

1:38 Fedotenko has the unmitigated gall to high-stick Paulie in the mouth. We watch as the officials check Paulie for blood (there is none), and Pookie suggests Paulie is saying, while working his jaw in pain, “Well, I’ll never play the violin again. Or eat a pancake that I’m not drinking through a straw.”

2:21 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Sabourin sees Clemmer’s brainfart at one end and says, “I can top that!” On a rush where Travis is carrying the puck and Langer’s about a mile offsides, Travis fires the puck bouncingly to the end boards and Sabourin just completely loses his mind trying to figure out how to play it, and in the doing manages to flop to the ice at the side of the net while he watches the puck skitter into the crease for Travis to calmly tap into the goal. 1-0 Devils.

0:44 A broken sequence of shots almost turns into a PP goal for Zach, but Orpik pulls the puck out of the goalmouth at the last possible second.

0:00 Pookie has a coworker whose husband was a fighter pilot in the Navy, and he described his job thusly: “Hours of boredom and moments of terror.” That’s kind of what this period was. We do, however, get a darling interview with Travis to make up for it.

SECOND INTERMISSION

We get an interview with the Marine spokesman for tonight’s Toys For Tots drive at The Rawk. Kudos to everyone at the game tonight contributing to the drive.

THIRD PERIOD

17:42 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!! Langer has a hugely inspired shift that in turn inspires his teammates on the ice with him, and they force turnover after turnover in the Penguins zone before the Iron Boar finally rips a shot from the point that Zach tips, blind, between his legs up over Sabourin’s shoulder. 2-0 Devils, and that was awesome.

15:55 Why is there a Penguin wearing 65? We hope it’s because he thinks he’s just one notch below Mario. Or three below Jagr.

14:51 Blah blah blah Clemmensen. You can’t make us love you, Clemmer! No matter how good the saves you make are. We’re still going to say stuff like, “That wasn’t a save against Sykora! Malkin got in front of the shot at the top of the crease! Quit giving him so much credit, Chico!!!!

10:50 Malkin fancy-pantses himself out of an offensive rush when he refuses to shoot after creating an open shot for himself. Chico critiques him by saying that the one thing he’d want to change about his game is being just a bit more selfish about shooting. Doc: “So you’re saying he has some of that Larionov predictability?” There is an awkward pause, and Doc scrambles to make it clear that he’s not trying to insult Malkin. “He’s in the Hall of Fame,” he continues, “But everyone always knew he was going to pass.” Pookie: “Heh. Did we ever.”

9:48 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! No way! Gio leads a three-on-two rush with Patty and Zubrus after a stolid defensive-zone stand, and Zubrus rips a low, sneaky shot through a defender that beats Sabourin to make the game 3-0 Devils. And we were getting massive “75-0 loss” vibes tonight, too!

6:55 Wait, were we complaining about this game? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!! Sid, pissy that he’s not winning, skates up behind Gio — Gio!!! — behind the play, wraps his head around Gio’s head, and hauls him down to the ice. Gio, obviously expecting this kind of behavior only from Chara-sized players, gets up swinging, his fists swatting at the air like a cartoon character, and Sid hastily flings him face-first back to the ice. And that, Gentle Reader, is a Sid Crosby/Brian Gionta fight. It is a sight to behold. And they actually both get just roughing minors and Sid an extra for holding.

5:46 Doc very carefully starts talking about the last time the Pens were “[dramatic pause]… blanked”. Schnookie, hating Clemmer, “Oh come on! You guys will say it for Marty!”

3:58 Malkin makes a great play to tap the puck into the crease while he’s tied up by Paulie and Clemmer is overcommitting, and Cooke, streaking down the slot, punches the puck home to make the game 3-1 Devils.

2:13 Shit shit shit. Salvador takes a deflected slapshot straight in the face, and falls, writhing, to the ice. He leaves the ice in a hurry, leaving a puddle of blood on the ice. We really hope he’s okay.

1:08 Sabourin goes to the bench, and the Devils look puzzled about having the puck at center ice so close to an open net. Normally they’re pinned deep in their own zone and giving up goals in this situation.

0:40 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! There’s a first for the Sutter Era – an empty net goal! For the Devils! Patty lofts a gorgeous shot from center ice over the head of the last Pen back and it bounces in to ice the game at 4-1 Devils.

0:00 Don’t believe a word we said earlier in this diary – we loved every single scintillating minute of this awesome, awesome win. WOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!! (Except the Iron Boar taking that puck to the face. We didn’t love that.)

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Tonight we’ll be following the Devils game and woolgathering as we go. In the meantime, enjoy an open thread!

FIRST PERIOD

7:29 pm Doc says of the last game, “Overtime was forced.” Schnookie starts to scoff, “I like the way Doc says that as if it was some kind of passive thing on the Devils’ part…” but then stops herself. “Oh right! It was passive. Heh. Sigh.”

7:37 pm Chico refers to Marc-Andre Fleury’s lower-body injury an “illness”. We think he’s not hurt, he just wants to be included in the list of great goalies who are hurt.

7:38 pm Sid Crosby? Is good. Paulie Martin? Is putrid. Scott Clemmensen? Is not an NHL calibre goaltender.

7:50 pm Thanks to the last few games, we’d been thinking that maybe the Devils would be able to just play well enough to hang on until Marty gets back in March. But now that they’re not playing a team from Florida, we’re beginning to suspect that might be a pipe dream. Although, on the bright side, Clarkson just took a slapshot from the faceoff dots — does that mean he’s adding a new move to his repertoire? One that doesn’t involve convoluted set-ups and monologueing?

8:03 pm We find out why Paulie was minus against Sid. Doc’s been giving us updates for the last few weeks of Minnesota’s national rankings for college hockey; after weeks of being #1, the Mighty, Mighty Gophers will be slipping to second. No wonder Paulie didn’t want to stop that play! He’s ashamed of that giant Goldy tattoo on his back, and it’s distracting him from the task at hand!

8:12 pm Doc and Chico calm a lot of troubled minds by informing us that you can not gong the puck into the net off your head in the NHL and have it count as a goal. We’d been losing sleep over that one. And there go our secret plans for the PP that we were going to email to the Devils.

SECOND PERIOD

8:40 pm We fall behind on tivo delay as we step aside for a few minutes to assemble open face hot turkey sandwiches. The open face hot turkey sandwich is truly the greatest culinary aspect of Thanksgiving.

8:56 pm Chico tells us, as the Devils fourth line initiates a scrum in front of the Pens net, that the Devils’ “battle level” has been very high lately. Pookie: “That makes it sound like they’re in a video game. Like, their energy level is low, but their battle level is high.” Schnookie: “And their skill level is non-existent.”

9:00 pm Zach gets called for interference off an offensive-zone faceoff and there is no even-up on the obvious dive by the Pen. Pookie is incensed: “I’m throwing my mouse-soaked beer pad at the… Wait. That’s not right.” Pause, as the Pens score, making it 2-0. “No, I’m throwing my puke-soaked mousepad at the TV.”

9:05 pm Newsflash: Matt Cooke is a dirty sack of shit. When he hits Zach into the open door of the Devils bench, the Devils on the ice go after Cooke, but they’re Patty, Zubrus, Langer, Paulie and the Iron Boar. Pookie: “Zach’s like, ‘Arise my henchmen! Arise and attack!'” Schnookie: “Yeah, but then he’s looking at who’s on the ice and shouting, ‘Change, my henchmen! Change on the fly!'”

9:08 pm Okay, that pokecheck save Clemmer had against Boyd Gordon in the shootout a few games ago was hilarious. But it’s also given Clemmer a woefully inflated sense of the power of his pokecheck. For the second time tonight, Sid scores thanks to Clemmer thinking all he has to do to stop the offensive onslaught is a quick whip of his stick into the oncoming rush. It doesn’t help that Tallackson’s the guy defending Sid on this four-on-four, but still. This shift was a trainwreck from top to bottom, and the caboose bringing up the rear of sucktitude is Clemmensen thinking he has any business at all pokechecking against Sid and Malkin.

9:23 pm We will grudgingly admit that Clemmer has made some really good saves tonight, and without many of them, it would be 7,000-0 Pens. That said, he was atrocious on the two goals from Sid, so without him, it would also be only 1-0 Pens. So when he’s good, he’s moderately good. And when he’s bad, he’s very, very bad. (Pookie says, as we watch him holding down the fort at the end of the second period, “I appreciate that he makes kick saves and directs the rebounds well. And that’s the only nice thing I’m going to say about him.”)

THIRD PERIOD

9:36 pm WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! Mike Rupp is this year’s Arron Asham, but more pleasantly surprising. He caps off a shift of countless turnovers in front of their own net by Pens defensemen by firing a laserbeam shot over Sabourin’s shoulder to cut the lead to just two. Meanwhile, at the other end of the ice, Clemmer eyes Sid and starts mentally rehearsing his next pokecheck attempt.

9:40 pm Well, here’s something we didn’t expect to see tonight: matching roughing minors to Sid and Rupper.

9:57 pm With about five minutes left in what’s been a mostly fruitless but still valiant period by the Devils, Doc and Chico inform us that Zubrus is too ill to carry on, which explains why Brookbank’s the guy out there on the Patty/Gio line (and really, no, that’s not a giant step down at all, is it?). We wonder if maybe Zubrus’s problem is that he ate at Patty’s Thanksgiving dinner.

10:01 pm Chico says, “Tallackson is on with Elias and Gionta now.” Schnookie responds: “Even better.”

10:05 pm Sid completes a hat trick with an empty-netter. We can’t stress enough that the Brent Sutter Devils are the worst team in the history of the NHL in empty-net situations. They invariably give up goals when facing the extra attacker, and always give up goals when they’ve pulled the goalie. It doesn’t often take more than 20 seconds to give up the empty-netter, either. Two years ago the Devils were money when they were down a goal with a minute left. Last year and this year, they are guaranteed to have the game iced as soon as they put the extra guy on. This isn’t a complaint. It’s a statement of fact.

10:10 pm The game concludes with Chico telling us that it “really benefits the Devils to score first.” We’ll step back from this game to suggest that it benefits the Devils to score first and to play teams that are worse than they are.

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Hey ho, Gentle Reader! It’s our first game diary of the new season! WOO HOO! We wanted to post a travelogue of our trip to the home opener, but thanks to these brutal back-to-backs, we’re putting that on hold until tomorrow. We’ll be updating this post in the intermissions, and if the intro to the pre-game show is any indication, it should be a roller-coaster ride of an evening tonight (Steve Cangialosi told us to stay tuned for his conversation with Bobby Holik [us: “GROAN!”] and then a close examination of what Jay Pandolfo means to the Devils [us: “WHEE!”]).

In the meantime, please do enjoy the open thread!

PREGAME

Okay, fuck you, MSG+/Cablevision, and your fucking refusal to give us this game in HD. FUCK. YOU. Ahhh, we’re in a good mood already! Doc and Chico are chit-chatting about last night’s game, and we think they’re saying that Paulie and the Iron Boar are an “emerging shut-down pairing”, but we’re not sure, because this feed seems like something we’d be pulling off rabbit ears. Chico tries to soothe our troubled souls by insisting Paulie is one of the best defensive defensemen in the league. Sometimes we find Chico’s gentle-hearted homerism laughable, but other times we just sigh happily, “Aw, Chico.”

(We spend the commercial break between the pregame and the first period flipping between all the channels that are theoretically showing this game on DirecTV. None of them have it in HD. But the Islanders are in HD. Being the red-headed stepchild is so wonderful. Someday when we win the lottery, we’re going to start a corporation that will own the Devils as well as the Rangers’ broadcast rights, and then we’ll shunt the Rangers onto the standard definition channels on every overflow night.)

FIRST PERIOD

19:19 We are discussing being cranky today, and Pookie is trying to get Schnookie to let her bad mood go: “In with Jesus, out with Satan. In with Paulie, out with Salvador.” Pause. “The Iron Boar is my lightning rod of hate on the blueline. I just don’t feel like he’s a Devil.” Boomer says, “I don’t think he deserves that,” and Pookie chirps, “He doesn’t! But I can’t help it!”

18:48 The defense is not looking awesome, as Talbot finds himself wide open in the high slot, and it is only thanks to his inability to hit the net that this game isn’t 1-0 Pens.

17:26 The Iron Boar makes a great play stripping a Pen in the near corner. Schnookie: “That was a nice play!” Pookie: “No it wasn’t!”

17:00 Chico’s excited because Sid’s grandparents have made their first trip to see Sid play in the NHL tonight. Really? It took him this long to get them tickets? Pookie suggests they’re only here tonight because they think Zach is such a nice boy.

14:58 As the Poppers put together some rather ineffectual work along the boards in the Pens zone, we feel like Zach looks like he’s half the player he was last night. We imagine he’s saying, “I say, these laurels are very comfortable! I’m going to rest on them for a while now. Boxworthy! Come fluff these laurels for me!”

14:45 Whitey bests Sid on a partial break situation, because he is just that much better an all-around hockey player. Or because Sid’s trying too hard to impress his grandparents.

13:34 Rupp and Godard fight for no reason other than to remind us that often, fighting in hockey is stupid. It doesn’t look as entertaining as this:

12:44 The Poppers have a nifty shift moving the puck around sharply through the Pens zone, and the sequence of encouraging shot attempts is ended by Travis whiffing completely in the slot. There are times when he looks like he’s not afraid of the acorn, and then times when he looks like he needs another shot of Hatcher saliva.

11:52 The crowd gets all excited for a Pens 3-on-2, but they weren’t counting on Paulie. Pookie describes the play best: “He was like a Transformer, and he turned into a wall.” We had been joking during last night’s game in Newark that Paulie has been working on a secret move called The Silver Gopher, and we’re hoping that was its debut – he shut down the odd-man rush by turning into a Jersey barrier that stopped not the puck, but the puck carrier, while spinning and sweeping the puck to safety. We love The Silver Gopher!

9:31 Langer manages to defuse a troubling development on the far boards in the Devils zone, where three Pens converged on Paulie and forced a turnover. After gaining the puck, the Pen closest to the blue line politely shoves a gentle backhand right onto Langer’s stick, and Doc posits that Langer had called for it. You can hear his spreading grin over the airwaves as he says innocently, “Remember that time John Madden did that here?” Oh yes, Doc. Do we ever.

9:02 Doc is comparing Satan and Hossa, and remarks that one of the differences between the two players is that Satan doesn’t have quite as much “tenacity, especially late in the season.” Pookie: “I love Doc. He’s so diplomatic while also being so unbelievably passive-aggressive.”

8:31 Gio is fired. He hooks a Pen to the ice as he’s coming out from behind Fleury’s net. And to think he was so functional as a hockey player last night.

8:08 It figures. Satan scores when a shot from the high point pinballs between Iron Boar’s and Staal’s feet in front of the net, then skids out to the side while Marty has no idea where it’s gone. 1-0 Pens.

7:22 The Poppers come out for the all-important first shift after a goal, and buzz all over in front of the net, but aren’t able to capitalize on a hapless Fleury. Then Langer gets shoved into the end boards and spins around, petulantly slashing at the offending Pen’s stick. Needless to say, he gets called for slashing. Because he’s such a good captain.

5:48 Pando gets tripped behind the play while Madden is carrying the puck Fleuryward on the PK, and Doc reports emphatically that he’s limping. PandoNation gnashes its teeth and rends its garments.

5:16 Chico says that the Devils are “back on their heels a little bit right now”, but says we should all have expected the Pens to come out hard tonight. He adds that you just don’t want things to “become a disaster”, giving up “two, three, or even four goals here.” The Devils promptly turn the puck over behind Marty’s net. Pookie: “Cue: the Devils giving up two, three, or even four goals here.”

2:35 PandoNation lets out its collective breath, as its emperor-god is back on the ice, shooting way wide. Everything’s normal and right in the world again.

2:00 Zubrus completely flattens Cooke, rendering our assertion last night that he’s a “gentle giant” and “a lover, not a fighter” totally wrong. Pookie: “Zubrus is like, ‘Oh my god! I’m a hater, not a lover!’”

0:00 The period comes to an end with the teams scuffling behind Fleury’s net, and Patty’s at the middle of it. He was probably trying to give unwelcome hugs again.

INTERMISSION

We get an interview with the Iron Boar, and he is adorable. Or maybe a-boar-able. (See what we did there?) He’s smiley, and has fluffy eyelashes, and loves being a Devil, and Pookie suddenly cries out, “I’m sorry! He’s wonderful! I love the Iron Boar!” We are now taking auditions for our new lightning rod of hate on the blue line. Maybe Gionta can move to D?

SECOND PERIOD

It seems Patty picked up the only roughing minor from that end-of-period scrum. Because he’s such a good former captain.

19:13 Malkin fumbles the puck at the high point, and a broken sequence up through the neutral zone turns into a Madden shot attempt from the faceoff dots. This is not quite the juggernaut of a PP as what the Pens were displaying in the first period.

18:40 Zach is flinging his half of the BFF locket on the ice in a huff, because Travis is out on the PK. And while nothing at all seems to be going on in the play, somehow Sid manages to get called for interference for it. (Replay later shows that it was his patented “clipping a guy at the blue line” play.)

18:00 Chico informs us that Rollie didn’t have much ice time in the first period, “so his arms will be fresh” for shooting on this PP. Riiiiiiiiiiight.

17:05 Rollie’s fresh arms don’t help much when the Pens get a rink-length two-on-one. (Malkin tips the puck just wide. UPDATE Replay later shows that the two-on-one was broken up gorgeously on a little display of backchecking artistry, as Patty reached in at the very last second from behind Malkin and tipped the incoming pass safely into the corner.)

16:36 Rollie’s fresh arms pass the puck from the near corner to a vacant point. Chico chortles nervously and says this is “a power play that’s not functioning very well… and now it’s over.” We couldn’t have put it better ourselves.

15:36 The puck flubbers around the neutral zone, back and forth, as it appears we’ve entered the stage of this game where both teams have forgotten how to play hockey.

13:18 Clarkson and Gill fight. Considering Clarkson is half Gill’s height, we’re going to admit this fight is pretty entertaining. And even better, the Pens fans end up booing it because Gill doesn’t manage to pound the smaller man into the ice. We agree with Chico’s assessment: “Hm.”

11:58 Chico is telling us now that the Devils are, on occasion getting good puck possession in the offensive zone, moving the puck well around the boards, and getting the puck moving across the crease, “but they’re getting no luck – or don’t have enough skill – to get their sticks on those pucks.” We’ll go with the latter.

11:05 Marty makes a huge save on a bang-bang set-up when a Pen (we think Sid) at the side of the net stops an incoming, wide-angle shot, then fires the puck sharply out to a wide-open teammate at the top of the slot.

10:37 Dupuis hooks Salmela, tempting fate by putting the scorched-earth power play of the Devils back on the ice.

9:04 We like Rolston at the PP point – really we do – but we’re afraid there’s going to be a long learning curve for the other guys. After some awkward early stages, the PP sets up and starts moving the puck sharply around the zone, building up to a crescendo that collapses in on itself when Rollie’s “Fuck This Shit”-style shot is blocked in front… by the two Devils who are supposedly there to tip it, or screen Fleury. One thing we’ve learned about the Johnny-Mac-Behind-The-Bench Era is that there is not a single Devils forward who knows how to productively park in front of the net.

7:20 The Pens fans are sure the game’s going 2-0 when Sid and Satan scream down the ice on a two-on-one, but Satan tips Sid’s across-the-crease feed wide. And just think, Pens fans – he loses tenacity as the season progresses!

6:03 So much for Sutter’s commitment to his set lines. Patty’s skating with Holik and Zubrus. Patty also probably thinks this is a promotion for Holik and Zubrus.

3:56 The Sid line pins the Devils in their own zone (we don’t like the Iron Boar anymore, after his lackadaisical handling of a lackadaisical pass leads to an easy turnover), and the sequence culminates with a Clarkson penalty for tripping Sid. We are debating whether we think this one’s going to end up 2-0 Pens, or 3-0.

1:56 If we were attending this game, we’d be standing up and cheering that PK right now. That was awesome, awesome, awesome tenacious penalty killing by the Devils. And if we were attending this game and standing up and cheering that PK right now, we’d be getting pelted by beer-soaked mousepads. But that’s how you know you’re in Pittsburgh.

1:15 Zach’s having flopsweats because he’s skating with Holik and Zubrus now. He’s probably in a panic thinking, “I haven’t been a fourth liner since Larry Robinson was my coach!” Sutter’s going to spend the entire second intermission listening to Zach’s pathetic whining, demanding to know what he did wrong and how to fix it, and you know what? That’s Sutter’s own fault.

0:18 Travis is trying to be good, but it’s not his fault that his gorgeous cross-zone pass on a two-on-one isn’t converted into a goal because Langer doesn’t manage anything better than a weak-willed, apathetic swing-and-a-miss while trying to one-time it.

0:00 Jiminy Cricket! Doc tells us after the buzzer that the Devils outshot the Pens 15-4 in that period. That seems… impossible. Doc also has to kill some time before Clarkson joins Steve for an interview, and tells us about which Devils are approaching milestones. He emphatically tells us that Langer is just 20 goals from 200 on his career, and Pookie says just as emphatically, “So that’s three or four years from now!”

(As for Clarkson’s interview, Pookie remarks, “I would never be able to interview him, because I’d just say, “Clarkson, you have a beautifully-shaped head. Talk about that.”)

SECOND INTERMISSION

We are “treated” to Steve’s morning interview with Petr Sykora. Dear Devils, Stop trying to make us care about ex-Devils we were happy to see leave! Thanks. Love, The Ookies.

THIRD PERIOD

Before play starts, we see footage of Doc throwing out the first pitch at a Pirates game this summer. He and Chico have a marvelous laugh at the whole thing, and Schnookie nearly passes out from the combination of her two favorite things in sports: Doc, and mascots wearing special mascot outfits (the Pirates parrot is wearing a rain slicker in the footage).

17:35 We reemerge from our Doc-throwing-out-the-first-pitch tizzy to realize the third period has started. Things are very sedate on the ice, as both teams are being a bit deliberate right now.

16:48 Following an eminently stoppable Holik shot (yes, that’s redundant, but this one was especially easily stopped), Rupp and Godard get matching roughing minors out of a wee little scrum.

16:15 Chico is telling us that the Devils are in great shape on this 4-on-4, and that it’ll be great to score here, because the Devils are ill-served to wait too long in tying the game up. Pookie: “Wow. Chico’s doctor has really upped his crack prescription.”

16:01 Rollie forces a turnover in the Devils zone, then chugs up the ice, dragging two Pens behind him, and gets hooked while trying to cut to the net. Scuderi goes to the box, and we gird ourselves for the 4-on-3.

14:18 Paulie tries to unleash his other new signature move, The Platinum Gopher, which is a shrugging sort of rush up the ice as he realizes the other players aren’t coming with him, then firing a low wrister from a ways out that nearly handcuffs Fleury. It’s a sneaky move, and we hope to see him fine-tune it in the months to come.

13:40 We come back from commercial to see Johnny Mac talking on the bench with Rollie and Patty. The conversation is probably going something like this:

Patty: How about next time we’re out there, I go to the front of the net and try to screen Fleury while Rollie shoots from up high.
Rollie: Great plan! And you could even try tipping a shot or something, if the cards all fall the right way!
Patty: That would be awesome! We totally need a goal right now, and that seems like a really good use of your cannon shot, for which the Devils paid so much on the free agent market this summer.
Rollie: It’s kind of one of my best attributes, and one of the ways I can best help this team win.
Johnny Mac: No, no, no!! Are you guys stupid??? Patty, you just stand dumbly in front of the net like I taught you to. And Rollie, you just shoot the puck right into him. Sheesh. It’s not rocket surgery.

12:00 Orpik hooks Zach in the armpit, and Zach smartly hangs onto the stick and draws the hooking penalty. The Pens fans calmly dip their mousepads in their beers and ready themselves to hurl them toward the ice.

10:11 Pookie: “All right, we’re not winning this game.” Yeah, Langer and Zach both have wide-open nets with Fleury scrambling helplessly, and both manage to shoot parallel to the goal line and directly into Fleury with their chances. The Pens fans start chanting “Fleury! Fleury!”, but probably just because it’s more rhythmic than chanting “Thanks, Devils forwards, for being panicked and lubberly!”

9:00 Dude, Chico has just admitted that he also doesn’t think the Devils are going to score tonight. Chico. It’s just that bad. So if you didn’t watch this game, and read how many saves Fleury made, take note that not a single one of them was a difficult save, and even the Devils biggest cheerleader was confident midway through the third period that, no matter how many more shots they toss toward the net, the Devils are not actually threatening anything.

8:15 The Pens get their first good chances in ages when they take advantage of Zubrus breaking his stick in the defensive zone. As the Devils try to hold their ground, Doc remarks that Zubrus is too far from the bench to get a new stick. Schnookie: “Oduya’s like, ‘Oh, just go to the bench and get a new one. That’s what I always do.’”

6:42 Oduya beats Talbot for an icing touch-up, and they both crash heavily into the boards. Weren’t there rule changes this year to take heavy, awkward hits on icings out of the game?

5:14 Pookie: “We’re getting shut out 15 times this year.” Schnookie: “I’m actually excited that we’re on pace to get shut out 41 times this year. Do you suppose Marty’d win the Hart if the Devils make the playoffs after getting shut out 41 times?”

3:20 If this game ends 1-0 on a Satan goal, it’ll be because Satan brought the Islanders mojo with him to Pittsburgh.

2:36 The Devils get the puck down low in front of Fleury, then run their own play into the ground by crashing repeatedly into each other. Pookie: “If I was in charge of the Devils I wouldn’t have them practice the power play. I’d have them practice not skating into each other. See, coaches don’t think of this, but I do.”

2:29 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! What in the hell??? Patty whips the puck blindly from the near corner, and it ricochets perfectly off Gill’s feet into the net. 1-1 game. Chico tells us this was the Devils executing their game plan to perfection, and Boomer says, “Yeah, their game plan was to sit back and wait for Gill to put it into his own net.”

0:00 Madness! Madness!

INTERMISSION

4:24 The Pens call a timeout, and we suspect the Devils coaching staff will spend this break diagramming own-goals for Gill.

3:53 Zach deftly cuts off an outlet pass by the Pens, but can’t calm the puck down as he zips down the far wing. Gill heaves a huge sigh of relief, because he’s not quite sure he can beat Fleury twice in one game when he’s in a zone like this.

3:15 The Pens manage a weak shot that Marty blockers away, and they get a sarcastic cheer from the crowd. Heh heh heh.

1:36 Malkin wipes out while buttonhooking above the faceoff dots, and Gio is sprung up the far wing on a semi-break by the Devils d-man who pounces on the puck, but Gio’s attempt at a rocket of a gamewinner hits Fleury in the crest. As expected.

0:37 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Whitey is cool as ice stopping a 3-on-2 Pens rush, just calmly putting his stick on the puck while the Pen is thinking he’s about to pass, and the puck gets chipped to Travis in the corner. Travis then lobs a perfect pass over the Pens D to a streaking Zach, who then chips a shot over Fleury’s shoulder for the winner. 2-1 Devils. And while it’s not quite as cute as the pileup for an Elias OT goal (that’s the cutest thing in hockey), the heap of grinning Devils leaping onto Travis and Zach is enough to make us forget all about everything that happened earlier in this game. What a wonderful night of hockey! WOOOOOOOO!

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