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Our pregame show tonight is a celebration of Patty’s awesomeness from the Stars game. Our hearts are so aglow with fondness for him that we’re sure he’s going to utterly suck tonight. As is his wont when we’re not reminding him how much he sucks.

We are very cranky after a bad day at work, and tempers are flaring during the first commercial break. The return to the broadcast gives us Stan. That… isn’t helping.

FIRST PERIOD

17:44 Tempers are still flaring. We’re both sorry we ruined each other’s lives. Meanwhile, PL3 and Konopka (who has the coolest name in hockey, might we add. Seriously, Zenon Konopka? You couldn’t make that shit up! He could be the bad guy in cheesy airport thriller novel) fight.

IPB Fight

Yawn.

That probably wasn’t one of those boring premeditated fights. No, it went down something like this:

Konopka: “Pierre-Luc, you’re not listening to what I’m telling you.”
PL3: “I was just busy doing a bunch of other things, many of which you asked me to, Zenon! My mind was occupied!”
Konopka: “But I always listen to you when you tell me shit!”
PL3: “Well, now you’ve ruined my life!”
Konopka: “And you’ve ruined mine.”

It’s so much like real life.

16:00 Pookie: “You know why my life as a Devils fan has been so much better this year?” Schnookie: “What?” Pookie: “See? Now you’re not listening to me!” Schnookie: *Death glare* Pookie: “It’s because I don’t listen to the pregame show anymore, so I don’t have to hear Stan ask Lemaire every night why he’s not dressing PL3.”

14:43 The Devils get a great scoring chance when Langer gets a great feed from Zach, but Smith stones him. We’re busy getting our scrumptious-looking lemon icebox pie out of the oven.

14:14 Egg draws a groan of disgust from the crowd when he takes an offensive-zone hooking penalty. This is the point in the game when Schnookie realizes it’s being played in New Jersey. Pookie: “Yeah, if it was in Tampa, it would have had a 7:30 start time.” We should be so lucky.

13:21 Downie tips a point shot past Marty to make it 1-0 BOLTS!. Bummer. The scorers seem to think it’s Foster’s goal, but they’re totally wrong. Meanwhile, that icebox cake smells intoxicating.

11:25 Ohlund trips Land Zhark to put the Devils on the PP.

9:58 Is this a let-down game? Were the Devils as psyched about that win against the Stars as we were, and now they’re like, “whatevs”? Because we can’t really blame them.

4:47 After a great shift of cycling and forechecking and general offensive goodness, Boogerfors places an absolutely perfect feed from behind the net to the guy on the doorstep… but it’s Pando. PandoNation sends up a keening ululation mourning the blown scoring chance.

3:01 Land Zhark tries to pass from the far boards to Egg just above the faceoff circles, but Egg loses the puck in his skates. Schnookie: “Well how is Land Zhark supposed to do anything good if he’s skating with Egg and PL3?”

2:46 Vinny, desperately sad about not being a Devil, high sticks Fraser. The Devils now get to bring their territorially-dominant but not-scoring PP back on the ice.

0:46 That PP was territorially dominant, but failed to score.

0:00 The Devils were by far the better team in this period, but the Lightning converted their one scoring chance, so there you go. Chico sends us to intermission telling us that hockey isn’t always fair. Maybe the Devils just need better scoring chances, Chico.

SECOND PERIOD

19:22 The Iron Boar high-sticks a BOLT! while chasing down a puck in the corner to Marty’s left. Chico doesn’t think this is a good call, and while watching a slo-mo replay of the Iron Boar hitting the guy in the face with his stick, argues, “Would this be a penalty if he didn’t hit him in the face?” He concludes that no, it wouldn’t be. As most penalties wouldn’t be, if they weren’t committed.

16:24 After a series of replays to find out what happened, MSG+ finally tracks down a replay from early in the BOLT! PP that shows the tip of Marty’s skate catching the back of Malone’s thigh on a wacky little play in front. Then we see a replay of the BOLT! trainer checking for blood, and taking Malone back to the dressing room to patch him up. Doc starts to say something about Curt Schilling and the bloody sock, and Pookie cuts him off, “Don’t make me hate you, Doc.”

15:28 Perhaps the Devils’ best chance at winning this game was when they were dominating in the first period, because they’re unraveling badly here in the second. A series of turnovers in the defensive zone leads to a big save by Marty, and then the Iron Boar taking a tripping penalty.

14:46 Niedermayer (the Lesser) has a chance to clear the puck from the high slot, but misplays the puck while facing toward the goal, so he ends up just lacing a perfect pass to Bochenski to rip a shot over Marty. It’s the BOLTS!’s third scoring chance of the night, and second goal. 2-0 BOLTS!. Pookie: “I don’t think the Devils are sorry they’re ruining my life.”

13:39 The Poppers are wheeling swaggeringly up the ice, but at the end of some sassy passing, Travis seems to decide the incoming shot might go into the net, and stops it instead of tipping it. Thanks for nothing, Travis.

12:23 Schnookie: “This game sucks my ass.” Pause. “Why do we always play Friday night games against Tampa? Has there ever been a good Friday night game against Tampa?” Pookie: “Has there ever been a good Friday night game against anybody?”

9:58 The BOLTS! pounce on the puck in the neutral zone, then, bang-bang, Stamkos is scoring on the rush. It’s 3-0 BOLTS!, and this game is just really weird. The Devils have all sorts of statistical advantages, and have had, for the most part, the better of the play, but it still seems pretty right that they should be losing by three.

9:12 We come back from commercial to a “the lights went out at The Rawk” delay. This is just what we were hoping for – something to make this game go on even longer.

We step away from the TV for a while and when we come back, we’re still in delay, but it looks like maybe Stan is telling us something about the status of the lights. Schnookie asks Pookie to unmute the TV, just in time to hear Stan saying, “And in those days, there was no flying. So there was a blizzard –” and we don’t listen to any more of it. Schnookie: “I’m sorry. I thought maybe he was actually reporting on something.” Pookie: “They probably thought he was, and instead he was getting all, ‘In those days, there was no flying and we all wore onions on our belts…'”

Fifty (50) (FIVE ZERO) (AS IN, ALMOST AN HOUR) minutes later, it’s still a lighting delay. We can’t decide who to feel more sorry for – the people who’ve been sitting at the arena all this time, or us for having to listen to a 50 (FIVE ZERO!!!)-minute extemporaneous intermission show.

Okay, after almost ninety (90) (NINE ZERO) minutes of delay, we decide that if we’d been at the game, we’d have packed it in by now. And so we’re packing in the game diary. If the play resumes, we’ll just diarize it as if we were on the turnpike driving home and missing it. Heh. Our summary of tonight’s game? Wow, that sucked.

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Hey look! It’s the Devils and the LightningBOLTS!! Let’s have at it!

FIRST PERIOD

19:51 Doc is as puzzled as everyone else when Jacques starts the game with an unholy line of Zach, Niedermayer (the Lesser) and Pikkarainen. Seriously. This might be just because everyone’s gotten kind of mellow about the constant line changing, so Jacques just wants to remind us how maddening it was earlier this season. (In discussing the line combos, Chico and Doc get going about how Oduya and Pando are coming back tomorrow. It’s only been 17 games since PandoNation last saw its emperor-god, but it’s felt like at least a lifetime.)

18:40 Okay, the second shift is Zach, Boogerfors and Patty. Because Zach is playing 60 minutes tonight.

17:41 Boomer hasn’t even had time to get settled in front of the TV before the Devils are on the power play already. A LightningBOLT! whose name we aren’t inclined to look up to ensure we’re spelling it correctly happens to be standing near a Devil when he falls over, and it gets called. There’s a lesson to be learned in that – don’t go standing near the Devils, LightningBOLTS!.

15:16 The PP doesn’t accomplish anything with its considerable puck possession. During the continuation of play in the BOLTS! zone, Pookie says, “I don’t think it’s a good sign that I keep thinking Salvador is injured, and that’s why I keep forgetting about him. I’m always like, ‘When the Iron Boar comes back, we’ll be better.’”

10:48 Schnookie: “If the BOLTS! had to have one of last year’s Flyers’ goalies playing tonight, why couldn’t it have been Biron?”

9:03 Doc tells us that Konopka has fought twice against the Devils this season, and is elaborating when he suddenly corrects himself; it turns out it’s the Iron Boar who has fought twice against the BOLTS!, not the other way around. Schnookie: “Konopka’s like, ‘Please! I have a reputation to consider!’” Pookie: “And I’m sure there would be a fight tonight, if only the Iron Boar wasn’t injured.”

7:58 Chico assures us that Niittymaki is every bit as bad as Biron against the Devils, having gone 0-5-5 in his last ten against them. Except his GAA is 2.33 in those games, while Biron’s is, like, 5,000.

5:58 Playing the part of the Iron Boar and Konopka tonight are Corrente and Wright. And Corrente lays a bit of a beating onto our favorite cousin of alix’s.

IPB Fight

When we come back from commercial, we see that the fight was precipitated by Wright taking liberties (what else is new?) with the Iron Boar. Iron Boar’s probably thinking, “If only I wasn’t hurt right now, I’d be able to fight my own battles.”

2:50 MSG+ tells us that Stamkos is only the 6th player in NHL history to score goals in each of his first three games against Marty. Considering that every active NHL scored in at least his first game against Marty, that’s impressive that there’s such a drop-off looking to the second and third games.

2:36 The Iron Boar commits so egregious a turnover in the slot in front of Marty that Pookie declares, “Okay, I’m going to go injure Salvador now so he won’t be in our lineup.” (To be fair, Iron Boar puts in a valiant effort recovering on the play, and the BOLTS! don’t score. To be even more fair, the BOLTS! likely don’t score on the play solely because it’s Lacavalier, pining away over his lost chance to become a Devil last season, taking the shot.)

1:32 Langer gets called for hooking Stamkos. Chico thinks the call is bullshit, because it was a delayed offside. Pookie: “Chico’s in fine form tonight.”

0:00 That was a markedly better first period than the one against Vancouver on Wednesday was. We get an interview with Corrente, and he is hilariously unseasoned. He also blurts that he doesn’t know the name of the guy he just fought. Does that mean our six degrees of separation now from Corrente don’t really count?

SECOND PERIOD

18:34 The phonk? Lecavalier decides to show his not-quite team what they’re missing, by scoring easily on a slow-to-unfold wraparound. It’s 1-0 LightningBOLTS!, and Chico tells us that Vinny was penciled in for 50 this year, and “so far” has only five. Boomer: “Well, Marty’s glad to help.” Pookie: “Yeah. Good thing that goal counts for 45.”

17:42 It should be noted that Pookie gave a gift of retro cookie cutters to Schnookie for Advent this year; it’s the same set we had as children, and we’re absolutely delighted to have the ax-shaped cutter back in our lives. Pookie is making holiday sugar cookies tonight, and she starts rambling here, “In honor of Coach Foxy getting fired today, I’m going to combine butter… sugar… eggs… and fire, and end up with an ax. Because that’s what Coach Foxy got today!” Pause. “That joke knew where it was going long before I did.”

17:01 It’s halfway to the real deal as Corrente fights Konopka. We’ll know this game has finally arrived when Corrente fights the Iron Boar.

IPB Fight

They fight for, like, 45 minutes.

14:55 Mahmoud the cat is inappropriately vocalizing again. Speaking of things that should get the ax.

13:57 Zach gets called for tripping, but the replay MSG+ shows of what we’re presuming is the infraction shows Zach lunging after Stamkos, nefariously hooking/holding/whatevering him, and then falling over in a clumsy heap. It’s magnificent.

11:57 That power play was positively Devilsish! Doc, who spent most of it talking about how there are still penalty clocks showing major penalties, and going off on some tangent about a scoreboard for some minor-league team in Indiana somewhere, remarks at the conclusion of the kill that the clock is now cleared of penalties of the minor kind. Pookie: “Zach’s like, ‘Did you just call me “minor”?’”

10:38 Channeling her inner Carrie Bradshaw, Pookie says, “I couldn’t help but wonder, is Bergfors the new Gionta?”

10:16 Doc and Chico are spinning their wheels trying to explain why the Devils look so terrible tonight. Chico says, “On their last shift, if Zach and Patrik could have just connected two crisp, direct passes, the Devils could have had an odd-man rush.” Pookie: “The day I ever say, ‘If only a Devils player could have connected a crisp, direct pass…’” then she trails off ominously. It’s true. Better not wait for that while hanging from a rope around your neck.

8:07 We are on tenterhooks checking the weather predictions here, because we have been PROMISED snow tomorrow. Boomer informs us now that Accuweather is predicting “A December to Remember.” Seriously. Schnookie: “Yes, but what am I going to remember this December for? Its unremarkable weather?”

7:40 Patty gets flattened by Malone on a clean hit, then gets to his feet and jumps Malone to avenge his embarrassment. Stamkos then leaps into the fray to further humiliate Patty, and somehow out of all of this, Fraser ends up in a wee little tussle/fight with Malone. It all happens in a blink of an eye, but it’s awesome nonetheless. And it ends with a BOLTS! power play.

6:23 Rolston leads the way on what could have been a shorthanded rush, but ends up not being one when he pulls up and waits, and waits, and waits, and waits for someone to follow up with him. Chico tells us that Rolston kinda blew it there by waiting for the d-men who should have been coming late, but weren’t because they were changing. Schnookie: “The Devils D never come late.” Pause. “Huh huh.” Pause. “They’re always coming and going and going and coming and always too soon.”

4:02 Gel-O steps in to inform us when we come back from commercial to give us the official news of Coach Foxy’s firing. Pookie: “I’m going to pour some cake ingredients on the floor in his memory.” He was, apparently, the longest-tenured coach in the Atlantic Division. It’s just proof that all the other teams in our division just want to copy the Devils.

1:35 Okay, this game is getting hilarious. First, Acorns and Konopka fall into the BOLTS! bench when Travis puts a slow-developing hit into the BOLTS! pugilist, then the play starts wheeling madly up and down the ice, then Whitey throws a flying tornado hit into a BOLT! in the far corner, and then Marty freezes the puck on a juggling, bobbling save. The Devils are seriously sucking for the second game in a row, but it’s still been oddly fun.

0:32 Chico mentions the late-coming D again, as his only suggestion for how the Devils might possibly be able to muster some offense. We chortle, and Pookie says, “If I start calling Zach ‘The Teutonic Titwillow’, will he start scoring again?”

0:00 To cap off an entertainingly dreadful period, we get an interview with Niedermayer (the Lesser). He probably also doesn’t know alix’s cousin’s name, but the opportunity doesn’t arise for him to reveal that. Stan asks him for the solution for how the Devils can score goals, and sadly, Niedermayer (the Lesser) doesn’t bust out laughing and say, “If I knew that, would I be (the Lesser)?”

THIRD PERIOD

18:48 Things are going to start changing now that the Devils are on the PP thanks to a phenomenally stupid slashing penalty well off of the play. Now is the turning point, if this game goes according to the Chico Plan, the system by which every team just needs a power play to get a goal, “and they’ll be right back in it.”

18:45 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!! The Chico Plan worked! Right off the faceoff, Rolston rockets a monster slapshot over Niittymaki’s glove into the top corner. It’s a 1-1 game, and that is what the Devils signed Rolston for. Wowza.

18:25 Halpern trips Applesauce in the corner to Marty’s left, and the Devils go back on the PP. This is not, we don’t think, what Tocchet had in mind for this period.

16:58 This is not, we don’t think, what Lemaire had in mind for this PP.

16:10 On yet another delayed penalty by the BOLTS!, Andy “Game Over” Greene knifes through a wall of BOLTS! defenders, beats Niittymaki through the five-hole, but watches his shot skitter goallessly through the crease and just out past the far post. Rats. That would have been awesome.

14:46 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Boogerfors! Boogerfors! Niclas Boogerfors! Off a lost offensive-zone faceoff, Zharkov (whom Pookie has dubbed “The Land Zhark”) forces the BOLTS! d-man (David Hale, of all people) to cough the puck up to Boogerfors, who is all alone on the doorstep. And just like that, it’s 2-1 Devils, because the line of Niedermayer (the Lesser), Boogerfors, and the Land Zhark is nothing if not money.

12:00 EEK! St. Louis tries one of those can’t-miss-against-Marty reeeeeeaaaaally bad-angle shots, but Marty just manages to hold the post and keep the puck out. Pookie: “Oof. That would have gone in last year.” Boomer: “That would have gone in in the first period.” Chico tells us, during the replay, that fans “might” remember that St. Louis scored on Marty “from some bad angles” during the playoffs a few years ago. Pookie: “He scored from every bad angle in that series.”

9:46 Is this a BOLTS! power play? Why are the Devils getting pinned in their own zone? Do they think 2-1 is an insurmountable lead? Boomer: “Well, it would be for them.”

6:24 Chico is exhorting fans to go to Trenton Devils games. He’s couching it in terms of “it’s fun minor-league hockey, and it’s a shorter drive than Lowell”. And, well, the one time the Devils played a preseason game in Trenton, we discovered that only having to drive 20 minutes to get to a hockey game is, indeed, a wonderful thing. But, um, we still aren’t going to go to any Trenton Devils games.

4:33 We are informed that Corrente is probably not going to see much more ice time tonight. And Chico is as broken up about the lost opportunity for a Corrente/Iron Boar heavyweight bout as we are.

3:42 This shift looks just like the end of G7 against Carolina last spring. But that’s okay. We didn’t want to see a win anyway.

3:15 Because the BOLTS! don’t already have enough momentum, Fraser hooks St. Louis while falling over after a hit. When we come back from commercial, Chico tells us that Whitey’s left the game, and with Corrente on the bench and Fraser in the box, killing this penalty should be a breeze.

3:00 What a shocker! It’s an easy tic-tac-toe play for Downie to tie the game at 2. Once again, prevent defense prevents you from winning, Devils.

2:32 The Devils seem confused by this strange end of the ice they’re playing in. They’re creeped out that there’s a goalie in it, but he’s wearing the same sweater as the other team.

1:51 Halischuk very nearly becomes our favorite Devil whom we can’t recognize by sight, but his miracle sneaking-behind-the-BOLTS!-D rush comes up short when his punch-in attempt on a hard-working rebound goes through Niittymaki, but, like Andy “Game Over” Greene’s one-man rush earlier in the game, skitters just past the far goalpost.

0:38 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!! Chico calls this one best: “WHOA! SHOCKER.” It seems like not a whole lot of anything is going on in the BOLTS! zone, but then Rolston gets the puck to Game Over at the point, and Game Over does exactly what his name suggests – he fires a perfectly tippable shot through a thicket of traffic, and out of nowhere, it beats Niittymaki. 3-2 Devils, and Pookie finally has to admit it: yes Virginia, there is an AndyGreeneNation. (The goal is credited to Langer, but replay suggests he may not have touched it.)

0:00 Hot diggity damn! The Devils snatch victory from the jaws of defeat on a night when they set their season low in shots taken, but a win’s a win. AndyGreeneNation is outraged that its emperor-god is robbed of his first star of the game by a shameless Langer, but it’s all good.

Also good? The Devils didn’t work too hard tonight, so they should still be fresh tomorrow, for Boomer’s first trip to The Rawk. WOO HOOO!

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Could this be it? Could this be our first Devils win in months and months and months? If it is, Steve doesn’t care – he leads off our pregame stuff with instructions how to find our local listings online so we can watch the far more interesting Rangers-Caps game on MSG.

When the pregame cuts to Doc and Chico, stately IPB Manor erupts into a flurry of discussion of their appearances. Of Doc and his chartreuse suit, Boomer asks, “Is that his South Beach look?” Schnookie: “Yeah. He looks like a cross between Hyman Roth and a banana.” And of Chico, Boomer wonders aloud if he’s let his rug go gray. Pookie: “He ordered the ‘Silver Fox’ for this season.”

Also exciting? James Wright, who is practically family to us, is in the lineup tonight. When a Lightning BOLT! gets the inevitable hat trick tonight, it better be him.

FIRST PERIOD

18:21 David Hale is a Lightning BOLT!? Since when?

17:41 We watch Pikkarainen fail to outplay any number of Lightning BOLT!s along the boards in the Devils zone, and Pookie tries to raise the energy level with a bit of cheering. “Come on, Ilkka!” she exhorts, “Let’s rehabilitate number 17 white.”

16:40 Just as Doc is about to tell us something about our BFF James Wright, the play picks up and he has to start discussing the Devils’ rush on a delayed penalty. Aaaand… the penalty is Wright, for high-sticking Zach. Pookie is outraged that alix’s cousin has turned out to be such a no-goodnik that he would show such disrespect for Zach’s pretty face. “Dude,” she grouses at him as we get a shot of him sitting in the penalty box, “I cheered for you at the draft.”

15:14 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Hard work in front of the net! Power play pressure! Tenacity by Zach! A Lightning BOLT! goalie sweeping the puck into his own net with the knob of his stick! It all adds up to a 1-0 Devils lead! And the goal counts as Zach’s! WOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!! As it turns out, he wasn’t never going to score again!

14:17 Andy Greene gets a wide-open net on a two-on-one, and misses. Schnookie: “Andy Greene is fired.” Pookie: “Don’t you mean Egg Greene?” Schnookie: “Ed Greene???” We’re in midseason form. Cesar Romero was tall. So was Marshall Dillon.

11:03 The Pelley/Pikkarainen/Whoever line is out, and buzzing a little. At one point Egg Pelley puts a mid-range shot on goal, and the guy on the line who isn’t Pikkarainen (we thought it was Bergfors, but don’t quote us on that) tries to muscle toward the rebound, but in slow motion. Schnookie shouts, “Come on Egg!” Pause. “’s assist.” Pookie: “I like to call this the Egg Line.” Heh heh. Suck on that, Gomez and Gionta.

9:05 We are still discussing the new Egg Line; Pookie is monologing about them, “Look at all those eggs standing up on their hind legs.” Pause. “Their hind l’eggs.”

8:13 Listening comprehension is going well for us tonight. Doc mentions Paulie in the course of calling some of the first offensive pressure by the Lightning BOLTS!, and Pookie immediately responds, “Paul Fartin??” Schnookie: “I can’t believe we never thought of that!”

6:25 After a disastrous shift by Applesauce is finally mercifully ended by a Lightning BOLT! hand pass, MSG+ gives us a graphic screen with the news that Patty has begun skating, and led the Devils in scoring in six of the last nine seasons. The header on the screen reads “But Not Forgotten”, which Schnookie thinks sounds ominous. “Also ominous?” she says, looking at Patty’s headshot, “His triangular hairdo.”

5:38 The Tampa fans get to rain lusty boos on the officials when they call Hedman for perhaps the ticky-tackiest slashing penalty of all time. Even Chico is outraged by how shitty the call is, but we think it’s just the hockey gods evening the score for that phantom diving call Travis got nailed with in Tampa during the playoffs three years ago.

4:47 Ryan Malone gets a shorthanded break, and Marty gets to make his first great save of the season, a smooth, sassy pokecheck that results in a giant Marty/Malone pileup in the crease and the Devils springing the other way for a scoring chance.

2:41 Chico tells us the Devils are “frustrated and mystified” by the way they stank up the first two games of the season. We, however, are not mystified by it. It was, in fact, exactly what we expected. But we are frustrated. So there’s that.

0:00 Okay, compared to recent Devils games, this was a phenomenal period. But while Chico is quick to tell us that all the problems plaguing the team are long gone, Pookie is quick to remind us that the Devils are only leading 1-0 on a goal the other team’s goalie put into his own net.

We get an interview with Zach, whose haircut makes him look like a very early-era Simpsons character.

SECOND PERIOD

18:30 Thanks to some severe failure of communication between Clarkson and an anonymous linemate of his in the neutral zone, Vinny gets to carry the puck in on Marty on a long two-on-one. But in the end, Marty’s glove hand is more than Vinny can deal with. That seems very unlike the Marty we’ve seen so far this year.

16:23 Malone is very much enjoying barreling into Marty tonight. He gets a semi-break and then decides, after not scoring, to fall to his knees and crash into the net. We’re not amused. Meanwhile, Chico tells us that this period has been rife with breakdowns by the Devils, unlike the first period. Also, it has not been rife with Mike Smith sweeping the puck into his own net. Unlike the first period.

15:55 Pelley/Pikkarainen/Halischuck take to the ice in the Tampa zone, and, as Egg Pelley goes after a loose puck in the slot, Schnookie exhorts, “C’mon Egg!” Pookie: “They’re like, ‘Which one?’”

14:43 We are now in the “the Devils are frustrated and mystified” portion of this evening’s entertainment.

14:01 Travis gets a mini-break, but can’t score. Because Mike Smith doesn’t like him enough to sweep the puck into his own net. Or something.

12:42 The Eggs are going crazy here! Egg Pelley has a shift like a man possessed, chasing down loose pucks in the Lightning BOLT! zone, then breaking up plays in the Devils zone, and then he and Egg Halischuk get a long two-eggs-on-one… but they’re also just eggs. Still. We like the Egg Line! Tonight.

10:39 This is what play in this period has been like, for the most part: Schnookie looks up, cringes, and asks, “How did the Lightning not score there? Is this a power play?”

10:11 Stamkos rips a shot from the high slot past Marty after sustained Lightning BOLT! pressure. 1-1 game. Chico informs us that the play was started ages earlier when Marty went for a pokecheck, missed, and instead knocked Whitey’s stick out of his hands. Pookie: “Maybe Marty can stop pokechecking for the rest of the night now.” (Replay later shows that the dropped stick was more of the Oduya variety than the “knocked out of his hands by Marty” variety.)

9:49 Showing the bend-but-don’t-break spirit that we love so well about the Devils, the Iron Boar takes an interference penalty right after the Tampa goal.

6:04 We make a sad attempt at creating our own fun by trying to cook up the lamest egg puns we possibly can, but the Devils are looking so disinterested in playing well that the best we can do is, “My egg has no nose.” “How does it smell?” “Terrible!”

5:41 The Poppers get a three-on-one that is well-defended to the tune of Langer carrying the puck up the near wing and taking the shot himself while walking in on goal. The shot hits the post, and then Ryan Malone comes flying in from out of nowhere on the way-too-late-for-it-to-have-been-able-to-help-anyway backcheck to pound Langer into Smith. We go to commercial with the oft-concussed Smith writhing in the crease, contorted painfully, with blood trickling from a couple of cuts on his face. We come back from commercial to see the oft-concussed Smith getting back into the game. Meanwhile, Malone has no respect for goaltenders – not his opponents’ or his own.

5:14 Oduya takes a holding penalty deep in the corner to Marty’s left. Chico is horrified at what a lousy call it is: “Oh no no no no no no no. That’s not a – well, there’s the arm around him, but it hardly slowed the Lightning player down!” So it’s not so much the bad call that’s got Chico upset, it’s the poorly-executed penalty by Oduya.

2:46 After the Devils weather another PK, Pookie says, “Well, at least the penalty killing doesn’t look as bad as it did last year.” Schnookie: “Other than the last kill, where they gave up 10,000 scoring chances.” Pookie: “Touché.”

2:01 Doc informs us that the shots in this period are Devils 8, Lightning 23. That is not a typo.

1:50 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Wraparound Dos-Tres throws his trademark move at the unsuspecting Lightning BOLTS! and Pando is the Johnny-on-the-spot in front of the crease, there to backhand the loose rebound past Smith’s oft-concussed leg. PandoNation rejoices! 2-1 Devils, and WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

1:12 The Iron Boar fights some Lightning BOLT! in response to that Lightning BOLT! delivering a leaping hit from behind on Halischuk in open ice.

IPB Fight

Thanks, Iron Boar, for letting us get our fight picture out of mothballs.

0:00 Okay, that period was awful. It was very reminiscent of our favorite play-by-play call from last season, by Joe Beninati on the Caps feed of a Caps/Flyers game. In that game, the Caps outshot the Flyers 20-2 in one period, but were outscored 2-0. And Beninati spat with disgust as the period came to a close, “The Capitals have completely dominated the Flyers in this game, but if you just looked at the scoreboard, you’d think the Flyers were winning.” If you just looked at the scoreboard from this game, you’d think the Devils were winning. Heh.

PandoNation very much enjoys an interview with its emperor-god here, though, so we’re not complaining. (We are complaining, however, when the interview ends and Gel-O sends us to commercial with a promise that the intermission will feature an interview with Rolston discussing his favoritest coach, Jacques Lemaire. Pookie grumbles, “I think I’d rather listen to Giotto talk about Klimt than Rolston talk about Lemaire.” OUCH!)

THIRD PERIOD

18:55 Our commitment to game diary excellence is matched only by the Devils’ commitment to hockey excellence. When Paulie jumps up on the play and tries a sneaky shot into Smith’s feet from a bad angle, Schnookie declares, “I’m calling that a goal for Paulie.” There is a long pause as we dully watch the players mill about after the whistle, then Schnookie adds, “I’d put something about that in the diary, but I’m knitting.”

18:20 Oooh, the coaching staff is getting into the craptitude, too, as the Devils get called for too many men. We think it’s because the game has passed Lemaire by.

18:06 The PK does not look better than last year. Travis can’t keep up with the passing to Stamkos in the high slot (again), and Stamkos makes it a 2-2 tie with ease. Pookie: “I’m pretty sure Travis was thinking, ‘I’m not going to check that guy because he’s a joke.’”

14:19 Now if you looked at the scoreboard, you’d think the Lightning BOLTS! were winning. The D stand around watching while Hedman, taking them on one-on-four, lasers a pass across the Devils zone to Fedoruk, and then Marty just falls over like a fainting goat while Fedoruk fires the puck over him into the net. 3-2 Lightning BOLTS!.

13:02 You know what this game needs more of? The Egg Line. Schnookie shouts, “More Eggs!” at the TV, and Pookie says, “Weren’t the Eggs the ones who got burnt by Hedman?” Schnookie: “Yeah, but they make me laugh.”

11:57 Doc suggests we stick around for the MSG postgame show, to see, among other things, the highlights of the game. Boomer: “Highlights? That won’t take long.”

11:14 Bergfors looks gimpy going to the bench after a Tampa icing, and Chico informs us that he’s come up lame after falling awkwardly at one end of the ice. Pookie: “Bergfors? Falling awkwardly at one end of the ice?? I’m shocked!”

9:04 Zubrus takes a moronic penalty for something moronic, we go to commercial, and Pookie announces that she’s not going to wait until the end of the game to make tea. Boomer and Schnookie hasten to come up with some sort of urgent excuse to not be in the living room in front of the TV anymore, too.

7:00 We just realized that Lightning BOLT! who fought the Iron Boar is named Zenon Konopka. Zenon Konopka. That guy is AWESOME.

5:07 We miss some hot action when our tivo flips over to Project Runway. Whoops. That’s Devils suck-asstitude we’ll never get back.

3:15 So here’s our question: can we trade this entire team in for a new one? Geez, but the Devils are godawful. The offense sucks, the defense sucks, the special teams suck, the coaching sucks… they suck. Especially the offense, defense, special teams and coaching.

1:38 We watch as the Rolston/Zubrus/Bergfors line fails to stuff the puck past the oft-concussed Smith, and Pookie sighs, “I just don’t have the words for the Devils this year.” Schnookie offers, “Poo?”

0:00.6 NO. THE FUCK. WAY. Seriously. NO THE FUCK WAY. The three of us are in the absolute depths of darkest “we hate, hate, hate, hate, hate this team” despair as the Devils look completely hapless scrambling with the extra attacker, and then suddenly Greener’s batting the puck out of the air to punch it clumsily across the slot, and then Travis is darting down to desperately shovel the puck toward the net while the Lightning BOLTS! are collapsing ever more frantically, and then, with the clock run completely down, the Devils are suddenly celebrating because the puck has gone past Smith. AND IT BEAT THE BUZZER! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!! (For the record, Schnookie was disgusted that Greene was out there for the final minute. She’s very smart.)

0:00 The Lightning BOLTS! fans are booing the last-second goal, and Boomer snarls, “You’ll get no sympathy from us!” Schnookie agrees, “Seriously. What, 0.6 seconds? That’s, like, a lifetime compared to 0.2 seconds.”

OVERTIME

4:09 It’s the Paulie Martin Show here in OT. He’s an incorrigible puck hog, swooping down from the point, and muscling Ohlund off the puck in the far corner, and then waiting to set up the sneaky Mottau-from-the-point play. But like the man himself, the Paulie Martin Show has no finish.

2:31 Okay, now it’s the Mike Smith Show. He makes a sequence of awesome, sliding, stacked-pad saves against first Zach and then Travis.

1:29 When given his opportunity to make a sliding, stacked-pad save, Marty manages to also work in a sort of leg-whipping trip on Tanguay. Nice.

0:19 What the hell? Ohlund gets a wide-open – and we mean wide open – net but he manages to shoot into Vinny instead of the goal. Marty doesn’t see the Vinny obstruction coming, though, and commits to some horrible, embarrassing attempt at an anticipatory diving save. Watching it unfold in real time, Schnookie asks incredulously, “How did that not go in?” Boomer adds, even more incredulous, “How did Marty do a somersault?” Pookie: “I have no idea. I thought the laws of physics wouldn’t allow that.”

0:00 Well, whaddaya know! The Devils managed to play a full hockey game without incurring a loss. We never thought we’d see the day.

(Zach and Langer connect on their shootout shots, Stamkos and Tanguay don’t.)

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Great news, Gentle Reader! It’s raining cats and dogs here at stately IPB Manor, so maybe we’ll be spared having to watch this game by our satellite reception blinking out! Or not.

Gel-O and Chico lead things off with Chico saying “I guarantee that the Devils will win [tonight], because I can’t imagine how they would lose.” Considering that the thinks they played well in Pittsburgh, we’re not sure he’s really the best judge of how the Devils go about losing games.

And the rain stops completely in time for us to see the piles of ugly gifts the NHL and team give Marty to celebrate 552. Every one of those Tiffany plaques is worse than the one that preceded it – this one they give him tonight doesn’t even have a nice font on it for the writing around the etched picture of Marty. And seriously, if the Devils ever have an Ookies Night and give us a bunch of those wacky montage paintings, we’re not going to be able to not laugh at it when they unveil it.

FIRST PERIOD

19:36 So far so good – the Devils can’t clear the puck out of their zone.

17:19 Schnookie got up a few minutes ago to get dinner out of the oven. Pookie asked as she walked out of the room, “Want me to pause the game?” We both laughed uproariously. Upon returning to the room, Schnookie discovers it’s 1-0 LightningBOLTS!, and Chico apparently said that the Devils have fallen behind earlier than they wanted to. Yeah, Sutter’s probably pissed that they didn’t follow his instructions to fall behind only later in the first period.

14:22 We think Doc might be talking about how it’s hard to be a LightningBOLT! player this year. We’re not sure, though, because we’re too busy talking about how hard it is to be a Devils fan right now. Dude, this team blows, after having been championship-caliber two and a half weeks ago. And you know what? We kind of just don’t care anymore.

13:18 Pookie wins the “Master and Commander” reference of the night when she cracks of Ramo’s ugly mask, “Sutter hates playing against Tampa because Travis keeps coming back to the bench and saying, ‘Are them his brains, Doctor?’”

11:36 Chico tells us the matchup in this game is like those rankings-paddings games top NCAA football programs schedule. As he says it, we watch a two-on-one for the LightningBOLTS! followed by the Devils not being able to skate through the neutral zone and nearly icing the puck. Chico continues that the Devils are facing a tough defensive posture in the neutral zone as well as a hot goalie. Pookie: “Also, they suck.”

10:13 Rolton follows a Tampa skater into the near corner, holding him the whole way. Schnookie: “That’s not a penalty?” Pookie: “The refs don’t want to watch this game any more than we do.”

8:23 After some jockeying for the puck in the Tampa zone, the whistle blows, and no one’s sure who got called for a penalty. It seems, based on possession, that it should be the LightningBOLTS!, but based on recent history, it really should be the Devils taking a profoundly dumb penalty in the offensive zone. And sure enough, it’s Madden for boarding.

7:26 Chico tells us that the Devils PK has been scored on in five of the last six games, but they’re doing great so far. Pookie: “Chico, this game isn’t even half over. Give them time.” Schnookie: “Chico, this penalty kill isn’t even half over.”

4:49 There is a strange combination of forwards on the ice (they’re actually playing in the Tampa zone, too – WE KNOW! Shocking!), and Doc makes some snide remark about it. Pookie: “They’re out there because Sutter doesn’t give a fuck anymore.” Schnookie, who is not paying attention, asks who was out, and Pookie says slowly, “Um… Zubrus… and Zach… and… someone.” Boomer: “Sutter’s on the bench like, ‘Each of your names is on a button, and I’m going to put all the buttons in this bag…’”

2:11 Craig v. Clarkson. Yawn.

IPB Fight

0:00 Will this parade of poop ever end? We’ll see, in the second period. We aren’t holding out much hope.

FIRST INTERMISSION

We spend our intermission talking about the fascinating series, “Whose Father Was He?” by Errol Morris in the New York Times this week. If you haven’t read it, you should. Fascinating, fascinating stuff.

SECOND PERIOD

19:02 Weekes twists awkwardly on a save on a long shot, and he stays down, twitching in pain. Chico can’t figure out how he could have gotten injured on the play, but even after a bunch of replays have elapsed, Weekes can’t get up at all. Marty makes his way into the crease, and frankly, of all the shitty things to happen to the team this year, Weekes deserves better.

17:01 This is the first time Marty’s come in in relief in 11 years. That’s insane. We can’t believe, considering how bad Marty’s backups have been, that he hasn’t had to do this more often.

16:25 To celebrate Marty being in the game, the Devils proceed to let the LightningBOLTS! fire on him at will.

15:41 The Poppers get a shift in the offensive zone just as Chico is telling us that with the way things are going lately, the Devils just really need something to help them turn the tide. “Like a goal,” he suggests. Schnookie: “Or the LightningBOLTS! forfeiting. I think that’s more likely to happen than a goal.”

15:25 And to conclude his shift in the offensive zone, Langer takes a profoundly idiotic penalty. We contemplate what we could get for him in a trade this summer, and decide asking for a sack of pucks might be too much.

14:51 After the PKers spend a few minutes whipping their heads around helplessly watching Tampa fire passes all through the zone, Stamkos gets Marty back for the sassy pokecheck Marty threw his way earlier. It’s 2-0 Tampa.

13:41 We’ve just figured out what Sutter was doing with his lame dressing room shake-up. Since he seems to have kept the guys all sitting in the same order, just on different sides of the room, he was probably trying to convince them it’s Opposite Day.

13:35 Chico wonders aloud what would happen in this game if Marty gets hurt too. Schnookie: “Chico, shut up.”

12:22 Dear lord! It’s a penalty, taken while the Poppers are in the Tampa zone, and it’s on the LightningBOLTS!. Langer’s probably appalled that it wasn’t on him.

11:23 Chico: “Devils’ second power play unit, coming out onto the ice now…” Pookie: “Quick, everyone! Pull up your chairs to the TV!”

10:33 Boos rain down from the crowd as Langer is stripped of the puck on an attempted wraparound.

9:31 You know what sucks? The Devils. You know what doesn’t suck? That Errol Morris series of blog posts we mentioned in the intermission. You should go read that now.

9:08 Blobby decides things aren’t stupid enough yet tonight, so he takes a goaltender interference penalty. Yup. That’s what our evening was missing. We go to commercial with Pookie on a rant: “You guys, I’ve decided the quilt I’m working on now is bad luck, because they started sucking when I started working on it. So I’m sitting here thinking about how I moved all the materials for my other quilt into the other room. And I’m thinking I can get up during commercial and put this quilt away and get the other one to work on instead. And then I’m thinking, ‘Wait a sec. I can think of things that might be causing a problem and I’m capable of trying to solve that problem. So why can’t the Devils???’”

We come back from commercial to find out that Halpern jumped Blobby on his way to the penalty box, and somehow the penalty situation shook out that Halpern and Blobby have matching minors, and Artyukhin somehow got an extra one. None of us has any idea how that happened.

7:22 The Devils very nearly score on the doorstep, but Ramo manages to blindly, fallingly sweep the puck out from behind him, and Mottau is too oblivious storming in from the slot to put the rebound away. The crowd starts booing again.

6:53 Oh great. Ramo throws his stick like a complete raging moron when the puck kicks crazily off the end boards out in front of the vacated net. There is a review of the save Ramo made moments earlier, and sure enough, it’s no goal. (Pookie suggests goalies should play with invisible gloves, so you can see if the puck’s over the line when they’re inside or underneath the glove.) But yay! The most exciting play in hockey! Shanahan penalty shot.

We’ll be damned. He scores. 2-1 LightningBOLTS!.

6:33 Doc and Chico promise us a very special “Chico Eats!” today. Pookie: “Please be funfetti. Please be funfetti.”

5:10 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!! Look who’s the new Fuck This Shit now? LOOK WHO! Suck on that Sutter! Pando gets sprung on a two-on-one that turns into a Pando-on-one when Zach decides to bail on it, so Pando just blasts the puck over Ramo’s head and into the net. It’s a 2-2 game now, and PandoNation, or the parts of our hearts that used to be PandoNation, even though they’re small and we’ve forgotten the last time we used them, rejoices.

3:03 Artyukhin must be trying out for the Devils, because he takes an idiotic penalty behind Marty’s net.

2:04 Chico tells us Shanny is “a double threat.” We have no idea what that means. Pookie: “Shanny’s like, ‘Yeah, I can walk and chew gum!’”

1:28 WHA-HUUUUUHHHH???? Captain Steaming Pile Of Puke flutters a shot through a Travis-ly screened Ramo, and it’s 3-2 Devils. We didn’t see that coming.

0:00 Doc tries to give Blobby credit for the turnaround in this game, saying it was Blobby drawing those penalties after his goalie interference that did it. We disagree. That PP sucked. The game turned around when Ramo lost his mind and threw his stick at a puck around which there were no Devils. It had nothing to do with Blobby.

SECOND INTERMISSION

Boomer points out that the bald guy on those greatest sports moments in New York history commercials is like the homeless man’s Benny Ninja. Pookie: “These commercials would be so much better if that really was Benny Ninja. How can we make that happen?”

THIRD PERIOD

Our special “Chico Eats!”… isn’t so special. They’re having birthday sandwich and cupcake for Stan at Hobby’s.

19:01 We get an update on Weekes, that he apparently blew out a knee.

17:22 Malone scores without any effort on a breakaway. Chico hastily makes excuses for Marty on it, and basically blames the goal on Paulie having been sort of halfway back on the play. He seems to think Marty would have stopped it if it had been a breakaway without any defenders anywhere in the picture, but considering how Marty looked utterly lost on the play, we kind of doubt that. 3-3 game.

15:46 Marty makes a save on a soft, mid-range shot, and Pookie cheers derisively. This is met by silence in the living room at stately IPB Manor, as Boomer and Schnookie are just too beaten down to say anything. Pookie: “Too soon?”

14:24 Boomer: “Did you guys enjoy that brief, floating fifteen minutes where you thought the Devils might actually win?” Us: “Yeah. That was nice.”

12:33 The Poppers put together a sassy shift, perhaps the first one from Zach we’ve seen since that Boston game, and it’s all kept alive thanks to a really cool keep by Paulie under pressure from three LightningBOLTS!. Langer promptly turns the puck over, though, to make up for it.

9:17 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!! Once again the Poppers do some good work after an offensive-zone draw – Travis keeps a puck alive in front of the crease, and Langer is there to punch it home. It’s 4-3 Devils, and we’re just not sure what to think anymore.

5:54 We are busy looking up life expectancies of ants, and then look up in time to see the Devils completely losing all hope at defensive-zone coverage to give the LightningBOLTS! a clear shot at an empty net. Yup. It’s a 4-4 tie. Christ, this Devils team is terrible. We’ll eat our hats if they can get out of this game with a point.

3:22 Doc has been saying a name that we’ve assumed, all evening, was “Chuchurra”. Turns out it’s “Szczechura”. Just an interesting factoid. If by “interesting” we mean “not at all interesting.”

2:00 Pookie floats our previously-unspoken concern: “I think Zach’s having a Hooters Baby.” Schnookie: “I’m not sure what to say to that. The whole team seems to be having one.” This gets us thinking, and we conclude that the entire team, in celebration of Marty’s 552nd win, went out to celebrate and one of them accidentally killed a hooker during the festivities. Then the entire team collectively agreed to cut off her hands, feet and head, bury the body in the woods, and then throw the identifying body parts in an incinerator. Basically, all of them were involved in something terrible, all of them participated in some terrible decision-making, and now all of them are paying the price.

0:32 Ramo falls over at the side of the net, but three Devils hammering away at the puck can’t find a way to get it past him into the goal. Schnookie: “They are the dictionary fucking definition of ‘sad fucks’.” (We’re trying to decide which Devil is going to be the first to crack, move into the attic, and drill peepholes all over the ceiling. Pookie thinks Paulie. Schnookie thinks maybe Oduya.)

0:00 Okay, so the Devils manage to get a point. We’d eat our hats, but it’s not like the Devils ever follow through on anything. (We also have decided that Paulie and Oduya would both move into the attic with peepholes because, as Pookie points out, “You can’t break up the cliques.”)

OVERTIME

3:39 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Zach isn’t never going to score again! Even without Patty on the ice with him, he manages to bury a great shot after Travis feeds him perfectly in the high slot. 5-4 Devils, and the team goes completely nuts like they’ve just won a playoff series. We can’t decide if that’s a sign that maybe they’re capable of turning things around, or that it’s a sign that this team is really a lost cause.

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Okay, Gentle Reader, we are not thrilled with this 5:00 start time. What is uo with that? Why are the Devils and the schedule makers so insistent on making it impossible for us to prepare nice dinners on game nights? Well, in the pregame show they had a feature called “Ask The Announcers” in which Chico mentioned that he reads a lot of blogs and gets a lot of his “best ideas” from “fans”. Chico, if you’re reading this (and you probably are), could you put a bug in someone’s ear to let them know that 5:00 Sunday starts are every bit as annoying as 7:00 weeknight starts? Thanks.

Anyway, we’ll be doing a bit of a lite game diary (same great taste but half the calories!) as this one goes along, updating as we see fit. Stay tuned!

PREGAME

Two thoughts: First, what are the Lightning thinking with these third jerseys? This season the NHL is establishing a new low for sheer putridity in sweater design. And second, with Clemmensen starting and no Madden to match up against Vinny, what could possibly go wrong for the Devils tonight?

FIRST PERIOD

19:02 Chico asks Doc to rank the new Tampa third jersey on a scale of 1 to 10 and Doc shocks us by saying 7. He then regains our good graces by snotting about how we’ll never see a 3rd Devils sweater because “that’s just not something that’s done”. (It should be noted that Doc’s opinion of 3rd jerseys seems to be entirely based on how easy it is for an announcer to read the names and numbers. We suppose that excuses him from not noticing that the jerseys, in addition to having names and numbers that are easy to read, also look like a retread of an old All-Star jersey, are continuing with this stupid trend of having team nickname wordmarks [those new “Sens” Senator jerseys are almost cartoon duck bad], and also seem to say “Tampa” across the ass.)

18:16 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!! Rupper’s giant wingspan and Kolzig’s big, slow five hole combine to make a beautiful goal out of Salmela’s artfully wide tippable shot/pass. 1-0 Devils.

12:30 Our feed is misbehaving a bit tonight, so it keeps getting hung up and then restarting, say, just as Chico is cracking up about Doc’s invention of the word “Salmelian”. We’re not sure we want to know what we missed.

9:41 The Patty/Zubrus/Gio line is looking pretty snazzy on this shift, and on one sequence in front of the net, Patty gets flattened from behind. Schnookie: “Isn’t that cross checking?” Pookie: “Not on Planet Bolt it isn’t.” We snort loudly. Seriously, who calls them “the Bolts”? We thought that was just their own PR people.

2:23 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!! THE SLUMP IS OVER! THE SLUMP IS OVER! OUR LONG NATIONAL NIGHTMARE HAS ENDED! Zach is inspired by a Salmelian scamper of a buttonhook to keep the blue line on a delayed Lightning/Bolt penalty, and he cranks a shot in off the pipe to make the game 2-0 Devils. We have this exchange after the goal:

Schnookie: “I hate to give him credit for this, but Clemmer had a great save to set the Devils up to draw that penalty.”
Pookie: “Yeah, and that’s a save Weekes couldn’t have made because his legs are too short.”

0:00 The buzzer sounds on a thoroughly delightful first period, and after a little interview with a very tall Rupper, MSG+ tells us we’ll get a chat with Clemmer during the intermission. Schnookie wails, “A chat with Clemmer? But we saw that in the pregame show!” Boomer solemnly adds, “I’ve talked enough with Clemmer.”

SECOND PERIOD

19:18 After Travis is unable to force the puck over the goal line against the paddle of a sprawling Kolzig, he looks hilariously embarrassed that the officials are even reviewing the replay. Aww, Travis. We cry for every other Devil to be fired when they can’t get the puck past a prone goalie’s stick into an otherwise wide-open net, but when he does it? We swoon.

18:02 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Have we mentioned how much we love the Zubrus/Patty/Gio line? Because we love them a lot. Zubrus is not as impressed by Kolzig as Travis was moments earlier, and just fires a totally stoppable shot from above the faceoff dot straight through him. 3-0 Devils.

15:25 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!! Zubrus gets to literally sit in the crease and whack away at a loose puck until it gets past Kolzig’s feeble leg pads. Doc and Chico’s response is to discuss at length how well Zach just did by scoring (because people often see a guy who’s 6’5″ and think he’s Zach), and Pookie’s response is to say very slowly, “That was the worst defense I have ever seen in the NHL.” She’s right. The Lightning Bolts all just stood there, hands limply hanging at their sides, watching Zubrus score.

14:00 It had been very quiet in the Tampa building, but now the crowd is making all kinds of noise. Because the Lightning Bolts are on the PP and totally sucking. The noise all kind of rhymes with “STUUUUUUU!”

8:15 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! Can we play Kolzig every night? This game is awesome! Gio whips a nifty little wrister into the net while Zubrus and Zach are creating all kinds of havoc amongst the hapless Lightning Bolt defense, and Kolzig is too busy spinning around like a top in the crease to be able to stop it. 5-0 Devils, and a might groan rises from stately IPB Manor as Kolzig gets the hook and Ramo enters the game as the new Lightning Bolt goalie.

6:52 Bummer. Paulie is victimized on a two-on-one, and it’s 5-1 Devils.

6:14 The Lightning Bolts seem to feel bad for ruining our awesome game, and take a too-many-men penalty. As we wait for the faceoff after the whistle, we get to see Paulie sitting on the bench screwing up his face. He needs our tender loving!

5:35 Travis is standing around doing nothing but getting pushed over near the crease, and gets called for interference. This is the site of his phantom diving penalty from the 2007 playoffs, too! Pookie: “Poor Travis! He’s going to end his career with 2,000 penalty minutes, only four of them earned.”

5:20 This game suddenly blows. St. Louis scores to make it 5-2 Devils. And Clemmer is just shitty enough that we’re fairly confident a five-goal lead is not safe. We’re even more nervous now that it’s down to three goals.

3:18 For fuck’s sake. Ryan Malone (of all people) gets behind the D, Pando trips him up to stop the breakaway chance, and he scores on the ensuing penalty shot. 5-3 Devils. Hey, remember how last year the Devils really, really sucked in every second period? Looks like it’s keeping on this year! (Pookie believes that play would never have happened if Marty was in net because Pando would have known his goalie could have stopped Malone [of all people] on a breakaway.)

0:25 Zubrus ends up twisted around a d-man right on the goalie’s doorstep with the puck just sitting on the goal line in front of an empty net. He attempts a spiraltortion jab at the puck, but misses. That would have gone in against Kolzig. Muh! Still, Chico makes a great point in saying that the Devils should be happy to go into the third with a 2 goal lead. We mean, that kind of lead would blow Perry Pearn’s mind!

SECOND INTERMISSION

For the second intermission in a row, we get material recycled from the pre-game show. Surely we could be seeing a slide show of Chuck the Duck’s Florida vacation right now! He’s always been so happy to lounge by the pool on Florida trips past. Bring back Chuck!

THIRD PERIOD

15:25 The game has tightened up quite a bit, and on a defense-first shift in the Devils zone, Zach clears the puck smartly high off the glass. Schnookie: “That’s the kind of play that won him the MVP of the YoungStars game.” Pookie, as Zach, holds out her hand and snots, “Plastic star, please!”

15:11 We are informed that Malone has been the first person to score on a penalty shot against the Devils since Freddie Olausson did it in 1999. We snarl at the TV that this one should get a big fat asterisk.

12:39 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!! Hats fly everywhere! Zubrus — ZUBRUS! — gets a breakaway just when it appears the Devils aren’t going to try to get the puck past center ice for the rest of the game, and he scores on Ramo with ease. His ensuing celebration is an hilarious twirling, leaping dance that looks even funnier for him being a giant. And his linemates have the kind of response for him that is normally reserved for OT game-winners and Kevin Weekes wins. Considering what a crappy turn this game had taken, it’s a delicious ray of sunshine. 6-3 Devils.

10:55 Pookie: “Every time Doc says ‘Ramo’ I think he’s saying ‘Grandma’.”

6:16 We’re distracted now by how hungry we are. Stupid 5:00 start. Schnookie isn’t going to even start making dinner until this is over. See what you’ve done to us, Devils schedule? See???

4:42 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!! Save something for the rest of the season, St. Zubby! A magnificent, swirling, forechecking shift by the Gio/Patty/Zubrus line leads to Zubrus being left all alone in the slot to score his fourth goal of the game. 7-3 Devils. This is… amazing. We fully expect for him not to score again this season.

4:35 Huh. This is the first four-goal game for a Devil since the infamous McKay/Madden simultaneous four-pointers against the Pens. Salmela is just as squicked out by how awful that game was as we are (Pookie was at NYU at the time, and didn’t get the game on her dorm cable. Schnookie vividly recalls telling her it was so lopsided that it became actually uncomfortable to watch) and takes a penalty in the neutral zone.

0:00 Okay, so there was a bit of a lull there, but you know what? The end result is that we loved this game. And now we’re faint with hunger and have to go make dinner.

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Things we liked about tonight’s game:

1. The defense looked, for the most part, pretty solid. As we write this in the moments immediately after finishing the game up, we can’t think of any specific examples of when the Devils played a defensive shift that made our eyeballs puke barbed-wire fireballs. In other words, we didn’t have a revisiting of the first period of the Buffalo game. Or every game from last season.

2. The forwards managed, for the most part, to make it look like they’re not going to spend the next four months insisting they can’t score without Marty on the ice.

3. Goals! Goals for the Devils, not just against them!

4. A power play goal! For the Devils!

5. After the way he managed to stop that burgeoning breakaway with a Niedermayer-esque diving sweepcheck from behind, Salvador may have sown the seeds for international recognition of IronBoarNation.

6. Kevin Weekes is totally adorable when he wins, and as ardent fans of post-victory Devils hugging, we really liked to see such enthusiastic, smiley hugs all around.

7. We felt like the Devils outplayed the Lightning, and after stupidly giving up the lead twice, they managed to bounce back and get two points. The glass-is-half-empty fans in us could fixate on the whole “giving up the lead twice” angle, but instead we’re just happy to see them not get totally demoralized. Our ultimate assessment of the game is that the good things they did tonight outnumbered the bad things. We’ll take it.

8. Pando! Pando! Pando!

Thanks we didn’t like about tonight’s game:

1. Shootouts suck.

2. The Devils don’t seem to have learned that when your PK is atrocious, you shouldn’t take many penalties. Perhaps Sutter can put a bug in their ears about that.

3. PandoNation’s emperor/god is normally very easy-going and laid-back, but speaking as PandoNation’s corrupt ruling priest class, we think he’s become angry. He’s demanding a human sacrifice. A specific human. Whose name rhymes with “Bleldon Blookbank”. That’s the price you pay for being an idiot and backhanding the puck lazily into the 15th row right after Pando scored the go-ahead goal with five minutes left in the game. Sorry, Sheldon. We don’t make the rules.

And in an unrelated aside:

1. Chico is hilariously much more vocal about how much he hates shootouts when Marty’s not the guy in net for the Devils.

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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.”

FIRST PERIOD

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.”
(more…)

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