Pat Burns would be so proud.
On Monday, in a special tribute, marked with PB patches on every Devils jersey, New Jersey delivered one of their best performances of the season in their 5-0 shutout win over the Capitals. It was the first of its kind for the Devils this season.
The second best team was beaten by the second worst team in the league. Unreal? Perhaps the special tear-filled tribute to Burns and a game played in his memory was all it took to give the Devils the much needed win they’ve been struggling to find over the past couple of months.
“You smile,” coach John MacLean said of the tribute. “You’re sad, but you smile…with the pictures of him behind the bench with New Jersey. You can recall the situations [when] he was clapping…you can recall why he was clapping. The different expressions, you can recall what happened.”
The memory filled moments, filled with smiles and tears created a new spectrum for the Devils. This was the second time this season that they scored five goals, but the first time in a shutout. With their ninth rookie making their debut this season, that is (Mark Fayne) joining the squad, creating a new franchise record for rookies in one season, the Devils played the way they used to play…as a more defensive team. With bounces going their way, goals being scored, and the players playing a smarter hockey game, it was all they needed to dominate over the Capitals, and shut down Alex Ovechkin, Alex Semin and the rest of Washington’s lethal scoring attack.
“I always tried to keep my eye when they were on the ice,” Johan Hedberg said. “When they [are] on the ice and [try] to come in, they [are] going to get some chances. They’re really, really good players. They’ve got Backstrom. You’ve got to have patience in finding these guys. When they’re on the ice, I have to keep looking around to [find] where they are.”
But they weren’t the only two Russians shut down. Ilya Kovalchuk managed to get only one shot on goal the entire night, while the line with Jason Arnott and Patrik Elias shined like the days of old.
Arnott collected two goals, which still makes him the Devils’ top goal scorer. He has twice as many goals as Kovalchuk. Elias got a fortunate bounce from Matias Tedenby’s shot that wound up bouncing off of him and deflecting into the goal on the Devils first power play.
Tedenby, on the other hand, proved his Swedish star-like qualities were more than just NHL worthy when he was awarded a penalty shot and beat Capitals goalie Braden Holtby.
Dainius Zubrus rounded out the events just 7:48 into the second period with the Devils fifth goal. His goal was a sign that there was no way the Capitals could come back to score six goals to win. His goal was a sign of Washington’s defeat.
Hedberg also stepped up his performance and blocked all 30 shots on goal. With Martin Brodeur out over the next couple of weeks with a bruised elbow, Hedberg’s performance showed that he was a man worthy of backing up the legend in New Jersey’s net.
“The shutout,” Arnott said of what was the most important moment in the game. “Keeping one of the best offensive lines in hockey off the scoreboard. Any time you do that your defense, forwards and goaltender did a great job. That’s what we’ve been lacking this year. Our defensive play hasn’t been very solid. Tonight, we just kind of built on that.”
Beyond the oddity of how the Devils have started off this season, they are still able to get through this. So far the Devils have seen over half of their squad injured. To date, 12 players have been injured. From the big stars to the rookies to the captain, the team has seen more than their share of injuries in the first two months of the season.
Just when it didn’t seem like it could get any worse being at the bottom, it actually did. But sometimes all it takes is a little inspiration and a night to honor a legend to spark the life back into the club again.
“I was very happy with how the players picked one another up,” MacLean said. “They picked one another up all night. If there was a mistake made, there was somebody there to cover it and support. They were all into it the right way.”
The Devils host the Calgary Flames on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.
The jerseys featuring the PB patch will be worn during the next three home games (through Thursday, December 2nd). Afterwards, the jerseys will be autographed by the entire team and auctioned off.
Proceeds from the sale will be donated in Burns’ memory to La Maison Aube-Lumiere, a cancer hospice in Sherbroke, Quebec.
Further information will be made available at newjerseydevils.com.