Little Sophia Gabriella Elias may not know what that round black object is now, but someday she will. Someday she’ll hear the story of how it came to be in her possession.
“It’s going to be a while before she realizes what it is,” said Devils forward Patrik Elias.
That puck happens to be special to her Daddy. It was the goal that became her father’s eighth career hat trick on April Fool’s Day 2011.
No, that is not an April Fool’s joke. Elias really did score a hat trick before a soldout crowd in Prudential Center.
This was made possible thanks to the amazing chemistry between Elias and Brian Rolston. Rolston collected a primary assist on each of the three goals.
Elias’ second goal was a short-handed goal during the Flyers’ power play. Rolston skated it into the opposition’s domain while Flyers forward James van Riemsdyk (JVR) attempted to stop him. Rolston saw an opportunity to pass the puck through JVR’s legs to Elias. With a smooth pass across, Elias was at the ready and put the puck past netminder Brian Boucher to collect his second goal of the game. Rolston described this chemistry as knowing where the other person is going to be on the ice. Both know where the other guy is going to be, and this allows them to make the plays they have been making together since they were first put on the same line together during the last half of the season.
This has allowed a resurgence for Rolston who was placed on waivers back in December. This second chance have given him the opportunity to shine just as brightly as his glory days back in Minnesota under coach Jacques Lemaire.
This 4-2 win over the Flyers guaranteed that the Devils are still mathematically in it for a chance at the playoffs. That hope only becomes a reality if the New York Rangers were to lose every single game for the remainder of the season and the Devils won every game. This also only remains a reality if the other teams in between did not have a lucky run in these last few games.
The Devils still have a lot of wins to generate, but their chances are slim that 87 points will be all it takes to make it into the playoffs after game 82. Those are all the possible points the Devils have left to gain over the next two weeks. Right now, the Rangers and Buffalo have 87 points with a handful of games left remaining. Just one point coming from the Rangers seals the Devils’ fate (if they were to win these last five games).
But for the Devils, that’s all the mathematical chance they need…even if the hope is as slim as an 87 point tie.
“I’m not going to sit here and say we’re going to be in the playoffs,” Rolston said. “You have to be realistic about it.”
“We’re playing until the final game,” Devils forward Nick Palmieri said. “Regardless of the standings, we’ve still got a job to do. There are still people paying to come watch us play and they want to see us win. We owe it to ourselves and to the fans.”
Palmieri’s goal in the third period helped to lift the Devils up a goal over the Flyers’ two goals from JVR and Jeff Carter. It was Rolston’s slapshot, which deflected off of Elias’ skate that sealed the 4-2 win, and gave Elias the hat trick.
This win gave Johan Hedberg his 14th win of the season.
“They probably knew that I hadn’t played in a while,” Hedberg said of the Flyers.
Hedberg has appeared in net for the Devils for all six matches against the Flyers this season. Brodeur appeared only once this season (January 8th) after Hedberg was pulled from net. Friday’s win concludes the series 3-3 versus the Flyers.
For Hedberg, no matter what has happened this season, he still wants to win it for his team.
“I don’t know if it’s just the life of the backup goaltender, or what it is,” he said. “You never know when you’re going to get the chance to play. I want to go out there. But most of all, I don’t want to disappoint the team. I don’t want them to feel like they haven’t got a chance left to win because I’m in goal.”
Friday’s win comes on the eve of the expected return of Zach Parise, who has been out of the lineup since he was pulled from the game in Los Angeles on October 30, 2010, put on a plane, and sent straight back to New Jersey after the situation with his knee became extreme enough for him to require surgery.
“I’m pretty sure the 15 and under, they will be very happy,” Elias said jokingly of Parise’s upcoming return. “That’s his biggest fan base.”
While the young girls have been squealing with delight throughout New Jersey Saturday morning, the real news that Parise would definitely return did not come until this morning after he tested himself out on the ice and judged that he really was ready to go.
The Devils face the Montreal Canadiens later tonight at Prudential Center. Brodeur is expected to be in goal for the Devils.
“You know what we have to do?” Rolston asked. “We have to win hockey games. And that’s what we’re going to do.”