Goals are something the Devils have been lacking in since the start of the season. They have boasted the worst power play statistics in the league. Goals were a severe shortage to the club…and the lack thereof has made them the worst team in the league.
But the Devils found that they needed to return to the basics. They had to return to the way they did things before and had found success in them.
“It has to be,” Brian Rolston said about returning to the basics. “You have to play strong defensively. We’ve got plenty of guys that can score goals. The good thing about tonight is that we scored goals. We’ve been letting a lot of goals in, but not scoring goals. At least we’re scoring goals. Now, we have to tighten up a little bit defensively. We know we’ve got the goals in here. We’ve got plenty of guys that know how to score.”
Rolston made his return on Friday after having surgery (sports hernia) just two games into the season. It seems like his return was dearly needed for the Devils. Having a veteran rejoin the lineup can only mean good things for the club.
Even though Rolston felt a little sluggish with the intensity and speed of the game, he was still able to capture a goal in his return, thus helping to lift everyone’s spirits.
“I was watching [Marian] Gaborik the other night,” Rolston said about his return from injury. “A couple of pucks came to him. I was watching him and I was like geez, if this is tough for him to catch some, it’s going to be tough for me.”
Even though it was good for the Devils to have a fellow veteran return, another veteran decided to sit out. Jamie Langenbrunner took the night off after experiencing soreness (upper body) following his odd fall into the boards after Buffalo’s Tyler Ennis hooked him in Wednesday’s contest.
Rookie defenseman Olivier Magnan was not up to speed in Friday’s game. That can all be attributed to him not getting enough sleep the night before. His wife gave birth to a son, Benjamin, on Thursday night.
As has been for some time now for the Devils, a newborn baby means good luck for the club. As was seen on Friday night, baby Benjamin Magnan provided just the luck the Devils needed to win.
This was also a good night for the rookies. Two rookies scored their first NHL career goals. But even moreso, it was a good night for Ilya Kovalchuk. After the Devils fans booed him on Wednesday night, he took it to heart. Kovalchuk struggled throughout most of regulation to generate a goal or a play worthy of redemption after fumbling the puck in the shootout against the Sabres on Wednesday, thus costing the Devils the game.
As fate would have it, he would redeem himself. Kovy was the gladiator that saved the Devils from defeat on Friday night.
New Jersey Devils 4, Edmonton Oilers 3
In the first period, Colin Fraser got Edmonton on the scoreboard first at 4:34.
At 9:50, Magnan, got tangled up with Zack Stortini as he attempted to bat the puck down. The distraction on the ice allowed Fraser to take the puck in and around them to score a goal out of nowhere on Martin Brodeur.
The Devils goalie didn’t even have time to react or see the puck until it was too late.
“I didn’t know where he was,” Brodeur said of Fraser’s goal. “I think [Magnan] kind of batted it out and it hit the guy. I was kind of right behind a whole pile of guys and the next thing, he just appeared. He made a good shot. It hit the spot, right inside the post.”
A few minutes later, the intensity started to build as David Clarkson and Stortini dropped the gloves. Clarkson was delivered a two-minute instigator penalty, five minute fighting major and a 10 minute misconduct, while Stortini was only given a five minute fighting major.
While it would seem like the Devils were falling into their same rut once again, Patrik Elias and Travis Zajac started to work the puck into the Oilers zone. Elias sent the puck up to Alexander Vasyunov from the side of the net, where the young Russian rookie tallied his first NHL career goal at 15:43.
“My countryman, he got the first of many,” Kovalchuk said of Vasyunov’s goal.
In the middle stanza, Sam Gagner furthered the Oilers effort with a goal at 5:11 for Edmonton’s third goal of the game.
As some Devils fans started to leave the game, thinking that all was lost, in his first game back from the injured list, Rolston tallied his first goal of the season at 16:52 from a wraparound attempt by Clarkson. With this boost of confidence, the Devils headed to the locker room at the end of the period with Edmonton only up by one goal.
In the final period of regulation, with Alex Hemsky in the penalty box for high-sticking, another rookie found his first career NHL goal at 11:00 as Mattias Tedenby’s goal tied up the game to force it into overtime. This goal also marked his second point in two games for the young Swede.
In overtime, the Devils got a lucky break when Kovalchuk drew a tripping penalty from Dustin Penner. As the power play unit’s umbrella closed in tighter and tighter, Kovalchuk snapped one in with just 1:33 left in the extra period, thus ending his 7-game goal drought with the game winner.
“Kovy finishing it off in overtime is definitely a pretty good scenario for us,” Brodeur said after the win. “It worked an emotional kind of spark. Today, we’re really happy by what happened.”
With this being the Devils first win at home this season, everyone was in high spirits.
“It feels good,” Elias said of the win. “I’m pretty sure the fans are happy and so are we. It was good on the power play to get us those two goals. I’m happy about that.”
“I appreciate it,” Kovalchuk said of the fans chanting his name after the win. “We really need our fans because we have to do this together.”
Coach John MacLean said that we can consider this game the biggest home win of the season. [Which just so happens to be the Devils first home win of the season.]
Friday was Brodeur’s first night back after nursing a bruised elbow in Chicago on November 3. He spoke about how he felt after the game.
“I felt it a couple of times,” he said. “Not shots. Just moving around. A couple of times, I made saves and guys were kind of digging at the puck. It wasn’t that bad. But I felt it. Two days it’s going to be iced to really take care of it to get ready for Monday.”
Vasyunov said that he will be taking his first career NHL goal back home to Russia when he returns home in the off-season. He will be displaying it in his room.