The Devils ended the season with a 3-2 win over the Boston Bruins on home ice Sunday afternoon. The last game of the season wasn’t only a pleasant win, but it was always one marked with newsworthy elements.
The Nordiques Nation decided to hit the New York City area over the weekend. Over 2,000 fans bought tickets to the Devils game and cheered on the New Jersey Devils during the sold-out match. As the clock wound down to the 16 minute mark in each period, the Nordiques Nation fans counted down in French and when the 16 minute mark hit on the jumbotron, they all got out of their seats and cheered.
The 16 minute mark signifies 16 years since the Quebec Nordiques lost their team to Colorado, where the team was renamed the Colorado Avalanche. They have been without a team ever since…and they want their Nordiques back.
Boston Bruins’ netminder Tim Thomas was the fourth to last player drafted by the Nordiques in 1994. He is also the only goaltender drafted by the Nordiques that is still playing in the NHL. Chris Drury and Milan Hejduk are also the last of the 1994 crop that was drafted by the Nordiques and are still playing in the NHL.
Thomas never attended the 1994 draft. He didn’t think he would be picked. But the Nordiques picked him 217th in the ninth round of the 1994 NHL Entry Draft.
Since Thomas never went to the draft, he never got his draft jersey. That is, not until Sunday night after the game. The Nordiques Nation presented him with his 1994 draft jersey in the locker room after the game. It took him 17 years to finally get his draft jersey, and he was beaming from ear to ear.
At the other end of the Prudential Center building, Jacques Lemaire was gearing up to say his farewells to New Jersey once again. This time, he was planning on returning to retirement.
“I want to enjoy life,” he said of his decision. “I want to enjoy the family. I thought that I did make the right decision last year. I’m happy I took it, took the job for the rest of the season. I had fun. It was a huge challenge for me. I thought the guys responded well…the only regrets I have is not making the playoffs.”
This will be yet another summer that the Devils enter into without having a coach for next season. The search is on for a new head coach, but they are not the only team looking for a new head coach. Both the Ottawa Senators and the Florida Panthers are looking for new head coaches as well.
“You’d like to have the kind of stability to always have the guys here because you get familiar with each other,” Patrik Elias said of the coaching situation.
Lemaire announced to the team before the game that he had decided not to return in the fall. He split the team up into two groups and brought them in to make the announcement.
One player that took the news really hard was Ilya Kovalchuk.
When asked if there was a chance that Lemaire would change his mind, he said, “I hope so.”
“I wasn’t happy,” he continued. “But what are you going to do? He’s 70 something years old and he knows what he’s doing. But maybe in a couple of months he’ll change his mind.”
[Lemaire is 65 years old.]
Did the Devils decide to go out and play the final game as if it was Lemaire’s final game?
“You never know with Jacques if this is the last one or not,” Kovalchuk answered. “So I don’t want to say that.”
“Good,” Brodeur said of Kovalchuk’s denial. “Kovy really liked him. There’s no doubt about that.”
At the end of the day, people have to be happy for Lemaire and his decision to want to spend more time with his family. They may be disappointed that he will not be returning, but at the same time, they have to feel happy for him and his wishes.
“You’ve got to respect the decision of Jacques,” Elias said.
New Jersey Devils vs. Boston Bruins, 3-2
With the Nordiques Nation firing up the stands, the arena had so much energy in it…similar to what you would feel in the playoffs.
Feeding off of that energy, Elias scored early in the game with just 1:47 into the first period. A penalty against Andy Greene for tripping Rich Peverley gave the Bruins the man advantage at 7:58. Peverley was the one to capitalize on the power play at 10:04 to tie the game.
In the final period, as the Nordiques Nation began to count down to the 16 minute mark, Vladimir Zharkov stormed into the Bruins’ zone and scored on Tuukka Rask right as the game clock hit the 16:00 mark, sending Devils and Nordiques fans alike into jubilation.
In Alexander Urbom’s eighth career NHL game, he tallied his first NHL career goal at 9:10, giving the Devils a 3-1 lead over the Bruins.
As the clock wound down, Chris Kelly was able to get one more goal in for Boston with 3.1 seconds left remaining in the game. But it wasn’t enough as the Devils came out the victors in their final game of the season.
Elias will be representing the Czech Republic at the World Championships in Slovakia. He also plans on staying in the Czech Republic over the summer. He hasn’t been home in two years. His youth hockey school will not convene this year in August when he returns.