Jacques Lemaire spent the better part of the evening gambling.
It paid off after Lemaire hit on 8, 18 and 19.
Put together in the third period, the trio of Nicklas Bergfors, Travis Zajac and Zach Parise combined for five points to lead the Devils to a 3-2 win over the Caps in a monotonous match at The Prudential Center last night. The Devils’ next game is Friday night at The Rock against the Islanders.
Bergfors scored twice on the power play—ripping a drive over Semyon Varlamov with 8:40 left to give the Devils their first lead of the game at 2-1. The Swede tipped a Zajac slapper four minutes later to increase the Devils’ lead to 3-1. Bergfors has four goals this season. Zajac finished with two assists and Parise had one.
“We ended up playing pretty good as a line in the third,” Zajac said. “We’re a cycling line that likes to do give-and-goes down low. Bergie is a pretty smart player, he gets in the holes and showed tonight with two goals.”
Lemaire explained why he put the threesome together, saying that, “I tried changing the lines (to) get them maybe to do a little better.”
In the second act of Lemaire’s Excellent New Jersey Adventure, his charges are a statistical anomaly. Offensively, they are 26th in the league with a 2.33 goals per game average. Defensively, the Devils are sixth in the league with a 2.33 GAA. Simply, while they don’t score much, they don’t allow the opposition to score. Caps’ defenseman Mike Green acknowledged that the Devils are among the teams that make it difficult for him to play his 21st Century Paul Coffey style.
“That goes back to balance; when I can go, what team we’re playing against. I’m very aware of when I can (rush the puck),” Green said following the Caps’ early skate.
Green was unaware of Rolston and, as a result, the Devils’ left wing in his 15th NHL season tied the game at one early in the second period. Rolston, Rob Niedermayer and Jamie Langenbrunner combined for a heavy forecheck and cycle game, pinning the Caps in their own end for 30 seconds. Rolston completed the line’s grinding shift by banking a pass off of the Caps’ Norris Trophy candidate defenseman’s skate and the puck squirted under Varlamov.
“It was a big goal. Jamie knocked a guy down in the corner and I got it. We both actually went to the net. I went around it. I was actually trying to feed Jamie up front and it was a fortunate goal off the defenseman,” Rolston explained. “It was big. We were down 1-0. If they get another it’s an uphill battle.”
The Caps were missing franchise cornerstone Alex Ovechkin, who was injured in Sunday afternoon’s 5-4 overtime home loss to Columbus. The Capitals and their superstar are being secretive, terming the back-to-back Hart Trophy winner’s malady as “an upper-body injury.” The Capitals called up Mathieu Perreault from AHL Hershey on Tuesday to fill out the lineup.
While Perreault was a healthy body, it was going to be an impossibility for the Capitals to adequately replace Ovechkin. He had played in 338 of 342 regular season games in his five year career before last night, with career totals of 233 goals and 443 points. Ovechkin was particularly potent against the Devils, recording six goals and 11 assists for 17 points in 12 games.
“It’ll be difficult. Ovie is a great player on our team, but we still have a lot of great players who can step up and play a role. We’re going to lose a lot of offense from Ovie, but we don’t have problems scoring goals. It’s been our defense,” Green said about playing without the league’s premier goal-scorer before the game.
Tyler Sloan gave the Caps a 1-0 with 2:50 left in the first with a shot that beat Martin Brodeur high. It was Sloan’s first goal of the season and his second career goal. Perreault and Chris Clark assisted on the goal. The assist was Perreault’s first NHL point. According to Elias Sports Bureau, Perreault is the 47th player to record his first NHL point on a goal scored against Martin Brodeur. The last to do so was New York Rangers’ defenseman Matt Gilroy on October 5—a game that the Devils lost, 3-2.
Tomas Fleischmann’s even strength slap shot with 1:37 left in the third was the game’s final goal.
The win was only New Jersey’s second victory at home this season. The other occurred on October 17, when the Devils beat Carolina, 2-0.
Patrik Elias met with reporters following the early skate. He called the half-hour skate “good” but noted that his leg was “still sore.” Elias has missed the entire season recovering from three off-season surgeries, one on his hip and two on his groin. It is believed that Elias will debut either Friday night at home against the Islanders or Saturday in Ottawa.
Defenseman Johnny Oduya did not play due to what the Devils called a “lower body injury.” The injury also caused him to sit out Saturday afternoon’s 2-1 shootout win in Tampa Bay.
The announced attendance was13,498. That number appeared to be off by 4,000 as there were swaths of empty seats throughout the arena.
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