If ever there was a more proper way for Devils coach Jacques Lemaire to win his 600th game, doing so in a rather uneventful 2-1 overtime win over Toronto made for as appropriate of a statement as any. Making things even more ironic was seeing high-powered scorer Ilya Kovalchuk net the game-winner in the extra session helping the Devils to their third straight win and helping the team improve to 11-1-2 in their last 14 games.
Lemaire is famous for making his mark with the Devils during the mid-90s winning a Stanley Cup in 1995 courtesy of the infamous neutral zone trap. With the Devils playing a much more aggressive forecheck these days and an offense-stifling brand of hockey is giving Devils fans a reason to be excited again while their opponents are having flashbacks to a darker era. For Lemaire, however, the effort he’s putting in with these Devils in pulling them out of the basement and making some fans get hopeful for a run at the playoffs it might be his best coaching job to date.
Johan Hedberg led the way in goal for New Jersey while Martin Brodeur is out stopping 31 of 32 shots. James Reimer proved to be the hard luck loser for the Leafs in stopping 37 shots. Dainius Zubrus also scored for New Jersey while Nikolai Kulemin got Toronto’s lone goal thanks to a great set up by Phil Kessel.
With the win, the Devils are 13 points behind Carolina for the eighth seed in the East. It’s a long way to catch up for them, but with Carolina fighting inconsistency, Atlanta stumbling badly, and teams like Florida and Buffalo trying to keep pace the possibility of making the playoffs, as slim as it seems, still exists for the Devils. When they’re playing as tough as they are now and with Lemaire at the helm, you have to wonder why can’t the Devils make the playoffs. Mathematically is seems nearly improbable, but funnier things have happened.