If the New Jersey Devils make it to the playoffs, a Hollywood studio should instantly green-light a movie in their honor. They could call it “Miracle 2.”
Ilya Kovalchuk and the Devils just won’t bend to the incredible odds stacked against them. In the process, they must be scaring a lot of Eastern Conference bubble teams (and perhaps teams who might end up with one of the top seeds?) with their smoldering-hot run. The left-for-dead team is on a six-game winning streak and earned a stunning 14-1-2 mark in their last 17 games.
The Kovalchuk heckling squad keeps dwindling, as the high-priced Russian scored seven goals and four assists for 11 points in a nine-game scoring streak. It only seems natural that the sniper scored the game’s only (and therefore game-winning) goal. This extends his goal-scoring streak to four games as well.
Kovalchuk scored the deciding goal in four of the last six Devils wins. Talk about a hearty portion of validation for the often-criticized forward.
New Jersey 1, NY Rangers 0
Johan Hedberg earned what has to be one of the easiest shutouts of his career (and his second of the season), stopping only 15 shots to neutralize the Rangers. Henrik Lundqvist was a steady presence for New York as he made 27 saves, but the team in front of him provided zero room for error.
Martin Brodeur is no longer on the Devils’ injured reserve but the team decided to start “The Moose” instead.
The Devils cannot rest on their laurels, though, as they face the Hurricanes in Carolina Saturday night. Both teams will be on the second half of back-to-back games (the Canes earned a 3-2 win against the Philadelphia Flyers) tomorrow, so the Devils have a great opportunity to make things even more interesting in the increasingly convoluted Eastern Conference bubble.
When you consider the fact that several teams are forcing themselves back into the playoff picture, the Rangers might end up kicking themselves for losing games like these.
Shayne Gostisbehere is the proud owner of a new rookie record.
With his goal in the third period of Saturday’s 2-1 OT loss to the Devils, the 22-year-old extended his point streak to 11 games, which is a record for rookie defensemen in the NHL.
Gostisbehere has an incredible 10 goals and 30 points in 35 games this season.
Gostisbehere’s goal tied the game at one after Devils forward Joseph Blandisi scored this beauty in the first period:
Adam Henrique added the game-winning goal in overtime.
It’s the second straight 2-1 victory for the Devils, who also beat the Oilers by the same score on Tuesday night.
The Flyers have just one win in their last five contests.
To add insult to injury, Philadelphia lost Michael Del Zotto to an upper-body injury, per GM Ron Hextall.
Here’s an updated look at the Metropolitan division standings and Wild Card race:
CHICAGO (AP) Blackhawks forward Artemi Panarin is expected to play Saturday night against Anaheim after missing two games with an illness.
Panarin participated in Chicago’s optional morning skate, and coach Joel Quenneville says the rookie will be in the lineup against the Ducks.
The 24-year-old Panarin, who has played on Chicago’s second line with Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane for most of the season, is second on the team with 34 assists and 52 points. The Blackhawks dropped both games while he was out.
Some good news/bad news for the Rangers.
Exactly one week after suffering a concussion against the Philadelphia Flyers, defenseman Ryan McDonagh returned to the ice with his teammates this morning.
The Rangers captain was wearing a non-contract jersey, but “looked good” according to coach Alain Vigneault.
McDonagh was hurt after taking a punch to the head from Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds (above).
The 26-year-old has missed each of his team’s last three games since suffering the injury.
McDonagh hasn’t been cleared for contact, but that could happen in the next few days according to Vigneault.
The news wasn’t as good for forward Rick Nash, who’s been dealing with a bone bruise in his leg.
Nash has missed each of New York last eight game’s and Vigneault admitted that he’s no longer considered day-to-day.
He’ll miss at least another week.
What a story Joseph Blandisi‘s been for the New Jersey Devils this season.
The 21-year-old played in his first NHL game on Dec. 11 and has stayed with the Devils ever since.
It took him five games to pick up his first career point, but he’s done a whole lot more damage since then.
Blandisi came into Saturday’s action with 10 points in his last 12 games and he added to that against the Flyers.
He opened the scoring with this beautiful between-the-legs goal on goalie Michal Neuvirth (top of the page).
That’s Blandisi’s fourth goal of the season.
Some Twitter reaction to the goal: