The Senators travelled to Newark to take on the New Jersey Devils to open up a 4 game road trip that will see them visit both Florida based clubs before hitting Buffalo on their way back home. Craig Anderson, new mask and all, got the start against sure-fire Hall-of-Famer Martin Brodeur. The reserve squad is in full effect once again and will be for most of the remainder of the season as injuries to Alfredsson, Regin, Michalek and Carkner are all of the long-term variety.
The first period was about what you would expect from the circa 1994-95 New Jersey Devils, one where the fans could have been given those little airline pillows. It was a snoozefest with few highlights to speak of and almost no real scoring chances. The period ended scoreless, and not a moment too soon.
The second period picked up a little bit, and the Senators took advantage first when Brodeur was forced to make two or three quality saves from point blank range by Jason Spezza‘s line. Later on that same sequence, Ryan Shannon showed some great hustle to beat out an icing call, and fed the puck in the slot to Erik Condra who after some fancy stick and footwork ended up scoring a highlight reel goal with a great second effort diving across the goal mouth. Check that one out in the highlights on the link below, it is worth it if you didn’t see it. Following the goal, the Senators embarked on a parade to the penalty box, twice finding themselves down 5-on-3. The Devils were unable to capitalize however, and the Senators escaped the period with a 1-0 lead thanks to Anderson and the PK unit, most notably Jason Spezza.
The third period returned to stifling Devils defense, while they waited for an opportunity to tie the score, and they did so when Patrick Elias converted a scoring opportunity to even the score at 1. The teams continued to slug it out but it was a nifty curl play by Spezza inside the Devils’ zone to buy some time. He got a fortunate bounce off a Devil skate to find a streaking Condra off the bench to put his second of the game behind Brodeur and give the Senators up 2-1. A flurry of chances by the Devils to tie the game went for naught as the clock ticked down on the Devils, and put a dent in their attempt at a miraculous playoff drive.
The Senators penalty kill, led by Craig Anderson and Jason Spezza, continued to shine, especially late in the second period.
Erik Condra‘s second career two goal game showed he does have a nose for the net, and his second period marker showed great determination and hand-eye coordination.
The system the Devils play is very stifling and Ottawa had a very difficult time breaking into the New Jersey zone. This was a game where Sergei Gonchar and Erik Karlsson could have stepped up and been “trap breakers” but they were pretty much invisible.
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MY THREE STARS
3rd Star Craig Anderson – OTT – A new mask didn’t change his play as Anderson put up another stellar performance, making 31 saves.
2nd Star Erik Condra – OTT – Scored both goals for the Senators
1st Star Jason Spezza – OTT – Exhibited as much control of the game as you can against New Jersey. Spezza is turning into an elite penalty killer, who can also spark offense short-handed. His creativity led to the game winner.
Whether they can make it to the playoffs or not, the run the New Jersey Devils have been on for two months is admirable. No one could have anticipated that when John MacLean was removed from his coaching duties on Dec 23rd, that they could put together the run that they have had. Jacques Lemaire‘s influence has been good for the Devils’ record, but not for the overall product as this game was almost unwatchable due to the system he has brought back to the swamp.
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