The New Jersey Devils invaded Buffalo Wednesday evening and, by the end, it became a Night of Firsts.
Head Coach John MacLean’s 1st win as an NHL coach. By the celebration behind the bench with Adam Oates and Larry Robinson it was evident that a huge weight has been lifted off his and their collective shoulders.
Ilya Kovalchuk scored his 1st goal of the year, in overtime, to give his team the 1-0 win.
Matt Taormina, playing in his fourth NHL game, got his 1st career point, setting up Kovy’s winning goal.
Marty Brodeur, with 24 saves after just one shot in the first period, racked up his 1st shutout of the young season, giving him a career total of 111.
Henrik Tallinder played his 1st game back in Buffalo where he had roamed the blueline for seven years.
Adam Mair, also a former Sabre, played his 1st game as a Devil after signing earlier in the week.
Earlier in the day, the team made an important announcement regarding forward Brian Rolston. The veteran winger will have surgery tomorrow to repair a sports hernia that had troubled him now for two years. He is expected to miss 4-6 weeks and will be placed on the long-term injured reserve list. With Rolston’s salary temporarily not counting against the cap, the team will be able to bring in some reinforcements for Friday’s game against Colorado.
MacLean’s comments after the game contained high praise for the work ethic of his entire team. “ They worked hard, back checked, fore checked, and they worked for one another which was nice.” Prior to the game the coach had smashed a stick to smithereens in protest of a lackadaisical pre-game warm-up. The team came out in the first period and outshot the Sabres 15 to 1. Asked whether the incident had woken them up, he laughed “I think they woke themselves up too.”
After the game, in honor of his first win, Captain Jamie Langenbrunner presented the coach with the game puck. Obviously touched by the gesture, he said he appreciated what it meant. Then, tongue-in-cheek, followed with “Since the game was part of another new Brodeur shutout record I might have to give it back.”
This game saw the emergence of rookie rearguard Matt Taormina. In his first year up from the AHL Devils, the Providence College graduate played a strong game both ways. Having played for Coach MacLean last year in Lowell, he seems to feel the confidence his mentor is showing in him by using him in power play situations, on the PK and in tight moments usually reserved for veterans. His ability to make the quick, accurate first pass out of his own end has improved the Devils forward momentum in each game he has played.
One interesting statistic: In the last 15 years the two clubs have shared 11 Vezina trophies between them: six by Dominik Hasek, four by Brodeur and one by Ryan Miller.
The chatter around the league about the Devils’ cap troubles became almost comical today, ranging from “they are getting what they deserve for signing Kovalchuk” to “it is a plot by Lamoriello to force down the roster sizes.” Is it me or is NHL Radio starting to sound like Cable News where a new non-story has to be invented and blown up every day to fill the space and time?