Elias and Devils Respond To Boo Birds In Victory

Fighting through frustration. Brushing off the boos. Patrik Elias was none too pleased after he and his teammates are roundly booed by the hometown fans, following a 2-0 blanking at the hands of the Ottawa Senators. Friday, it was Elias and the New Jersey Devils, answering the critics and making it stand up against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

In my opinion, if you’re a paying customer, so long as you aren’t threatening anyone or throwing anything harmful onto the ice, you’re well within your right to voice your displeasure. That being said, I was a bit surprised by the response by fans on social media, toward Elias. Elias is a guy whose been with the Devils through thick and thin and he’s a guy who gets it.

Following the Wednesday loss to the Sens, Elias, commenting on the boos said, “It wasn’t deserved tonight. I didn’t appreciate it.” Although it wasn’t the prettiest thing in the world, Elias backed up his comments and his efforts did not go unappreciated by the Devils faithful on Friday evening.

Adam Henrique got the Devils on the board in the first frame, taking a loose puck off the boards and putting it home. A quick power play strike in the early going, beating Evgeni Nabokov.

(Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports)
Adam Henrique. (Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports)

As the period moved along, Elias found a fountain of youth and ultimately the back of the net. A move out of the pages from his Continental Airlines Arena days, Elias wowed the Prudential Center crowd with a knuckling spin-o-rama snipe. Backhanding his fourth marker of the year, by Nabokov, doubling the Devils advantage.

Much like a lot of games this season, it wasn’t that easy for New Jersey. In the second, Keith Kinkaid, who was otherwise brilliant, couldn’t cover a loose puck and Steven Stamkos capitalized on his 19th tally of the season.

(Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)
Steven Stamkos. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

With the score still 2-1 in the third, Tampa continued to ramp up the pressure. In that, the Devils were forced to kill off a four-minute high sticking penalty by Michael Ryder on Victor Hedman. Playing three of the four minutes on the PK, Jon Merrill and Andy Greene did yeoman’s work in fighting off the Tampa attack. On the whole, Merrill logged a team leading 30:19 of ice time, while Greene followed up at 29:08.

Andy Greene Devils
Andy Greene has been quite a reliable defender for the New Jersey Devils for some time now. (Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports)

However, like a lot of other Devils contests mirroring this one, hit posts by Greene, Travis Zajac, a wide open opportunity by Ryder and an empty net chance for Jaromir Jagr, cost the Devils in the final seconds. With a tick over 40 seconds to play and Nabokov pulled, Nikita Kucherov knotted things up at 2-2 for the Lightning.

With nothing resolved in overtime, the game trended like the first two starts made by Kinkaid this year, to a shootout. This time around it would be different.

Elias, who turned back the clock in the second stanza, regaled the shootout magic which once upon a time made the Devils one of the better operations in the skills competition. Sliding home a backhand goal, Elias gave the Devils all they’d need in this one. Kinkaid, who made 28 stops, denied all three Tampa shooters, Stamkos, Kucherov and Jonathan Drouin to make it stand up for a 3-2 victory and his first NHL win.

For one night at least, the Devils finished with an effort worthy of applause.