Devils Drop First Game of Season at Home
A boisterous sellout crowd of 17,625 at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey witnessed an exciting first game, with plenty of end-to-end action, but would not go home happy on Friday night. Dejected fans filed out of the arena after a 4-3 overtime loss to the Mike Modano-less Dallas Stars, to kick off the 2010-2011 season.
Loui Eriksson had 2 goals, including the overtime game-winner, in a game that will be known for the debut of the Parise-Zajac-Kovalchuk line, affectionally dubbed the “ZIP line” by Devils fans. (Z – for Zajac, I – for Ilya, and P – for Parise.) The line was absolutely brilliant to kick off the game, scoring twice in under ten minutes. It looked like the Devils’ offense would steamroll their way to an easy victory, but it faltered in the second half of the game.
Kovalchuk’s 2 assists to lead off the game got fans and announcers buzzing about his underrated playmaking ability. But it was James Neal’s playmaking that stole the show in the second half of the game, as he would set up Eriksson’s first goal that tied the game at two, and would follow that up with an assist on Brad Richards’ goal that tied it at three.
Rookie defensemen Matt Taormina and Alexander Urbom both made their NHL debuts and looked solid. Taormina especially had a game to remember, logging a hefty 21:38 in ice time and did not look out of place. Two more defensemen were making their Devils’ debuts after being acquire via free agency: Henrik Tallinder and the slightly higher-priced Anton Volchenkov. While Volchenkov looked solid on the back-end, occasionally showing the hitting ability and patience in his own end that made him so valuable in Ottawa, it was Tallinder who disappointed.
Tallinder was on the ice for both of the Stars’ tying goals, as well as the game winner in overtime. While he couldn’t have done anything on the overtime winner, there is only so much you CAN do as a defenseman on a two-on-one, it was the two game tying goals that made him look like he was still full of rust, playing the first game of the season. A blown assignment on Loui Eriksson allowed the time and space Eriksson needed to score his first goal of the game, and a pass from behind the night that seemed to go right through Tallinder quickly led to the Stars’ third goal. He finished the game at a -2 rating.
Although the game did go to overtime, it was really the second period that lost it for the Devils. They outshot (and outscored) the Stars in the first and third periods, but the Stars broke the game open with 12 shots as opposed to the Devils 5 in the second period.
Two goals, and a tie game heading into the third period. That third period would remain scoreless, and the Stars would put it away in overtime, spoiling Marty Brodeur’s 16th straight home opener, and John Maclean’s first game as a head coach.
Oh yeah, and remember how John Maclean said he would rest Marty a little bit more compared to his other coaches? With the Devils playing another game Saturday night against the high-flying Capitals, naturally, the question asking if new backup Johan Hedberg would be getting the start in the game was put forward.
Better start gearing up for another 75-game season, Marty.