Nick Palmeri and David Clarkson combined to score the three goals in this late afternoon’s matchup against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Today’s win came off the heels of two consecutive losses in which the Devils playoff chances diminished significantly.
The Devils played a different game against the Columbus Blue Jackets then they had recently agains the Ottawa Senators and the Washington Capitals, one in which they played confidently and without hesitation. Defense was a key to tonight’s game, limiting the Blue Jackets to only 13 shots, only two shots in the first period. One important key: any rebound left by Devils net minder Marty Brodeur was picked up quickly by their defense and not left for Columbus’ forecheckers to get a good scoring opportunity.
Clarkson, eager to get a hat trick but unable to get a breakaway attempt past Columbus’ net minder, figured on the Devils first two goals, which he admitted were some “garbage goals” but still count nonetheless. In fact it’s an important step for the Devils to get these kinds of breaks as they near the last few games of the season.
Nick Palmery scored on a simple forechecking play coming up on a Blue Jacket defender with the puck in front of their own net. Palmeri was able to poke the puck away, and seemed a little surprised when he had possession. He shot it past the Columbus goalie who was also a little surprised to see the shot headed towards him.
Both Ilya Kovalchuk and Brian Rolston rang shots off the post, again aiding the team in getting consistent scoring chances, something the Devils must continue to push for. This was the first game since early February in which the Devils had a lead higher than two goals. These past few weeks not only are nerve wracking but also give the Devils a very small margin of error in a game should they make a small misstep and their opponents take full advantage of it.
Their margin for error for their remaining last ten games is extremely small – and while there is no magic number since the teams in front of the Devils are a large variable to this equation – many predict that they can only have a single loss. They currently sit seven points out of a playoff spot, only four points out of ninth place in the Eastern Conference standings.
The Devils will have a single day off and will continue their week-long road trip on Tuesday against the Boston Bruins.