All-Star Game Features Many Thrills, Records

The NHL All-Star Game last Sunday, January 25 from the Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio was not kind to the goaltenders, that is for sure.

In the end, the game featured a total of 29 goals, with the final score being Team Toews 17 and Team Foligno 12. The teams, with the visitors captained by Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks and coached by Peter Laviolette of the Nashville Predators and Nick Foligno of the host Columbus Blue Jackets captaining the home team, who were coached by Darryl Sutter of the Los Angeles Kings, broke the NHL record for combined goals in an All-Star Game.

Before that, though, there was the NHL Skills Competition on Saturday, in which the Devils’ Patrik Elias (the only representative from New Jersey) competed in the shot accuracy contest as a passer for Team Toews, to which he had been drafted in the 12th round in the All-Star Draft the night before. Patrick Kane of the Blackhawks and Team Foligno took the crown in that competition. Other events from the Skills Competition included: Fastest Skater (won by Jonathan Drouin of the Tampa Bay Lightning), the Breakaway Challenge (won by Ryan Johansen of the Blue Jackets), the Skills Challenge Relay (Team Foligno won the first relay, Team Toews the second), the Hardest Shot Competition (won by Shea Weber of the Nashville Predators) and the Shootout (won by Team Foligno). Team Foligno won the overall competition by a score of 25 to 19. These festivities led into the 60th NHL All-Star Game played on Sunday.

And what a game it was if you are a fan of goals. Goalies everywhere were cringing as Radim Vrbata of the Vancouver Canucks and Team Foligno got things underway, scoring on a breakaway at 3:09 of the first. Ryan Getzlaf of the Anaheim Ducks and Team Toews evened things up at 6:33. Jakub Voracek of the Flyers gave Team Toews the lead on the first of his hat trick at 9:51. Other scoring in the first saw hometown heroes Johansen and Foligno team up along with Kevin Shattenkirk of the St. Louis Blues to tie things up at 11:05. Things went back-and-forth again as Patrice Bergeron of Boston Bruins gave Team Toews the lead again (former Bruin and current Dallas Star-Tyler Seguin and Elias got the assists) at 12:17. Shattenkirk tied things up again for Team Foligno at 14:48 and Johansen gave Foligno’s team the lead at 16:24. At 19:03, right before the intermission, however, John Tavares of the Islanders tied the game back up for Team Toews. The goalies for the first period were the Florida Panthers’ Roberto Luongo for Team Toews and Brian Elliott of the Blues (who was subbing for injured Sergei Bobrovsky) for Team Foligno.

The second period scoring started off right away at 0:24 into the second stanza when Ryan Suter of the Minnesota Wild scored for Team Toews. Less than 20 seconds later, Claude Giroux of the Flyers got one back for Team Foligno. Toews’ team tied things again when Seguin scored at 1:22. Steven Stamkos of the Lightning connected from the Blackhawks’ Duncan Keith to move Team Foligno ahead at 2:27. At 4:08, Rick Nash of the Rangers scored for Team Toews. Patrik Elias picked up his second assist when he got the secondary on Filip Forsberg (of the Predators – subbing for Evgeni Malkin who was hurt) goal at 5:56. New Jersey native and NHL rookie Johnny Gaudreau of the Calgary Flames got the primary assist on that goal. Gaudreau was a replacement in the game for the injured Sidney Crosby who could not participate. At 8:16 Tavares scored for Team Toews and at 9:22, Voracek got his second also for Team Toews. Nick Foligno helped his own team’s cause by scoring at 11:59 with Johansen and the Caps’ Alex Ovechkin assisting. Stamkos got his second of the game at 16:35 on an assist from New Jersey native Bobby Ryan of the Ottawa Senators. Tavares got his hat trick to finish out the scoring at 19:00 of the second on an assist from Bergeron (his third assist of the night). The unfortunate goalies for the second period were: the Islanders’ Jaroslav Halak (Team Toews) and the Penguins’ Marc-Andre Fleury (Team Foligno). Halak was a sub for the injured Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators and Fleury was a sub for the injured Jimmy Howard of the Detroit Red Wings.

The third period scoring got underway when Nash scored at 1:29 for Team Toews. Goal 21 of the night came at 2:15 when Kane scored from Giroux and the Kings’ Drew Doughty. Tavares got his fourth of the night at 6:13 as Bergeron got his fourth assist (the primary) and Brent Seabrook of the Blackhawks had the secondary. At 7:30, Voracek got his hat trick and Jonathan Toews had his fourth assist along with Aaron Ekblad of the Panthers (who also netted his fourth assist of the game on that goal). Ekblad was subbing for Erik Johnson of the Colorado Avalanche who was out with a lower-body injury. The next milestone came at the 8:23 marker when Ryan scored. Seguin got his second at 9:26 off assists from Vladimir Tarasenko of the Blues (his fourth of the game) and Shea Weber. Kane scored again at 13:09. While his Blackhawks teammate (but opponent on this night) Toews scored his first goal of the game at 14:21. Forsberg scored for Team Toews at 16:40 as Gaudreau got his second assist of the night and Voracek got his third assist and sixth point on the night. Brent Burns of the San Jose Sharks rounded up the crazy night when he scored at 18:20. Ovechkin had his third assist on this goal while Johansen had his second. Netminders for the third period were Corey Crawford of the Blackhawks (Team Toews) and Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens (Team Foligno).

On the night, Team Toews’ Crawford got the win in goal, while Team Foligno’s Fleury took the loss. Columbus Blue Jacket and Team Foligno member Ryan Johansen with four points (two goals and two assists) was named All-Star Game Most Valuable Player in online voting by the fans.

Overall, nine offensive records were set in this game including: most goals by a team (Team Toews, 17), most goals, combined, in a single period (11), most goals in a single period by one team (Team Toews, 7), most goals by a player (John Tavares’ four – tying him with Wayne Gretzky (1983), Mario Lemieux (1990), Vincent Damphousse (1993), Mike Gartner (1991) and Dany Heatley (2003)) and most points by one player (Jakub Voracek’s 6 – tying him with Mario Lemieux). Every skater on Toews’ team got on the scoresheet at least once. If you love goals, this game had it in bunches, as it was not a tight checking defensive struggle. But it was entertaining and that, after all, is what an All-Star Game should be.

Devils Forge Successful California Trip

The Devils have had a rough season so far. Having played the most road games in the NHL at this point in the season, the team has not had a lot of time at home. That continued as the Devils spent the last week on a California road trip, hitting Los Angeles, Anaheim and San Jose. In the end, the trip was a success for the Devils, having taken two of three games, and they head into the All-Star break on a high note.

On Wednesday, January 14, the Devils visited the home of their opponents in the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals and this year’s defending Cup champs, the Los Angeles Kings. The Devils opened the scoring at the Staples Center when Steve Bernier scored on the power play with about 54 seconds left in the first period with assists to Mike Cammalleri and Scott Gomez. Early in the second, Dustin Brown got the Kings on the board to tie things with assists to Drew Doughty and Brayden McNabb. But about nine minutes later, Bernier would again strike on the power play (with assists to Gomez and Jon Merrill) to break the tie and from there, the Devils never looked back. At 9:20, Martin Havlat scored his fourth of the year from Devils 2015 All-Star representative Patrik Elias and Travis Zajac to make it 3-1. Mike Cammalleri scored at 10:05 (assists to Michael Ryder and Dainius Zubrus) to make it 4-1. Ryder then scored the Devils fourth straight unanswered goal exactly seven minutes later at 17:05 with assists to Andy Greene and Adam Larsson. The Kings made things interesting in the third when Marian Gaborik scored at 7:16 (from McNabb and Justin Williams) and Justin Williams scored at 19:02 (from Mike Richards) to finish out the scoring. The Devils won the game 5-3. Mark Fraser fought Jordan Nolan shortly after the Devils took the lead in the first to provide an extra spark to the team. On the strength of two power play goals by Steve Bernier, the Devils had dethroned the struggling Kings.

The Devils next traveled to Orange County to take on the league-leading Anaheim Ducks at the Honda Center on Friday, January 16. This game was a major letdown for the team and fans after the complete game played in LA two nights before. It was the second straight game in which the Devils faced an opponent that they had previously squared off with in the Stanley Cup Finals, this time rekindling the battle from 2003. Corey Perry got things started at 4:09 of the first period with assists to Cam Fowler and Patrick Maroon, which game the Ducks a 1-0 lead. The Devils would respond at 15:12, tying the game on a power play goal from Martin Havlat (assists to Elias and Marek Zidlicky) as the three Czechs combined to even the score. Unfortunately, that was it for the Devils that night. The Ducks took the lead at 3:16 of the second when Hampus Lindholm put one past Keith Kinkaid (who had come in to the game in the second after Cory Schneider took a shot to the mask that shook him up prior to the first goal of the game – the team held him out due to concussion precautions) on assists from Matt Beleskey and Rickard Rakell. That would go on to be the game winner, as the Devils never scored again. Anaheim scored three more unanswered from Jakob Silfverberg, Maroon and a power play goal from Silfverberg. The Devils limped out of Anaheim with a 5-1 loss. Another fight took place between Tim Sestito and Beleskey in the third, but failed to spark a Devils comeback.

On Monday, January 19, the Devils traveled to Northern California to take on the San Jose Sharks, who had spoiled the Devils opening night in October at Prudential Center, at the SAP Center. Would the team bounce back after the Anaheim blowout, or would they regain the form they showed in Los Angeles? Things looked pretty bad early on as prolific scoring Joe Pavelski notched his 23rd (off an assist from Joe Thornton) against the returning Schneider to make it 1-0 San Jose. The Devils would respond at 15:29 as Jordin Tootoo, who has been doing everything for the Devils lately, scored his fourth of the season from Sestito and the returning-from-illness Jacob Josefson, who was playing in his first game since right after Christmas. Steve Bernier would score another one (his third of the road trip) from Gomez late in the period to make it 2-1 Devils going into the first intermission. At 4:00 into the second, it seemed like the Sharks were back in it, as Matt Nieto scored (assists to Tyler Kennedy and Tomas Hertl) to tie the game at 2. Roughly ten minutes later, Cammalleri broke the tie with a power play goal from Adam Henrique and Gomez (who had a quietly good road trip). That ended up as the game winner, as the third period was all Devils. After killing off a 5-on-3 power play, Travis Zajac scored at 11:10 from Larsson and former Shark, Havlat. The scoring was rounded out as Josefson scored a short-handed goal at 14:32 while Zidlicky was serving a high sticking penalty (assists to Henrique and Merrill). The Devils had gotten out of San Jose (a notoriously tough building to play in – especially for the Devils, who had not won there since 2010) with a 5-2 win.

The Devils now enter the All-Star break with eight days off (the longest time off in the Eastern Conference, second in the NHL only to St. Louis). Some questions linger, though: will they build off of the positivity of the California trip to continue the momentum? Or will the eight days of inactivity hurt them? Patrik Elias, as noted, is their only team member going to Columbus, so the rest of the team will be off for more than a full week. How will this help or hurt the Devils chances at making a run for the playoffs? Their penalty kill has come back to meet Devil-like standards and their power play has been pretty consistent, if only ranked middle of the pack, so the special teams have really clicked for this team. Schneider (who was brilliant in the San Jose game), has been doing his job in goal, but needs goal support, which he does not always receive. Time will tell as the Devils head out of the All-Star break if this team can get hot and make a miracle run for the playoffs.