New Jersey Devils Rewind: March 6, 2011 vs. New York Islanders

By Steve Palumbo

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman’s deadline of September 15, is fast approaching with no labor deal in sight. There is no hiding the fact that an NHL lockout is looming larger than a zit on your nose on prom night. If the league does indeed lock its players out for the second time in eight seasons that means there will be no New Jersey Devils hockey anytime soon. Oh, the horror!

As if dealing with life after Parise isn’t cruel enough; Devils fans would be forced to wait longer to catch a glimpse at what else is in store for the Eastern Conference Champions in 2012-13. That in itself is a dark and depressing thought. That is precisely why I thought now would be a perfect time to take a look back of some of the Devils more memorable regular season games of the last couple of seasons.

Today we take a look back to March 6, 2011 and the Devils thrilling 3-2 shootout victory over the New York Islanders at the Coliseum.

This game stands out because it came at a time when New Jersey Devils seemed invincible. The win was the Devils 4th in a row and 20th in 24 games. New Jersey’s miraculous 20-2-2 run brought then to within a game of NHL .500 at 30-31-4 . The Devils hadn’t been 1 game below .500 since the 4th game of the year. The win also kep the Devils alive in the playoff chase. They moved to within eight points of the Buffalo Sabres for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East; something that had been unimaginable only weeks earlier.

Brian Rolston’s goal in the 6th round of the shootout iced the win for New Jersey. Rolston was heavily criticized during his second stint with the Devils because he failed to live up to the huge contact he was given. But, for one night at least, he was hero.

Rolston went deep into his bag of tricks to burn Islanders goaltender Al Montoya; beating the sprawling netminder with a move that even Pavel Datsyuk could be proud of.

The goal ended a long and intense shootout and preserved two more critical points for New Jersey. Here is the recap of the game.

Rolston opened the scoring early in the second period on the power play. Ilya Kovalchuk fed him for a slapper that Montoya didn’t see. The goal was Rolston’s 12th of the season.

Later in that same period Islanders forward Josh Bailey tied the game at 1-1. With Andy Greene off for a cross-checking penalty, Martin Brodeur made the initial save but a juicy rebound came to Bailey who buried it for his 10th of the year.

Kovalchuk put the Devils back in front at 2:52 of the third. He snapped a wrister through the 5-hole of Montoya giving New Jersey the 2-1 lead. After Kovalchuk’s goal, the surprisingly pro-Devils crowd at the Nassau Colisseum began chanting, “Kovy! Kovy!”

The game also featured Jacob Josefson earning his first NHL point with an assist on Kovalchuk’s goal.

The Devils couldn’t hold the lead, allowing Islanders forward Blake Comeau to tie the game at 2-2 with 3:42 left in regulation. Comeau snapped a loose puck past Brodeur for his 18th goal of the year to send the game to overtime.

With less then 10 seconds left in the extra period, Kovalchuk and Travis Zajac nearly ended the game on a 2 on 1. Fortunately for Rolston,  Kovalchuk’s shot sailed wide; setting the stage for Rolston in the shootout.

Brodeur stopped 20 shots for just his 16th win of the year.

At the time many hockey people believed the Devils were on the verge of the greatest turnaround in NHL history. In the end they fell short. Nevertheless, it was an amazing ride and paramount to creating a foundation for the players and coaching staff to build upon for the following season.

Tomorrow I will feature another game from this past season and I will continue to do so until the NHL and NHLPA work out a deal. Let’s hope I don’t have to do too many of these rewinds.

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