Friday, December 23, 2005

Devils Powerless Against Thrashers

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ- Once again, the power play didn't come through for the Devils. Given eight opportunities including a four minute double minor near the end of the second period, the Devils couldn't score the goal that might have turned around a 1-0 shutout loss to Atlanta (15-16-5) at the Continental Airlines Arena Friday night. Rookie Michael Garnett baffled them all night long, making 29 saves to record his first NHL shutout.

A frustrated crowd booed them throughout as New Jersey misfired time and time again against an opponent who has been a thorn in their side this season. Atlanta improved to 3-0-0 against the Devils with New Jersey's only point coming in a 3-2 OT loss last Thursday.

"We had our chances," said Sergei Brylin. "It was one of those games but one shot was the difference. [Garnett] played well. Looks like they got our number this year."

"I couldn't ask for a better effort," Coach/GM Lou Lamoriello said. "The attitude is good. But we didn't get anything out of our power play and that has been the Achilles' heel lately.

"I have no answers at this point why we're not scoring. We have our chances. They're just not going in."

"We seem to be more on the perimeter right now," pointed out Martin Brodeur. "We need to have a lot of traffic to score goals and right now, we're on the outside."

The Devils generated several scoring chances which produced two close calls in the first- including reviews of a Brian Gionta backhand which was on the goal line and a Brylin redirect which Gomez nearly stuffed home at the end of the first. Unfortunately for New Jersey, the hockey gods weren't on their side.

"It just wouldn't drop," a frustrated John Madden said. "It's just the way things go sometimes. As far as the team's effort, it was there. I thought we played well defensively. I thought Marty played great and I think when this team starts scoring goals, we'll be right there."

Despite controlling play in the opening period which they outshot Atlanta 14-8, the Devils had nothing to show for it. Having failed on their first four man-advantages to take the lead, they saw Atlanta score on a PPG when Marian Hossa redirected a Niclas Havelid shot past Brodeur at 9:03 of the second. Ex-Devil Bobby Holik added an assist.

After killing off a Zach Parise hooking minor, the Devs would get their best chance to tie it when Marc Savard was whistled for hooking and unsportsmanlike conduct with 4:36 left. But much to the dismay of the paying customers, they got little done.

Remarkably, the Thrashers were quicker to the puck for most of the third period. If not for some stellar goaltending from Brodeur, the margin could have been worse. Atlanta outshot the Devils 8-5- keeping them in check.

Madden was setup by Jamie Langenbrunner in the slot but Garnett gloved his one-timer labeled for the top corner with 3:21 remaining to preserve the shutout.

After winning their first game over the Rangers under Lamoriello, it was the Devils' second consecutive loss.

Brodeur finished with 22 saves.

Notes: Thrasher left wing Ilya Kovalchuk sat out due to a one-game suspension for tossing his stick into the stands in a 6-5 shootout loss against Washington Thursday night. ... Forty-one year-old defenseman Tommy Albelin made his season debut for New Jersey, taking 17 shifts (11:09). "It was nice to be back. It means everything," said Albelin. ... Seven defensemen dressed while 11 forwards played. ... Devils (15-15-5) have three days off including Christmas before returning to action at Toronto (18-14-3) Monday night.

Five Devils Tabbed For Olympics: Five Devils will take part in the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy next February. Martin Brodeur will try to backstop Canada to another gold medal. The trio of Brian Gionta, Scott Gomez and Brian Rafalski will participate for Team USA. Viktor Kozlov is the lone Russian representative. Each received a nice ovation from the crowd Friday when announced during a break with Brodeur getting the loudest reception.

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