The Devils had no business getting two points on Thursday night. They hung Martin Brodeur out to dry. They gave up the first three goals of the game. They even blew a 4-3 lead by giving up a short-handed goal with 3.5 seconds left which sent the game into overtime.
But somehow, someway, none of that mattered. Because when Adam Henrique scored in the fourth round of the shootout and Johan Hedberg -- who relieved Brodeur after he was pulled by coach Peter DeBoer prior to the start of the second period -- made his final stop of the evening, the Devils earned themselves a dramatic, emotionally draining 5-4 victory at Prudential Center.
It was wacky. It was crazy. And -- like the NBA nixing the three-team blockbuster trade that would've jettisoned Chris Paul to the Lakers -- it made no sense.
But it was a win. And the best part is, wins don’t have to make sense.
“They don’t ask how,” DeBoer told reporters after the game. “They ask how many.”
The Devils coach deserves just as much credit as anyone on the ice for the result. His team probably doesn’t win if doesn't ream them in the locker room after the first period. He even made the game-saving decision to lift Brodeur in favor of Hedberg after the 39-year-old netminder allowed two goals in the opening frame. DeBoer put his team first at the expense of its future Hall of Fame goaltender and his team responded.
“We all had to be better,” DeBoer said. “It was a poor start and a coach only has so many ways to grab his team’s attention, and that’s one of them. [Marty] paid the price for the team there.”
“We gave up too many opportunities,” Zach Parise said. “We were sloppy. Sometimes you need a little wakeup call there. I guess it worked tonight.”
It worked because the Devils didn’t throw in the towel. They gave up their first power play goal of the season at home (after killing off 40 straight power plays), but rallied to score two short-handed goals (the first time they accomplished the feat since Feb. 6, 2009) to swing the momentum in their favor.
First, Parise ripped a one-timer to get them on the board in the second. Then Dainius Zubrus roofed a wrister on the breakaway in the third.
“We could’ve been blown out of the water,” DeBoer said. “But we found a way to scratch back in.”
Mattias Tedenby’s first of the season -- a goal that deflected off his uniform and into the net -- tied the game, and 37 seconds later, Ilya Kovalchuk’s snapper (his fourth goal in five games) made it 4-3 Devils.
At that point, the Devils seemed destined to win. But then something all-too-familiar happened: they allowed a last-second goal and gave up the lead. What made it worse was that it came short-handed.
And yet -- amid the confusion of playing 5-on-5 in overtime because of multiple penalty calls -- the Devils showed resolve and prevailed.
They improved to 6-1 in the shootout. Kovalchuk (4-for-5) missed for the first time this season, but Parise (6-for-7), Patrik Elias and Henrique (for the first time in his career) all scored during the skills competition.
Eight of the Devils’ 14 victories this season have come after regulation. Heart stoppers indeed.
Don’t ask how they did it. Just ask how many of them they have at the end of the season.
Good one, Peter.
• DeBoer said defenseman Anton Volchenkov hurt his hand during the game. He had the injury going into the matchup.