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Game Recap

Kovalchuk scratched in Devils' loss to Sabres

Wednesday, 08.06.2014 / 4:46 AM

Eric Marin

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Kovalchuk scratched in Devils' loss to Sabres
Buffalo Sabres 6, New Jersey Devils 1

Hedberg was relieved by Brodeur in the second period.
The Devils didn’t have Ilya Kovalchuk in the lineup and couldn’t find a way to stop the struggling Sabres.

In a surprising move, Kovalchuk was a healthy scratch for Saturday’s 6-1 loss to visiting Buffalo. Ryan Miller made 26 saves and five different Sabres scored to keep the Devils winless (0-4-1) in five tries at Prudential Center.

Head coach John MacLean did not elaborate on the reasons for scratching the two-time 50-goal scorer.

“That’s between him and I,” MacLean said. “That was my decision.”

The coach later added that he had no regrets about the move.

“No, I take responsibility for all the decisions that I make, that’s including that decision, that’s including responsibility for games,” he said.

Even without Kovalchuk, Jamie Langenbrunner felt the players should have risen to the occasion. The Russian sniper is tied for the team scoring lead with five points (2g-3a).

"We have a lot of guys out of the lineup right now," said Langenbrunner. "That's never an excuse here, never will be. At the end of the day, we're all here to do a job. We didn't do it. We made way too many mistakes and didn't generate enough to play the way we want to play."

The Sabres (3-5-1) struck for four goals on their first 15 shots to chase Johan Hedberg in his Devils regular-season debut. Martin Brodeur relieved Hedberg midway through the second and finished with 12 saves.

Drew Stafford scored on Buffalo’s first shot of the game and Thomas Vanek tallied twice. Tyler Myers, Tyler Ennis, Patrick Kaleta also scored for the Sabres, who surpassed four goals for the first time this season.

"It felt good to start out," Hedberg said. "To let up that first one, that should not have gone in. I had to work my way back and it just didn’t happen. It’s extremely disappointing on my own. You have to let it go and come back to work tomorrow.”

Zach Parise notched New Jersey’s lone goal, while Dainius Zubrus registered an assist to extend his points streak to three games (1g-3a).

That’s between him and I. That was my decision. - John MacLean on scratching Ilya Kovalchuk
The Devils (2-5-1) will look to rebound Sunday when they take on the rival New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. MacLean said a decision on Kovalchuk's status will be made Sunday morning.

"We’ve got to play 60 minutes," David Clarkson said. "We have to play from the drop of that puck to the end of the game. We have spurts of periods where we dominate and we have spurts of periods where we’re not doing those little things like chipping the puck out, winning battles. That’s what we have to get back to: Devils hockey. That’s what we have to get back to playing."

Regardless of whether or not Kovalchuk plays at the Garden, Clarkson believes the Devils have their work cut out for them.

"We're all professionals, no matter who's in, who's out," he said. "We've got to go out there and still play our game. Kovy's obviously an unbelievable player and adds so much to this team, but we've got to go out there and still play better than we did tonight."

Stafford opened the scoring in the first, taking a pass from Ennis at the right circle for a wrister inside the left post at 6:57. Mike Grier set up Myers for a blast from the edge of the right circle at 16:33 to make it 2-0.

Ex-Devil Rob Niedermayer got his second assist of the night with a centering feed that Ennis redirected past Hedberg for a 3-0 lead at 3:10 of the second. Henrik Tallinder lost his edge on the play and turned the puck over to Grier who got it to Niedermayer.

It was 4-0 after Kaleta buried Jordan Leopold’s rebound to end Hedberg’s night at 8:17 of the second. Vanek was alone in front for a power-play tap-in and a five-goal lead at 18:12.

Parise's third of the year and second in as many games got the Devils on the board in the third. He banged in a Zubrus rebound to break up Miller's shutout bid at 11:25. Vanek cashed in on Matt Corrente's defensive zone turnover to close out the scoring 25 seconds later.

Pelley returned to the game wearing a full face shield.
Rod Pelley suffered a broken nose in the first period after he was hit in the face by a Jason Arnott slapshot. The Devils were trailing 5-0 in the third period by the time Pelley got back from Newark's University Hospital.

“I didn’t even know the score to be honest with you,” Pelley said. “I got back from the hospital, I just wanted to get back on the ice. I didn’t even know the score until I got back to the bench. Just wanted to get a couple more shifts in there.”

MacLean was impressed with Pelley’s gutsy return.

“Rod’s a character kid,” MacLean said. “He wanted to play and we welcome guys that want to come back and play after taking a puck in the face.”

• Kovalchuk’s absence paved the way for rookie Alexander Vasyunov to make his NHL debut. The 22-year-old was recalled from Albany (AHL) and recorded one hit in 10:30 of ice time.

"I think Vas worked hard," MacLean said. "It's tough when you lose a game like that, but he came up and he worked hard. That's all you can ask of a young kid."

• The Devils allowed three goals in the middle frame and have been outscored, 15-4, in second periods this season.

“It’s been an unfortunate coincidence,” MacLean said. “We haven’t played well in the second period. It’s something that we have to get better at.”

• New Jersey's last regular season win at home was a 2-1 decision over Buffalo in last year's season finale.

Hockey Fights Cancer
As part of Hockey Fights Cancer night at Prudential Center, Devils' Co-Owner Michael Gilfillan presented a check for $10,000 to the Newark Beth Israel Medical Center Foundation to go towards their cancer-related treatment and care.

scoring summary
1st Period
Drew Stafford (3) ASST: Tyler Ennis (5), Derek Roy (3)
1 - 0 BUF
Tyler Myers (2) ASST: Michael Grier (1), Rob Niedermayer (1)
2 - 0 BUF
2nd Period
Tyler Ennis (2) ASST: Rob Niedermayer (2), Michael Grier (2)
3 - 0 BUF
Patrick Kaleta (1) ASST: Jordan Leopold (3), Paul Gaustad (3)
4 - 0 BUF
PPG - Thomas Vanek (2) ASST: Derek Roy (4), Nathan Gerbe (1)
5 - 0 BUF
3rd Period
Zach Parise (3) ASST: Dainius Zubrus (4), Andy Greene (3)
5 - 1 BUF
Thomas Vanek (3) ASST: NONE
6 - 1 BUF
penalty summary
1st Period
Dainius Zubrus  Tripping against  Jordan Leopold
Cody McCormick  Holding against  Colin White
2nd Period
Dainius Zubrus  Hi stick - double minor against  Derek Roy
David Clarkson  Holding against  Rob Niedermayer
3rd Period
Paul Gaustad  Roughing against  Tim Sestito
Paul Gaustad  Cross checking against  David Clarkson
goalie stats
Ryan Miller
Ryan Miller
SA: 27TOI: 59:34
Saves: 26EV: 25 - 26
PIM: 0PP: 1 - 1
SV%: .963SH: 0 - 0
Johan Hedberg
Johan Hedberg
SA: 15TOI: 28:17
Saves: 11EV: 10 - 14
PIM: 0PP: 0 - 0
SV%: .733SH: 1 - 1
Martin Brodeur
Martin Brodeur
SA: 14TOI: 31:43
Saves: 12EV: 8 - 9
PIM: 0PP: 4 - 5
SV%: .857SH: 0 - 0
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