"Marty was great. It was unbelievable. One of the best games I've seen him play. We gave up shots, but we kept them on the perimeter, letting Marty see the shots. He made some really timely saves. He made two great saves on (Chad) LaRose, one on a breakaway and one from right in front. It was the best I've seen him play in the short time I've been here."
-- Zach Parise
The Devils' 1-0 victory against the Carolina Hurricanes
in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series Thursday had it all. Back and forth action. Great goaltending. More drama than your average "Law & Order" marathon.
But is it possible for someone playing in such an exciting game to appreciate it while in the moment?
"It was unbelievable," said Devils forward Zach Parise
, who is one of three nominees for this season's Lady Byng Trophy, given to the player who best couples gentlemanly conduct on the ice with a high level of skill. "People might look at the box score and see a 1-0 game and think, 'There's another Devils game for you.' "
It was far from it.
Despite the final score, there was plenty of offense on display from both teams. The Hurricanes poured 44 shots on Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur
, who tied Patrick Roy
on the NHL's all-time playoff shutout list with the 23rd of his career. The Devils were no slouches either, peppering Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward
with 42 shots. Only David Clarkson
's redirection of an Andy Greene
slap shot in the second period found the back of the net, giving the Devils a 3-2 series lead heading into Sunday's monumental Game 6.
They say a gentleman never tells, but Parise was quick to say how great the goaltenders were Thursday.
"Marty was great. It was unbelievable. One of the best games I've seen him play," Parise said. "We gave up shots, but we kept them on the perimeter, letting Marty see the shots. He made some really timely saves. He made two great saves on (Chad) LaRose, one on a breakaway and one from right in front. It was the best I've seen him play in the short time I've been here.
"Ward made some great saves too. They were tough to beat."
This classic contest came on the heels of one of the most heartbreaking losses a team can suffer that doesn't end its season. The 'Canes prevailed in Game 4 on a goal with :00.2 seconds left in regulation by Jussi Jokinen
. Not only did the Devils storm back from down 3-0 in the game to tie it, only to lose it in gut-wrenching fashion, but Brodeur was furious after the game, feeling that there should've been an interference call on Jokinen before the goal.
With the series now tied 2-2 heading back to New Jersey for Thursday's Game 5, it would've been easy for the Devils to unravel. Even the Devils' 2-1 loss in Game 2 was a rough one, as they fell in overtime after losing Jamie Langebrunner to a lower-body injury earlier in the game. But the Devils have continually bounced back during this series.
"Whether we lost with :00.2 seconds left or 10 minutes left, a loss is a loss," Parise said. "They have been tough losses. It's as if every game could've gone either way. Our experience and veteran leadership has come into play. Guys have been in this situation before and they can show the way for a young guy. That's been big."
Another thing that has been big for New Jersey in this evenly matched series has been the team's depth. Langebrunner has missed the past three games, and defenseman Bryce Salvador
was forced to sit out Game 5 with a lower-body injury suffered in Game 4. But with Brian Rolston
placed on the Devils' top line and Greene filling in along the blue line, New Jersey hasn't missed a beat.
"Me and (Travis) Zajac and Jamie had a lot of chemistry and we played well all season," said Parise, who along with Zajac and Langenbrunner combined for 94 goals and 131 assists in the regular season. "But playing with Rolly's been great. It just shows our depth, how anyone can step in play.
Greene wasn't too shabby either in his first appearance in this year's playoffs, getting the primary assist on Clarkson's winner in Game 5.
"(Greene) played real well. No one was surprised," Parise said. "He was making great breakout passes. It seemed like he had 10 shots on goal during the game. He was one of our best players on the ice."
There could be more excitement on tap for Sunday's Game 6. Despite the wild west shootout that was Game 5, Parise doesn't expect too much to change. With both teams seemingly at the top of their games, why would they mess with a good thing?
"It's been a great series. I don't think either team wants to change too much," Parise said. "Maybe there're some adjustments, like maybe our power play needs to be better. But both teams are playing so well that I don't think anyone wants to change much."
The 24-year-old Parise seems to have all the answers. With 5 points in 5 games during this young playoff season, he's showing he's ready to emerge as a big-time player in the League. But even Parise, while obviously flattered, was at a loss to explain why he was bestowed the honor of Lady Byng consideration.
"Lack of penalty minutes?" Parise said with a laugh. "I'm polite to referees."
The Hurricanes are hoping to avoid a gentlemanly handshake following Game 6.