With two straight games against the high-powered Pennsylvania NHL teams, the Devils could have gotten buried deeper in the hole they had dug for themselves last week.
Instead, they pulled off a sweep, taking two important Metropolitan Division games from the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Philadelphia Flyers. Tonight’s game was a 3-0 win over the Flyers down in Philly.
Keith Kinkaid got the shutout win, his third shutout of the season (a career high) and the seventh of his career (tying him with Chris Terreri on the Devils all-time list). He made 29 saves on the night in getting the Devils back to NHL .500 at 8-8-1. He also got some help as the Flyers hit four posts in the game and Ben Lovejoy came to his aid to make a big defensive play late when Kinkaid decided he was going to try to shoot at an empty net. This was no doubt inspired by Marty Brodeur going into the Hockey Hall of Fame, as Kinkaid grew up a big Marty fan. Opposing him was Brian Elliott, who made 23 saves on 25 shots against before leaving with an injury that occurred on the Devils’ second goal of the game. Calvin Pickard came on in relief and stopped the single shot he faced in 5:29 on the ice.
Speaking of time on ice, the Devils did suffer an injury as well. That would be defenseman Sami Vatanen, who left early in the second period after he went into the boards hard just after being hit with a high stick by Ivan Provorov. Vatanen, of course, is a big minutes-eater for the Devils and his presence was missed. The Devils finished the game playing with just five d-men. There is no word from the team yet on what is wrong with him, but he was favoring his left knee as he went off.
The Devils were also missing Nico Hischier, who is day-to-day with an upper body injury. Brian Boyle has been placed on injured reserve and is eligible to return around Thanksgiving time. The Flyers were getting back Jersey-native James van Riemsdyk, who had been out injured since October 6, the Flyers’ second game of the season.
The first goal of the game featured a pair of firsts. Joey Anderson scored his first career goal off assists from Brett Seney – his first career NHL assist – and Blake Coleman. Coleman would factor into all three goals by the Devils. Anderson’s goal came when Vatanen created a turnover in the neutral zone and the forwards regrouped to stay onside. Coleman grabbed the puck and skated into the Flyers zone and passed to Seney on the right wing. Seney one-touch passed it to Anderson, who was trailing. He fired the one-timer past Elliott to make it 1-0 Devils.
Philly would seem to tie things with 11:13 to go in the first. They scored on the power play, but the goal was immediately waved off on the ice as a result of incidental contact between van Riemsdyk and Kinkaid. Flyers coach Dave Hakstol used his challenge to try to get it overturned, but replays showed that van Riemsdyk banged into Kinkaid’s catching glove and then his hip hit Kinkaid’s head. This kept Kinkaid from getting set and the call on the ice stood: no goal. It was still 1-0 Devils.
Anderson’s goal would prove to be the game winner as it remained 1-0 through two periods until the 13:52 mark of the third period. Kyle Palmieri scored from Coleman and Travis Zajac then to make it 2-0. This came when Coleman stood Philly up at the New Jersey blue line. The puck got to Zajac, who criss-crossed with Palmieri and passed to him at the Flyers’ goal line. He made a power move towards the net, but cut behind to try the wraparound. He stuffed it in the empty part of the net and the Devils had an insurance goal.
When Pickard was pulled with about 3:30 left in the game, Coleman would add an empty netter with an assist to Palmieri to complete his three point night. Coleman would not be named one of the game’s three stars, however, as Kinkaid was the first star, Elliott the second in a losing effort and Anderson the third.
On the power play, the Devils were 0-for-2 with three shots while Philly (whose special teams are a mess – their power play ranked 29th in the NHL and their penalty kill at 30th coming into tonight) was 0-for-4 with six shots. The Devils also had a lone shorthaned shot on Elliott.
Team-wise, the Devils won 45-percent of the game’s faceoffs. They did outhit the Flyers 32-27 and both teams had 14 blocked shots.
In Vatanen’s absence, Andy Greene took over the time on ice leadership, racking up 25:14 (including 6:31 on the PK). Zajac led all forwards with 19:36 (2:13 on the PP and 4:32 on the PK). Coleman led in shots on goal with five and Damon Severson (who left the game with less than two minutes left with Philly’s Wayne Simmonds, who got matching ten minute misconduct penalties) led the team with six hits. Blocked shots were led by Greene with four and Coleman and Anderson tied with two takeaways.
Next up, the Devils begin a busy weekend when they return home to take on the Detroit Red Wings at Prudential Center on Saturday. That game is a 1 PM puck drop and we, of course, will have it for you right here.