After their electrifying win last night, which saw Andy Greene score his third overtime goal, 11th game winning goal and first penalty shot goal, the Devils returned home from Buffalo having taken points in 10 of their first 13 games. They have won their last three games and a win tonight would give them their first four game winning streak since January of 2016. They were also looking to sweep both ends of a home-and-home series from the Sabres. They would accomplish just that with a 4-2 win at Prudential Center tonight.
Lineup news as Michael Cammalleri was still out with what is being called a “personal matter.” The team is not sure if he will be out long or short term. Devante Smith-Pelly once again took his spot in the lineup. Also scratched for New Jersey was Reid Boucher.
For Buffalo, they continue to look like the walking wounded. They lost Ryan O’Reilly to injury in the second period of last night’s game and he did not play tonight. Sam Reinhart took his spot on the active roster. Also sitting out for the Sabres was Zach Bogosian and Dmitry Kulikov.
With the backups going last night, tonight saw a more premier matchup between the number one goalies for both teams. Cory Schneider was up for the Devils, making 21 saves on 23 Buffalo shots. Between the pipes for the Sabres was Robin Lehner. He made 23 saves and faced a total of 27 Devils shots.
The Devils did Military Appreciation Night tonight, with more than 300 active and retired military in attendance at the Prudential Center. Tonight also saw the debut of Kyle Palmieri’s “Squad21” initiative. The Devils warmed up in their camo jerseys as well, which are now being auctioned off for charity at NewJerseyDevils.com.
Kyle Quincey got the scoring off, netting his first goal as a Devil at 4:01 of the first period. It came when Damon Severson retrieved the puck out of the near corner in the Sabres zone and passed it to Quincey. He fired it on net, beating Lehner to give the Devils a quick 1-0 lead. Adam Henrique had the other assist on the goal. With that goal, the last three Devils goals to that point had come from defensemen (Yohann Auvitu, Andy Greene and Quincey).
Things would stay 1-0 until early in the second when Marcus Foligno netted his third goal of the season at 3:41 of the middle frame. Former Devil Brian Gionta had the lone assist. The already depleted Sabres had an injury scare in the first period, as Derek Grant had gone off, seemingly injured – the Sabres losing another centerman – but he returned in the second period.
The Devils would not be so lucky with Sergey Kalinin. He blocked a shot off of his foot in the third period and did not return for the end of the period.
The game remained tied until 6:11 of the second period, when Nick Lappin notched his second career NHL goal to give the Devils the lead again. Taylor Hall broke in on the forecheck, grabbing the puck and sending a beautiful saucer pass across to Lappin, who was cutting in behind the defense. He made a pinpoint shot to beat Lehner and make it 2-1 Devils.
Before the second period was out, the Devils would have a 3-1 lead. At 11:17 of that period, Damon Severson skated the puck up the left wing, with Adam Henrique going to the net as a screen. Severson gave the puck to Kyle Palmieri along the right side and he fired, scoring to give the Devils the two goal cushion. Andy Greene had the other assist, giving him a two game point-scoring streak. This was, of course, a special goal for Palmieri. Not only was “Squad21” in attendance along with the hundreds of other military folks, but it also broke his personal goal drought.
But it was not without some degree of controversy. Buffalo coach Dan Bylsma decided to use his coach’s challenge to see if Palmieri entered the zone before the puck carrier, Severson, making him offside. The linesmen reviewed the replay, which showed he was not. The call on the ice stood and it was a good goal.
In the third period, the Devils added another insurance goal at 6:32 when Taylor Hall gave the puck to Henrique in the neutral zone. Henrique skated up the right wing boards, feeding John Moore with a nice pass that he used to slide the puck through Lehner’s five hole. This goal came four-on-four as Evander Kane of Buffalo had gone off for hooking and Severson of the Devils was off for cross-checking. The Devils would soon go on the power play when Nicholas Baptiste was called for tripping PA Parenteau right after the Moore goal.
Overall, it was another lackluster night for the Devils with the man advantage; they went 0-for-5 on the power play while the Sabres, the ninth ranked power play as a team in the NHL coming into tonight, went 0-for-1.
Buffalo would make things a little bit more interesting when Matt Moulson scored his first even strength goal of the year (his five others were power play goals) with assists to Grant and Cody Franson. That made it 4-2 Devils, which was the final score. The Devils ended the game on the power play when Foligno was called for high-sticking Ben Lovejoy at 18:08 of the third.
Power play weakness aside, it was a good night for the Devils overall. A few New Jersey players had multi-point nights: Severson had two assists; Hall had two assists, as did Henrique. They had a better second period, an issue that has plagued them this year so far. But they are on a roll.
And they will need to continue to stay on a roll. Next up is a western road trip that will take them to Dallas on Tuesday to play the Stars, Anaheim on Thursday, Los Angeles on Saturday and San Jose a week from this coming Monday.
A western swing is always difficult for any team, the Devils being no exception. New Jersey will likely try to use this Texas and California road trip as a building block in trying to remain competitive.