Devils Battle, But Lose to Stars 5-4

The Devils battled back from two two-goal deficits only to give up a goal late and fall to the Stars 5-4 in Dallas. The Devils were looking for a fourth straight win for the first time since the beginning of the season, but were denied thanks to two goals each from Miro Heiskanen and Tyler Seguin.

It has been an eventful week so far in Dallas, one that began with their CEO publicly and profanely calling out the Stars’ two best players, Seguin and Jamie Benn, and ending with the announcement that the city would host the 2020 Winter Classic at the Cotton Bowl.

In Devils news, Taylor Hall was placed on injured reserve retroactive to December 23 as per Amanda Stein on Twitter. Because it is retroactive to December 23, Hall can be brought back at any time, he did not, however, make the trip with the team to Dallas. Blake Pietila and Egor Yakovlev were recalled from Binghamton of the AHL. They were both healthy scratches joining Mirco Mueller.

Hall was also named the Devils’ representative to the 2019 NHL All-Star Game at San Jose later this month. Kyle Palmieri was also named a potential injury replacement as per Steve Cangialosi on Twitter. Congratulations to both of them on this well earned honor.

Between the pipes, the Devils went back to Mackenzie Blackwood for their first game of 2019. Blackwood was under siege most of the night from Dallas, stopping 35 of 40 shots on him. Facing him was Ben Bishop, someone who the Devils have had some trouble with of late. He stopped 30 of the 34 shots thrown his way.

Kyle Palmieri scored the Devils’ first goal of the new year just 3:41 into the first, his 20th of the season and also his 100th in a New Jersey Devils uniform. It came after Travis Zajac was able to hold the blue line for the Devils, get the puck to Andy Greene, who made a nifty pass to Palmieri. Palmieri then tipped the pass into the Dallas net to make it 1-0. Unfortunately for the Devils, they would lose Greene to injury later in the game.

At the 12:31 mark, Benn responded for the Stars as he scored off a pass from Alexander Radulov, who had gone wide around the net while shielding the puck and passing to Benn in the slot. Benn scored and ended Blackwood’s shutout streak at 135:26, tying the game at one. Benn, too, would be lost for the game for Dallas after taking a hit from Miles Wood in the second period. John Klingberg had the secondary assist on his goal.

That hit came at 2:05 of the second when Wood would draw a five minute major for interference against Benn. The teams would play 4-on-4 as Esa Lindell and Stefan Noesen were off for roughing and John Klingberg of the Stars was called for cross checking. Once those three minor penalties ended, Dallas would be on a three minute power play (the Wood call).

At the 3:21 mark of the second period, while 4-on-4, Miro Heiskanen used a head fake and a deke to skate around Blackwood to make it 2-1 Stars. He got assists from Tyler Pitlick and Roman Polak.

By 6:38, the minors had expired and the Wood power play kicked in. With Dallas up 5-on-4, Tyler Seguin sniped one by Blackwood from Radulov and Klingberg. That goal made it 3-1 Stars.

On the power play for the night, the Devils ended up 1-for-4 with nine shots. Dallas was 1-for-3 with six shots as well as two shorthanded shots.

The Devils were down by two but the comeback was on once Jesper Bratt grabbed a loose puck off the rebound of a Nico Hischier breakaway at 11:08 of the second. The puck was on end and Bratt was able to shoot it by Bishop to cut the lead to 3-2 Stars.

But the Stars would grab back the two goal lead when Seguin scored his second of the game at 12:24 from Radulov and Valeri Nichushkin. Seguin was able to roof a pass from Radulov by Blackwood to make it 4-2 Dallas.

The Devils looked down and out, but this recent three game winning streak has really energized the team and has them more confident than ever and it showed. Drew Stafford made it 4-3 when he broke in on a 2-on-1 with Brett Seney and went to a backhand-forehand move to beat Bishop. Will Butcher had the secondary assist on the goal that made it 4-3 at 17:21.

And amazingly, the Devils would tie things before the end of the second period. It came when the Devils were on the power play due to Heiskanen going off for a holding call against Bratt at 18:09. With the Devils on the man advantage, Brian Boyle redirected a Butcher shot from the point to tie the game at four. Zajac had the other assist and the game was knotted going into the second intermission.

But the game winner would come just 6:27 into the third period when Heiskanen scored his ninth of the year and second of the game from Roope Hintz to give us our final of 5-4. That goal came on just as a delayed penalty was about to be called on the Devils.

New Jersey would pull Blackwood with about 1:30 remaining in regulation but were stopped again and again by the Stars. The final horn sounded and the Stars had won, with Heiskanen being named the first star, Seguin the second and Radulov, who had three assists, the third.

Final team stats saw the Devils outshot 40 to 34 (at one point, the Devils went 22:46 without a shot on goal in this game), the Devils win 46-percent of the game’s faceoffs, the Devils out hit the Stars 31-23, and out block Dallas, 17-14. Dallas had more giveaways at 13 to the Devils’ 11.

individually, Sami Vatanen led all skaters with 23:17 of ice time (including 2:12 of PP time and 27 seconds of PK time) while Zajac led the forwards with 21:08 (4:12 of PP/1:49 of PK). Zajac and Boyle co-led in shots with five apiece, Blake Coleman, back in his old stomping grounds, led in hits with seven. Zajac led in blocked shots with five and Nico Hischier led in takeaways with two.

Next up, the Devils will travel to the desert to take on the Arizona Coyotes in the two team’s first meeting of the year. That game is at 9 PM eastern and we will have all of the coverage for you right here.

Devils Dump Dallas to Remain Unbeaten Through Four Games

The Devils have not started a season 4-0 in 23 years. They have done so three times in team history with the most recent being the 1995-96 iteration of the club. Tonight, the 2018-19 team joined that select group, winning their fourth straight to begin the season by blanking the Dallas Stars 3-0.

The Devils had an injury scare in their last game against San Jose when Nico Hischier blocked a shot and then left yesterday’s practice with a sore ankle. He would play today, but the Devils would end up seeing another player go down in tonight’s game. Will Butcher (who played for Dallas coach Jim Montgomery at the University of Denver, winning a national championship with him) was hit late in the game by Roman Polak of the Stars and left with what appeared to be a shoulder injury. He would not return, but hopefully he is okay, as he is a big part of the Devils’ power play.

And the power play would play a big role in the night. Coming into the game, the Stars were ranked second in the NHL on the man advantage while their penalty kill came in tied at 20th, clicking at a 75-percent rate. That is not good and, in fact the Devils would go 1-for-6 on power play for the night with nine shots. Dallas would go 0-for-3 with the Devils holding one of the league’s better power play units to just three shots. The Devils added a wrinkle to their own power play second unit by swapping Jean-Sebastien Dea in for Damon Severson.

The Stars were playing the backend of a back-to-back, they lost at Ottawa last night and came in looking to atone for that. The Devils had not lost to the Stars in regulation on home ice since 2000. That is a streak that predates the Prudential Center, obviously going back to the Meadowlands.

The healthy scratches for the Devils were Eric Gryba, Steven Santini and Drew Stafford as the Devils went with the exact same lineup they have had for the first three games of the season.

In nets, Keith Kinkaid was again the man for the Devils. He stopped all 24 shots he faced in notching his second shutout of the young season. He only had one all of last year. He also tied Alain Chevrier on the Devils all-time wins list with 56. He was especially good late, preserving the shutout while Dallas was trying to tie the game. He took a lot of shorthanded shots since Dallas would pretty much end the game on the PK. For the Stars, Anton Khudobin went, stopping 31 of 34 Devils shots.

The Devils kicked off the scoring on the power play at 3:42 of the first. Dallas’ Connor Carrick had gone off for cross checking at 2:41 and the Devils would make the most of it. And who else would get the scoring going than none other than Kyle Palmieri? The puck was wound around the boards to Butcher at the near point. He walked the blue line and dished off to Palmieri at the top of the far faceoff circle. He unleashed a one-timer that beat Khudobin stick-side to give the Devils the 1-0 lead early. Taylor Hall had the secondary assist on the goal.

WIth that goal, Kyle Palmieri became the first player in NHL history to score his team’s first goal of the game for the first four games of the season. An obscure stat to be sure, but a very cool one nonetheless, thinking of some of the many greats who have played in the NHL over the 101 seasons.

A strange thing occurred in the first period when the Devils were on the power play with Julius Honka off for cross checking at 6:01. During that time, at 7:09, Jamie Benn was assessed a delayed penalty for holding. The Devils were set to go on a 5-on-3 power play and were controlling the puck. Because of this, Hall decided to deliberately shoot the puck into the Devils’ bench to get a whistle and start the 5-on-3. The officials decided that this was too blatant and called delay of game on Hall, evening things up once Honka got out of the box. A 5-on-3 power play that would have lasted for 52 seconds was shortened to a conventional power play. You cannot really blame Hall here as you could understand what he was trying to do and there was no harm, no foul since Dallas did not score.

The rest of the Devils’ scoring came in the second period. Blake Coleman made it 2-0 at 2:03 of the second frame when the Devils hard forechecking led to Severson keeping the puck in the Dallas zone at the blue line. He gave to Coleman, who gathered the puck and snapped one by Khudobin to double the Devils’ lead. Coleman, of Plano, Texas, now has three goals in four career games against his hometown team.

New Jersey would then go up 3-0 on a weird play. As Khudobin swung his stick around on a play behind the Stars’ net, he broke it on the side of the goal. He dropped it and motioned to his bench that he needed a new one. At 16:19, Dea grabbed the puck from a turnover by Dallas just outside their blue line. He skated it up the left wing boards and fired, beating Khudobin (who was still without a stick) to make it 3-0. Khudobin could have actually played with the broken stick – something that would be a penalty for a skater but not for a goalie – except that it broke just above the paddle at the bottom of the shaft and was completely unusable. Dea now has three goals in four games as a Devil, this one coming unassisted.

The third period would see a good fight between Benn and Miles Wood at the 2:28 mark. It was a spirited affair that ended in a draw.

But penalty troubles would continue for the Stars, as Roope Hintz took a high sticking call with 2:17 remaining. This would keep Montgomery from using a tactic he likes, pulling the goalie early to overcome – in this case – a three goal deficit. Dallas would try shorthanded to get one by Kinkaid. The Stars ended the night with five shorthanded shots on net.

But this was Kinkaid’s night as the final horn sounded and he got the shutout. Statistically, the Devils outhit the Stars 15-13 and both teams ended with an equal seven blocked shots. The Devils led the league in three main categories coming into tonight: goal differential, goals against and team faceoff percentage. They improved on two of those by not giving up a goal, but lost in the faceoff circle 44-percent to 56-percent. They also came in second in goals for.

Individually, Sami Vatanen led the team with 25:10 of total ice time (including 4:41 on the power play and 2:35 on the PK). Travis Zajac led all forwards with 21:15 total TOI (seven minutes on the PP/3:59 on the PK). Shots on goal were led by Palmieri with four and he also led in hits with four. Vatanen led in blocks with two and Hischier led in takeaways with three.

Overall a good night for the Devils. Next up, another Western Conference team comes to town as the Colorado Avalanche visit The Rock on Thursday. I will be attending this game live, so my post will be up a little later than usual, but we will hopefully see you then.

Devils Fall to Stars; Now Winless in Four

While the East Coast was busy digging out of a massive snow storm, the Devils were in Dallas and could not hold off the Stars, losing 4-3, leaving them winless in the last four.

They have gotten two points out of those four games, but this certainly is not the result they wanted. And while they could certainly blame the officials in the first three games and have quite an argument, tonight the Devils made some mental lapses that hurt them on their own.

As mentioned, the East Coast was hit by a massive winter storm that resulted in the Bruins-Panthers game in Boston being postponed. But the Devils were in action down in Texas.

And Blake Coleman and Stefan Noesen, both from Plano, Texas who grew up Stars fans were in the lineup tonight for the Devils. For Noesen, who has visited Dallas before when he was with the Anaheim Ducks, it was different than Coleman. Coleman was making his first trip to Dallas to play as an NHLer and had a luxury suite full of friends and family. He and Noesen were put out to start the game along with Travis Zajac by coach John Hynes as an acknowledgement of them playing in their hometown. One other milestone being celebrated today was that Miles Wood was playing in his 100th NHL contest.

The lineup was largely the same as the other night in St. Louis with one exception: the Devils were back to Cory Schneider in goal. And Cory played well tonight, stopping 29 of 33 shots faced. Unfortunately for the Devils, Ben Bishop went for Dallas and stopped 39 of the Devils’ 42 shots and he was magnificent at times.

Dallas were getting Marc Methot and Martin Hanzal back from injuries tonight. The Devils are largely healthy and only had Jimmy Hayes, Damon Severson and Drew Stafford as healthy scratches.

Most of the first period was back-and-forth with the goalies making nice stops. The Devils finally broke through with 14 seconds remaining in the first period. Brian Boyle scored on a power play set up when Stephen Johns was called for closing his hand on the puck. The goal occurred when Taylor Hall grabbed the puck and headed up ice with it. He had a three-on-two along with Brian Boyle and Kyle Palmieri. He found a Boyle cutting towards the net and Boyle received the pass, tipping it by Bishop to make it 1-0 Devils. Zajac had the secondary assist.

The Devils had played a very good first period, but the wheels fell off in the second when the Stars scored three unanswered to take the lead. The first one came when Alexander Radulov intercepted an Andy Greene clearing attempt. Greene tried to find a Devil through the middle of the ice in his own zone and Radulov was there to steal it and put it behind Cory to tie the game at one. That goal was unassisted at 6:18.

That was the first mental lapse. The next one came when Sami Vatanen was sent off for cross checking. He served that penalty and the Devils killed it off. But, as he was coming out of the penalty box, he played the puck near him with his feet still in the box. He was immediately called for interference and sent off again at 10:21. Dallas’ Brett Ritchie would score on that power play off assists from John Klingberg and Radulov at 11:07 of the second.

On the night, the Stars power play was 1-for-4 with six shots and the Devils were 2-for-5 with 10 shots. The real kicker was that the Stars also had six shots shorthanded, including one that would find the back of the net later.

The Stars had a 2-1 lead when Tyler Seguin would score his first career shorthanded goal, banking it in off of Miles Wood’s skate at 18:11. Jamie Benn had the lone assist. The Stars were killing off a Greg Pateryn hooking infraction. It was now 3-1 Stars all within the second period. The Devils had made some bad mistakes that came back to hurt them and it showed on the big board.

New Jersey would get one back on the way out of the second period when Hall scored his team leading 14th of the season at 19:32. It came when Nico Hischier, on his 19th birthday, broke the puck free in the neutral zone and got it to Hall. Hall skated it up the wing and shot, the rebound bounced in off of Pateryn’s skate to cut the Dallas lead to 3-2. Andy Greene was credited with the secondary assist. The Devils had gotten two goals late in the first two periods and were only trailing by one moving into the third.

But Dallas would double up the Devils at 9:43 of the third period when Mattias Janmark scored a nice goal from Hanzal and Radulov to make it 4-2. The Devils were behind the eight ball again and it seemed that everytime they moved a little bit forward, they would take a step back.

A scary moment late in the third as Travis Zajac was hit in the face with a Kyle Palmieri wrist shot. It seemed to get him under his visor but Deb Placey on the MSG postgame show did say that he was walking around the locker room with only a shiner on his forehead. She said that it seemed to have missed his eye or nose and that he seemed to be relatively fine.

New Jersey got their second power play goal of the game and made things a bit more interesting at 15:59 of the third. Klingberg was serving a hooking penalty and Jesper Bratt threw the puck into the zone and Hall got it deep. Kyle Palmieri won a battle for it along the near half wall and threw it on net. It got by Bishop to make it 4-3 and it was time to hold on to your hats.

Schneider was pulled with about two minutes remaining in the game and the Devils tried desperately to score. Hall had a nice chance as time was expiring, falling and still getting a shot off. But Bishop made the save on that one, closing the door on a Devils comeback.

Hall led all skaters in ice time with 22:13 while Vatanen led the defensemen with 21:48. Hall also led in shots with a whopping ten. Hits were led by Steven Santini with three and he also led in blocked shots with seven.

Next up, the Devils head to Brooklyn for their first meeting of the season with the Islanders on Sunday. The Isles have also lost four straight and are slipping in the Metropolitan Division, so something there has to give. The Devils remain in second in the Metro with 51 points to the Capitals’ 53.

One other item of note is that former New Jersey governor Brendan Byrne passed away earlier at 93 years old. He was very instrumental in the Devils’ move to the Garden State and was also the man who the Devils’ first home here was named after. Although the Brendan Byrne Arena has gone through many name changes and has since been shuttered, it will still hold a place in Devils fans hearts and Mr. Byrne will also hold a place in the history of the New Jersey Devils. Rest in peace and our thoughts go out to his family in this difficult time.

Devils Win Crazy One Over Stars

What a difference a year makes. Last year, the Devils did not get their 18th win until January 15, this year, they notched it exactly one month to the day earlier, on December 15. They defeated the Dallas Stars in what was a real wild game tonight at Prudential Center.

Some trade news to begin the day, as the Devils traded forward Ryan Kujawinski yesterday to Arizona for forward Michael Latta. This is a pure AHL move, as Latta will report to the Binghamton Devils. Latta does have some NHL experience with Washington, so that is a plus if they call him up.

In injury news, Taylor Hall (knee contusion), Kyle Palmieri (broken foot) and Marcus Johansson (bruised ankle) could all return as early as this coming Monday against Anaheim. The Devils would love to have their entire group together and healthy for what amounts to the first time this season and that could be happening a lot sooner than later. That is a good thing, since, as a graphic shown on the pregame by MSG showed, 50.5-percent of the Devils’ goals have come off the sticks of those three men. The lineup tonight remained largely the same as the last game, with Ben Lovejoy and Dalton Prout being the healthy scratches for New Jersey. Nick Lappin remained in for Hall.

The Devils kicked off what would be their longest homestand of the season (six games) on a snowy night in Newark. Coach John Hynes had not liked the way the Devils had played in the backends of their last two back-to-backs, so tonight would be a test. Hynes also said that the goaltending would now “be a competition” and that Keith Kinkaid would not automatically start the second half of the back-to-backs.

In that regard, Cory Schneider got back in nets, stopping 28 of 30 shots he faced. He made some key saves, including a big one late in the game when Dallas had pulled their goaltender with about 3:30 left in the game. He would go on to be named the game’s second star. That Dallas goaltender was Kari Lehtonen, who was making his third straight start for the Stars. He had defeated the Rangers in a shootout and the Islanders in regulation to earn the start tonight against the Devils. He ended up with 21 saves on 25 Devils shots.

The Devils got the scoring started just 4:28 into the game when Steven Santini found the twine to make it 1-0 Devils. That goal came when Brian Gibbons dug the puck out of the far corner and sent a rolling puck back to Santini at the point. Santini fired the knuckle puck and scored to give New Jersey the early lead.

But Santini’s moment of triumph was quickly dashed when he got called for closing his hand on the puck behind the Devils’ net at the 5:00 mark of the first. The Stars were on the power play and they responded. Martin Hanzal scored from Tyler Seguin and Esa Lindell at 6:42. That goal was actually on Dallas’ very first shot of the game. That would tie things up at one.

In what was a penalty filled game, the Stars ended up 1-for-3 on the power play with eight shots while the Devils were 1-for-7 with ten shots. As we shall see, penalties would play a large part in what was a pretty chippy game for two teams that only see each other twice a year.

The Devils retook the lead with less than a minute left in the first period when Plano, Texas-native Blake Coleman scored at 19:06. The goal came when Coleman won the faceoff to Gibbons at the far hashmarks. Gibbons dropped to Andy Greene at the point, who fired on goal and the rebound came right to Coleman in front of the Stars’ net. He scored his fourth of the season and what is his second career goal against the team he grew up rooting for. It was 2-1 Devils.

Pavel Zacha would seemingly give the Devils a 3-1 lead as time expired, but the replay showed that time had run down just before the puck crossed the goal line. The call was no goal and the score remained 2-1 going into the first break.

The Stars would tie things back up at the 8:09 mark of the second period when the big Russian Alexander Radulov made a power move at a weird angle to get by Will Butcher and score on Schneider. Assists on that goal went to Mattias Janmark and Lindell. That tied things back up at two.

And then things started to get really crazy. First, John Klingberg was called for a vicious cross check on Brian Boyle at 10:56. That penalty was ultimately killed off by Dallas, but just as that penalty was about to expire, at 12:48, Stephen Johns was called for high sticking Miles Wood and ended up drawing a double minor. The Devils would have a few seconds of a 5-on-3 and then four minutes for their power play to get to work. Just as the double minor was about to expire, at 16:39, Brian Boyle would score to give the Devils back the lead. It came when Jesper Bratt worked the puck along the far half wall. He passed to Zacha at the far point. Zacha corralled the puck with his feet and passed over to Butcher at the opposite point. He one-timed it on net and, after a few whacks, Boyle was able to put it home to give the Devils the 3-2 lead. it was his 100th career NHL goal.

Following that goal, during the celebration, Boyle exchanged words with Klingberg (whom he had not forgotten had given him a hard cross check into the boards when he was vulnerable earlier on) and, eventually, Dallas’ Greg Pateryn stepped in. They went at it for awhile and when the dust settled, Pateryn was called for unsportsmanlike conduct, as was Boyle. However, Boyle also drew a ten minute misconduct penalty. He would be unavailable for the rest of the second period and the first half of the third.

The pushing and shoving continued throughout most stoppages, with Pavel Zacha taking a roughing penalty at the end of the second period during one such scrum. Dallas would have the man advantage going into the third period, on fresh ice.

That one was killed off and the Devils would end up doubling up Dallas at the 12:57 mark of the third period. Recent callup Nick Lappin got that one when he took the puck in the far corner and fired on net. The rebound came out to Jimmy Hayes, who guided it back to Lappin, who shot and scored to make it 4-2. Boyle had the secondary assist on that goal. Lappin was named the game’s third star.

Boyle would end up capping off a three point night with an empty netter at 18:00 of the third period. As mentioned, Stars coach Ken Hitchcock had pulled Lehtonen with about 3:30 left in the game and the Devils worked really hard to keep getting the puck out of their zone. It finally paid off when Boyle scored to make it 5-2. Boyle would go on to be named the game’s number one star.

Lappin and Stars pest Antoine Roussel got into a shoving match with about 7.5 seconds remaining in the game on a neutral zone faceoff to top things off, but the Devils pulled out the two points. It should also set up an interesting rematch between the two teams when the Devils go to Dallas on January 4.

Stats saw Sami Vatanen lead in ice time with 23:04, Drew Stafford (who was essentially playing the Taylor Hall role on his line with Nico Hischier and Bratt) lead in shots on goal with six, Coleman lead in hits and Brian Gibbons, Steven Santini and Damon Severson all tie for the lead in blocks with two each.

The Devils now stand in a virtual three-way tie with Columbus and Washington for first place in the Metropolitan Division. They have the same 41 points as the other two teams, but are technically listed as second place due to the fact that they have played less games than the Blue Jackets. It is a real dog fight in the Metro Division right now and the Devils are keeping pace for the moment.

Next up, Monday, the Devils will see a familiar face in their building when Adam Henrique and the Anaheim Ducks come to town. I will be attending that game and will hope to get a post up as quickly as I can. It is sure to be an emotional night as Rico returns with his new Ducks teammates.

Stars Score Two Power Play Goals, Sink Devils in OT

The Devils continued their homestand tonight at Prudential Center against the Dallas Stars. The game itself seemed to epitomize the Devils’ season: they played hard and well, but only well enough to lose the game. They lost in overtime 2-1.

Prior to the game, there was the NHL Centennial Fan Arena outside the Prudential Center in Championship Plaza. It featured a large trailer fitted out as a museum that focused not only on the history of the NHL in general, but also had some specific interactive displays dedicated to the Devils themselves. One kiosk allowed fans to look up all of the captains in Devils history. You could also have your picture taken near a locker that either had a Devils’ players name over it, or a name of your choosing. Plus displays of pucks, sticks, helmets and other equipment, jerseys, an interactive 3D Stanley Cup kiosk (where you could get a closer look at the details of Lord Stanley’s Cup) and more were all featured in this trailer. It was like a mini Hockey Hall of Fame.

The longest line in this “arena” was to have your picture taken with the Cup itself. According to Devil Alumni Bruce Driver, who was there and gave a short speech, this was the actual presentation trophy, complete with mistakes and all, that is given to the winning team at the end of the playoffs. The one in the Hockey Hall of Fame is a replica trophy on display there and features none of the little “typos” that are on the presentation trophy.

There were also various street hockey rinks set up for kids to play in as well as a virtual reality Zamboni game and refreshment trucks and a merchandise stand. It was a neat little encapsulation of NHL history all put into one great experience. There were fans from different teams present, not just Devils fans. Islander, Ranger, Flyer, Blackhawk, Blue, Star, King and Canadien fans were all spotted.

Then it was on to the game itself, the “main event” of the evening if you will.

The roster for the Devils was largely the same; Michael Cammalleri, Jacob Josefson and Devante Smith-Pelly are all injured. Joseph Blandisi was the healthy scratch for New Jersey. Dallas was without Jiri Hudler, Patrik Nemeth, Antoine Roussel and Patrick Sharp.

The goalie matchup saw the Devils go to Keith Kinkaid on the second half of the back-to-back, resting Cory Schneider. Kinkaid made 30 saves on 32 total Dallas shots for a .938 save percentage. Kinkaid looked sharp for most of the night, making the big save when he had to. The Stars countered with Kari Lehtonen. He made 20 saves on 21 Devils shots for a .952 save percentage.

Also, a big congratulations to Andy Greene. The Devils’ captain was playing in his 700th NHL contest tonight. Quite a feat for an undrafted player but a well-deserved one.

The Devils kicked off the scoring at 11:02 of the first period when Plano, Texas native Blake Coleman, playing against his hometown team for the first time, scored his first NHL goal unassisted. It came when he stole the puck from John Klingberg just inside the Dallas blue line. He skated in on Lehtonen and went over the shoulder short side to give the Devils a 1-0 lead. The Stars actually had a penalty about to be called on them, but Coleman’s goal negated the delayed penalty.

And that was it for the scoring for nearly two full periods. There was a scrap at 15:12 of the second when Damon Severson fought Curtis McKenzie. But no scoring. Until Adam Henrique took a tripping call against Radek Faksa at 12:09. Dallas went on to the power play and Ales Hemsky converted from Stephen Johns and Devin Shore to tie things up at one.

We seemed to be headed for overtime, but before we got there, Steven Santini was called for cross checking Cody Eakin at 19:06 which would essentially give the Stars a full minute to win it in regulation and, if not, a minute of power play time in the OT period. This happened in the first period as well when Dalton Prout took a holding call at 19:58 of the first, giving Dallas an entire power play on fresh ice in the second period, but the Devils killed that off, obviously.

In overtime, this was not the case. Tyler Seguin scored just 20 seconds into the extra frame with assists to Jamie Benn and Klingberg to give the Stars the 2-1 win. It was a real heartbreaker for the Devils. As I mentioned above, Kinkaid was solid for most of the night but the Devils just had little answer for the Stars’ power play. Dallas ended up going 2-for-4 with the man advantage while the Devils did not have a power play on the night.

Next up for the Devils, a Tuesday night tilt against the Winnipeg Jets. This is the makeup game from March 14 that was canceled due to inclement weather. I will also be attending this game, so my recap will be a little bit late for that game as well.

In Devils prospect news, the Mississauga Steelheads, with prospects Mikey McLeod and Nathan Bastian lost to the Ottawa 67’s in game two of their OHL Eastern Conference playoff series 4-0 to even things up at one game apiece. The teams will meet again in game three on March 28 at Ottawa’s TD Place.

Henrique Lifts Devils Past Stars in OT in Big D

The Devils had a big of a hill to climb going into Dallas to play the Stars. They were without Michael Cammalleri, still in New Jersey, out with personal issues he is dealing with and it was announced this morning that they would be without another left wing as well. Taylor Hall would be sitting with what the team is calling a lower body issue.

He showed up this morning for the morning skate and told the coaching staff that something just did not feel right. It was for that reason that he was kept out of the lineup for the game. Reid Boucher would be in in his place. Jon Merrill was also a scratch for New Jersey.

On the other side of things, the Stars were getting Jason Spezza back in the lineup tonight, so that would be firepower in the favor of Dallas.

On the lighter side of things, MSG Network was doing their “Viewer Appreciation Night” which I seem to remember being later in the season in the past, but it was nice to see people winning some of their prizes, some of which were very cool. Also, Vernon Fiddler, who spent the last few years in Dallas and was a fan favorite amongst Stars fans, was given a video tribute on the big board at American Airlines Center as well as a standing ovation from the Stars faithful. He would start the game for New Jersey and had the first shot of the game, fittingly. There were many of Fiddler’s “38” jerseys throughout the building in both team’s colors.

The goalie matchup saw Antti Niemi facing Cory Schneider. Schneider made 23 saves on 24 Stars shots while Niemi made 31 saves on 33 Devils shots.

It was a very clean game with only three total penalties called. The Devils were 0-for-1 with the man advantage while Dallas went 0-for-2.

The Devils broke the seal on the scoring just 7:40 into the first period. It happened when Beau Bennett gave the puck up to PA Parenteau along the boards. He sent a backhand saucer pass to the trailing Damon Severson, who was in the slot and fired, beating Niemi to give the Devils a 1-0 lead. With that goal, Severson tied Hall for the team lead in goals (five). He also has three points in his last two games (one goal and two assists).

The Devils would retain the lead until the 10:33 mark of the first when John Moore made a bad point-to-point pass to Kyle Quincey that he could not handle. He bobbled it and the Stars were off on a two-on-one. Antoine Roussel fed Patrick Eaves who buried it and tied it at one.

And that was it for the scoring in regulation.

But it was not it for the action. Cory Schneider made two huge saves on Adam Cracknell midway through the second period that kept New Jersey in it after they had dominated the shots early in that frame.

Bennett hit the crossbar on a partial breakaway with mere seconds left in the second period. He took a bank pass off the boards from Moore that sprung him. His backhanded shot clipped the crossbar and just missed giving the Devils a lead.

A scary moment for the Stars when Jordie Benn blocked a Kyle Palmieri shot on the Devils’ only power play of the game. He took the puck off of the outside of his knee. He limped off of the ice but would not miss a shift.

Dallas almost took a late lead when Lauri Korpikoski actually beat Cory through the five hole, but the puck ended up going wide of the net.

Because Bennett and Korpikoski’s shots did not go in, the score remained tied and the teams headed for overtime. Without Hall and Cammalleri and with guys like Spezza and Jamie Benn on the ice for the Stars, things did not look that good for the Devils. But, just 44 seconds into the extra session, Palmieri picked a Dallas players pocket and immediately headed off to the races with Adam Henrique. On a 2-on-1 odd man rush, Palmieri held the puck just long enough before putting it just ahead of Henrique. He stretched ahead, reaching to put the puck by Niemi. It found the back of the net and the Devils had the 2-1 victory.

They had won their fifth in a row and with that win moved out of a wildcard spot and into a top playoff position, leapfrogging Washington and Boston.

I know it is a little early to be talking playoffs and the Devils have not really played many of the elite teams in the NHL yet, but things are looking good for this team right now.

Next up, the Devils travel to California to face off with the Ducks in Anaheim. That game starts at 10 PM on Thursday.

Schneider Injured as Devils Fall in Dallas

The Devils were coming off of one of their most impressive games of the season in their comeback in Nashville last night. They would be heading to Dallas to take on the Stars in the second half of a back-to-back. There would be some positives, but a few negatives thrown in as well.

The positives were that the team did not quit. Falling behind 3-1 again, they were able to make things interesting late, making the Stars sweat out a late victory.

The negatives were a couple of losses. Of course, they lost the game, which set them back in the playoff race and hurt them in the short-term. But the bigger loss in the long-term may be an injury to Cory Schneider. Schneider was injured early in the third period when he extended his right leg to make a save at an awkward angle. His skate seemed to catch the post and they are, at the moment, calling it a lower body injury. Keith Kinkaid came in in relief and may be called upon for further duty depending on Cory’s status for future games.

Speaking of injuries, David Warsofsky, who just played in his first game as a New Jersey Devil, did not play tonight with a lower body injury as well. Also scratched for New Jersey was Bobby Farnham. Back in the lineup for the Devils was defenseman Damon Severson.

The Stars had been struggling coming into this game. In fact, since they lost to the Devils back in early-January at Prudential Center and also fell to the Islanders on that same trip, they had fallen out of first place overall in the league and in the Central Division. They had one win in their last eight games, but are still in a good spot to make the playoffs. The Stars give up a lot of goals, and the Devils needed to capitalize on that.

The goalie matchup started as Cory Schneider against Kari Lehtonen. Cory made 15 saves on 18 Dallas shots. Lehtonen was 18-for-20. Keith Kinkaid was a perfect 6-of-6 when he entered the game. Dallas had an extra shot on an empty net goal late. Kinkaid played extremely well, getting tested early and often by the Stars and coming up huge. Which is good news due to Cory’s injury, as he will be playing more should Schneider’s injury be more serious.

The Devils fell behind early when Valeri Nichushkin scored at 8:01 for the Stars. Mattias Janmark had the lone assist. Dallas came out flying and the Devils did match their up-tempo game early on, and for most of the game, in fact.

The Devils would tie things up in the second period when Adam Henrique continued what he started last night. At 5:14, Sergey Kalinin sent the puck back to Adam Larsson at the point. Larsson fired a shot and the rebound came out to Henrique at the side of the net. He backhanded it home and the game was tied at one.

But it would only take about a minute for Dallas to retake the lead. Jason Spezza tipped in a Janmark shot with Nichushkin picking up the secondary assist. The Devils were now down 2-1.

About two minutes following that, Andy Greene was hit awkwardly in the corner by the Stars’ Brett Ritchie. Greene was okay and no penalty was called, but his defense partner Adam Larsson took exception to the borderline boarding play. Larsson and Ritchie dropped the gloves and, while Ritchie got the better of Larsson, it was good to see Larsson sticking up for his teammate.

The problem came when John Moore was called for delay of game thirty seconds later. The Devils now had one of their best penalty killers in the box (Larsson) while they were a man down. They would end up doing fine, as neither team scored on the power play. New Jersey went 0-for-3 while Dallas was 0-for-3 as well.

Following that, Colton Sceviour would victimize the Devils again when he also scored on a tip-in, redirecting an Alex Goligoski shot. Radek Faksa has the secondary assist as Dallas now took a 3-1 lead. The Devils were now behind by the same score that sparked the comeback last night in Nashville.

There was an injury scare prior to Schneider going down, as Stephen Gionta was helped off the ice in the second period. However, this was just a skate issue, not an injury. Gionta was fine and would play the rest of the game.

The Devils would need to mount a comeback again tonight if they were going to sweep the road trip. They came closer at 15:41 of the third when the red-hot Devante Smith-Pelly scored his third goal in three games and his second as a Devil. John Moore fired a shot that went wide of the goal mouth and came out to Severson, who quickly passed to Smith-Pelly at the side of the Stars’ net. These are the kind of goals Smith-Pelly is best at contributing. He is a big body who parks in front of the net and gets the dirty goals. So far, he has been a good pickup for New Jersey and will look to continue to produce.

It was now 3-2 and the Devils were looking for the same magic they had in the Music City the night before. Things looked even more in their favor when former-Devil Johnny Oduya took a hooking call at 18:28 to put the Devils a man up. With Kinkaid pulled, they were 6-on-4 and looked to be in business.

Unfortunately, it did not play out that way, as The Stars’ Vernon Fiddler scored into the empty net to ice the game for Dallas. Sceviour and Goligoski had the assists on that goal.

The Devils will look to straighten things out when they return home to face the Pittsburgh Penguins in a key matchup if the Devils are to make the playoffs this season. That game comes on Sunday with a 5 PM puck drop. As Steve Cangialosi pointed out on the Devils’ postgame show tonight, the Devils always match up well with the Pens at Prudential Center. But we will see if the Devils are able to knock off the Penguins, who have gotten their house in order and are firmly entrenched in an Eastern Conference playoff spot.

Also, congratulations to Mike Sislo of the Albany Devils, who was named the American Hockey League’s player of the month for February. The A-Devils have been playing very well of late and it is always good to see a player recognized. Albany may also need to contribute a goaltender to the New Jersey roster should  Cory be out for any length of time and Kinkaid becomes the number one.

Moore Goal Helps Devils Top Stars in OT

Happy 2016 everyone!

The Devils’ challenge was simple: In order to win their third straight and put together a winning streak of more than two games for only the second time this season, all they had to do was defeat the top team in the National Hockey League. The Dallas Stars are the top team in the Western Conference, the top offensive team in the NHL and lead the entire league overall with 60 points. They have Jamie Benn, the reigning Art Ross Trophy winner as the NHL’s top scorer. They have a lot of offensive firepower with Patrick Sharp and Tyler Seguin. This was a challenge.

But challenges are made to be overcome and the Devils would do just that.

Tyler Kennedy was back in the lineup for the Devils due to an as yet undisclosed injury to Mike Cammalleri. Add that to the Devils’ list of challenges, as they would now be going into a game against the NHL’s best offense without their own leading scorer. Eric Gelinas and Tuomo Ruutu were healthy scratches for New Jersey.

Getting the start in net for the Devils would be Cory Schneider once again. He would make 29 saves off 31 shots on the night and have his shutout streak of 114:12 broken in the third period of this game. Opposing him would be Antti Niemi, the Stars goaltender sharing almost equal time with Kari Lehtonen. He made 27 stops on 30 shots.

But that only tells part of the story. Cory was brilliant again for the Devils, making some great saves and standing on his head at times. During the second intermission, MSG+ analyst Stan Fischler was discussing Schneider as a possible Vezina Trophy candidate and I do not think many at this point in the season can really argue that point. He has at the very least been the Devils’ MVP this season to date.

The first period began with a Devils power play just 24 seconds into the frame, with Dallas’ Antoine Roussel going off for interference. In regulation, overall, the Devils’ power play had four chances, when 0-for-4 on the night with four shots.

The scoring kicked off in just 1:02 into the second when David Schlemko kept the puck in the Stars’ zone and moved it down low to Kyle Palmieri, who scored on the wraparound. Just like that, the Devils were up 1-0. Adam Henrique had the secondary assist.

The Devils would double their lead at 6:02 of the second when Jordin Tootoo kept the puck in deep on the cycle. He dished off to Bobby Farnham who fired from the far faceoff dot and beat Niemi. Stephen Gionta had the secondary assist. The Devils now had the unlikely 2-0 lead.

But Dallas is a great third period team who has simply blitzed the NHL in the third stanza. And, of course, the Devils were no different.

First, at 10:54 of the third, Patrick Sharp cut the lead in half, beating Cory with a snap shot with John Klingberg and Mattias Janmark getting the assists. This is the goal that ended Schneider’s 114:12 shutout streak, dating back to the loss in Carolina the night after Christmas.

At 14:29 Colton Sceviour scored from Jason Spezza and former Devil Johnny Oduya to tie the game up at two. Dallas had struck again and the game was headed right for overtime. New Jersey, although they have a fantastic overtime record, did not really want to go toe-to-toe with the Stars three-on-three.

But they would get some help. Just 1:07 into the extra session, the Devils would develop a two-on-one odd man rush with Travis Zajac driving towards the net. He was impeded by Jamie Benn, but kept his legs moving in order to draw the penalty. With the delayed call, the Devils got Cory off the ice and kept up sustained extra man pressure for almost one minute. When Dallas finally touched the puck, Benn went off for hooking and the Devils called their timeout to give their power play unit a breather.

After that, all it took was 40 seconds for John Moore to fire a failed Dallas clearing attempt, beating Niemi with the slapshot. The goal came unassisted and gave the Devils the two points against the league’s top team.

By beating Big D, the Devils had slayed the beast and show that they continue to rise to the occasion when they face the NHL’s top teams. They can beat the Rangers, Canadiens and Stars of the world, but seem to have trouble with the weaker teams in the league.

Which brings us to the Devils’ next challenge: The Detroit Red Wings, who share an Eastern Conference wildcard spot with the Devils currently, are coming back to town on Monday. The Devils have two wins over the Wings, one in overtime and one in regulation. Can they keep that streak alive and overtake the Rangers for third place in the Metropolitan Division (they are only one point behind after the Blueshirts lost to Florida tonight). The Devils are in striking distance, now is the time to make things interesting.