Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
The Devils returned from a brutal western road trip looking to snap a three game losing streak at home, a place where they have been almost unbeatable this year. They have not dropped a game in regulation at Prudential Center yet and, despite Maple Leaf super rookie Auston Matthews’ best efforts, that streak would continue tonight. New Jersey took a shootout victory from the Leafs, 5-4.
Good news right off the bat for the Devils was that Michael Cammalleri was returning from his personal hiatus. He had left the team in Buffalo to return to New Jersey where his daughter had come down with a bad case of pneumonia, was hospitalized and needed surgery. She is better now and resting at home and Michael had spent time practicing with the Princeton University Tigers hockey team during his time off to keep in game shape. He would go on to play a huge part in tonight’s game.
The Devils also got Yohann Auvitu back, as he said he was hurt for about 48 hours after a puck hit his index finger in the Dallas game. He was a healthy scratch for the other two games he missed in California. To accommodate him in the lineup, Jon Merrill would be sitting. Kyle Palmieri was also a scratch for the Devils as he is still dealing with an injury.
Coming into this game, the Maple Leafs had exactly one road win this year and were following up a loss at the Air Canada Centre last night to Carolina on a late shorthanded goal. The Devils would be able to leapfrog Boston in the standings with a win tonight and take a playoff spot for the first time since their losses in California.
The Sharks game was also John Hynes’ 100th game coached in the NHL. So congratulations to him on that milestone.
In goal for Toronto was Jhonas Enroth, who made 26 saves on 30 Devils shots for the night. He finished the night with his goals against average at 4.21 and just a .866 save percentage in just 215 minutes played. Rough numbers for sure.
The Devils sent out Cory Schneider to oppose him. He made 27 saves on 31 Leafs shots. He also came up big in some major spots for the Devils.
The Maple Leafs came out firing in the first period. Auston Matthews scored his first of the night at the 10:33 mark, with an assist to Zach Hyman. He was able to chip a shot by Cory on only Toronto’s second shot of the game. The goal ended Matthews’ 13 game goal drought. However, Toronto has yet to win a game that Matthews has scored in this season. That includes his opening night four goal performance against Ottawa.
But the Leafs were rolling with a 1-0 lead. At 11:36 of the first frame, PA Parenteau would take a slashing call against Morgan Rielly and sit for two minutes. With time expiring on that penalty kill, Nazem Kadri buried one from Matthews and William Nylander to make it 2-0 Leafs.
About five and a half minutes later, at 18:52, Matthews netted his second of the period and his third point of the night from Hyman and Connor Brown to put the Maple Leafs comfortably ahead 3-0.
Things looked dire for New Jersey. But all it took was 4 minutes and 58 seconds and the Devils would climb back into things.
First, at 32 seconds, Nick Lappin kept the puck in the Toronto zone, getting it to Kyle Quincey, who passed to Michael Cammalleri at the far circle. Cammalleri connected with Travis Zajac, who found room to beat Enroth and cut the deficit to 3-1.
Then, at the 1:12 mark, Martin Marincin was called for high sticking Pavel Zacha. The Devils were on the power play. Now, for the last 29 tries with the extra man, this had really meant nothing. Beau Bennett had also not scored a goal yet as a New Jersey Devil through the first month and a half of the season. This time was different this time, however.
At 3:10, Andy Greene passed point-to-point to Cammalleri. He fired and the puck bounced off of Devante Smith-Pelly’s backside right to the stick of Bennett. Bennett put the puck behind Enroth and then looked skyward, mouthing “Thank God!” It was not pretty, but Bennett’s goal scoring drought was over and the Devils’ power play futility was done all in one fell swoop. It was 3-2 Toronto.
The game tying goal would come off of the stick of Cammalleri, who, after this goal, had three points on the night – equaling Matthews. It came at 5:30 when Greene slid the puck to Zajac at the far circle. He shot from the top of the faceoff circle and the rebound came right out to Cammalleri, who promptly corralled it and shot it by Enroth. The game was knotted at three.
Toronto coach Mike Babcock elected to use his timeout at this point in order to settle his young team down. That decision would go on to play an important role in the outcome of the game.
Things would remain that way despite some tries from Toronto. Nylander hit the post on a power play opportunity late in the second. Finally, the Leafs broke through when Matt Martin scored his first of the year at 9:26 from Nikita Soshnikov and Nikita Zaitsev. Toronto had retaken the lead, 4-3.
But the Devils were not done. In the third period, they would tie things up again when, at 5:50, the Devils held the zone and Cammalleri kept the puck in for Zajac, who passed to Yohann Autvitu. The French defenseman fired on net and the puck went in to tie things up. Nick Lappin in front had initially gotten credit for the goal, but replays showed that he did not touch the puck on the way in.
What he did touch was Enroth’s stick blade with his skate, dragging it away from Enroth being able to make the save. Toronto could have challenged goalie interference on this – and probably have been successful – had they not used their timeout earlier in the second period. A break for the Devils and the game was now tied once more. Cammalleri, with the assist, also had a hand in each of the Devils’ goal scored so far.
Things would get tense for the Devils late in regulation. Middletown, New Jersey native James van Riemsdyk would nail the post with less than a minute left in the third period. But things stayed tied and we were headed for overtime.
The three-on-three period was back and forth intensity. Cory had had some miscommunication with his defensemen throughout the night at various times and nearly gave one up to Mitchell Marner when he tried to move the puck to a d-man and instead turned it over. Marner shot in close, but Cory was equal to the task.
Once the five minute OT had expired with things still not settled, it was time for the shootout.
Parenteau went first for New Jersey. He was stopped by Enroth. Cory Schneider then stopped Auston Matthews; Jacob Josefson scored for the Devils and then Cory stopped Marner. In two rounds of the shootout, Schneider had stopped two of the most offensively gifted young guns in the NHL.
After Cammalleri was stopped, it all came down to Nikita Soshnikov. Cory stopped him too and the Devils had pulled victory from the jaws of defeat and picked up two points.
The Devils remained without a regulation loss at home as they begin their mini home stand. Next up is Detroit at home for the Devils on Friday. I will be attending that game, so the report will be a little bit late. Until then, I hope everyone has a safe and happy Thanksgiving!