The Devils went into the night as the walking wounded. Before the night was through, it would get worse.
New Jersey would fall to the Boston Bruins at Prudential Center, giving the Bruins their 3,000th win in franchise history. But the Devils would lose more than the game. Jiri Tlusty would join the Devils’ corps of the injured in a 4-1 drubbing.
With all of the injuries, including it being announced that Patrik Elias (knee injury) would not be accompanying the team on their big road trip and Mike Cammalleri and Tuomo Ruutu joining injured reserved (Cammalleri retroactive to December 30 and Ruutu retroactive to January 6), three players were called up from the AHL’s Albany Devils. Defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani, center Jim O’Brien and winger Paul Thompson all made their Devils debuts tonight.
For Thompson, it was also his NHL debut as the University of New Hampshire alum and longtime member of the Penguins organization was playing in his first game in the big leagues at age 27.
Speaking of the Albany Devils, some congratulations go out to goalie Yann Danis and forward Mike Sislo for being chosen for the AHL All-Star Game in Syracuse, New York. The A-Devils have been playing well, which builds a good foundation for the parent club.
For the NHL Devils, this was the 41st game of the year, the exact halfway point of the 2015-16 season. They were looking to stay in the playoff race, being one point ahead of Boston in the standings. A win tonight would go a long way in keeping their playoff hopes alive.
The Bruins would be dealing with some roster issues as well, as Brad Marchand was serving the last game of his three game suspension. They are also missing David Krejci and Adam McQuaid each with an upper body injury.
Getting the start tonight for the Devils in net was Cory Schneider, making 27 saves on 31 shots. Boston put out Jonas Gustavsson to counter him and he stopped 19 of the 20 Devils shots he saw.
The scoring came quick from Boston, as the B’s got on the board just 2:02 into the first when Massachusetts-native Frank Vatrano beat Cory with a wrist shot. Colin Miller got the lone assist. The Bruins had an instant 1-0 lead.
With that lead, the Devils would look to get things going and get the crowd back into the game. Jordin Tootoo would help with that when he and Zac Rinaldo dropped the gloves at 9:39 of the first. Tootoo tried to light a spark under the Devils with his decisive win over Rinaldo, but it was not to be.
The bulk of the scoring came in the second. There were also some posts hit by the Devils on the power play and a non-call that could have changed the tide of the game.
Boston went up 2-0 when Ryan Spooner scored at 4:40, the assist going to Dennis Seidenberg. The Devils, however, would cut the lead in half at 11:57 when Stephen Gionta moved the puck to Bobby Farnham in front of the Devils’ bench. Farnham skated into the Bruins’ zone and fired a wrister from the right faceoff circle, beating Gustavsson. Adam Larsson got the secondary assist.
The Devils had halved the score and seemed to be back into it, but Boston quickly regained control when Paul Thompson took a tripping penalty at 16:50. This was when Travis Zajac was held up on a breakaway. No holding call came from it and Boston (who are in possession of the number one ranked power play in the NHL) scored at 18:35, immediately after the non-call in their zone. Jimmy Hayes got the goal on a tip-in off a Zdeno Chara shot, with Matt Beleskey getting the secondary assist.
The third period saw the B’s put the game away with a Colin Miller goal at 6:33 (assists to Seidenberg and Spooner – all three scorers on this play had a multi-point night). It was now 4-1 Boston and, aside from a Sergey Kalinin tripping penalty with just under three minutes to go in the game, nothing else would happen in the period. The Bruins had won the game 4-1, and the Devils had failed to gain any ground on their Eastern Conference rivals.
The Devils now embark on their longest road trip of the season. This trip will take them from Minnesota on Sunday to St. Louis to Colorado to Arizona before returning home on the 19th to face Calgary.
The next game in St. Paul will go a long way in testing the character of the Devils. New Jersey has been inundated with injuries and they have not been able to respond with the shuffling of the lineup. Facing a good Wild team, who play in the best division in hockey, the Central, will put the Devils to a real test. We will find out how they will respond on Sunday.