The Devils officially got off to their best start since 1993-94 tonight with a 4-3 victory over the hapless Arizona Coyotes, sending the Yotes to the worst start of a season since the 1995-96 San Jose Sharks and improving to 8-2-0. Arizona has not won a game to start this year, now standing at 0-10-1.
The Coyotes vastly and generally outplayed the Devils most of the night, but New Jersey was able to battle back from a few deficits to pull away a victory from a desperate Arizona club. This was their only set of back-to-back games this season where both games would be played at Prudential Center.
On the medical front, Brian Boyle has been skating with the team, so he is closer to returning from his battle with CML. In addition, while Cory Schneider was back in the nets after his wife gave birth yesterday, captain Andy Greene was missing from tonight’s lineup as his wife gave birth to a son earlier this morning. Congratulations to the Greene family on their new addition.
With Cory back in the Devils’ lineup, there was a glut of goaltending. Instead of sending Scott Wedgewood back down to Binghamton, the Devils decided they would cut ties with him so that he could successfully achieve becoming a number one goaltender in the NHL. His destination? Right down the hall from the Devils’ dressing room to Arizona. He was dealt early this afternoon to the Coyotes for a 2018 fifth round Draft pick. He would back up Louis Domingue for the Yotes tonight. Part of the early struggles for Arizona has been lack of consistent goaltending, so Wedgewood should get a chance to really shine there.
Some other roster notes for the Devils: Kyle Palmieri was still out with the lower body injury. He will be reevaluated before the Western Canadian road trip coming up to see if he can make the trip with the team. Marcus Johansson was injured during warmups and was a last minute scratch for the Devils as well. Dalton Prout and Mirco Mueller came back in on defense while Stefan Noesen, who was originally supposed to sit, slotted in for Johansson.
The story of the night, as far as New Jersey’s comebacks were concerned, was special teams. The Coyotes went only 1-for-5 on the power play as the Devils continued to be a heavily penalized team. The Devils’ power play was 2-for-2, connecting on both chances to complete a rally for New Jersey late. The Devils also had a bizzare shorthanded goal in this game that we will get to in a second.
The first goal of the game was the Arizona power play goal that was set up by Jesper Bratt going off for slashing. Christian Fischer potted one on that man advantage, with assists to Christian Dvorak and Jason Demers. The Coyotes were really pressuring early in the first and it paid off for them there. Arizona had the 1-0 lead, but the Yotes do tend to score first early, as they have done so eight times this year so far.
The Devils seemed to be setting a tone when, after that power play, Pavel Zacha was called for a slashing infraction. But, while killing that penalty, Brian Gibbons broke free for a breakaway on the Arizona net after intercepting a pass at the Devils’ blueline. He was hooked from behind by Oliver Ekman-Larsson and a penalty shot was awarded to Gibbons at 11:55 of the first period. Gibbons would make a move similar to Bratt’s shootout goal last night, cutting in and hesitating to freeze Domingue before sliding the puck under his goal stick. That shorthanded penalty shot, the first such converted by a Devil since Ilya Kovalchuk did it back in January of 2013. The Devils went back on the penalty kill and finished, keeping Arizona off of the scoreboard. That goal was also Gibbons’ team leading fifth goal of the season.
In the second period, Taylor Hall would score his first of two to give New Jersey the 2-1 lead. It came at 11:09 when Ben Lovejoy got the puck up the wall to Jesper Bratt. Bratt cut into the Arizona zone, dumping the puck to the far corner and then heading to a spot behind the net where he knew the Coyotes’ defender would try to wrap the puck around the boards. The puck came right to Bratt, who centered to Hall in the slot. He fired it home and the Devils had the lead. It was a nice play by Bratt, who showed good anticipation on the play, knowing exactly where to be on the ice to intercept the clearing attempt.
But the Coyotes would get the next two to take a 3-2 lead going into the second intermission. Arizona tied things up when Brendan Perlini scored his first of the year from Alex Goligoski and Mario Kempe at 11:57 of the second period. The Yotes had tied things up less than a minute after Hall’s goal gave New Jersey the lead and they would take the lead at the 15:13 mark when the NHL’s leading rookie scorer, Clayton Keller, potted his eighth goal unassisted. Going into the final frame, the Devils were down 3-2, which would set up a wild third period.
The Devils would finally get their first power play opportunity at the 4:19 mark of the third when Max Domi went off for interfering with Lovejoy. The Devils wasted no time. At 4:30, Adam Henrique won the faceoff in the Arizona end to Bratt, who skated along the half wall and relieved the puck to the near point. Bratt took the pass back and made a slick backhanded pass to Henrique near the near faceoff dot. He made a backhanded pass of his own to Hall, who was swooping in to the top of the far faceoff circle. Hall rifled one by Domingue, a right-catching goalie’s, glove hand to tie things up at three.
The game clincher came at the 15:47 mark of the third when Bratt and Hall would team up again. This goal was also on the power play, set up at 15:26 when Fischer was called for roughing Blake Coleman. On the man advantage, Bratt again set up on the near half wall, giving the puck to Henrique in the faceoff circle. He dished back to Will Butcher at the near point. Butcher gave to Hall, who found a perfect seam cross ice to Bratt. Bratt one-timed it by Domingue to give the Devils the last lead of the game.
New Jersey weathered a storm of almost three and a half minutes of Arizona pulling their goaltender for an extra attacker. But unlike last night against Ottawa, they shut the door, with one last strange play close to the end. While trying to clear the zone, Coleman pitchforked the puck up so high that it hit the new gigantic scoreboard. The faceoff was ruled to come in the Devils’ zone, but the Devils did hold on to win the game in a frantic finish and sending the Coyotes to their eleventh loss of this early season.
Cory Schneider had a great night to say the least, making 34 saves on 37 Coyotes shots. In five power plays, Arizona had eight shots. Domingue had 21 saves on 25 Devils shots. The Devils power play unit was perfect, scoring on both shots they took.
Individually for the Devils, Adam Henrique led the team with 19:41 of ice time. John Moore led a pretty balanced defense corps with 17:38 TOI. Taylor Hall led the team in shots on goal with four, scoring on two of them.
Next up, the Devils begin a Western Canadian road trip after a few days off, on Wednesday, November 1 when they travel to Vancouver to take on the Canucks.