Devils Defeat Hurricanes on Strength of Cammalleri Hat Trick

The last time Michael Cammalleri scored a goal, the calendar had not yet turned to 2016. Granted, it was only 14 games as he was injured for the majority of last season, but still, for a goal-scorer, that gap of time represents an eternity.

But everything comes to an end, even goal scoring droughts, and Michael Cammalleri was back on tonight against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena. He netted a hat trick, scoring his first goal since December 30, 2015 (when he scored two at Ottawa – the Devils won 3-0 that night as former Devil and current Hurricane Lee Stempniak scored the other). The Devils won the game 4-1.

The Devils actually arrived in Raleigh before the Hurricanes did. The Canes were coming in from Nashville last night where they had gone to a shootout. With Nashville being in the Central time zone and the Devils coming in from Tampa, New Jersey was in their beds earlier than the home team.

This game also represented the Devils’ first this season against a Metropolitan Division foe. They had seen a lot of the Atlantic Division on the road and the Western Conference at home, but no team from their own division yet. It was also a quick turnaround for the Devils, with an earlier 6 PM puck drop tonight.

Coach John Hynes made some changes to his lineup for this game. Inserting Reid Boucher and Jacob Josefson back into the lineup and sitting Devante Smith-Pelly and Sergey Kalinin. Vojtech Mozik was also scratched; he has been traveling with the team but has not seen any ice time yet. Hynes had said that many players could have been benched after the performance in Tampa, but this was more a way to shake up the lineup and less of a punishment.

In goal, both teams went with their backups due to this being the back end of a back-to-back for both. That meant Keith Kinkaid for the Devils, who made 33 stops on 34 shots. For the Hurricanes, that meant Eddie Lack, who stopped 17 of 20. Kinkaid played well, coming up big for the Devils when they needed it most. He got his first win since last March 29. Lack was not bad for Carolina either. He made two point-blank saves on PA Parenteau in the middle of the third period that were his most impressive of the night.

After playing through a scoreless first period, Cammalleri broke through at 4:31 of the second period. It occurred when Beau Bennett gave the puck off the forecheck to Travis Zajac. Zajac skated deep into the Carolina zone, stopped at the near faceoff dot, and fed across to Cammalleri, who buried the one-timer. Cammalleri had his first goal of the year, breaking his drought, and it was 1-0 Devils.

About four minutes later, Cammalleri struck again. First Jacob Josefson picked the puck up in front of the benches and gave to a rushing Cammalleri, who snapped off a shot from just at the far faceoff dot in the Hurricanes’ zone. Cammalleri had his second of the season, second of the period, second of the night and the Devils had a 2-0 lead.

Carolina coach Bill Peters would actually challenge the second Cammalleri goal, saying that he was offside on the play. Although it was pretty obvious he was not offside, Peters was using the challenge more as a strategic move: as a longer timeout to settle down his young team. The call on the ice stood as expected – as Cammalleri was nowhere near offside, the goal was good and Carolina would lose their real timeout later on in the game.

At 8:30 of the third period was when the hats came raining down from the fair amount of Devils fans that were in attendance in Carolina’s rink. Beau Bennett took an outlet pass from John Moore, gained the zone and dropped the puck to Cammalleri. Cammalleri fired a wrist shot from essentially the same spot he scored his second goal to beat Lack and complete the hat trick – the sixth of his career. The Devils now had the commanding 3-0 lead.

The Hurricanes would get on the board when Andrej Nestrasil scored at 13:01 of the third period. He beat Kinkaid with assists to Noah Hanifin and Jordan Staal. It was now 3-1 and they felt they were back in the game enough to pull Lack once the clock got to about four minutes left.

Things seemed to be working in the Hurricanes’ favor when Ben Lovejoy was called for slashing Jeff Skinner and Carolina was put on the power play. With a 6-on-4 man advantage things looked bad for the Devils. But, with the penalty came no icing calls, so it was really a shooting gallery for New Jersey on the empty Canes’ net.

And sure enough, Andy Greene would net his first goal of the year, unassisted, when he launched a clearing attempt from the Devils’ zone that went in to the empty Carolina goal.

It was the Devils first road win of the season and it would set up the rematch on Tuesday at Prudential Center between these two teams. Things got a little bit chippy late in the game, as Carolina tried to set a tone for the home-and-home series.

There are still some questions the Devils need to address: their power play was 0-for-2 on the night, for one thing. But overall, they played a good game; Michael Cammalleri came out of his slumber and the team was able to pick up three of a possible six points on the three game road trip.

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