After sweeping a home-and-home with the Carolina Hurricanes, the Devils moved on to Buffalo to begin another home-and-home (this time a back-to-back as the teams get together again tomorrow night in New Jersey) with the Sabres. It will be the Devils’ only trip to the Western New York city this season.
The night began with some strange lineup news: Michael Cammalleri was out of the lineup for “personal reasons” and would not make the trip with the team. Devante Smith-Pelly was back in the lineup in Cammalleri’s place. Hopefully everything is okay with Cammalleri and his family, as it was not announced as of game time what the issue was.
The main story for the Devils tonight was the power play. The Devils went 0-for-6 with the man advantage, including a 5-on-3 in the second period and a four minute 5-on-4 in the third. But they still found a way to come out with the two points despite this.
The backups got the net for both teams. Keith Kinkaid started for the Devils, making 25 saves on 26 Sabres shots. But that only tells half of the story, as he was magnificent for a good portion of the game – although he did get off to a rough start when he bobbled a dump in early in the first period, getting a rise out of the crowd, but nothing more. But he also came up big for New Jersey, including a huge save on Marcus Foligno in the first moments after that bobble.
Facing him between the pipes for the Sabres was Anders Nilsson. Nilsson made 41 saves on 43 Devils shots. The Devils have had some trouble with Nilsson in his career: he had four wins in six starts coming into tonight versus the Devils, including his first NHL win when he was a member of the Islanders. Nilsson also made some nice stops, including a nice glove save on Taylor Hall on a 2-on-1 in the middle of the second period.
Buffalo got the first marker of the game on the power play which was set up when Nick Lappin went off for tripping Jake McCabe. The Sabres, who went 1-for-2 with the man advantage, would convert when former Islanders Matt Moulson and Kyle Okposo would connect to give them a 1-0 lead. Ryan O’Reilly had the other assist. The puck bounced out to Moulson in front of the net and he buried it.
And that was it for the scoring until early in the third. But it was not without chances. First, at 14:38, Josh Gorges was called for holding against Damon Severson. The Devils were a man up, and then Rasmus Ristolainen put the puck over the glass while trying to clear his zone and he went off at 15:13 for delay of game. Not only did the Devils have 1:25 of a 5-on-3 power play, but Buffalo’s top defense pairing was in the penalty box together. They, of course, did not score on that chance.
The Sabres also had their chances, including a juicy rebound left on the doorstep when the Devils were killing off a Damon Severson slashing penalty in the second. Ben Lovejoy was able to clear the crease while Kinkaid was down.
The Devils would tie up the game at 3:13 of the second period when Travis Zajac won an offensive zone faceoff back to the point. The puck was fired wide and came to Taylor Hall, who gave it to Yohann Auvitu at the near point. He cranked one that just got by Nilsson’s glove hand and that looked initially like it was tipped in front by Zajac, but was given to Auvitu. That was his first NHL goal and tied the game at one.
That was where it would stay. Kinkaid made a huge save right after the Auvitu goal on Evander Kane to keep things tied up and would also take a bump from former Devil Brian Gionta when he went for a popped up puck at 11:01 of the third.
Buffalo’s Kane would go on to play a big role in the rest of the game for the Devils. First, he clipped Jacob Josefson at 12:17 with a high stick that drew a double minor and a four minute power play for the Devils. New Jersey would not convert.
Eventually, the game would move to overtime, as the Devils had picked up at least a point ten of thirteen games this season so far. The three-on-three was moving smoothly when, at the 29 second mark of the extra session, Andy Greene was hauled down by Kane on a breakaway. He was all alone on net when he was pulled down from the back-checking Kane and a penalty shot was called. The game was on Greene’s stick, would the captain deliver?
He did. Greene skated in on his first ever career NHL penalty shot – playing in his 324th consecutive game (I wrote the number incorrectly the last game), moved to his forehand and snuck it five hole by Nilsson. The Devils had won the game 2-1. It was the first time they had won a game on a penalty shot by a defenseman since November 11, 1998 (eighteen years ago to the day) when Scott Niedermayer did it.
Up next for the Devils, they will look to take another home-and-home series when the Sabres travel in to Newark. Congratulations to Yohann Auvitu and Andy Greene on their achievements and here’s hoping all is well for Michael Cammalleri and his family.