Sorry about the late post. Between a busy day and a computer that was not quite cooperating, it took me a while.
Anyway, with that aside, the Devils did manage to pick up a hard fought win over the Florida Panthers 3-2 earlier today at Prudential Center, getting them off their three game losing streak and ending their homestand on a good note as they now head off on an epic seven-game road trip.
It was a very early 12 noon start at The Rock, with a nasty Noreaster raging outside. Despite the early puck drop and the weather, the crowd was very good. The national anthem today at Prudential Center was sung by Lauren Liff, better known as Lauren the Warrior. She is a big Devils fan who has been fighting illness and has a strong presence on social media, rooting for the team and such. Her dream was to sing the national anthem at a Devils game and she was able to do it today. Congratulations to Lauren the Warrior, as she did a fantastic job.
The Devils made some roster moves to begin the day. John Quenneville was sent back to Bighamton and Joey Anderson, the highly-touted prospect out of the University of Minnesota-Duluth was called up to replace him. Anderson would see eight and a half minutes of action as Marcus Johansson was a scratch with an illness. Cory Schneider and fellow-recent-call-up Egor Yakovlev were the other Devils scratches.
In goal, Keith Kinkaid made his eighth straight start for the Devils, stopping 35 of 37 Florida shots and taking a shutout into the third period. The Panthers threw out James Reimer, who stopped 23 of 26 Devils shots.
Each team was 0-for-4 on the power play with the Devils registering three power play shots and the Panthers a whopping seven (plus two shorthanded saves that Kinkaid was forced to make).
The first period was a mess of penalties. First, Miles Wood was called for delay of game for shooting the puck over the glass at 6:44. Before the Devils could fully kill that one off, Eric Gryba went off for tripping at 8:17, putting the Cats up 5-on-3. The Devils would kill off the first penalty (the Wood delay of game call) and a scrum after a whistle would immediately send Wood back to the penalty box at 8:51 with matching minors to Wood (roughing) and the Panthers’ Nick Bjugstad (cross checking). That would result in Florida having a traditional one-man advantage. Wood would make a third trip to the box in the first period, at 12:58, he was nabbed for tripping. The Devils would kill all of them off.
However, with just ten seconds remaining in the first, Kyle Palmieri would notch his eighth of the season to put the Devils up 1-0. It would come when Nico Hischier won a faceoff back to Damon Severson at the far point. He unloaded a shot that Palmieri was able to tip in while camped out in front. Panthers coach Bob Boughner would challenge for goaltender interference, as he had apparently bumped Reimer during the play. But after a lengthy review, the officials disagreed. The call on the ice stood: it was a good goal. The Devils had the 1-0 lead just as we went to the first intermission. That goal review and call in the Devils’ favor would become extremely important later on.
Just 3:05 into the second period, Taylor Hall would put the Devils up 2-0 from Palmieri and Hischier. It happened when Hischier won a puck battle in the far corner and Palmieri retrieved it from him. Palmieri then skated through the far circle with the puck, finding Hall all alone in the high slot. He passed and Hall simply shoveled it into the net. It was now 2-0 Devils.
The Devils would seemingly take complete control of the game at 13:21 of the second when Blake Coleman would find the back of the net from Mirco Mueller and Travis Zajac. This came when Stefan Noesen gave the puck back to Sami Vatanen at the far point. His shot was stopped by Reimer, but the rebound came over to Zajac in the near corner. He guided it to Mueller at the near point. Mueller fired a shot and Coleman, who was camped out on the doorstep, redirected the puck in to make it 3-0 Devils.
Then the third period and the wheels seemingly fell off of the Devils’ game. It began at 15:03. Mike Matheson scored his first of the season from Jonathan Huberdeau to break Kinkaid’s shutout.
Florida would then pull Reimer with just about three minutes left in the game, and with a 6-on-5 advantage and the Devils unable to do anything but ice the puck, continually forcing the faceoff into their zone, they would get to within one. Mike Hoffman scored with about 15 seconds remaining in the game from Keith Yandle and Evgenii Dadonov to make it 3-2. Reimer remained pulled and the Panthers just really needed to win the neutral zone faceoff to get another chance, but the Devils were able to withstand the storm and got the W.
Time on ice was led by Vatanen with 25:18 (3:44 on the power play/3:11 on the penalty kill). Hall led all forwards with 20:55 (4:41 on the power play, no shorthanded time). Vatanen also led in shots on goal with five and blocked shots with six while Blake Coleman registered five hits to lead in that category. Andy Greene had two takeaways to lead that category. Hischier (two assists) was named the game’s third star, Kinkaid the second and Palmieri (one goal and one assist) was the first.
Team-wise, the Devils won 43-percent of the game’s faceoffs, were outhit 20 to 15, but had 30 blocked shots to Florida’s paltry eight.
Next up, the Devils hit the road for their first real road trip of the year. And what a doozy it is, seven games over roughly two weeks that will take them from Tampa to Winnipeg and seemingly everywhere in between. The game at the Lightning is on Tuesday with a 7:30 PM start time. We will have coverage for you right here then.