The Devils dropped another home game, but they did pick up a point in a 4-3 Winnipeg Jets shootout victory at Prudential Center on Tuesday.
This was the make-up of the game from March 14, which was canceled due to inclement weather. The weather was soggy in Newark last night, but it was comfortable inside the Prudential Center on “Rock the Rock Night.” This was a promotion centered on music and all TV timeout contests focused on giveaways related to upcoming concerts at The Rock or New Jersey musicians. Willie O’Ree, who broke the NHL’s color barrier with the Boston Bruins in the 1950’s was also in attendance and honored during the night.
Roster-wise, things stayed largely the same for New Jersey. Defenseman Jon Merrill was the lone healthy scratch as Joseph Blandisi slotted back in. The Devils were back to twelve forwards and six defensemen. Michael Cammalleri, Jacob Josefson and Devante Smith-Pelly remain out injured. Winnipeg was without Ben Chiarot, Marko Dano, Toby Enstrom, Shawn Matthias, Ondrej Pavelec, Paul Postma and Brian Strait.
In goal, Cory Schneider matched up with Connor Hellebuyck. Schneider made 33 saves on 36 shots for a .917 save percentage. Hellebuyck stopped 20 of 23 shots for an .870 save percentage. Hellebuyck made two saves in the shootout and Cory made one.
Nikolaj Ehlers of the Jets got the scoring kicked off, getting assists from Blake Wheeler and Jacob Trouba at just 52 seconds in to the first period.
It would take some time, but New Jersey would respond, scoring three unanswered. It began at 8:10 of the first when Pavel Zacha’s shot came to a rest just in front of the goal line in the Winnipeg crease. Beau Bennett dove to put the puck home and the Devils had tied the game at one. Dalton Prout had the secondary assist on the goal.
The Devils would go into the first intermission with the 2-1 lead when, at the 12:07 mark, Taylor Hall took a stretch pass from Travis Zajac through the neutral zone. He broke into the Winnipeg zone all alone and moved to his forehand, beating the Hellebuyck to the stick side to give New Jersey the lead.
The Devils tempted fate all night by drawing penalties late in the first and second periods. At 19:58 of the first, Miles Wood would take an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that would give the Jets almost two full minutes of power play time on fresh ice to start the second period. The Devils would kill that off. They would also kill off a Blake Coleman interference penalty at 19:50 of the second period that would give Winnipeg 1:50 of power play time on fresh ice going into the third. Neither team scored on the power play, with the Jets going 0-for-3 while the Devils were 0-for-4. One of the Devils power plays would come in the overtime period, which we will get to in a minute.
In the meantime, the Devils added an extra goal at 15:27 of the second period when Blake Pietila stole the puck in the neutral zone and broke in with Stefan Noesen. He gave the puck to Noesen, who went to his forehand, and drove to the net, beating Hellebuyck to the glove side. He then tumbled to the ice after the goal. It was now 3-1 Devils and they looked to be in the driver’s seat.
But Winnipeg hung around. First, they answered back 1:09 after the Noesen goal when Wheeler scored from Julian Melchion and Mark Scheifele to make it 3-2.
In the third period, the Jets were killing off a Scheifele hooking penalty when Joel Armia scored unassisted and shorthanded to knot things up at three.
A scary moment late in the game occurred when Blandisi took a puck to the face. He went to the bench in pain, but did not miss a shift.
When time expired, we were headed to overtime for a second consecutive Devils game. In the Dallas game on Sunday, the Devils had been the victims of a penalty called late in regulation that hurt them in OT. The Jets would be in a similar situation with 30 seconds left in this overtime when Kyle Palmieri drove to the Winnipeg net and was hauled down. The Fans, still sensitive to the non-penalty shot in Pittsburgh on Taylor Hall, booed the penalty, wanting the penalty shot instead. But tripping was called and the Devils had a 30 second power play. They did not score on it, as Winnipeg was on point and cleared the zone several times. We were headed to a shootout to settle things.
John Quenneville took the first shot for New Jersey and missed the net. Cory stopped Scheifele of Winnipeg and Hellebuyck stopped Hall. Jets super rookie Patrik Laine converted on his try and it was up to Pavel Zacha to keep things going. Hellebuyck stopped him and the Winnipeg Jets had a come from behind shootout victory.
The Devils next travel to Brooklyn on Friday for a date with the New York Islanders. The Isles are still battling for that last playoff spot and the Devils can play spoiler to their geographical rivals. Barclays Center was the site of the start of the Devils’ downfall. Hopefully, they will be up to avenging that on Friday.
In prospect news, Michael McLeod scored for the Mississauga Steelheads as they defeated the Ottawa 67’s in their OHL playoff series, 2-1 to take a two games to one lead.
The goal came just 10 seconds into the second period with assists to Jacob Cacagnette and Stefan LeBlanc at TD Place in Ottawa. Cascagnette then scored the game winner on the power play at 13:46 of the second period. They play game four on March 30 in Ottawa.