The Devils were returning home after a great win against the Arizona Coyotes looking to keep the momentum going. Their opponents would be Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau and the ever-dangerous Calgary Flames. It would not be easy to keep on the winning track. They had not won a game against Calgary in six tries previous.
For the Devils, there would be some give and take in the lineup. Jon Merrill is out, placed on injured reserve retroactive to January 16. He was injured in the Coyotes game, but was able to gut out the rest of the game in Glendale. His injury gives Eric Gelinas a chance to show the coaching staff what he’s got, as he will be getting an extended look with Merrill out of the lineup.
The good news is that the Devils would welcome back leading scorer Michael Cammalleri for tonight’s game. Cammalleri, who revealed that he prefers “Michael” over “Mike,” had been out since the beginning of January with an upper body injury.
Getting the start in goal for New Jersey was workhorse Cory Schneider, who with this win could lay claim to his first back-to-back set of 20 victory seasons. He would get that win and make 26 saves on 28 shots tonight. Opposing him was Jonas Hiller for the Flames. He stopped 22 of 25 shots seen.
The Devils knew they needed to score first in this game and would do so at 5:12 of the first period when Sergey Kalinin fired the puck in deep. It was picked up by Adam Larsson who moved it to Reid Boucher behind the Flames net. Boucher centered it to Larsson in the high slot who beat Hiller and the Devils were up 1-0.
But that lead would not last long. The Devils knew they had to control Calgary on the power play and Tuomo Ruutu took an interference call at 8:48, giving a team that has had struggles on the power play recently, but could always strike, the extra man.
And sure enough, at 9:16, Sean Monahan connected off a pass from Johnny Gaudreau to tie it up at one. Dougie Hamilton had the secondary assist. “Johnny Hockey,” the South Jersey native, was one of four players with multi-point games tonight. The others were all Devils: Larsson, Lee Stempniak, and Boucher. For Gaudreau, it was his 12 multi-point game already this season.
Time would run out on the first period as Travis Zajac would have had a breakaway, but the buzzer went and the teams went to their locker rooms tied at one.
The second period was when the Devils made their mark. Fifty seven seconds into the frame, Adam Henrique grabbed a turnover in the neutral zone, giving it to Cammalleri to setup a two-on-one with Stempniak. Cammalleri passed to Stempniak who beat the left-handed goaltender five hole. It was 2-1 Devils with more to come. The assist to Henrique was his 100th career NHL assist.
Seventeen seconds later, Tyler Kennedy (playing in his 500th NHL game) dumped one in on net and Kalinin chopped at it in front of the net but missed. Finally it squirted out to Boucher who wristed it past Hiller to give the Devils a 3-1 lead. Damon Severson had the secondary assist. Boucher showed with this goal that he could, as coach John Hynes pointed out in his post-game press conference, score gritty, front-of-the-net goals as well as the skill goals, as he scored on Saturday.
Calgary coach Bob Hartley immediately used his coach’s challenge, citing goalie interference. It was ruled a good goal, as the Flames defenseman had fallen into Hiller and Calgary forfeited their timeout.
It was now 3-1 New Jersey. However, the Calgary power play would strike again as Henrique was sent off for slashing at 15:27. The team that went 5-for-5 on the penalty kill versus Arizona on Saturday would give up a second power play goal at 15:55 when Kris Russell beat Cory with a snap shot, assists to Gaudreau and Mark Giordano. It was now 3-2 Devils and we seemed in for a wild finish.
But, instead, we got a pretty stable third period. No penalties were called (including a tripping call on the Flames when Joseph Blandisi went down that could have easily been called) in the period and, while the Flames had some chances, the Devils and Cory Schneider were able to ward them off.
Eventually, Calgary pulled Hiller and Andy Greene scored into the empty net (assists to Stempniak and Larsson) to make it a 4-2 game, and the Devils pulled out the victory.
It was a rough night for the Devils on special teams. They gave up two power play goals and their power play, which was 0-for-17 going into the night, did not score on two chances.
But they got the two points and have moved back into a playoff spot in the crowded Eastern Conference. Next up is Ottawa at The Rock on Thursday. The Devils have played well against the Senators of late and with Michael Cammalleri back in the lineup (who has been a Sens killer in his career with the Devils), they have a good chance to pick up even more ground in the standings. We will find out what the Devils have in them come Thursday.