The New Jersey Devils had not earned two points in a hockey game in exactly one week, since the game in Buffalo. Going into Joe Louis Arena to face the powerful Detroit Red Wings just before the NHL Christmas break seemed like a daunting task. In the end, though, the Devils hung on to defeat the Wings powered by a quick offensive explosion in the first period.
In roster news for the Devils, Patrik Elias was out for the second straight game, this time, though, it was due to injury. He injured the same knee that kept him out at the start of the season (though they are claiming this is a new injury) as it was tweaked at practice yesterday.
Goaltending-wise, the Devils started Cory Schneider, who faced 28 shots and got 25 of them. Detroit threw out Jimmy Howard for the start. He would be replaced early on in the first period by Petr Mrazek after yielding three goals on six shots. Mrazek faced eleven shots and made ten saves.
The Devils had given up the first goal of the game in many of their recent games and they acknowledged that that was something they wanted to work on.
When Michigan-native Andy Greene took a delay of game penalty at 10:00 into the first, things looked to be much the same as they had been. However, Henrik Zetterberg of the Wings was called for holding against Adam Larsson just 37 seconds into the Detroit power play, which would eventually give the Devils some time on the power play once the Greene penalty was up or Detroit scored.
Detroit did not score and at 12:05, Kyle Palmieri took a pass from Jon Merrill and shot off the backboards, grabbing his own rebound and putting the puck behind Jimmy Howard. It was 1-0 Devils with the power play goal.
The goal was very similar to Scott Niedermayer’s end-to-end goal from the 1995 Stanley Cup Finals, game 2. MSG+ showed the goals back-to-back and Ken Daneyko commented on the similarity.
Less than 40 seconds later, former-Red Wing Jordin Tootoo tipped in a Greene slap shot, making it 2-0 Devils.
The third goal in a little more than two minutes (and the one that chased Howard) came when Palmieri skated the puck along the near boards, spun to beat his man and gave the puck to David Schlemko, who fired and buried the puck behind Howard. It was now 3-0 Devils.
Late in the first period, Detroit would begin to climb back into the game when Damon Severson went to the box for tripping at 18:02. Red Wings super-rookie Dylan Larkin would capitalize on the power play, beating Cory off assists from Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall.
The Devils were going into the second now on their heels, despite the three goal early-period outburst. And sure enough, at 12:02, when Stephen Gionta was called for tripping Gustav Nyquist, the Wings would make good on the ensuing power play. Mike Green made it 3-2, Devils after he scored from Brad Richards and Pavel Datsyuk.
The second period was also really chippy. There were ten penalties called in the period, including the Gionta penalty. There were only six penalties in the other two periods combined.
Detroit’s power play was also key for them, scoring two power play goals on the night. Though the Devils were able to contain them for the most part, you do not want to give a team like the Red Wings too many chances. Their power play kept them in the game.
In the third period, the Devils would retake a two goal lead when Sergey Kalinin scooped up a Jacob Josefson rebound and shot it past Mrazek just 2:44 into the frame.
But the resilient Red Wings were not done yet. Midway through the third, at 14:23, Riley Sheahan scored from Tomas Jurco to make it 4-3.
As New Jersey play-by-play man Steve Cangialosi put it, “hold on to your hats.”
The Wings would pull Mrazek late in the third, but a Kronwall interference penalty would negate the extra man for Detroit. With the goalie pulled, at five-on-five, the Red Wings were unable to beat Schneider and time ran out, giving the Devils two points at The Joe, which has been a house of horrors for the Devils for almost two decades.
The Devils’ win keeps them solidly in the wildcard playoff race going into the Christmas break. The team will come back with a home-and-home against the Carolina Hurricanes, facing them down in Raleigh first on Saturday, December 26 and then on the following Tuesday, December 29 at home in Newark.
But for now, the Devils go into the break feeling good about themselves and their situation.
Happy Holidays, everyone!