Kyle Palmieri is on fire right now, no doubt about it. He extended his multi-goal game streak to three to start the season as the Devils fought off a late onslaught by the San Jose Sharks to win 3-2 today at Prudential Center.
Prior to the game was the Red Carpet Arrival and Fan Fest, as that had been moved from the home opener to today due to inclement weather on Thursday. But it was a great crowd on hand, especially for an NFL Sunday and they were great all game.
The Sharks have gotten off to a relatively slow start, coming in at 2-2-1 with five points on the season. Despite that record, though, they still get a lot of high quality scoring chances and outshoot their opponents more often than not.
A win in today’s game would give the Devils their first win over the Sharks on home ice since February 11, 2011, which came prior to current San Jose coach Pete DeBoer’s time as bench boss in New Jersey even.
Healthy scratches for the Devils today were Eric Gryba, Steven Santini and Drew Stafford, as the Devils went with the same lineup they had used for the Edmonton and Washington games.
In net, Keith Kinkaid went for the Devils again making 37 saves on 39 San Jose shots. He came up huge when he needed to again. The Sharks get a lot of shots, remember, including 11 on their power play, despite going 0-for-3 with the man advantage. San Jose also had three shorthanded shots, with the Devils going 1-for-8 on the power play. More on those eight penalties later.
Martin Jones was in goal for the Sharks, making 33 saves on 36 total Devils shots. The Devils had 10 power play shots and three shorthanded.
The majority of the scoring would come in the second period.
The Devils had gone 143:51 into the season without being behind in a game. That streak would end 3:51 into the second period as Joe Pavelski scored from Brent Burns and Evander Kane to give the Sharks the 1-0 lead midway through the game. That goal came on a delayed penalty as Mirco Mueller was set to be taken off the ice, but San Jose scored instead.
The Devils would fight back to tie it, from who else but Kyle Palmieri. This one came on a 5-on-3 power play set up when Tomas Hertl was called for high sticking Nico Hischier at 6:11. The Devils had been enjoying the 5-on-3 for one minute and 16 seconds as Melker Karlsson was sent off for goalie interference prior at 5:27. San Jose does not give up a lot on the power play but a 5-on-3 is a lot to handle.
Palmieri’s goal came at 7:06 into the period when Sami Vatanen put the puck on net and it came behind to Taylor Hall. Hall skated it up the far half wall, found an open seam to Palmieri at the near faceoff dot and passed. Palmieri had time, settled and fired the puck past Jones’ glove hand. His fifth of the season had tied it up at one. It took Palmieri until New Year’s last season to reach five goals, with his being injured most of the early part of the season, but he had equaled it just three games into this year. A healthy Kyle Palmieri is a dangerous weapon for the Devils.
A scary moment in the second period when Miles Wood took a puck to the face. He left the ice with a broken tooth but did not miss a shift.
Before the end of the second, the Sharks would grab the lead back when a Timo Meier shot popped over the shoulder of Kinkaid and in. Logan Couture and Hertl had the assists as San Jose took a 2-1 lead into the second intermission.
But the third period belonged to the Devils. Palmieri would tie things at two with his sixth goal of the young season and second of the night. That goal came just 37 seconds into the third frame and occurred when Hischier won a faceoff deep in the Sharks’ zone and Hall tipped it back to Damon Severson at the point. He passed to Andy Greene who was pinching in around the left faceoff circle. He fired a shot up high on Jones and the rebound came down in front of the net creating a goal mouth scramble. Palmieri closed in and jammed the loose puck home to tie the game up at two.
On the MSG+ broadcast, Ken Daneyko initially thought the goal might have been waved off, but it was just the referee emphatically pointing to Palmieri, saying that he had scored. The goal held up and the game was knotted up at two. This would set up a dramatic finish.
It began when the Devils took the 3-2 lead at the 3:25 mark of the third. Kinkaid had just made a big save at one end of the rink, allowing the Devils to skate the puck out of their zone. Taylor Hall took the outlet pass and skated towards the top of the near faceoff circle, where he curled back in towards the center of the ice. He found Mirco Mueller trailing and gave it up to him. Mueller fired from the top of the far faceoff circle and the puck trickled through Jones’ arm. Jean-Sebastien Dea was right there at the doorstep in jam it home and the Devils had taken the 3-2 lead just like that.
It was yet another case of a goaltender making a huge stop at one end and a team using that momentum to drive up the ice and score.
Then came the craziness. First, Garrett Rank, one of the referees, was injured, leaving us to finish the game with a single ref and the two linesmen. Following that, at 11:52 of the third, the Sharks’ newly acquired defenseman Erik Karlsson clipped Nico Hischier in the nose with a high stick. Hischier was bloodied, but no initial call was made. The officials got together to talk about it and a double minor was then assessed to Karlsson. Hischier would return right away and the Devils would not score on the four minute power play. This would, however, remove one of San Jose’s best players from the ice for four of the eight or so remaining minutes of the game.
Following that, the Devils would take two successive penalties. Noesen would go off for holding the stick at 15:44 and almost as soon as the Devils killed that, they would draw a bench minor for too many men on the ice at 18:10.
The Sharks would pull Jones with just about two minutes remaining for the dangerous 6-on-4. Dangerous for both teams, as the Devils could fire at the Sharks’ empty net with impunity since there were no icings with the penalty.
The Devils would hang on, though and weather the storm, coming away with the 3-2 victory having defeated the defending Cup champs and perennial Cup contenders in back-to-back games.
Statistically, New Jersey out hit the Sharks 19-11 while San Jose edged in blocked shots, 13-12. The Devils had eight giveaways to the Sharks’ two.
Individually, it was not a defenseman who led the team in ice time this game, as Palmieri took that honor with 22:14 of total time on ice. This included a whopping 9:30 on the power play – which probably explains a forward taking the ice time crown today. Vatanen led the d-men with 20:42 (including 6:21 on the power play and 1:52 on the kill). Vatanen led by far in shots on goal with six, doubling up this next closest shooter. Hits were led by Blake Coleman with three while Brian Boyle, Ben Lovejoy and Mueller all led in blocks with two apiece. Hall led in takeaways with three. Travis Zajac led in faceoff wins percentage with 78-percent. This is a facet of the game the Devils have improved on greatly from last year: winning faceoffs.
Next up, another challenge for the Devils on Tuesday as the Dallas Stars come to town to continue the homestand. Dallas just narrowly missed the playoffs last season and stand at 3-1-0 this season. The Devils, at 3-0-0 remain the last unbeaten team in the NHL and have equaled their start from last season. But they will be up against it this week against some tough teams, starting with the Stars. We will have coverage right here for you then.