The Devils will see a lot of the Carolina Hurricanes this month – three meetings including tonight – and they started things off by sending a message to the team from Raleigh. They also showed they can handle the weaker teams just as well as they have played against the stronger teams in the NHL.
For the Devils, it was a special road trip: the players’ dads came along, flying down to North Carolina with the club and riding the bus, participating in pre-game meals, meetings and the morning skate. The fathers will also be at tomorrow’s home game against the Flyers.
The Devils gave Cory Schneider a rare night off, giving the nod to Keith Kinkaid, who responded by grabbing 30 of the 31 shots he saw. It was Kinkaid’s first start since November 20 at Edmonton. The Hurricanes also gave their number one a night off, as Cam Ward sat for backup Eddie Lack who made 22 saves.
Also back in the lineup for the Devils was Stefan Matteau and Brian O’Neill. Coach Hynes wanted to shake things up after the team’s somewhat lackluster performance against Colorado on Tuesday. For those wondering, Matteau’s father, Stephane, had a prior youth hockey commitment and could not make the trip with the Devils. The sight of Stephane Matteau, Rangers legend, in a Devils jersey would certainly have been priceless.
Anyway, the Devils got the scoring started in the first when Mike Cammalleri (who finished the game with two goals and an assist) beat Lack on a give-and-go with Tyler Kennedy. The assist was Kennedy’s 200th career NHL point. With the Devils up 1-0, the only down point of the first period was that Travis Zajac went down with what the team is calling an upper body injury. He did not return in the game.
The second period was when the Devils really exploded. At 9:04, Carolina’s Jeff Skinner was called for high sticking Lee Stempniak. It drew blood and Skinner went off for a four-minute double minor. The Devils took full advantage. At 11:03, Adam Henrique was sprung on a partial breakaway in the Hurricanes’ zone by Stempniak, made a nice inside-out move and beat Lack. John Moore had the secondary assist. Because the goal came with 2:02 remaining on the power play, the Devils still got the second full two minutes of power play time.
Although they did not score on that part of the power play, at 13:10, Stephen Gionta scored on a wraparound after settling down his initial shot. The assists went to O’Neill and Kennedy (who, along Cammalleri and John Moore had a multi-point night as well).
Carolina got on the board when Brad Malone scored at 17:36 of the second, but the Devils got their three goal lead back about one minute and twenty seconds later when Jacob Josefson broke his scoring drought (he had not scored since last April). Josefson, whose father and brother made the trip over from Sweden for the game, took a nice pass from Cammalleri, setting up a two-on-one with Josefson and Kyle Palmieri. Josefson opted to shoot and put the puck behind Lack. The Devils were up 3-1.
At 19:19 of the second, Jordin Tootoo went toe-to-toe with the lone Canes’ goal-scorer, Malone. In a scary moment, Tootoo connected with a hard left hand, knocking Malone to the ice and out of the game.
The third period saw the Devils add to their lead and saw another scrap with a less scary outcome. The fight came at 11:20 when Justin Faulk and Matteau went at it after a roughing up in the corner that Matteau took. Matteau got the upper hand in the fight and left the winner, though both also got a roughing minor in addition to the fighting major. The Devils would make their case for winning the game when Patrik Elias swept the puck to Moore at the point, who quickly gave it back to Elias. Elias saw Cammalleri down along the goal line, passed the puck to him and he snapped off a shot at a sharp angle, beating Lack and giving New Jersey the 5-1 lead.
The Devils played a good, complete game and won with a total team effort. This will help them build confidence as the Philadelphia Flyers come to town tomorrow. In the second half of a back-to-back, New Jersey will be facing a Philly team that has won their last three. It is a rivalry game and the team will have their dads in attendance. Can they continue to play as completely as they did in Carolina? Time will tell as four games in five nights continues Friday night at the Rock.