In Sunday’s loss at Carolina, part of what got the Devils in trouble were penalties. The team made up for it with tonight’s 2-1 win over the Boston Bruins in which it was their opponents who gave the Devils opportunities with the man advantage. New Jersey got two power play goals, one from Travis Zajac and one from Reid Boucher to down Boston and keep them in the playoff race in the Eastern Conference, albeit by a thread.
Some more good news came on the Cory Schneider front. He skated with the team this morning and will travel with the Devils on the Florida road trip coming later this week. He will likely not play on Thursday against the Panthers (although that is still up in the air), but will almost definitely start against the Lightning on Saturday night.
Some other good news for the Devils involved an injury to a Bruins player. For the first time in the season series, Ryan Spooner would not be able to score the game winning goal against New Jersey. He was injured and did not make the trip to Newark.
One player that the Devils would be seeing was Lee Stempniak as the former Devil was making his return to The Rock as a member of the Bruins. Stempniak – who has played for six teams the last three seasons – was traded at the trade deadline despite being the Devils’ leading scorer.
The goaltending matchup saw Keith Kinkaid return to the crease. Kinkaid started his first game since March 19, after which Scott Wedgewood was called up and started the next four for New Jersey. Kinkaid was solid tonight, making 39 saves on 40 shots faced and being named the game’s first star by the media.
Opposing him would be Tuukka Rask, who got the nod for Boston despite Jonas Gustavsson having two wins over the Devils this season. He made 13 saves on just 15 Devils shots.
That’s right, the Bruins more than doubled up the Devils in the shots on goal department.
The Devils may not have had that many shots, but the ones they did they made count. And it started early. Kyle Palmieri began the game just moments in by making a nice one-on-one move to beat Zdeno Chara, although he was stopped by Rask when he got to the net.
But, as expected, the Bruins would constantly be answering. Kinkaid was tested early on on a breakaway by Matt Beleskey. That was the story of the first period, as Boston had a lot of odd man rushes. MSG’s John MacLean mentioned that all of those odd man situations were what helped Kinkaid get his confidence back, although he did have some help from the defensemen, particularly Andy Greene. Greene is almost always perfect with his positioning and it shows at those times.
Speaking of Andy Greene, congratulations to him for being named the Devils nominee for the Masterton Trophy. The trophy is awarded for perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey. The nomination is made by the New Jersey chapter of the Professional Hockey Writer’s Association and it had to do with him being a guy who was undrafted in 2006 and, ten years later in 2016, being named the captain of the Devils. He is a good, solid player and someone the Devils can always rely on defensively or as a leader.
The Devils would get on the board first when the Bruins’ Patrice Bergeron took a high-sticking call against Reid Boucher, putting the Devils on the power play at 16:04. It would take the Devils about a minute with the man advantage to find the back of the net. David Warsofsky, at the point, moved the puck to Boucher at the near half wall. He quickly moved it to Travis Zajac in the slot who hammered home his 14th of the year to give the Devils a 1-0 lead. It was good puck movement that resulted in that goal at 16:59 and the Devils would go into the first intermission with the lead. Warsofsky’s assist was his first point as a Devil and his second of the year (he had a goal earlier while still with Pittsburgh).
The Bruins would tie things up early in the second when Brad Marchand would beat Kinkaid on a partial breakaway at 4:28. The assists went to Chara and former-Devil-turned-Bruin Lee Stempniak (who continued a tradition this season of scoring against his former teams).
The second period would also see a fight that wasn’t when Adam McQuaid and Seth Helgeson (who was back in the lineup for New Jersey) squared off, but the linesmen jumped in immediately, putting out that fire. Both men would receive unsportsmanlike conduct penalties and the teams would play four-on-four hockey for two minutes.
Early in the third period, Chara would be assessed a boarding penalty against Devante Smith-Pelly and the Devils would again go on the power play at 3:58. They wasted no time retaking the lead. At 4:05, Kyle Palmieri blasted a shot from the point. The rebound came out to Zajac, who passed to Boucher, who was stationed at the hashmarks on the near faceoff circle. He fired and beat Rask, making it 2-1 Devils.
New Jersey would weather a surge from the Bruins for the rest of the third period. Rask was pulled with about two minutes left by Boston coach Claude Julien, but when Brad Marchand took a slashing call against Adam Larsson at 18:49, it essentially put the icing on the Devils’ win. Boston did pull Rask again to even things up at five-on-five, but it was to no avail. Keith Kinkaid and the Devils had come away with the win and were back in the playoff hunt.
That is where things are kind of complicated, though. Carolina did lose in a shootout to the Islanders and at the end of the Devils game, Montreal was leading Detroit, but it will still take some time for things to sort themselves out in the Eastern Conference race. All the Devils can do on their end is keep winning games and let the chips fall where they may.
New Jersey will next travel to Florida as their tour of the Atlantic Division continues. First up: the Panthers in Sunrise. Jaromir Jagr and company look to be in the driver’s seat as they battle intra-state rivals the Tampa Bay Lightning for the Atlantic Division crown. They Devils will need to play an even better game than they did tonight in order to get a “W” in the Sunshine State.
On a final note, congratulations to the Albany Devils, who clinched a Calder Cup Playoff spot with a win the other night versus the Hartford Wolf Pack. With all of the call-ups that have robbed them of most of their roster, they have still been able to play at a high level, a real testament to the team and their coaching staff. Here’s to hoping that they go deep in the AHL’s postseason tournament.