The Devils came out of the All-Star break having regrouped and rested, which was good considering they had dropped the two games leading into the break. To say tonight’s game at the Detroit Red Wings was a must-win would not be overstating things too much. With a win, they could leapfrog the Wings in the playoff standings and move back into the thick of things in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
There was some adversity, but the Devils overcame it and got a 4-3 win in their penultimate game at the Joe Louis Arena (New Jersey will be the visitors for the final regular season game played there this coming April).
The lineup was largely the same as the game versus Washington prior to the All-Star break with the exception of Cory Schneider starting over Keith Kinkaid in goal. Beau Bennett and Andy Greene were still out with injuries for the Devils. Greene could be back as soon as the weekend against either Calgary or Columbus. Dylan Larkin was back in the lineup for Detroit after missing some games due to injury. The scratches for New Jersey were Luke Gazdic, newly-recalled Seth Helgeson and Sergey Kalinin. Sitting for the Red Wings were Tomas Jurco, Alexey Marchenko and Ryan Sproul.
The goaltending matchup saw Cory Schneider go for the Devils. He made 27 saves on 30 Detroit shots. In for the Red Wings was Jared Coreau – at 6-foot 6-inches, the tallest goalie in the history of the Wings – he made 20 saves on 24 Devils shots. Cory was sharp for most of the night, making some big saves when needed. He also got some goal support tonight which helped him out in the long run as well.
The Devils came out flying as Kyle Palmieri hit the post right off the bat. They then scored just 1:28 into the contest, as Jacob Josefson had the puck pinned against the boards. Pavel Zacha took it from him and shot from a sharp angle. Stefan Noesen gathered the rebound and was able to get to his backhand, beating Coreau to make it 1-0 Devils. It was Noesen’s second goal in his first two games as a Devil, a feat which Devante Smith-Pelly had also achieved last season when he was acquired from Montreal at the trade deadline.
The Devils’ second goal was set up when Zacha was called for tripping Justin Abdelkader, putting Detroit on the power play at 5:09. New Jersey would then double their lead at the 6:21 mark of the first period when Palmieri stole the puck in the neutral zone and skated it in to the Red Wings’ zone. He made a nifty move around Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall before going wide on Coreau and sliding it behind him to make it 2-0 Devils. The goal was unassisted. It was the first of two shorthanded goals the Devils would pot on the night. Detroit, with the NHL’s worst overall power play unit, ended up going 1-for-5 with the man advantage while the Devils were 0-for-1.
The second period began with the Devils having to kill a 5-on-3 power play. Vern Fiddler was called for holding at 8:17 and former Red Wing-Kyle Quincey for cross checking at 9:01. The Devils had about one minute of a 5-on-3 and then a 5-on-4 penalty kill. They successfully killed off both penalties. However, at the 18:03 mark of the second, Henrik Zetterberg finally broke through for Detroit, scoring from Gustav Nyquist and Anthony Mantha to cut the Devils lead in half, 2-1.
But 1:23 later, at the 19:26 mark, the Devils made it a two goal lead again when Ben Lovejoy moved the puck up the near wall in the Devils’ zone to Taylor Hall. The All-Star skated the puck up-ice with Travis Zajac and Palmieri. He used Zajac as a bit of a decoy, acting like he would pass to him in the middle, but instead went to the far wing to Palmieri. Palmieri skated it over the Red Wings blue line and fired a wrist shot glove side by Coreau to make it 3-1 New Jersey. It was Kyle Palmieri’s second goal of the game.
The third period was quiet until the 10:18 mark when Noesen was called for hooking and Detroit went on the power play again. But the Devils had an answer for that. Adam Henrique blocked a shot at the point and was off to the races on a breakaway – he beat Coreau over his right pad as he sprawled on the ice at 10:30 to make it 4-1 Devils. It was the first time since December 8, 2011 that the Devils had scored two shorties in one game. (In that game against Ottawa, Zach Parise and Dainius Zubrus turned the trick.)
It seemed the Devils had this one in the bag, but Detroit has a knack this year for coming back when against the wall. The drama began on the same power play the Devils had just scored shorthanded on. Tomas Tatar scored at 11:49 from Kronwall and Darren Helm to make it 4-2.
Then, at 15:18, Detroit continued the pressure when Nick Jensen scored on a goal mouth scramble from Zetterberg and Xavier Ouellet to make it 4-3. The Devils’ Damon Severson had a nice chance to put them up 5-3 right after, but sent the puck through the crease.
The tension continued after that when Palmieri was called for interference against Andreas Athanasiou at 17:44. The Wings pulled Coreau to give them a 6-on-4 advantage, but could not complete the comeback. The Devils killed off the penalty and then held on thanks to good goaltending and just scoring enough goals.
The Devils have now won five in a row on the road, but need to get things going at home if they want to make a push for the playoffs. And home is where they will be on Friday when they take on the Calgary Flames at Prudential Center. I will be attending this game and so my post on the game will be a little bit late. If the Devils can pick up more wins like this, then they should be able to get back into the middle of the playoff race and maybe even make a push.