The Devils got back from what was a disastrous road trip and were set to meet the Pittsburgh Penguins at home. A tall order, but one the Devils were ready for. The lone win on their trip came in Pittsburgh and last night, they beat the Penguins at Prudential Center 4-2.
I was able to attend the game and was there for Martin Brodeur Hall of Fame Night. Marty was on hand to drop the ceremonial faceoff prior to the game between Devils captain Andy Greene and Pens captain Sidney Crosby. There was special merchandise in the team store, a display of Marty’s more historical jerseys in the concourse, patches won on the current Devils’ uniforms and an interview that was shown during the second intermission between Marty and NHL Network host EJ Hradek. It was a great tribute to a man who changed a franchise.
But now on to the game itself. Some roster moves for the Devils, as Brian Boyle was placed on injured reserve with an upper body injury and Nico Hischier would miss the game with an upper body injury as well. Drew Stafford and Egor Yakovlev were the other scratches along with Hischier. Pavel Zacha was recalled from Binghamton to take Hischier’s place on the roster.
In goal, Keith Kinkaid was back for the Devils making 29 saves on 31 Pittsburgh shots. The Penguins went with Casey DeSmith. He stopped 31 shots against the Devils’ 34 on him. The Devils finished the game with 35 shots total, as they added an empty netter later on.
The Devils got on the board just 28 seconds into the game when Travis Zajac scored from Taylor Hall and Damon Severson. It was the start of a big night for all three of them. That goal came when Hall reversed the puck back into the Penguins’ zone. Severson got a chop at it to try to put it in and DeSmtih could not corral the rebound. Zajac was right there to hammer it home and give the Devils the 1-0 lead.
But the Pens would tie things up before the first intermission. Phil Kessel scored from Crosby and Evgeni Malkin on the power play (set up when Stefan Noesen was called for high sticking at 13:12) at 13:57. The Pittsburgh power play was still as surgical as ever and it showed here.
The second period was a wild one for the Devils. It began when Severson scored his third of the year from Hall and Jesper Bratt at 8:06. That came when Bratt found Hall behind the Pittsburgh net. Hall then passed to Severson, camped out at the top of the slot, who boomed a one-timer past DeSmith to make it 2-1 Devils.
And the Devils would come oh-so-close to making it 3-1 in this period. At the midway point of the second, Bratt had seemingly scored but the whistle had actually been blown behind the play where Kessel and Brett Seney had gotten into it. This resulted in Kessel receiving two roughing minors and Seney one. The Devils would be on the power play, but would not find the back of the net. The Pens went 1-for-3 with the man advantage, generating two shots on Kinkaid (they also had two shorthanded shots) and the Devils were 0-for-2 with two shots (they had two shorthanded shots as well).
Early in the third period, the Penguins would again tie things up, at two this time. Jake Guentzel scored from Crosby and Kessel at 4:04. Crosby appeared to bump Kinkaid on the rush, leaving Guentzel clear to put the rebound into the net. The Devils used their coach’s challenge but the call on the ice stood, it was a good goal. The crowd was not happy about this to say the least. The noise level picked up considerably with the booing and razzing of the refs.
But the Devils were not done. Hall would scored at the 8:07 mark from Zajac and Kyle Palmieri to give the Devils back the lead. The assist was Zajac’s 300th career NHL assist. This goal developed on the rush when Palmieri lobbed the puck up to Zajac, who chipped it ahead to Hall. Hall got in tight on DeSmith, deked to his forehand and went five hole to put the Devils ahead 3-2.
The Pens would pull DeSmith with about two minutes remaining and Hall, on his way to being named the game’s first star, scored into the empty net from Noesen with less than 30 seconds left in the game to ice it.
The Devils won 49-percent of the game’s faceoffs and were outhit by a wide margin 32-16. The Devils recorded more blocks, 14-8, however.
Sami Vatanen once again led in total ice time with a huge 25:00 (1:23 on the power play, 2:26 on the PK). Zajac led the forwards with 22:57 total ice time (1:21 on the PP and 3:03 on the PK). Hall and Ben Lovejoy each fired six shots on goal while hits were led by Zacha with four. Blocks were led by Hall, Palmieri, Zacha and Greene who each had two apiece. Palmieri and Zacha led in takeaways with two each.
Next up, the Devils travel down to Philly to take on the Flyers on Thursday at 7 PM. We will have coverage right here for you then. (Hopefully earlier!)