For Devils fans, things were beginning to get a little bit frustrating. They seemed to be playing well, putting forth one of their best efforts of the season on Thursday against the Edmonton Oilers, but were just not getting the results. That changed tonight as the team skated to a 2-1 win over the Florida Panthers at home to finally notch their elusive tenth win – the first team to ten wins in the Metropolitan Division this year.
Coach John Hynes feels his young team needed to experience some of the adversity that comes with a rough patch like this. MSG Network’s Bryce Salvador mentioned that the rookies have responded “professionally” to the adversity and will be better because of it.
On the injury front, Nico Hischier was not injured in overtime of the Edmonton game, he was simply exhausted from being out on the ice for the three-on-three for so long. He played in tonight’s game. Two more Devils walking wounded who are getting closer to a return are Travis Zajac, who will travel with the team on the upcoming road trip, and Michael McLeod. Both of them practiced with the team earlier today and have been cleared to play. Marcus Johansson remains out with a concussion. Otherwise, the lineup remained mostly the same as the other night. Ben Lovejoy, Dalton Prout and Pavel Zacha were the healthy scratches.
Speaking of Nico, MSG analyst Ken Daneyko told a story during the game about receiving a text message about Nico and that the sender loves to watch him play, mentioning that he really is a fun player to watch. The sender? None other than “the Great One” himself, Wayne Gretzky.
It was Military Appreciation Night at The Rock on this Veterans Day. The Devils warmed up in their camo warmup jerseys, which will be signed by the players and auctioned off for charity. Kyle Palmieri, of course, has his Squad 21 outreach program that for 21 games gives 21 tickets to 21 veterans to seats in section 21 and he would play a big role in tonight’s game, netting the game winning goal in the second period, as we shall see.
The goaltending matchup saw the Devils’ Cory Schneider go tonight and stop 32 of 33 shots on goal. He would be named the game’s first star. Florida was playing the back end of a back-to-back (they won in Buffalo last night) and started James Reimer in goal tonight. He stopped 19 of 21 Devil shots. Roberto Luongo did not start for the Panthers, but he recently moved past Curtis Joseph into fourth on the all-time NHL wins leaders column. He is still over 200 wins behind Marty Brodeur, however.
The first goal of the game was scored by Damon Severson, who was a healthy scratch earlier in the week and got into the lineup and on the scoresheet tonight. That goal came when Jimmy Hayes won a faceoff deep in the Florida zone back to Severson. Severson wristed a shot that deflected off of Keith Yandle’s skate and went in behind Reimer. The goal came at 5:59 of the first period and gave New Jersey the 1-0 lead.
The officials went a little bit whistle happy during the first period. On the Panthers’ first power play (a Miles Wood roughing on the goalie call), Schneider made a huge right pad save on Jonathan Huberdeau to preserve the lead. In all, the Panthers would go 0-for-4 on the power play, with a whopping nine power play shots. The Devils were 1-for-2 with the man advantage with two shots. The Panthers also had a shorthanded shot, with Cory stopping a 2-on-1 coming towards him.
That power play goal for the Devils came just 4:58 of the second period when Will Butcher and Nico Hischier played catch with the puck on the far side while Palmieri set up shop at the top of the near faceoff circle. Butcher dished to him and Palmieri unleashed a monster of a shot that went over Reimer’s left shoulder before he could get set. It was now 2-0 Devils.
The Panthers would get back into the game when Nick Bjugstad scored at 7:20 of the second period from Mike Matheson to make it 2-1.
But that was where it stayed, despite some near misses for Florida. Midway through the third period, while the teams were 4-on-4 (following coincidental roughing minors to the Panthers’ Ian McCoshen and the Devils’ Stefan Noesen), Cory came out of his crease to play a loose puck and gave it right to Vincent Trocheck. He made the save on the ensuing shot to keep the Devils lead intact.
Reimer was pulled by Florida with about 1:38 remaining in the third period for the extra attacker. The Devils overcame a series of icings and faceoffs in their defensive zone, including one with 1.5 seconds remaining in the game, to win. A big part of that was Brian Boyle winning the defensive zone faceoffs. Although the Devils only won 33-percent of the faceoffs in the game.
Stat-wise, Andy Greene led the Devils in ice time with 24:32. Drew Stafford had three shots on goal to pace the team and the hits leader was Steven Santini with four (including one in the second period where he put the Panthers’ Aleksander Barkov into his own bench).
Next up, the Devils play the second half of a back-to-back tomorrow night in Chicago. The Blackhawks are in Carolina tonight (they won in OT) and so the teams will probably be getting into the Windy City at roughly the same time. That game is a 7 PM tomorrow night. We will see you then.