The Devils were reeling coming off of their blowout at the hands of the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday. Their next task was daunting: a three game road trip through California against the top three teams in the Pacific Division. But a cross-country flight will allow teammates to get a chance to bond, as Devante Smith-Pelly would discuss during his second intermission interview with Deb Placey on MSG+. He said that, especially for the new guys coming in, this was a chance to get acquainted with their new teammates and get fully brought into the group.
It paid off as well. The Devils got a 3-0 win over the San Jose Sharks and did it by weathering a slew of San Jose shots. Their defense and goaltending was on all night and the high-scoring Sharks were blanked.
Since the two teams last met back in October, some changes have occurred. The Sharks brought in former-Devil Dainus Zubrus, as head coach Pete DeBoer tried to get some more experience for a team that is built to win now.
The Devils called Mike Sislo and Seth Helgeson up from Albany of the AHL to play in the place of Tuomo Ruutu and Jon Merrill, who were a bit banged up and out of the lineup for the night. Damon Severson was also sitting tonight. David Warsofsky is healthy and back in uniform for this game.
The goaltending matchup saw the Sharks throw Martin Jones out. He made 13 saves on 15 shots faced. New Jersey did have an empty net goal and thus, an extra shot. Devils coach John Hynes countered with Keith Kinkaid with Cory Schneider still injured. Kinkaid was nothing short of amazing at times, stopping all 30 Sharks shots he faced.
The Devils were playing with the ice tilted most of the night. They doubled the Devils up in shots 30 to 16 and they had three power plays to the Devils’ one. But the penalty kill came through, knocking off all of the Sharks’ extra man situations and, as mentioned, Kinkaid was fantastic on the night.
The first goal of the game was not scored until 3:14 of the second. Mike Sislo took an outlet pass and immediately head manned to Stephen Gionta. Gionta saw Devante Smith-Pelly coming off the bench on a change and gave the puck to him. He shot from just above the far faceoff circle, using Sharks defenseman Roman Polak as a screen and beating Jones to the stick side. The Devils lead 1-0.
Later on in the period, Kinkaid would make a big save on a Sharks 2-on-1 odd man rush. It was indicative of the night. That second period would see the Sharks outshoot the Devils 16-3 with a lot of pressure in the Devils’ zone. But Kinkaid kept them in it, much as Cory would do.
The Devils doubled the score up just 1:35 into the third when Travis Zajac got credit for a goal that saw the puck just spin on its side over the goal line. Sharks’ defenseman Brent Burns actually pushed it over as he was trying to clear the crease. The goal was reviewed in Toronto and deemed to be a good hockey goal. Kyle Palmieri got the lone assist on the wild play. New Jersey now led 2-0.
The third period saw Kinkaid come up big a few more time and the Devils sealing things with an empty net goal. One of the saves came when Joe Pavelski gave a up a scoring chance and instead passed to the trailing winger, whose shot Kinkaid nabbed. The empty netter came at 19:07 when Zajac got his second of the night with the assist to Reid Boucher.
On the MSG+ post game show, analyst Ken Daneyko said that he felt that Kinkaid put a lot of pressure on himself when Schneider went down and that resulted in the poor performance that was the Pittsburgh game on Sunday. He relaxed and was able to get come up big in his second career shutout.
Now, admittedly, San Jose is not a good home team. They have a dismal record at SAP Center, with second worst home record in the NHL. Things will not be easier in Los Angeles and Anaheim, two Stanley Cup contenders (like the Sharks) that are better in their home rink.
New Jersey will visit LA on Saturday night and we will find out if this team has turned a corner or if they are still pretenders when it comes to a playoff berth. The Devils and Kinkaid did blank the Kings back on St. Valentine’s Day at Prudential Center. As Devils’ play-by-play man Steve Cangialosi said, the team will basically have to mount a long winning streak to get in. Here’s hoping that that winning streak began tonight in San Jose.