Devils Suffer First Home Defeat of Season, 3-2 in OT Versus Blackhawks

Chicago’s North Side is currently celebrating the return of the World Series to Wrigley Field for the first time since 1945. But while the Chicago Cubs do battle with the Cleveland Indians in game 3 on the diamond, Chicago’s hockey team was in Newark to take on the Devils.

For New Jersey, tonight was Hockey Fights Cancer night. In addition to wearing their lavender warmup jerseys (which will be auctioned off to support Newark Beth Israel hospital and the Valerie Fund), the dasher board ads were also in a lavender hue and the Devils honored children suffering from various forms of cancer in their pregame. One kid in particular was Santino Anatasia, who got to sign a one-day contract with the team (he cannot play hockey due to his suffering from Leukemia, so this had extra meaning to him), attend the morning skate, meet the players and drop the puck for the ceremonial faceoff between Devils captain Andy Greene and Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews. A great initiative altogether by the NHL and a nice gesture to a young fan by the Devils.

But the Devils also had business to take care of: their game with Chicago. In the lineup for New Jersey was Illinois-native Nick Lappin, making his NHL debut. He played primarily on a line with Vernon Fiddler and Sergey Kalinin.

Getting the night off was Cory Schneider, as Keith Kinkaid got his first start of the 2016-17 season. Kinkaid would make 26 saves on 29 Chicago shots. Opposing him down the rink was Hawks goaltender Corey Crawford. He made 30 saves as the Devils peppered him with 32 shots. Kinkaid was not shaken even early when the goal light malfunctioned behind his goal in the first period, even with the red light flashing behind him; he was still sharp throughout most of the game.

It did seem as if Chicago had gotten on the board early when Artemi Panarin had seemingly bury one behind Kinkaid. The referee immediately waved the goal off, saying that the puck hit the crossbar of the goal cage and bounced down in front of the goal line. It remained 0-0.

Instead it was the Devils who would break the ice when Marcus Kruger of the Hawks went off for holding the stick against Pavel Zacha at 13:43. Chicago had the worst penalty kill as a team in the NHL coming into the this game, having given up 14 power play goals this month so far – the worst stretch for a team since 1987-88.

And right on cue, the Devils scored with the man advantage. The Devils showed great puck possession, especially down low and it paid off when Yohann Auvitu was able to keep the puck in the zone, firing it on net. After a scramble in front, Devante Smith-Pelly took a whack at it and, eventually, PA Parenteau hammered it home, giving the Devils a 1-0 lead at 15:32.

But while New Jersey got off to the start on the power play, it was Chicago’s power play that would win the game for them, eventually. The Devils dominated the second period in the Blackhawks’ zone for most of the second period, but at 6:35, Damon Severson was called for a hooking penalty against Richard Panik, putting Chicago a man up. They would convert when Panarin finally found the back of the net off assists from Patrick Kane and Brent Seabrook. The game was tied at one.

The third period would see the Devils take a 2-1 lead when, at 4:06, Taylor Hall skated the puck calmly into the Blackhawks’ zone, cutting wide and passing to Kyle Palmieri, who tipped it to another Illinois-native, John Moore, who was pinching in on the backside. Moore buried it and the Devils were up again.

Hall had some great looks all night, but was not able to find the back of the net. He still played a good game.

But things would get dicey later in the third frame. At 14:18, Vernon Fiddler was called for a high-sticking double minor against Kane. His clip of Kane’s chin had produced blood, giving the Hawks four minutes to work with.

The Devils would seem to have things in control until, with 17:49, Chicago coach Joel Quenneville pulled Crawford for an extra attacker. With the Blackhawks up 6-on-4, Marian Hossa snuck on the ice and beat Kinkaid. Panik and Toews had the assists. Quenneville’s gamble had paid off and the game was now tied at two.

And that would be it for regulation. Both teams would pick up a point as they headed into overtime to decide this thing. It was there where Hall got caught on the ice for the entire 1:15 that was played, leading to him becoming tired and the Blackhawks essentially getting a 3-on-2. A turnover later, Artem Anisimov scored his fifth of the season from Panarin and Duncan Keith.

The Blackhawks got the win and the full two points, snapping New Jersey’s home winning streak at three. The irony of the night was that the Devils power play, against a weak Chicago penalty kill, went 1-for-4, while the Hawks’ power play, against a much better Devils’ PK unit was 2-for-5.

But they have to recover quickly. Tomorrow brings the Tampa Bay Lightning into town. A tough test in back-to-back nights, for sure. But something the Devils need to be able to overcome to make strides this season.

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