The Devils blew into the Windy City having just come off a frustrating loss to the St. Louis Blues and were getting ready for their second meeting with the defending Stanley Cup champs in less than a week. They would finish the night with their second victory over those Chicago Blackhawks to sweep the season series.
With Jiri Tlusty still with some soreness in his shoulder, Chicago native Stefan Matteau got the nod. Eric Gelinas was a healthy scratch for New Jersey. Cory Schneider got the start in goal and made 27 saves on the night. He was, in a word, brilliant in this game, keeping the Devils grounded in the game and keeping them out of trouble when it could have easily gotten away from them. The Blackhawks were welcoming Marian Hossa back to the lineup, making them just that more dangerous.
Patrick Kane had said prior to the game that Chicago went into the game ill prepared for the game against the Devils in Newark. He added that while the Devils did not have as much talent as many NHL teams, they work harder than most teams in the league. Andrew Shaw echoed those comments. What they were basically saying that they make a tough opponent, which is high praise, of course, coming from players like Shaw and Kane and a team like the Blackhawks, who work harder than any team and have the hardware to show for it over the last five years.
And it was Kane who got the scoring kicked off for the game. The Devils took two penalties on one shift (John Moore for tripping and Damon Severson for high-sticking at 5:02) and Kane converted on the first half of that power play. The Devils killed off the second half, and basically, as MSG+ play-by-play man Steve Cangialosi said, “weathered the storm” in the early part of the first period. New Jersey survived the first only down 1-0 and would look to the second period to get things going.
Adam Henrique only needed 59 seconds into the period to score, netting his eighth off an assist from Illinois native John Moore also playing in front of his friends and family. The game stayed tied at one apiece until Kyle Palmieri, who was phenomenal tonight, creating chances for the Devils and sparking them all night, lit the lamp on a pass from Sergey Kalinin at 17:01 of the middle period. It was Palmieri’s sixth goal of the year so far and Kalinin’s first of two points in the game. Palmieri would be named the first star of the night by the attending media. The Devils now had a 2-1 lead going into the final frame and the thought that they could knock off the Hawks again was becoming very real.
That is until Artemi Panarin, who has, much like Kalinin for the Devils, made an impact for his team after coming over from the KHL, scored for Chicago at 13:19. The game was now tied at two and, fittingly, it would come down to special teams, which had been strong all night for the Devils, which would settle things in Chi-town.
At 17:25 of the third, Kane was called for high-sticking Kalinin. On the television broadcast, the game was going to commercial break and fans were not aware of the call until MSG+ returned. New Jersey would make the most of this opportunity. More specifically, Sergey Kalinin and Kyle Palmieri would make the most of it. David Schlemko took the puck at the point off the faceoff in the Hawks zone and slid it over to Palmieri on the left point, who fired on net. Kalinin was set up in the screen in front of Corey Crawford (who made 19 saves on the night) and was right in position to whack the rebound off Palmieri’s shot under the diving goaltender to give the Devils a 3-2 lead at 17:33.
The Blackhawks would pull Crawford a few minutes later, but it was to no avail. The Devils and Cory Schneider weathered the storm, constantly rebuffing the Hawks’ attack and clearing the puck from the zone. It had looked early on like New Jersey would be adversely affected by their loss on Tuesday to St. Louis, as they were hitting posts and missing chances to put Chicago away early. But Cory kept them in the game and gave them a chance to win and they took full advantage of it.
The Devils ride the crest of this wave back to Prudential Center for a contest with Phil Kessel and the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday. Although Pittsburgh has not been getting a lot of scoring from Sidney Crosby, they have still been able to win largely due to the production of Kessel. The Pens will be playing their second of back-to-back games (they play Columbus on Friday), so the Devils might be able to catch them a little tired and flat.
We will see how everything plays out, but for now Devils fans have bragging rights over the defending Cup champs and (even though they only play two games against each other a year) that feels pretty good.