Devils’ coach John Hynes was still looking for his first National Hockey League victory in regulation when his team made the trip down from Ottawa to Buffalo to take on the Sabres and new NHL sensation Jack Eichel. He would finally grab that win, but not without his team fighting for every inch of it.
Out of the lineup for the Devils were Jon Merrill and Tuomo Ruutu. Seeing action would be defenseman Eric Gelinas, who, though he had a rough game in Ottawa (his turnovers led to multiple Senators’ goals), was quickly put back in the lineup by Hynes as a show of confidence in the young blueliner.
Linus Ullmark would be making his first start for the Sabres on Hockey Fights Cancer night at First Niagara Center; opposing Cory Schneider was again big for the Devils. He was equal to 26 of the 29 shots he faced on the night.
Things got off nicely for the Devils until bad penalties again reared their ugly head. Adam Henrique took a slashing call at 8:30 of the first, which would lead to a Tyler Ennis goal 12 seconds into the Buffalo power play. Sergey Kalinin would also take a tripping call in the first, though the Devils were able to kill that off.
Henrique would get back in the good graces of Devils coaches and fans when he scored on a goalmouth scramble with 50 seconds left in the first, tying it late. Mike Cammalleri and Ottawa hero Lee Stempniak would assist on the goal.
In the second, things would start off dicey for New Jersey when Adam Larsson (who was playing in his 200th career game) took a roughing minor against Evander Kane. This put the Devils on the penalty kill early with one of their best PK men in the box. Sure enough, Ryan O’Reilly scored one second after the penalty ended. Though the Devils had successfully killed it off and it was technically an even strength goal, for all intents and purposes it was still a power play goal since Larsson had just stepped back on the ice when it was scored. New Jersey was now playing from behind, 2-1.
Mike Cammalleri would tie it back up at 8:57 of the second when Sergey Kalinin powered towards the Sabres’ net and the puck squirted out to Cammalleri, who quickly buried it. For Kalinin it was the first point of his NHL career. It was Cammalleri’s third goal of the season and his second of three points on the night.
The Devils would again score late in a period, this time with 49 seconds left in the frame when David Schlemko scored his first goal as a Devil off a nice one-touch pass from Cammalleri (his third point on the night). Henrique had the secondary assist. The Devils now led 3-2. They had the lead and they would not relinquish it for the rest of the night.
Midway through the third period, Matt Moulson would spin into a Damon Severson high stick behind the Devils net, putting Buffalo a man up at 8:51. Adam Henrique would again come to the rescue, scoring on a breakaway unassisted, his sixth goal of the year, to make it 4-2 Devils.
A scary moment occurred moments after the shorty, as Schlemko was finishing his check on the Sabres’ Evander Kane, coming in at an awkward angle and pinning Kane’s knee to the boards. Although it was a clean hit and no penalty was called, it was hard for the Sabres and Kane (who has had a history of injuries in his career) although he did leave the game under his own power.
Now without one of their best players, the Sabres would mount a comeback on the Devils. At 17:31 of the third, Brian O’Neill of the Devils took a hooking call and Buffalo’s wunderkind, Eichel made them pay when he fired a wrist shot past Schneider at 19:15. The Sabres had pulled Ullmark to go up two extra men, but that was all they could do. Andy Greene would clear the puck from the zone on a scramble late and Cammalleri would pin it deep in the Sabres end until time ran out.
The Devils have taken 9 out of a possible 10 points in their last five games and have won four straight. Next up for the Devils: they return home to face the Columbus Blue Jackets and their new coach, John Tortorella on Hockey Fights Cancer night at The Rock.