The Devils rolled into Anaheim the winners of five straight but the victims of a bad break. It was announced yesterday that Taylor Hall would miss 3 to 4 weeks after having arthroscopic surgery on his left knee to repair a torn meniscus. He was back in New Jersey where he underwent the surgery.
Michael Cammalleri would also not be with the team for this road trip. But there was some good news from he is expected to be back for the homestand in New Jersey. According to Deb Placey in the MSG+ pregame show, John Hynes said that his personal situation with his family is “progressing in a positive direction.”
So, without their top sniper as well as one of their leading scorers in Hall, they would head into California to begin the last part of a western road string. They had won five straight, their longest winning streak in three and a half years, although they were only playing at NHL .500 on the road.
Since the two clubs met in the Devils’ home opener back in October, some things had changed. The Ducks had gotten Hampus Lindholm back, signing him out of his holdout. Also, the Ducks were now atop the Pacific Division, a way better hockey team than the Devils had faced last month.
Jon Merrill made his season debut for the Devils, coming off of injured reserve to replace Yohann Auvitu on the back end (Auvitu was a little banged up following the Dallas game). In other lineup switches, Pavel Zacha moved from center to left wing for the game.
In net for the Devils was Cory Schneider who was solid, making 20 saves on just 23 Ducks shots. The Devils did a good job containing Anaheim, keeping them to only those 23 shots. Anaheim sent out a bit of a surprise, starting Jonathan Bernier between the pipes. He made 27 saves on the Devils’ 29 shots on goal.
Coach John Hynes sent out Kyle Palmieri, Devante Smith-Pelly and Ben Lovejoy to start the game, all former Ducks, similar to what he did with Vern Fiddler in Dallas.
After a scoreless first period which saw spurts of action – in the early minutes Adam Henrique put a little bit too much on a pass to Zacha in front that bounced over the big Czech’s stick. In the final seconds of the period, Cory made a big save and Henrique was able to clear the rebound from the crease. The Devils looked good going into the second frame.
Early in the second period, at about the 14:40 mark, the Devils were on a 2-on-0 when Beau Bennett took the pass and bobbled the puck and had to shoot from a sharp angle. Although he did not score on the play (which is frustrating for him, as he is still looking for his first goal of the year), the Devils did draw a penalty and would go on the power play.
But they would not score, as they went 0-for-3 with the man advantage, including late in the game when they had a chance to tie things up as we shall see. They did hold Anaheim 0-for-2 on the power play as well, so their penalty kill is still solid.
The Devils would finally break through when former Duck Devante Smith-Pelly scored at 10:32 of the second. It occurred when Jacob Josefson won the offensive zone draw for the Devils back to John Moore. Moore went point-to-point with Kyle Quincey, who fired on net. Smith-Pelly deflected the shot by Bernier and the Devils took a 1-0 lead.
Things looked in the Devils’ favor, as the team was 4-0-2 when scoring the first goal of the game and the Ducks had not won a game this season where they had given up the first goal of the game.
About three and a half minutes later, Quincey would find the back of the net himself when Adam Henrique and Pavel Zacha cycled down low and eventually gave the puck to Quincey at the point. He fired and beat Bernier cleanly, doubling up the Devils lead to 2-0. Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle would challenge the goal, challenging goalie interference on Kyle Palmieri. The replay showed that Palmieri was not near Bernier when the puck was already by the Ducks’ goaltender. The call on the ice stood, it was a good goal and Anaheim lost their timeout.
The Devils lead would last for about three and a half minutes until 17:24 when it would begin crashing down. First, Rickard Rakell scored his fifth of the year with an assist to Ryan Getzlaf. Less than 20 seconds after that goal, Jakob Silfverberg notched his sixth with assists to Korbinian Holzer and Andrew Cogliano. Suddenly, in a flurry of action, the game was tied up at two.
Cogliano would be at the center of a scrum in the middle of the third period when he gave Schneider a snow shower. PA Parenteau took exception to it and the teams started pushing and shoving. Emotions were high and Cogliano had been a thorn in the Devils’ side all night.
Things would remain tied up until 16:20 of the third when Ryan Kesler poked the puck in off of a scramble in front of Cory. Josh Manson and Silfverberg had the assists. With just about four minutes left in the game, New Jersey suddenly found themselves down 3-2.
But, the Devils would seemingly have a reprieve when Manson was called for tripping Zacha just 11 seconds after the Anaheim goal. The Devils were on the power play late and had a chance to tie it. They would pull Schneider with a few seconds left on the man advantage to make it a 6-on-4, but were unable to find the back of the net. With Cory pulled and repeated icings by the Ducks, they still could not get anything going in the offensive zone and ultimately fell 3-2.
The bright side, as the Devils head up to Los Angeles for a game on Saturday, is that it remains that all but one of their losses this year have come by only one goal. This also concludes the Devils’ season series with the Ducks, having a 1-1 record with them.
The team will need to regroup quickly. They lost a close one to a good Anaheim Ducks club. Now they need to be ready for the Kings and a 4 PM puck drop on Saturday.