Adam Henrique returned to Prudential Center, the site of so many of his personal triumphs, a member of the Anaheim Ducks last night and, despite his best efforts, could not guarantee victory for his new club. The Devils won the game, 5-3 in come-from-behind fashion with a few Devils putting in great efforts.
The Devils got great news today in that Taylor Hall and Kyle Palmieri would be returning to the lineup from their respective injuries. Marcus Johansson remains the only key player the Devils are missing, as he recovers from a bruised ankle suffered last week against the Rangers. Nick Lappin was sent back down to Binghamton while Jimmy Hayes, Ben Lovejoy and Dalton Prout were the healthy scratches for New Jersey. Former Devil Joseph Blandisi, also obtained by the Ducks in the Henrique deal, was a healthy scratch for Anaheim.
In goal, Ryan Miller went for the Ducks, making 29 saves on 33 Devils shots. Cory Schneider was right back on it in his third straight start for the Devils, stopping 21 of 24 Anaheim shots.
Of course, with Adam Henrique’s return to the Prudential Center, came the now-customary video tribute, as any player of any note to a franchise seems to get one when he returns to former stomping grounds now. Henrique got a well deserved standing ovation during the first television timeout when his video was shown. But even before that, at warmups, there was a good grouping of Devils fans at the Ducks’ end, watching him warmup and cheering him the second he stepped on the ice. It was a nice sendoff and a bit of closure for both the man who did so much on and off the ice for the Devils and the fans who loved him.
But after all of that, there was a game to be played. And it was the Ducks who jumped out to the early lead. Ryan Getzlaf scored from Rickard Rakell and Josh Manson to make it 1-0 at just 6:44 into the first period.
A few minutes later, Jakob Silfverberg scored to make it 2-0 at 10:30. He got assists from Andrew Cogliano and Henrique. Henrique had scored his first point against the Devils, but it would not be his last of the night. The Devils were in a deep hole, but it was pretty early and there was still plenty of hockey to be played.
They finally broke through at the 8:11 mark of the second period when Miles Wood made it 2-1. That goal came on the power play, set up when Manson put the puck over the glass, resulting in a delay of game penalty. The goal developed when Drew Stafford skated the puck into the Ducks’ zone, dishing to Jesper Bratt at the far half wall. He sent the puck back to the far point to Sami Vatanen, who fired with Wood tipping the puck by Miller to cut the Anaheim lead in half. Vatanen also gained his first point against his former team with that assist. The Devils ended the night 1-for-2 on the power play with three shots on goal while the Ducks were 0-for-2 with a lone shot.
Never one to be outdone, though, Adam Henrique would score his first goal against the Devils at 11:21 of the second period to make it 3-1, making a nice power move around the Devils’ d-man and putting it by Cory. Manson had the lone assist on that goal.
But for the Ducks, that goal by Henrique would be their last of the game. The Devils comeback would begin with another Miles Wood goal at 18:16 of the second to make it 3-2. It came when Pavel Zacha skated the puck deep into the Anaheim zone. He dropped off for Wood along the goal line on the far side and Wood skated back to the half wall, firing a shot against the grain that beat Miller to get the Devils back into things. That goal, late in the period, would be a killer for the Ducks. Wood was named the game’s second star.
The game tying goal came just 5:49 into the third period and came right after Bratt was called for tripping at 3:36. Bratt came out of the penalty box and stayed on the ice. Brian Boyle headmanned the puck up to Blake Coleman, who broke in on a 2-on-2 with Bratt. Bratt took a pass from Coleman and ripped one past Miller from the top of the faceoff circle on the far side. The Devils had fought back to tie things, now they would be going for the jugular. Bratt would be named third star of the game at night’s end.
That came courtesy of Stefan Noesen, who found twine at 15:53 to give the Devils the lead. It came when Andy Greene went point-to-point with Boyle. Boyle shot and the puck was knocked down in front by Noesen. Noesen shot and gathered his own rebound off of Miller. Miller was caught way out of position, far out of his crease and it was an easy chip in for Noesen to give the Devils the 4-3 lead.
Noesen would add an empty netter at 19:53 from Boyle as he reigned in first star honors for the night. The final score was 5-3 Devils. What made Noesen’s two goals all the more impressive is that before he even scored the first one, he had blocked a shot that seemed to hurt him inside of the left leg. He would briefly leave the game, but the former Duck would return and help the Devils win the game.
Vatanen would lead the Devils in time on ice against his former mates with 23:25. Shots were led by Taylor Hall with five in his return. Hits were led by Travis Zajac with four and Vatanen also led in blocks with three. The Devils won only 43-percent of their faceoffs on the night. For those wondering, Henrique’s final stat line read a goal and an assist for two points, a minus-1 rating, three shots on goal, one block all in 19:28 of total ice time (including 2:32 on the power play and 43 seconds of PK time).
Next up, Thursday and a big showdown at The Rock against the rival New York Rangers. The Devils currently stand in first place in the Metropolitan Division, just ahead of Washington (due to New Jersey having games in hand – despite the same 43 points) and two up on Columbus (who lost last night to Boston). Can the Devils keep things rolling and beat their rivals to stay atop the division? We will find out Thursday.