Hall and Zajac Each Score Two Goals as Devils Defeat Coyotes

The Devils came into their game with the Arizona Coyotes tonight at Prudential Center having won two straight on home ice and with all of their decisions coming by a one goal margin. One trend would continue tonight, while one would fall by the wayside.

The Devils honored New Jersey high school hockey during the first intermission of the game by having all of the captains from the state’s boys and girls high school hockey programs line up on the rink. It is always nice to see the team reach out to grassroots hockey in the state and goes a long way in strengthening the Devils’ connection to New Jersey as a whole.

Cory Schneider got the start in goal for the Devils. His 1.88 goals against average coming into tonight’s game was the best in the NHL amongst goalies with at least five starts. He would make 28 saves on the Coyotes’ 31 shots. With Mike Smith going down for Arizona, the Coyotes turned to Justin Peters who made 30 saves on 34 Devils shots.

Early in the game, Adam Henrique was clipped in the nose by Reid Boucher’s stick and had to leave the ice briefly to get cotton put in his nose to stop the bleeding. This was a good non-call by the officials as Henrique was clipped by his own teammate. He would return almost immediately.

Arizona took an early 1-0 lead at 7:04 of the first when Jordan Martinook scored on the rebound of an Alex Goligoski shot. Jamie McGinn, playing in his first game of the season for the ‘Yotes had the secondary assist.

But Arizona’s lead would not last long. At 8:43, Taylor Hall scored his fourth of the year when Pavel Zacha won a faceoff, was tied up by Martin Hanzal (a really good faceoff man), but was able to kick the puck to Taylor Hall, who used the screen of players in front to roof one past Peters.

It would go into the intermission tied at one. But 9:11 into the second, Martin Hanzal would be called for delay of game for knocking his own goal off of the pegs while the Devils had the puck in the offensive zone. At 9:40, Taylor Hall would get on the scoresheet again when he was able to chip the puck over Luke Schenn’s reaching stick on a one-on-one play. He then was able to get by Schenn and fire the puck by Peters. Zacha had the primary assist (his second of the night) and Damon Severson had the secondary.

The Devils were now leading 2-1. Just prior to Hall’s second goal, Kyle Quincey made a nice defensive clear of the puck from Cory’s crease. It negated a what would have been a definite Arizona goal off of a scramble in front of the Devils’ net.

The Devils would build up a 3-1 lead at 14:03 of the second period when Yohann Auvitu and Devante Smith-Pelly kept the puck alive in the Coyotes’ zone on the forecheck. The puck then bounced to Reid Boucher who fired it on net, it went in off of Adam Henrique and Henrique was credited with the goal. New Jersey now had a two goal lead for only the second time this season – they had one in the Tampa Bay game, but ended up losing that game.

And it would look like history would repeat itself in the third period when Oliver Ekman-Larsson scored his first of two from Michael Stone and Max Domi at 7:51.

Then, at 13:06, Quincey was called for interference against Martinook and the Coyotes went on the power play. Ekman-Larsson would capitalize off assists from Hanzal and Stone. This goal was only the second power play goal the Devils have given up this young season.

This came after the Devils had a few chances to add to their lead, including a nice pass from Hall to Kyle Palmieri that was just ahead of Palmieri’s stick causing him to roof the puck over the net.

The tide would turn permanently in the Devils’ favor when Connor Murphy was called for a questionable high-sticking infraction against PA Parenteau. On the ensuing power play, Damon Severson passed through the neutral zone to Taylor Hall who connected to Travis Zajac, who fired and beat Peters to give the Devils a 4-3 lead. It was a controversial power play, but the Devils took advantage.

The controversy would continue when Zajac scored his second goal of the game: an empty netter after Arizona had pulled Peters for the extra attacker. A clearing attempt by the Devils hit linesman Scott Driscoll while he was trying to get out of the way, and bounced to Zajac’s stick. He then potted the puck in the empty net. Ben Lovejoy notched the lone assist on the goal, his first point as a New Jersey Devil.

Time would expire and the Devils would come away with the 5-3 win, their third home win in as many tries this year (their first 3-0 start at home since 2002-03) and their first game that did not end with a one goal decision.

Next up for the Devils: the Chicago Blackhawks come into Newark on Friday. Although the Hawks are playing at NHL .500 right now, they are still a challenge for the Devils and a good measuring stick. We will see how the Devils can do against a Chicago team that is not playing to the best of their abilities right now, but can get on a roll at any time.

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