It feels kind of safe to say that if you are reading this, you are probably a Devils fan. So I know that I am preaching to the choir when I say that Taylor Hall is a pretty special hockey player.
He continued to prove as such when he scored in his franchise record breaking 16th straight game. He became the tenth player, according to the NHL, in the last 30 years with a point in 23-plus consecutive appearances. Taylor Hall is on another level for the Devils and we are all just coming along for the ride.
However, despite that, the Devils did lose in their only trip to Sunrise to the Florida Panthers, 3-2. There were many positives to take out of that loss and the Devils will need to regroup fast as this was the first half of a back-to-back.
First, a return. Cory Schneider had not played for the big club since January 23 against the Boston Bruins when he injured his groin and hip. He returned tonight to make 26 saves on 29 Florida shots. His former Vancouver running mate, Roberto Luongo opposed him, making 29 saves on 31 Devils shots.
Next, a debut. Patrick Maroon made his first appearance in a Devils uniform tonight. He ended the game with two points (assists on both Devils goals), was a plus-1 with three shots on goal, two hits all in 13:16 of total ice time. That included 3:12 on the power play. He also had a fight on his very first shift as a Devil. The fight, against Micheal Haley, came just 1:54 into his Devils career, making it the quickest a Devil has ever gotten into a fight from his debut on the team (stat via MSG Network). The fight ended in a clear draw. He ended the night a goal short of a Gordie Howe Hat Trick.
It was also Maroon’s first game since February 20, as he had a lower body injury his final few days in Edmonton and then missed the Pittsburgh game due to travel. He played the night on a line centered by Brian Boyle and with Blake Coleman.
Florida got the scoring kicked off at the 6:51 mark of the first period when Aleksander Barkov scored his first of two on the night. The goal came when Barkov was crashing the net. He got hauled down by Nico Hischier in what Cory called “a hockey play” and the puck went in off of Barkov. Devils coach John Hynes challenged for goalie interference, challenging the call on the ice (good goal). Replay showed that Nico and Barkov collided and fell into Cory, meaning that it was not goalie interference. The call on the ice stood, it was a good goal and it was 1-0 Panthers. Evgenii Dadonov and Alexander Petrovic had the assists on the goal.
The Devils finished the period hitting the post twice as Coleman and Boyle each found iron in succession just before the buzzer sounded.
The Devils went on the power play at the 18:56 mark of the first period, when Nick Bjugstad was nabbed for interfering with Andy Greene, meaning that the majority of the power play would come on a fresh sheet of ice in the second. And it would pay off. Hall scored from Maroon and Sami Vatanen just 50 seconds into the second. This goal, which was Hall’s 16th straight game with a point, breaking a record he held jointly with Patrik Elias and Brian Gionta (with 15 straight games), came when Hall fired a seeing eye shot from the far half wall. The puck found its way by Luongo to tie it up at one. This was Hall’s 28th goal of the year, also a career high for him.
With that goal coming on the power play, the Devils finished the night 1-for-2 with four shots on goal. The Panthers were 0-for-2 without a shot on goal.
It would remain 1-1 until the third period when things opened up a little bit. At the 8:38 mark, Maxim Mamin scored from Jared McCann and Aaron Ekblad. His shot snuck in between the post and Cory’s glove to make the score 2-1 Florida.
Cory kept the Devils in the game late in the third with a big stop on Dadonov on a breakaway to keep it 2-1.
It would remain that way until 16:26 when Barkov scored his second of the night from Dadonov and Bjugstad. Barkov scored this one by backhanding one top shelf over Schneider’s shoulder. It was now 3-1 Panthers, just like that.
The Devils would pull Cory for the first time with about two or three minutes left in the game to gain the six on five advantage. On that one, Jesper Bratt would end his goal drought (he had not scored one since January 20) with a breakaway goal where he went backhand, glove side by Luongo to make it 3-2. The goal came at 17:53 and Maroon had the lone assist.
New Jersey would pull Schneider again with 1:30 or so left, but were unable to tie the game up. The Panthers had been unable to put the game on ice with an empty netter (Jamie McGinn had a great chance with mere seconds left), but did get the win anyway.
It was a hard fought game, but the Panthers have been playing very well of late and have interjected themselves into the playoff picture. As Steve Cangialosi pointed out, for months it was taken for granted that five Metropolitan Division teams would make the playoffs out of the East. The Panthers are challenging that thought as they surge onto the scene.
Overall, Vatanen led in ice time wiht 23:40 (3:03 of which came on the power play and 56 seconds on the PK), Miles Wood led in shots with five, Boyle led in hits with five, Greene led in blocks with three. Takeaways were also led by Greene with two and the Devils won 42-percent of the game’s faceoffs.
Next up, the Devils head up to Raleigh tomorrow to take on the Carolina Hurricanes in the second half of a back-to-back. The Hurricanes just got finished beating the Flyers 4-1 in Philadelphia tonight, so they are on a roll. The Devils will try to use this game to put some more distance between themselves and a division rival who is right behind them in the playoff race. We will see you tomorrow night.
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