Special teams are an important part of hockey. Just how important was demonstrated tonight at Prudential Center on a night when all three goals in the Devils/Ducks game were scored on the power play and penalty killing was crucial.
The Ducks (0-2-1) were coming in looking for their first win just as the Devils (0-1-1) were. A raucous near sell-out crowd of 16,514 at the Prudential Center on this decidedly non-hockey weather, unseasonably warm day, would be in for a treat from start to finish. From the traditional opening night player introductions to the newer “We are Jersey” chant tradition introduced tonight for the first time, Devils fans had a lot to cheer about.
John Gibson got the start in net for Anaheim, making 26 saves on 28 shots registered by the Devils. In goal for New Jersey was Cory Schneider who was a near perfect 23-for-24.
In a game marked by a good amount of penalties, things got off to an auspicious start just 30 seconds into the game when Vernon Fiddler and Ryan Kesler got into it. Their scrap landed them in the penalty box with fighting majors.
After that, the Ducks would get on the board first at 9:03 of the first period when former-Duck Kyle Palmieri was called for a tripping infraction against Jakob Silfverberg at 7:15. That set up a man advantage where Sami Vatanen would pot his first of the year from Corey Perry and Cam Fowler. The Devils were down 1-0 and would stay that way through the first break.
In the second, however, things began to break down for the Ducks. First, at 10:15, Emerson Etern was called for high-sticking. The Devils would then go up two men when Antoine Vermette was called for tripping. The Devils had a 5-on-3 power play and although the first penalty would expire, Taylor Hall would still find the back of the net before the second minor was up. He scored at 12:35 when Michael Cammalleri fired a shot from the point and Hall corralled the rebound, putting the puck behind Gibson. The game was tied at one and the crowd was in a frenzy, but more was to come.
At 15:31 of the second, Anaheim’s Nick Sorensen was called for tripping Kyle Quincey. This set up another Devils power play and Hall would capitalize on this one too. Palmieri went point-to-point with Damon Severson, who fired a shot that was redirected in front by Hall. It was Hall’s second power play goal of the night and his second goal of the season.
Anaheim would get in penalty trouble all night, including giving the Devils power play time going into both the second and third periods with fresh ice. But it was the Devils who finished the game with their backs to the wall, as John Moore had taken a delay of game penalty at 16:56 of the third to give the Ducks a chance at a 6-on-4 advantage once they pulled Gibson.
But the Devils were able to weather that storm and come away with the 2-1 victory. All-in-all, the Devils were 2-for-7 on the power play while the Ducks were 1-for-4. Anaheim had a whopping 19 penalty minutes to the Devils’ 13 PIMs.
But the Ducks had those four straight calls against them in the second period that really hurt them. The Devils struck when they had to and Anaheim just took too many penalties.
Not that the Devils did not hurt themselves at times. At 18:49, Chris Wagner was awarded a penalty shot which he rifled wide of Cory Schneider’s net, keeping the Devils up 2-1. So both teams had their chances on a night when the officials certainly had the whistles out. The Devils were just able to convert when they needed to.
Next up for New Jersey, It is off to Boston to take on the 2-1-0 Bruins on Thursday. They should be a good test for the Devils, who seemed to be feeding off of the home fans tonight. Seeing if they can maintain this level of play on the road will go a long way in showing what kind of team they are.