Mother Nature gave the Devils an extra day off when their game on Tuesday at home against the Winnipeg Jets was postponed due to winter weather and rescheduled for March 28. The game against the Jets was the first Devils game ever postponed by weather in New Jersey. The Devils used that extra time to rest and regroup as they tried to halt their losing streak, which had reached ten games. With the snow day, the Devils had not played in five days.
Everything worked in the Devils’ favor as they got a rivalry game against the Philadelphia Flyers as a chance to end things. They took advantage of it and defeated the Flyers 6-2, all but ending Philly’s playoff hopes along with it.
As this game is the closest home game the Devils will play to St. Patrick’s Day (they will be in Pittsburgh for the 17th), the Devils wore their red and green throwback jerseys tonight. This will be the last we see of them for the time being, as the NHL will not have third or retro jerseys in the rotation next season when the league goes to Adidas as their official jersey supplier. The Devils’ record coming into tonight in the green and reds as a special throwback was 3-6-0.
The Devils had the stats in their favor coming into tonight’s game versus the Flyers. They were 2-0-0 against Philly this year coming into this game and had outscored them by an aggregate score of 8-1.
Some roster moves saw John Quenneville being recalled from Albany. The 20 year-old forward had 12 goals (including seven power play goals) and 29 assists in Albany this season. It is his first NHL action since his brief call up in the middle of the year when he got to play in Chicago. He would skate on a line with Stefan Noesen and Pavel Zacha. Zacha would be centering the line, moving back to his natural position.
Injuries for the Devils included Michael Cammalleri and Jacob Josefson as well as Blake Coleman (upper body injury) and Devante Smith-Pelly (lower body injury). Defenseman Steven Santini was a healthy scratch, but coach John Hynes said that this was just so that they could take a step back and evaluate his game and was not an indictment on him as a player.
Philadelphia sat Nick Cousins, Roman Lyubimov and Brandon Manning.
The Devils have only won five games at the Prudential Center since December 6. It has been a rough stretch and season for New Jersey, but tonight would look to get them in the right direction.
The goaltending matchup saw Keith Kinkaid start for New Jersey. He made 17 saves on 19 shots faced for a .895 save percentage. Starting for the Flyers was Steve Mason, who made 19 saves on 23 Devils shots for a .826 save percentage. He would leave in the early part of the third period with what would be revealed as leg cramps after getting twisted up on a Taylor Hall goal. Michal Neuvirth came on in relief and made four saves on five shots faced for an .800 save percentage. Mason was just coming off of a shutout of the Pittsburgh Penguins last night, so the Flyers, despite Mason’s 0-8-0 lifetime record against the Devils, were playing the hot hand.
The Flyers actually got the scoring kicked off when Michael Del Zotto scored at the 17 minute mark of the first period from Jakub Voracek and Claude Giroux. That put Philly up early 1-0. Jon Merrill had lost his stick on the play that led to the goal, putting the Devils at a disadvantage.
But it did not take the Devils long to answer back. At 18:11, with a faceoff deep in the Philly zone, Travis Zajac won the draw and the puck dribbled back to Kyle Palmieri. Palmieri took the puck and fired, beating the right-hand catching Mason stick side to make it 1-1.
The Devils took the lead at the 5:50 mark of the second period when Dalton Prout kept the puck in the Flyers’ zone. Beau Bennett picked it up behind the Philly net and centered it to Adam Henrique in the slot. He one-timed it, using Joseph Blandisi as a screen and found the back of the net to make it 2-1 Devils.
The Devils would go up 3-1 on the power play at 9:40 of the second. It was set up when, at 8:43, Andrew MacDonald was called for hooking Taylor Hall. Hall kept his legs moving on a drive to the net and was able to draw the penalty. The Devils would capitalize when the puck was wound to Zacha at the half wall. He played catch with Damon Severson before Severson let loose a slap shot that Joe Blandisi tipped behind Mason to give the Devils a 3-1 lead. The Devils finished the night 1-for-3 on the power play while the Flyers were 0-for-3 with the man advantage.
Brayden Schenn would pull the Flyers a little bit closer when he scored at 11:13 from Radko Gudas and Del Zotto. It was 3-2 going into the second intermission.
But the Devils answered immediately to the Flyers’ push back early in the third period. At 1:33, Hall scored a highlight reel goal. After breaking his stick, he grabbed a new one from the bench (one with a thicker blade, he said in the postgame show, the first time he got to use one in a game situation), beat Shayne Gostisbehere and skated in on Mason. He went inside out and slipped the puck around Mason on his stick side. He knew he could use the move, he said, due to fresh ice not being a problem for stickhandling and he had practiced the move before. He also knew he could slip it around Mason, who is a lefty and, thus, he was going stick side on him. It was a beautiful goal and one worth checking out if you have not seen it. This was also the play on which Mason was injured and left the game.
That made it 4-2 New Jersey, but the Devils were not done yet. At 4:08 of the third, Palmieri took a shot and John Moore grabbed the rebound. He skated to the point and fired; Henrique was in front and tipped the puck by Neuvirth to make it 5-2 Devils.
Hall would add an empty net goal as the Flyers pulled Neuvirth early. That unassisted goal made it 6-2 and gave the Devils their first win in 26 nights. It was also Kinkaid’s first home win of the season.
But for the Devils, this is a quick turnaround. They get the Penguins tomorrow night in Pittsburgh in a stretch that will see them face three of the top four teams in the Metropolitan Division in less than a week. But for now, the Devils and their fans are feeling good. They beat a rival, likely knocking them out of playoff contention and they got off a ten game slide. For now, we can savor that much.