The Devils had a big of a hill to climb going into Dallas to play the Stars. They were without Michael Cammalleri, still in New Jersey, out with personal issues he is dealing with and it was announced this morning that they would be without another left wing as well. Taylor Hall would be sitting with what the team is calling a lower body issue.
He showed up this morning for the morning skate and told the coaching staff that something just did not feel right. It was for that reason that he was kept out of the lineup for the game. Reid Boucher would be in in his place. Jon Merrill was also a scratch for New Jersey.
On the other side of things, the Stars were getting Jason Spezza back in the lineup tonight, so that would be firepower in the favor of Dallas.
On the lighter side of things, MSG Network was doing their “Viewer Appreciation Night” which I seem to remember being later in the season in the past, but it was nice to see people winning some of their prizes, some of which were very cool. Also, Vernon Fiddler, who spent the last few years in Dallas and was a fan favorite amongst Stars fans, was given a video tribute on the big board at American Airlines Center as well as a standing ovation from the Stars faithful. He would start the game for New Jersey and had the first shot of the game, fittingly. There were many of Fiddler’s “38” jerseys throughout the building in both team’s colors.
The goalie matchup saw Antti Niemi facing Cory Schneider. Schneider made 23 saves on 24 Stars shots while Niemi made 31 saves on 33 Devils shots.
It was a very clean game with only three total penalties called. The Devils were 0-for-1 with the man advantage while Dallas went 0-for-2.
The Devils broke the seal on the scoring just 7:40 into the first period. It happened when Beau Bennett gave the puck up to PA Parenteau along the boards. He sent a backhand saucer pass to the trailing Damon Severson, who was in the slot and fired, beating Niemi to give the Devils a 1-0 lead. With that goal, Severson tied Hall for the team lead in goals (five). He also has three points in his last two games (one goal and two assists).
The Devils would retain the lead until the 10:33 mark of the first when John Moore made a bad point-to-point pass to Kyle Quincey that he could not handle. He bobbled it and the Stars were off on a two-on-one. Antoine Roussel fed Patrick Eaves who buried it and tied it at one.
And that was it for the scoring in regulation.
But it was not it for the action. Cory Schneider made two huge saves on Adam Cracknell midway through the second period that kept New Jersey in it after they had dominated the shots early in that frame.
Bennett hit the crossbar on a partial breakaway with mere seconds left in the second period. He took a bank pass off the boards from Moore that sprung him. His backhanded shot clipped the crossbar and just missed giving the Devils a lead.
A scary moment for the Stars when Jordie Benn blocked a Kyle Palmieri shot on the Devils’ only power play of the game. He took the puck off of the outside of his knee. He limped off of the ice but would not miss a shift.
Dallas almost took a late lead when Lauri Korpikoski actually beat Cory through the five hole, but the puck ended up going wide of the net.
Because Bennett and Korpikoski’s shots did not go in, the score remained tied and the teams headed for overtime. Without Hall and Cammalleri and with guys like Spezza and Jamie Benn on the ice for the Stars, things did not look that good for the Devils. But, just 44 seconds into the extra session, Palmieri picked a Dallas players pocket and immediately headed off to the races with Adam Henrique. On a 2-on-1 odd man rush, Palmieri held the puck just long enough before putting it just ahead of Henrique. He stretched ahead, reaching to put the puck by Niemi. It found the back of the net and the Devils had the 2-1 victory.
They had won their fifth in a row and with that win moved out of a wildcard spot and into a top playoff position, leapfrogging Washington and Boston.
I know it is a little early to be talking playoffs and the Devils have not really played many of the elite teams in the NHL yet, but things are looking good for this team right now.
Next up, the Devils travel to California to face off with the Ducks in Anaheim. That game starts at 10 PM on Thursday.