Coming off of the Christmas break, the Devils wanted to build on their victory in Detroit just prior. They would kick things off with a home-and-home series against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena on Saturday.
Unfortunately for the Devils and their fans, they could not get anything going and lost to the ‘Canes, 3-1.
The hockey day got started with Team USA beating Devils-prospect John Quenneville and Team Canada 4 to 2 in the World Junior Championship in Helsinki, Finland. Pavel Zacha and the Czech Republic also fell to Russia 2-1 in a shootout. Another Devils prospect, goaltender Scott Wedgewood, is currently serving a suspension, but will be playing for Team Canada. There are conflicting reports, but Zacha might have been injured in the game against Russia.
The first half of the home-and-home against Carolina saw no major changes for the Devils’ lineup. Patrik Elias is still out with a knee injury. Stefan Matteau and Jon Merrill were healthy scratches.
In net, Cory Schneider made 22 saves on 25 shots for the Devils, while the Hurricanes’ “old reliable” Cam Ward went 19 for 20 on the night.
The first period saw no highlights except for one of only two penalties called all game: Eric Staal of Carolina, two minutes for slashing only 35 seconds into the game. The other penalty occurred 3:34 into the third and saw the Devils’ Jiri Tlusty take a tripping call against his former team.
The scoring got kicked off 9:57 into the second when the ‘Canes’ Brett Pesce got credited for a goal with assists to John-Michael Liles and Joakim Nordstrom. It appeared that Carolina’s Andrej Nestrasil got a piece of the puck on the way in, but Pesce got credit for it and it was 1-0 Hurricanes.
The Devils would tie things up 1:18 into the third when Adam Henrique got the puck in deep into the Carolina zone to Kyle Palmieri, who played give and go with Mike Cammalleri behind the net and scored on a wraparound. The game was tied and Palmieri had a career high-mark for goals in a season (15). He never scored more than 14 for the Anaheim Ducks previously.
Carolina would break the stalemate at the 8:17 mark of the third when Justin Faulk scored his 13th of the season (and first non-power play goal of the year) from Eric Staal and Kris Versteeg. The goal came off of a broken play at the Carolina blueline and the Hurricanes were able to capitalize.
The ‘Canes would add an insurance goal at 16:46 of the third when Nordstrom connected on a slapshot to bury the puck behind Schneider. Faulk got the assist for a multi-point night as well (both he and Nordstrom had a goal and an assist each).
The Devils will try to put this behind them when the Hurricanes travel to Newark on Tuesday for the other end of the back-to-back – although it is only a home-and-home for the Devils, the ‘Canes travel to Chicago to play the Blackhawks on Sunday, in between the games against New Jersey.
How will the Devils respond? Will they finally be able to get some traction on this season? They need some points fast, as following the Hurricanes game; they play at Ottawa (who are right in the playoff race with the Devils) and then have the Dallas Stars, one of the Western Conference’s best teams. Hopefully, they can pick up the points and move forward in their playoff hopes.