Devils Penalty Kill Comes Up Huge in Shootout Win Against Habs

The refrain that serenades the Devils as they get ready to go on the PK from the upper levels of the Rock is a droning horn sound followed by the chant “kill.” That refrain was met successfully against the Montreal Canadiens on Friday night, April 3, in some crucial situations, earning the Devils two points against a tough and desperate Habs club.

The Devils were coming in on a six game losing streak, including overtime losses on March 26 against the Capitals and March 31 against the Blue Jackets. Things did not look particularly good as the Canadiens came into the Prudential Center. The Habs are currently first in the Atlantic Division, battling the Rangers for the top spot in the Eastern Conference and had already clinched a playoff spot.

The Devils would get on the board first as Stefan Matteau scored his first of the season (and second of his NHL career) off assists from Adam Larsson and Andy Greene at 9:51 of the first period. After that, Montreal took over the period. The Devils’ penalty kill got its first test when Jon Merrill went off for interference at 14:32. Seven seconds later, Tomas Plekanec put Montreal on the board on a power play goal off assists from Sergei Gonchar and Brendan Gallagher. Jeff Petry scored unassisted for the Canadiens at 16:42 of the first to give the Habs a 2-1 lead going into the first intermission.

The Devils would tie things up 4:37 of the second when Reid Boucher scored his first of the year (from Merrill and Steve Bernier) and from there, the defense took over.

The Devils had their first successful kill when Adam Larsson went off for holding at 8:40 of the second. New Jersey actually went on its only power play of the game in the second when Alex Galchenyuk went off for interfering with Tuomo Ruutu at 12:12. They did not convert on that power play opportunity. The Devils had two shots on the power play on the night.

Things got wild when Scott Gomez took a 5 minute major and a game misconduct for elbowing Alexei Emelin at 14:38 of the second. This was in retaliation for a hit on Gomez earlier in the play. Gomez reacted and the Devils had to kill off a five minute 5-on-4. They did successfully, in what was a major turning point for the Devils.

The third period saw a 4-on-4 situation when both Petry and Matteau went off for roughing 8:25 in. But the Devils next test came at 14:11 when Matteau got nabbed for delay of game. Now down 5-on-4, the Devils were in the middle of a successful kill when Andy Greene got called for a (borderline) tripping call against former Islander P.A. Parenteau at 15:38. The Devils now had to kill a 5-on-3 for about 30 seconds. They were again successful. The period ended with the scored tied at two and with that, the teams were headed to a 4-on-4 overtime session.

With the teams going back-and-forth in their scoring chances, overtime was a spirited affair. The Devils seemed to be in business until 2:39 into the 5:00 period when Greene went off for tripping in a scary play that saw Alex Galchenyuk’s skate blade come up and almost cut Greene’s face. Now the Devils penalty kill faced a 4-on-3 in overtime. With some key saves from goaltender Keith Kinkaid, who made 33 saves on the night, the Devils got out of the jam and the teams headed to a shootout.

In the first round of the shootout, both Boucher of the Devils and Galchenyuk of the Habs missed the net. Jacob Josefson converted for the Devils in the second round, while Kinkaid stoned David Desharnais of the Canadiens. Patrik Elias sealed the deal for the Devils by scoring in the third round to send Devils fans home happy with a 3-2 win.

Overall, the Devils penalty kill kept the Canadiens to nine shots in six power play opportunities, including eight shots in 5-on-4 situations and one shot in the 4-on-3. The Devils penalty kill was even more impressive when you factor in that for two kills, they were without Andy Greene, one of the team’s most valuable PK men. Kinkaid was certainly a main part of this, coming up big when he needed to en route to being named the game’s first star by attending media.

Although it might be a little bit late, the Devils have really come into their own on special teams. Their penalty killing units alone helped them gain two points where they might not have had any business being in the game in the first place.

Devils Head into Last Five Games, Cammalleri Looking Towards 30 Goals

The Devils may have been eliminated from a playoff position, but they still have much to play for in the final five games of the season.

Starting tonight (April 3), New Jersey will face three playoff bound teams in Montreal, the Rangers (in a home-and-home series) and Tampa Bay. They will finish the season against Jaromir Jagr and the Florida Panthers, who are only six points out of the final wild card spot as of this writing. Their opponents have a lot to play for, will the Devils respond?

Their last game, on March 31 against Columbus ended in a disappointing 3-2 overtime loss at the Nationwide Arena. That loss was compounded by the fact that immediately following the Blue Jackets’ win over the Devils; they too were eliminated from playoff contention with a Boston win later that night. The Devils had fought back to tie things up and force the extra session, but ultimately fell to a Jack Johnson goal just 56 seconds into the overtime period.

The goal that tied things was a shorthanded goal by Mike Cammalleri. It was his 27th goal of the season (he notched number 26 earlier in the night off a power play goal in the first period) and puts him on track to get 30 on the year.

While not the glamorous number that 50 is (Washington’s Alex Ovechkin currently is the only player in the league with 50 or more goals with 52 currently), 30 is a solid number of goals in this lower-scoring era of hockey. His 27 goals currently leads the Devils. Could he hit the 30 goal plateau, it would put him in rare air as one of only a handful of players to score thirty or more goals in a season for four franchises (Cammalleri previously did it during his stops with the Kings, Flames and Canadiens).

Cammalleri was a great off season acquisition to say the least for the Devils. He can score from almost anywhere on the ice, a sniper who can also score from the hard angles. His 27 goals (so far) puts him in the top tier of first year Devils who have notched 25 or more goals. A list that includes Claude Lemieux and Stephane Richer, two guys who were prolific and clutch goal scorers for the Devils, and key performers on the Stanley Cup teams.

Cammalleri would have to score three goals in the last five games of the Devils season to at least get to 30. It will not be easy. Starting tonight, the Devils face the Habs (who are battling for the first place overall spot in the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference), have two games against the Rangers back-to-back (New York is fighting for first place overall in the Conference and has already clinched first place in the Metropolitan Division), face the Lightning (who are also battling for first place in the Conference and are locked in a battle with Montreal for first place in the Atlantic Division) and the Panthers, who are looking to sneak into the playoffs by bypassing both Ottawa and Boston.

These are not going to be easy games for the Devils or for Cammalleri. But the team has shown a lot of fight throughout the season and will battle. Mike Cammalleri will be a huge part of the Devils success, should they have any. The Devils will also get to play spoiler, deciding who gets first overall in the Eastern Conference, with their games against the Canadiens and the Rangers, with the Lightning being on the periphery too. In addition, the final wild card spot (Florida) could conceivably be in the Devils hands.

The home-and-home against the Rangers (Saturday, April 4 at Madison Square Garden and Tuesday, April 7 at Prudential Center in the last home game of the season) also involves pride. No Devils team wants to lose to the Rangers. Knocking them out of the top spot in the Conference is icing on the cake. If the Devils could even set the Rangers back a little bit, it would be rewarding for both them and the fans.

Make no mistake, although the Devils have been knocked out of playoff contention, and have been out of it for about a week, they still have a lot to play for. They have veterans playing for contracts for next season, rookies trying to get noticed for next year’s team, Mike Cammalleri and a few others (including Adam Henrique) are playing for personal stats. But most of all, the entire team is playing for pride. Playing spoiler is just one of the perks that come along with that.