The Devils test against the best of the Western Conference continued against the Vancouver Canucks today and they were able to come away with a 4-3 overtime win thanks to some great play and some timely breaks.
Keith Kinkaid got the start in the late afternoon (5 PM local) tilt, giving Cory Schneider a game off against his former team and his first off day in ten games. Kinkaid’s last start was on October 13 against Nashville.
Despite the earlier start time and the game competing with the New York Giants game, there was a decent sized crowd on hand at Prudential Center and they saw quite a game. Lots of penalties and a few fights added to a wild one for New Jersey’s faithful.
Things got off to a quick start when Chris Higgins scored at 2:20 for Vancouver on a spin around, putting the Canucks up 1-0. The Devils began their pressure comeback right away, as Stephen Gionta rang one off the post on a rush right off the faceoff after the Vancouver goal.
The New Jersey comeback hit a snag when Damon Severson took an interference penalty at 4:40, only to see Adam Henrique score his 11th career short-handed goal one minute and change into the penalty kill (Travis Zajac had the lone assist, extending his point-scoring streak). The game was now tied at one and the Devils were about to start pouring it on.
At 16:32, Mike Cammalleri took a nice pass from Lee Stempniak and got Canucks goaltender Ryan Miller one-on-one. A good shoulder fake froze Miller and Cammalleri then went to his backhand and scored to give the Devils the lead. Henrique had the secondary assist on the goal, one of four Devils to have a multi-point night (Kyle Palmieri, Cammalleri and Stempniak were the others).
Things started to get a little bit crazy on an apparent Vancouver goal by Jake Virtanen. His wraparound was ititially called a good goal on the ice, but the Devils coaching staff asked for a coach’s challenge to see if Kinkaid was interfered with by Alexandre Burrows, as Kinkaid could not move across the crease and it did appear that Burrows was in the blue paint. The challenge was successful (the first successful challenge in New Jersey Devils history) as the officials found that Burrows’ skate impeded Kinkaid’s lateral movement and the goal was taken back, keeping the game tied at two. The first period ended with a great Devils chance. With the Devils killing an Andy Greene delay of game penalty, Zajac hit the pipe on a short-handed two-on-one.
With the second period came the really wacky. It started with Kinkaid taking a shot off his mask, resulting in a long delay as the equipment staff tried to fix the mask he had on, and then simply giving him his backup, which he still needed to adjust. Next was an injury scare as Henrique blocked a Vancouver shot and left the bench, seemingly injuring his ankle. He would return moments later, to a great sigh of relief. The Devils then almost took the lead when Miller made a fantastic save on Bobby Farnham mid-second. Farnham hit the post, gathered the rebound and then Miller made a nice stop on that shot.
The Devils finally did break through at 10:31 of the second when Sergey Kalinin notched his first NHL goal, scoring on a rebound and using, as Ken Daneyko put it, “his strength and reach” something he has shown will give him an edge as a power forward in the NHL. Palmieri had the primary assist and Adam Larsson had the secondary. The Devils now had a 3-1 lead.
Jordin Tootoo and Derek Dorsett would go at it off a faceoff at 12:04 of the second. It started on a line change, as Dorsett came across to start things with Tootoo. As soon as the puck dropped, the gloves were off and Tootoo made short work of him. Both received a fighting major and a ten-minute misconduct due to the fight being “staged” (i.e. the pushing and shoving during the change and then the fight starting right at puck drop). This was the first of many crazy penalties the rest of the game.
But Vancouver still had a comeback in them. Alexander Edler started things off when he scored a minute twenty after the Kalinin goal. They would then tie the game at 14:06 when Sven Baertschi scored. Bo Horvat, the draft pick the Devils gave up for Cory Schneider, had the secondary assist on the goal.
Bobby Farnham was involved in another scrap when he and Virtanen went at it after the Vancouver game-tying goal. Farnham was trying to get the Devils back into and spark the crowd, as evidenced by his raising his arms to the fans, motioning them to get up, after the fight. From here on out, the game got extremely chippy.
At 17:35 of the second, Kyle Palmieri took a roughing minor and the Canucks’ Daniel Sedin a slashing minor at the same time to put the teams four-on-four. Adam Larsson was nabbed for interference less than 1:10 into the four-on-four to give the Canucks the man advantage. The Devils killed it off and it was mostly uneventful, save for a big stop by Kinkaid on Radim Vrbata. Kinkaid had 28 saves total on the afternoon.
The third period featured no scoring, but was highlighted by a huge penalty kill by the Devils. Larsson was called for interference on Jared McCann and received a five minute major for a hit to the head – his should caught McCann and stunned him, but he did not leave the game – and a game misconduct. Whatever happened, the Devils would now be without Adam Larsson, a key part of their defense corps. New Jersey killed off the five minute power play and got a hearty cheer from the crowd afterward.
The closest the game came to breaking the tie was when Kalinin had a breakaway chance when the Devils were on the power play late in the third. Alexander Edler had gone off for holding, giving New Jersey the extra man.
The game was now tied at three, going into overtime, where the Devils had not lost this season. That trend would continue tonight. Things got off pretty much business as usual in the extra session until Vancouver’s Dan Hamhuis took an interference penalty against John Moore 2:14 in. The Devils were now effectively ending the game a man up. They were patient and waited for their chance and got it when Cammalleri connected with Palmieri to put the puck in the back of the net and give the Devils the 4-3 overtime victory. Stempniak had the secondary assist.
The Devils have had a great run in OT so far this season, something that they have not had in the past. This win gives them a three-game home winning streak as the St. Louis Blues come to town on Tuesday. The Western Conference tests continue, as St. Louis has a high-powered offense and can beat you many different ways. With Marty Brodeur’s team coming into the Prudential Center, expect to see a good game and, possibly, a high scoring one too.