The Devils were coming off of one of their most impressive games of the season in their comeback in Nashville last night. They would be heading to Dallas to take on the Stars in the second half of a back-to-back. There would be some positives, but a few negatives thrown in as well.
The positives were that the team did not quit. Falling behind 3-1 again, they were able to make things interesting late, making the Stars sweat out a late victory.
The negatives were a couple of losses. Of course, they lost the game, which set them back in the playoff race and hurt them in the short-term. But the bigger loss in the long-term may be an injury to Cory Schneider. Schneider was injured early in the third period when he extended his right leg to make a save at an awkward angle. His skate seemed to catch the post and they are, at the moment, calling it a lower body injury. Keith Kinkaid came in in relief and may be called upon for further duty depending on Cory’s status for future games.
Speaking of injuries, David Warsofsky, who just played in his first game as a New Jersey Devil, did not play tonight with a lower body injury as well. Also scratched for New Jersey was Bobby Farnham. Back in the lineup for the Devils was defenseman Damon Severson.
The Stars had been struggling coming into this game. In fact, since they lost to the Devils back in early-January at Prudential Center and also fell to the Islanders on that same trip, they had fallen out of first place overall in the league and in the Central Division. They had one win in their last eight games, but are still in a good spot to make the playoffs. The Stars give up a lot of goals, and the Devils needed to capitalize on that.
The goalie matchup started as Cory Schneider against Kari Lehtonen. Cory made 15 saves on 18 Dallas shots. Lehtonen was 18-for-20. Keith Kinkaid was a perfect 6-of-6 when he entered the game. Dallas had an extra shot on an empty net goal late. Kinkaid played extremely well, getting tested early and often by the Stars and coming up huge. Which is good news due to Cory’s injury, as he will be playing more should Schneider’s injury be more serious.
The Devils fell behind early when Valeri Nichushkin scored at 8:01 for the Stars. Mattias Janmark had the lone assist. Dallas came out flying and the Devils did match their up-tempo game early on, and for most of the game, in fact.
The Devils would tie things up in the second period when Adam Henrique continued what he started last night. At 5:14, Sergey Kalinin sent the puck back to Adam Larsson at the point. Larsson fired a shot and the rebound came out to Henrique at the side of the net. He backhanded it home and the game was tied at one.
But it would only take about a minute for Dallas to retake the lead. Jason Spezza tipped in a Janmark shot with Nichushkin picking up the secondary assist. The Devils were now down 2-1.
About two minutes following that, Andy Greene was hit awkwardly in the corner by the Stars’ Brett Ritchie. Greene was okay and no penalty was called, but his defense partner Adam Larsson took exception to the borderline boarding play. Larsson and Ritchie dropped the gloves and, while Ritchie got the better of Larsson, it was good to see Larsson sticking up for his teammate.
The problem came when John Moore was called for delay of game thirty seconds later. The Devils now had one of their best penalty killers in the box (Larsson) while they were a man down. They would end up doing fine, as neither team scored on the power play. New Jersey went 0-for-3 while Dallas was 0-for-3 as well.
Following that, Colton Sceviour would victimize the Devils again when he also scored on a tip-in, redirecting an Alex Goligoski shot. Radek Faksa has the secondary assist as Dallas now took a 3-1 lead. The Devils were now behind by the same score that sparked the comeback last night in Nashville.
There was an injury scare prior to Schneider going down, as Stephen Gionta was helped off the ice in the second period. However, this was just a skate issue, not an injury. Gionta was fine and would play the rest of the game.
The Devils would need to mount a comeback again tonight if they were going to sweep the road trip. They came closer at 15:41 of the third when the red-hot Devante Smith-Pelly scored his third goal in three games and his second as a Devil. John Moore fired a shot that went wide of the goal mouth and came out to Severson, who quickly passed to Smith-Pelly at the side of the Stars’ net. These are the kind of goals Smith-Pelly is best at contributing. He is a big body who parks in front of the net and gets the dirty goals. So far, he has been a good pickup for New Jersey and will look to continue to produce.
It was now 3-2 and the Devils were looking for the same magic they had in the Music City the night before. Things looked even more in their favor when former-Devil Johnny Oduya took a hooking call at 18:28 to put the Devils a man up. With Kinkaid pulled, they were 6-on-4 and looked to be in business.
Unfortunately, it did not play out that way, as The Stars’ Vernon Fiddler scored into the empty net to ice the game for Dallas. Sceviour and Goligoski had the assists on that goal.
The Devils will look to straighten things out when they return home to face the Pittsburgh Penguins in a key matchup if the Devils are to make the playoffs this season. That game comes on Sunday with a 5 PM puck drop. As Steve Cangialosi pointed out on the Devils’ postgame show tonight, the Devils always match up well with the Pens at Prudential Center. But we will see if the Devils are able to knock off the Penguins, who have gotten their house in order and are firmly entrenched in an Eastern Conference playoff spot.
Also, congratulations to Mike Sislo of the Albany Devils, who was named the American Hockey League’s player of the month for February. The A-Devils have been playing very well of late and it is always good to see a player recognized. Albany may also need to contribute a goaltender to the New Jersey roster should Cory be out for any length of time and Kinkaid becomes the number one.