The Devils came into Buffalo on the heels of a very bad game in Brooklyn, to say the least. New Jersey gave up four goals and were shutout, as well as blown out of the water in almost every statistical category.
They needed a good game against NHL wunderkind Jack Eichel and the Sabres. They got almost that.
While Buffalo outhit them and beat them in faceoffs, they still got the victory due to two timely goals and good goaltending.
Adam Henrique was back in the lineup, returning from an injury suffered in Toronto. Sitting were Eric Gelinas, Stefan Matteau and Brian O’Neill. Jon Merrill was back on the blueline while rookie Joseph Blandisi was playing in his third NHL game (for Travis Zajac, who could possibly be back as soon as late this week).
In goal for the Devils was Cory Schneider. A game after being pulled in favor of Keith Kinkaid in Brooklyn, Schneider got a rebound start and made the best of it. He was equal to the task of all 25 Buffalo shots, getting the shutout win and being named the game’s first star. It was Cory’s fourteenth win of the season and his first shutout since mid-November against the Penguins. Opposing him was the Swede, Linus Ullmark, who the Devils saw on their last trip to Western New York He made 19 stops on the night.
The first period went by with no major events. There were no goals and only one penalty, Buffalo’s Evander Kane going off for slashing at 18:18, which would give them a few seconds of power play time going into the second and fresh ice. Buffalo, however, would kill that off. It would be New Jersey’s only power play of the night.
The game’s first goal came at 17:27 of the second when Adam Larsson headmanned the puck to Henrique up the wing, he passed to Mike Cammalleri, who fired a slap shot on net and Lee Stempniak tucked in the rebound, his balancing act on the crossbar celebration reminiscent of David Clarkson against the Flyers in the 2012 playoffs.
Stempniak’s goal was fitting coming in Buffalo, as he is from West Seneca, New York, only mere miles from downtown Buffalo.
That was the game winner. The insurance goal came early in the third period, at 4:12 when Kyle Palmieri kept the puck in the Sabres’ zone on a clearing attempt and the loose puck dribbled to Jiri Tlusty, who fired a slap shot that beat Ullmark glove side. It was his first goal since opening night against the Winnipeg Jets, his second of the season.
And that was it. Buffalo pulled their goalie with about two minutes left in the game; Cammalleri and Henrique tried a few attempts at the empty net, but missed, resulting in icing calls. But finally time ran out on the Sabres and the Devils had a big victory coming off the Islanders game.
Next up in a whirlwind December before the Christmas break, the Devils face the Florida Panthers at the Rock again on Thursday. It will be the two team’s second meeting in less than two weeks at the Prudential Center. Will the Devils be able to knock off Jaromir Jagr and his teammates, or will the Cats get revenge for their loss on December 6?