Coming off of a hard loss in Winnipeg, the Devils rolled into the “State of Hockey” in a good state. They felt that they worked hard and played well against the Jets, but got a few bad breaks and ended up losing the game. They rebounded tonight with a 4-3 overtime win over the Wild with the game winner coming off the stick of, who else? John Moore.
The Devils, on this road trip, were 1-1-1, including the games in Chicago, Toronto and Winnipeg. They would have some changes coming to the lineup with that lackluster record. Adam Henrique was shifted to a line with Blake Coleman and Brian Gibbons while Pavel Zacha slotted back into the lineup. He had been told by coach John Hynes about what the coaching staff and management wanted to see from him and he would come back in after sitting for four games. He would play the wing tonight. Jimmy Hayes, Stefan Noesen and Dalton Prout were the healthy scratches. Noesen slotted out with Zacha back in.
Minnesota had gotten off to a rough start, but have been playing well of late. One of the reasons for that was their goaltender, Devan Dubnyk who had a shutout streak last week that eclipsed 195 minutes. The Devils would not be seeing Zach Parise, who is out long-term after having back surgery. He will likely be out until February. The Wild are also below .500 on the road, but play above .500 at home at the Xcel Energy Center. This was the Devils’ fifth game already this season against Central Division opponents.
The Devils got the scoring started when Adam Henrque buried his fourth at 18:32. When Hynes put him on the fourth line, he was looking to light a fire under Henrique. It would pay off tonight. The goal happened when Gibbons came up the left wing and fired the puck. Henrique redirected it, and it ping-ponged around the Wild crease until Dubnyk ended up putting it in himself after he had seemed to settle it down. Andy Greene had the secondary assist on that goal that made it 1-0 New Jersey. The Devils would take that lead into the first intermission, marking the first time they had done that on this road trip. Minnesota was 2-7-0 this year when allowing the first goal of the game.
In the second period, the Wild would tie things up just 1:32 in when Nino Niederreiter scored on the power play. Steven Santini, who had quite a game, went off for hooking Jason Zucker and the Wild would capitalize. Mikael Granlund and Mikko Koivu had the assists on that goal.
After Santini took a second penalty, he would also get the Devils back the lead in the second period. It happened when Santini got the puck at the far halfwall and whipped it on net. It beat Dubnyk and the Devils had the 2-1 lead. The goal was unassisted. Santini had a very eventful second period and revealed during a second intermission interview with Deb Placey of MSG that today was his mother-in-law’s birthday. As it is also former Devils player, coach and broadcaster John MacLean as well as yours truly’s birthday, I figured I’d wish her a happy birthday here.
The Devils went into the third period with a 2-1 lead and would pad that lead a little bit at the 7:19 mark of the third. It came off of the stick of Will Butcher and was quite a bit more impressive than his first NHL goal scored in Winnipeg. It came when Henrique gained the Wild blue line with the puck. He dished aside to Butcher, who had joined the rush when a delayed penalty was about to be called on Minnesota. Butcher ripped one high glove side to beat Dubnyk and give the Devils a 3-1 lead. Ben Lovejoy had the secondary assist on the goal.
The Devils had a chance to nearly go up 4-1, when Kyle Palmieri hit the post with a wide open net midway through the third period. That is also about the time the game began to get more and more chippy. The teams were pushing and shoving after every play it seemed.
Minnesota cut the Devils lead down to one when Mikael Granlund scored his first of two with this one coming on the power play. Miles Wood was serving a holding the stick penalty against Eric Staal and Granlund would score at the 11:14 mark of the third off assists from Jared Spurgeon and Koivu. Overall, the Wild were 2-for-4 on the power play with eight shots while the Devils were 0-for-2 with four shots.
The Devils seemed to have things in hand but that missed opportunity for Palmieri would come back to bite them when Minnesota coach Bruce Boudreau pulled Dubnyk with 2:30 remaining in the game. Granlund would tie things up at the 18:24 mark, his second of the game from Ryan Suter and Staal. The Devils were unable to win the defensive zone faceoff and Granlund connected and the game was tied up at three.
Once time ran out, we were headed to OT. The Devils did not want a repeat of last week in Toronto and, in fact would not get it. Just 52 seconds into the three-on-three session, Taylor Hall stickhandled the puck through the Minnesota zone and back out to the neutral zone, delaying so the Devils could get a full change. He gave to Henrique, who had just come on the ice. Henrique skated into the Wild zone, and connected on a beautiful pass to a trailing John Moore. Moore, of course, buried it to give the Devils the 4-3 win. It was Moore’s sixth overtime goal (all with the Devils) and moves him to within two of Scott Niedermayer’s team record for OT goals by a defenseman.
The goalies had a good game for both teams, especially Cory Schneider. Schneider made 33 saves on 36 Wild shots in getting the win. Dubnyk stopped 21 of 25 shots on goal. John Moore was the game’s first star while Mikael Granlund was the second and Will Butcher the third.
Individually for the Devils, Andy Greene continued to be a minutes eater, logging a team high 22:05 tonight. Hall led the way with four shots on goal and, in a rugged game, Santini was the leader in hits with four.
Next up, the Devils return home to take on the Boston Bruins the night before Thanksgiving. The Devils currently stand in first place in the Metropolitan Division, and the feeling among some is that if you are in a playoff position by Thanksgiving, you usually make the playoffs. Time will tell on that, but in the meantime, we will have Wednesday’s game right here for you.