Devils Win Fourth Straight in Buffalo

Devils’ coach John Hynes was still looking for his first National Hockey League victory in regulation when his team made the trip down from Ottawa to Buffalo to take on the Sabres and new NHL sensation Jack Eichel. He would finally grab that win, but not without his team fighting for every inch of it.

Out of the lineup for the Devils were Jon Merrill and Tuomo Ruutu. Seeing action would be defenseman Eric Gelinas, who, though he had a rough game in Ottawa (his turnovers led to multiple Senators’ goals), was quickly put back in the lineup by Hynes as a show of confidence in the young blueliner.

Linus Ullmark would be making his first start for the Sabres on Hockey Fights Cancer night at First Niagara Center; opposing Cory Schneider was again big for the Devils. He was equal to 26 of the 29 shots he faced on the night.

Things got off nicely for the Devils until bad penalties again reared their ugly head. Adam Henrique took a slashing call at 8:30 of the first, which would lead to a Tyler Ennis goal 12 seconds into the Buffalo power play. Sergey Kalinin would also take a tripping call in the first, though the Devils were able to kill that off.

Henrique would get back in the good graces of Devils coaches and fans when he scored on a goalmouth scramble with 50 seconds left in the first, tying it late. Mike Cammalleri and Ottawa hero Lee Stempniak would assist on the goal.

In the second, things would start off dicey for New Jersey when Adam Larsson (who was playing in his 200th career game) took a roughing minor against Evander Kane. This put the Devils on the penalty kill early with one of their best PK men in the box. Sure enough, Ryan O’Reilly scored one second after the penalty ended. Though the Devils had successfully killed it off and it was technically an even strength goal, for all intents and purposes it was still a power play goal since Larsson had just stepped back on the ice when it was scored. New Jersey was now playing from behind, 2-1.

Mike Cammalleri would tie it back up at 8:57 of the second when Sergey Kalinin powered towards the Sabres’ net and the puck squirted out to Cammalleri, who quickly buried it. For Kalinin it was the first point of his NHL career. It was Cammalleri’s third goal of the season and his second of three points on the night.

The Devils would again score late in a period, this time with 49 seconds left in the frame when David Schlemko scored his first goal as a Devil off a nice one-touch pass from Cammalleri (his third point on the night). Henrique had the secondary assist. The Devils now led 3-2. They had the lead and they would not relinquish it for the rest of the night.

Midway through the third period, Matt Moulson would spin into a Damon Severson high stick behind the Devils net, putting Buffalo a man up at 8:51. Adam Henrique would again come to the rescue, scoring on a breakaway unassisted, his sixth goal of the year, to make it 4-2 Devils.

A scary moment occurred moments after the shorty, as Schlemko was finishing his check on the Sabres’ Evander Kane, coming in at an awkward angle and pinning Kane’s knee to the boards. Although it was a clean hit and no penalty was called, it was hard for the Sabres and Kane (who has had a history of injuries in his career) although he did leave the game under his own power.

Now without one of their best players, the Sabres would mount a comeback on the Devils. At 17:31 of the third, Brian O’Neill of the Devils took a hooking call and Buffalo’s wunderkind, Eichel made them pay when he fired a wrist shot past Schneider at 19:15. The Sabres had pulled Ullmark to go up two extra men, but that was all they could do. Andy Greene would clear the puck from the zone on a scramble late and Cammalleri would pin it deep in the Sabres end until time ran out.

The Devils have taken 9 out of a possible 10 points in their last five games and have won four straight. Next up for the Devils: they return home to face the Columbus Blue Jackets and their new coach, John Tortorella on Hockey Fights Cancer night at The Rock.

John Hynes Gets First NHL Win in OT Defeat of Rangers

The Devils finally got in the win column for the 2015-16 season by defeating their archrivals at Madison Square Garden. It was John Hynes’ first NHL coaching victory and the Devils’ first overtime victory in three-on-three play.

Things looked bleak for New Jersey early on when the team came out flat. The Rangers capitalized on their lackluster play when Derek Stepan put New York ahead at 3:12 of the first. Sensing that the team was not totally up for this rivalry game, Kyle Palmieri, after having some words with the Rangers’ Kevin Klein, dropped the mitts with him in an attempt to get the Devils fired up.

It worked. In an interview with MSG’s Deb Placey during the first intermission, John Moore said that the team was proud of Palmieri’s efforts against the much-larger Klein. When the two teams came out for the second, it only took Adam Henrique 1:52 to wrist one past Henrik Lundqvist (assists to Mike Cammalleri and Damon Severson). Henrique was playing center for the game after being moved from left wing (his natural position) last game. MSG analyst Ken Daneyko mentioned that he likes him better on the wing, but conceded that Henrique has been showing that he can be an effective center for the team.

The Devils looked like they might be able to break through when New York’s Jarret Stoll was called for tripping at 19:54 of the second. This would give the Devils 1:55 or so of power play time on a fresh sheet of ice in the third. Things looked even better when Klein drew a delay of game penalty for shooting the puck over the glass 19 seconds into the third. The Devils, however, were not able to convert on the 5-on-3 and would, in fact, get into penalty trouble themselves late in the period. Jordin Tootoo took a high-sticking penalty at 10:58 of the period and the Devils’ penalty killers had little time to catch their breath after taking care of that when Lee Stempniak was whistled for interference at 13:38. Both the Devils and Rangers PK units were perfect on the afternoon.

The game was a tight defensive battle all the way and neither team was giving an inch of ice. It was also an illustration of what coach Hynes was talking about when he said that the game was now one of puck possession.

When the final buzzer sounded on the third period, the Devils had earned their second point in two games and were headed for three-on-three again and they would have a little help along the way. The Rangers’ Ryan McDonagh looked to have finished things early in the extra session when he beat Cory Schneider (who was again solid in this game) only to see defenseman Andy Greene clear the puck from the crease, sweeping it clear of the goal line just in the nick of time.

The Devils victory came when the Rangers dinged a shot off the post and Greene recovered, sending the puck up to a breaking Henrique, who quickly settled it and passed to Stempniak, who fired a one timer behind Lundqvist and into the net for the Devils’ first victory.

Overtime was again exciting three-on-three and more satisfying this time with a Devils victory. Andy Greene was the Devils’ star in the extra session. The captain was able to not only to keep the puck out of the Devils’ cage, but also helped spring Henrique to set up the game winner.

Although Stempniak was named the game’s first star and the goaltenders were the other two (Schneider earned second star while Lundqvist was the third), Greene and Henrique could have easily been on there. Both played well and were instrumental in the Devils’ win.

All-in-all, though, it was a good win for a team that needed one. For John Hynes to get his first NHL win in his first taste of the “Hudson River Rivalry” has to be gratifying for him and the team. Now that the first win is out of the way and all of the early season jitters are gone, it is time for the Devils to build on this. The Devils now get off the winless list, as only Columbus and Anaheim have yet to taste victory in 2015-16. Hopefully, they can continue the upward trend as the Arizona Coyotes come to Prudential Center on Tuesday.