Round One, Game Three: Now We Have a Series! Devils Defeat Lightning 5-2

Cory Schneider was back in net for the Devils. He turned aside 34 of 36 Tampa Bay Lightning shots. Photo: Ed Mulholland/USA TODAY Sports

Playoff hockey is back, ladies and gentlemen! In the Devils’ first playoff game at The Rock since June 9, 2012 (game five of the Stanley Cup Final versus the Kings), they scraped and clawed back into the series with a 5-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Devils were back in New Jersey with a new look to their lineup. For one thing, Marcus Johansson was in, playing in his first game since the January 23 game at Boston when Brad Marchand cheap-shotted him as he was cutting to the net. That hit cost him the rest of the regular season and two playoff games, but number 90 was in the lineup tonight. He was playing in his first playoff game with the Devils, his first since he was with Washington last season. Johansson played on a line with Pavel Zacha and Patrick Maroon.

Joining him as changes to the lineup were Drew Stafford (playing on a line with Miles Wood and Brian Boyle), slotting back in up front as the Devils went back to 12 forwards and six defensemen, and Cory Schnedier. Cory was starting his first playoff game as a New Jersey Devil. We know all about the drought – he had not won a game since December 27, 2017 versus Detroit – and that this was his first playoff start since a May 7, 2013 loss to San Jose as a Vancouver Canuck.

But he played a fantastic game tonight. He would nearly have to leave the game just before the Devils took the lead later in the third period after he stretched his leg out to make a save and then had a Tampa player bump into his outstretched left leg. With his history of hip and groin injuries, the Prudential Center held its collective breath. But he would fight through the pain and continue on. He ended up making 34 saves on 36 Tampa shots.

Going for Tampa was Andrei Vasilevskiy again. He stopped 36 of 39 Devils shots. The Devils added two empty net goals and so finished the game with 41 total shots on goal.

The Devils had a crowded press box with newly-signed Joey Anderson, Christoph Bertschy, Jesper Bratt, Brian Gibbons, Michael Grabner, Jimmy Hayes, Michael Kapla, Eddie Lack, Nick Lappin, Michael McLeod, Mirco Mueller, Blake Pietila, Kevin Rooney, Steven Santini and Brian Strait all scratched. Binghamton did not qualify for the AHL Calder Cup Playoffs, for what it’s worth.

The game was tight through the first period, with no score going into the first intermission. What we did have was a penalty to the Devils’ Andy Greene that was called slashing officially, but what looked more like a cross check to Yanni Gourde at 19:44. In any case, the Lightning would have the majority of their power play time on fresh ice in the second period.

Their lethal power play wasted no time, scoring 42 seconds into the second frame when Alex Killorn was all alone in the slot, took a pass from Nikita Kucherov and scored his fourth of the series. Steven Stamkos had the secondary assist. The penalty kill continued to be a point of contention for the Devils, as Tampa was 2-for-5 with eight shots on goal on the man advantage. The Devils went 1-for-7 with 13 shots on net. In a game when the Devils knew they had to stay out of the penalty box, it was Tampa who still capitalized when they did get chances.

The Lightning had the 1-0 lead, but the Devils tied things up at the 12:24 mark of the second when who else, but Taylor Hall notched one unassisted. Hall skated the puck low to high and dished to Kyle Palmieri. Palmieri fired on net and the rebound came to Hall in the slot. He unleashed a shot and found the back of the net to tie things up at one. Initially, Boyle and Palmieri were given assists on the goal but the scoring was changed and it was called unassisted at 12:24.

Either way, it was great for Hall, who hit the crossbar on a partial breakaway late in the first period after beating Vasilevskiy cleanly. Bryce Salavdor of MSG joked that there was a dent in the crossbar due to how hard Hall had shot the puck there. Also, a Devils goal had been waved off midway through the second period when Blake Coleman’s shot crossed the goal line after the Tampa net came off of its moorings. Toronto reviewed the shorthanded chance, but the call on the ice stood: no goal.

Prudential Center errupted following Hall’s goal, but things were about to get a whole lot better.

But first, Tampa would take another lead. This came when Stamkos notched his first of the playoffs just 38 seconds into the third period from Kucherov and Killorn on the power play. Cory got a piece of the shot, but could not hold on to it. It was 2-1 Tampa.

Once again, the Devils had taken a penalty late in a period and paid for it early in the next. It was 2-1 Lightning, but things were about to turn up for the Devils.

It began with Will Butcher on the power play. It began at the 2:39 mark of the third when Tampa’s Cedric Paquette went off for tripping Butcher. Then, at 3:39, the Lightning took a bench minor for too many men on the ice. The Devils had about a minute or so of 5-on-3 power play time. And Butcher responded. At the 4:03 mark, he would score from Hall and Palmieri to tie things up at two.

Palmieri guided the puck back to Butcher at the point. Butcher gave to Hall at the near half wall. He gave back to Butcher, teeing him up to snipe one top shelf by Vasilevskiy. The game was now 2-2 as the Devils scored on the power play. They would not convert on the ensuing 5-on-4, but the damage was done.

And the Devils were not done. New Jersey took a 3-2 lead when Stefan Noesen scored his first of the playoffs at 12:55 from Hall and Greene. It started with Greene giving to Hall in the Devils’ zone following a delayed offside on Tampa Bay. Hall then weaved his way up ice and, once he broke into the Lightning zone, fed Noesen, who fired a one-timer by Vasilevskiy to give the Devils their first lead of the series.

Hall said during the post game that he knew Noesen had a great shot and was just looking to set him up.

Tampa would pull Vasilevskiy wtih about 1:20 left int the game and the Devils would pot two empty netters. The first came at 19:02 when Coleman scored shorthanded and unassisted to make it 4-2 (the Devils were in the middle of a huge kill and Tampa had a 6-on-4 advantage with the goaltender pulled). Ben Lovejoy then scored unassisted at 20 seconds later to make it 5-2, your final.

The game ended with Tampa on the power play as things got a bit chippy late. Tempers began to flare when Nico Hischier was speared by Victor Hedman in the groin and no call was made. This followed Coleman receiving a high hit from Mikhail Sergachev that was called. This was after the Noesen goal and the bad feelings contiued to the final whistle. In the end, Paquette (Tampa), Boyle (New Jersey), Chris Kunitz (Tampa), John Moore (New Jersey), Braydon Coburn (Tampa), Drew Stafford (New Jersey), Cory Conacher (Tampa), Damon Severson (New Jersey), Mikhail Sergachev (Tampa) and Miles Wood (New Jersey) were all assessed misconduct penalties at 19:37. The Devils’ Boyle also was called for holding, which is why the Lightning ended the game on the PP.

But that was enough. The Devils came away with the 5-2 victory and cut the series lead to 2-1 in favor of Tampa. For what it’s worth, the last time the Devils came back from a 2-0 series deficit was 1994 against the Boston Bruins in the second round.

In the end, Travis Zajac led all Devils skaters in ice time with 24:23 (7:48 of power play time and 5:02 on the PK). Sami Vatanen led all d-men in TOI with 22:42 total. Hall and Coleman tied in shots on goal with six, Coleman also led in hits with five. Zacha had two blocked shots to lead the Devils in that category and takeaways were led by Coleman with two. Coleman really imprinted himself on this game and made his mark.

Team-wise, the Devils out shot Tampa 41-36, won 55-percent of the game’s faceoffs, were out hit 34-33 and had one more blocked shot, 9-8. The three stars of the game were: Taylor Hall (first), Cory Schneider (second) and Stefan Noesen (third).

Next up, Wednesday and game four at The Rock. The Devils will look to pull even in that one and make this into a full-on series.

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Devils Hang on to Defeat High-Powered Bolts

While it snows here in New Jersey, the Devils traveled to warm, sunny Florida to take on the NHL-best Tampa Bay Lightning in their only trip to Tampa this season. The Devils were able to hang on for a 4-3 victory that was as big a win as they have had all season.

The Devils sort of have the Bolts’ number this year, beating them in their other meeting, way back on October 17 in Newark, in a shootout. In the time since, the Lightning have had their way with the rest of the league, currently leading in the President’s Trophy race for the best overall record in the NHL. But this was the Devils’, or more specifically, Eddie Lack’s, night.

The Devils goaltender turned away a career high 48 shots as the Lightning blasted 51 on his net. Lack got the start primarily because the Devils play in Carolina tomorrow afternoon at 5 PM, a 22 hour turnaround between tonight and tomorrow. With that little time between games, you do not want to go with Keith Kinkaid for both. He also notched his first win as a Devil and first overall since November 13, when he was with Calgary. Lack would be named the game’s first star.

Opposing him was Tampa’s Andrei Vasilevskiy. He stopped 24 of 28 Devils shots. Less of a workload and the Devils were able to break through with goals when they needed to.

Some roster news for the Devils as John Quenneville has been placed on injured reserve retroactive to February 10. He is out with the knee injury. The Devils called up Blake Pietila from Binghamton, but he did not play as a healthy scratch. Brian Boyle remained a scratch with his shoulder injury. He may return to the lineup as soon as tomorrow’s game in Raleigh. Mirco Mueller was the other healthy scratch.

The Devils needed to stay out of the penalty box against a high powered offense like Tampa has, but were not successful on that front. Coach John Hynes said repeatedly in his postgame press conference that they did not stay disciplined, saying that he “was disappointed in their penalty discipline.” Tampa ended up 2-for-6 on the power play, getting a whopping 15 power play shots through to Lack. The Devils were 0-for-3 with four shots on goal. The Devils did a good job on the penalty kill, blocking shots and getting sticks in lanes. When that failed, Lack was phenomenal and helped the Devils cause as much as he could.

Chris O'Meara/Associated Press
Ben Lovejoy scored the opening goal of the game for New Jersey. Photo: Chris O’Meara/Associated Press

The Devils got on the board first, at 2:59 of the first period when Ben Lovejoy scored unassisted. It came when Lovejoy took a Lightning clearing attempt along the half wall and threw it on net. The puck squibbed by Vasilevskiy to make it 1-0 Devils. Lovejoy told Deb Placey during a first intermission interview that the players have been instructed to just get the puck on net when they were along the wall like that and he did so. He had a little bit of luck on his side however, as the puck had eyes and found its way into the back of the net.

Another former Pittsburgh Penguin would tie the game up for Tampa. Chris Kunitz, like Lovejoy he played for years with the Pens, winning three Stanley Cups there, took a perfect backhanded pass from Ryan Callahan at 12:41 and fired a nice shot that beat Lack to make it 1-1. That is where we would be come the first intermission. A good start for the Devils as they got out of the first period tied with a very good team.

But that good team would be given too many chances to score as the Devils beat a path to the penalty box. Early in the second, Sami Vatanen was called for holding Brayden Point. The Bolts would score with just seven seconds left on the power play. Point scored on a rebound as he crashed the net at 2:47 to put Tampa up 2-1. Yanni Gourde and Mikhail Sergachev had the assists.

The Devils, however, would not be deterred. Just 26 seconds after the Point goal, Nico Hischier would score to tie things up at two. It happened when Vatanen got the puck out of the Devils’ zone and to Taylor Hall. Hall made a nice move around a Tampa defender, jumping up with Hischier on a two-on-one. Hischier elected to shoot (something the coaches have been asking him to do more of) on the ensuing odd man rush, and beat Vasilevskiy stick side to tie the game up. Vatanen and Hall had the assists, extending Hall’s consecutive points streak to 17 games total and ten officially – the NHL counting the games that he missed with an injury in between the first seven game streak and this new streak against him.

Nico’s goal was also set up by a nice defensive play by Will Butcher, as he stood the Lightning up at the Devils blue line as they broke in on a two-on-one to give the Devils possession of the puck in the first place.

At 4:54, the Devils would again find themselves in penalty trouble. Miles Wood hit a vulnerable Vladislav Namestnikov and got a boarding call out of it. Andrej Sustr took exception and the two started jostling, leading to matching roughing calls for Wood and Sustr. With the initial boarding call, though, New Jersey was going on the PK.

But things would work out for them. At 6:27, Pavel Zacha put in a shorthanded goal from Vatanen and Lovejoy to give the Devils the 3-2 lead. It happened when the Devils caught Tampa in a bad line change after circling the puck back to center to buy time. Vatanen hit Zacha with a nice pass through the neutral zone and he and Blake Coleman broke in on a two-on-one. Zacha took the shot himself, beating Vasilevskiy to the stick side to regain the lead for the Devils.

The Devils killed off the rest of the penalty and things seemed to really be going their way. An “oh boy” moment occurred when Hall seemed to score midway through the second period. The red light came on briefly but the goal was immediately waved off by the on-ice officials. Replay did show that the shot bounced off of Tampa’s Anton Stralman and off the far post, never crossing the goal line. It was the correct call, even if a little bit disappointing for Devils fans.

The Devils got out of the second with the lead and things were beginning to point in the direction that they could actually pull this off. Things looked even more like that when Wood scored just 1:24 into the third frame. That one came when Vasilevskiy made two great saves, the second a nice reaction save on Travis Zajac in front. The puck was directed to the near corner, where Stefan Noesen won a puck battle to gain control. He centered to Wood in the slot. Wood beat Vasilevskiy as the goalie was moving side-to-side to square up to his shot. That made it 4-2 Devils and seemed to ice the game for New Jersey.

But against a team like the Bolts, that is never true. Especially when the Devils are taking as many penalties as they did in this game. With Kyle Palmieri in the box for tripping, it only took 12 seconds for the Lightning power play to notch one. Steven Stamkos (who drew the penalty) scored from Victor Hedman and Nikita Kucherov 5:15 into the third period. That would set up a dramatic finish.

With Tampa down by one, coach Jon Cooper would pull Vasilevskiy with just under two minutes left in the game. With the Bolts with the extra skater, it was a shooting gallery on Lack. But he came through, making the big saves when he was most needed and preserving the Devils’ 4-3 win.

Stats-wise, Vatanen led in ice time with 25:25. Wood led in shots on goal by a wide margin with six, doubling up Zajac and Noesen, who had the second most with three each. Noesen did lead in hits with three while Andy Greene led in blocked shots with four. Hischier was the leader in takeaways with three while the Devils won 53-percent of their faceoffs, a feat without Boyle – one of their strongest faceoff guys.

Eddie Lack played the game of his career for the Devils, making 48 saves. Photo: Chris O’Meara/Associated Press

So don’t look now, but the Devils have won three in a row and are creating some breathing room for themselves in the wildcard race. Next up they have a big showdown with the Hurricanes again tomorrow with the puck drop at 5 PM. Carolina has lost two straight (the Devils game and then the following night against the Islanders). Hopefully the Devils can keep up the momentum and this early start will play into their hands.

As always, if you enjoyed this post, please follow us on Twitter @LGDevilsNet, email us (the email can be found in the “About” section on the main page), or simply leave a comment below. All photos in this article credited to Chris O’Meara/Associated Press.

Ben Lovejoy to Help in CTE Research

A little bit late on this topic, but in the Friday edition of the sports section of the Asbury Park Press, a column by Devils beat writer Andrew Gross ran regarding Ben Lovejoy. Lovejoy became the first active NHL player to pledge to donate his brain, upon his passing, to the Concussion Legacy Foundation, a Boston-based research group. The Concussion Legacy Foundation does research into Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a disease brought on by years of concussions and other brain trauma suffered by athletes and people in other professions, such as the military.

He joins former NHLers Craig Adams (who played with Lovejoy on the Pittsburgh Penguins), Keith Primeau, Shawn McEachern, Bob Sweeney and Ted Drury who have done likewise. Primeau was the first to do so, in 2008.

Gross quoted Lovejoy as saying “I have had incredibly high-profile superstar teammates [Sidney Crosby] struggle with concussions and I’ve had minor league role players struggle with concussions. I think it’s something that affects everyone in our sport.”

Lovejoy, 33-years-old, has played ten years in the NHL for Pittsburgh, Anaheim and the Devils and “considers himself lucky” to “have had very little brain trauma” in his career. But “science” he said was what got him to go ahead with pledging his brain to the Concussion Legacy Foundation. The Foundation is, according to Gross, a “recruiting arm of partnership with Boston University and the Veteran’s Administration to create a brain bank” and “more than 2,500 former athletes and military veterans have pledged to donate their brain to the foundation since 2008.” Gross notes that Lovejoy is “one of the more than 1,000 who have done so in 2017.”

The Concussion Legacy Foundation’s co-founder and CEO, Chris Nowinski has a very interesting and unique background. A graduate of Harvard University, he wrestled professionally for a time with WWE before concussions put an end to his career there. He went on to help found the Concussion Legacy Foundation and shares one major thing in common with Lovejoy: both are Ivy League educated. Lovejoy attended Dartmouth and, as Devils coach John Hynes was quoted in the article as saying, “Ben is a bright guy. I think he’s got a vision for the future and the fact that he made that decision is not a surprise.”

Lovejoy stated that while he saw that many NFL players were donating their brains to research, no current NHL player had yet to do so. He said that while he will direct players who have questions or want to learn more to Nowinski, he will not try to recruit them. He stated that this is a personal choice and something that “is a sensitive issue.” Lovejoy will, however “work to raise awareness for CTE research and support the foundation.”

It is also a timely issue for the Devils. Marcus Johansson just got back into the lineup after missing a month due to a concussion suffered back on November 1 when the Devils were in Vancouver. He missed a total of 13 games according to Gross.

Hockey is a rough sport and any research that can be done as to the affects of it on the human body will greatly serve future generations of players and the quality of life for players of this and past generations that will or have retired. Kudos to Ben Lovejoy for the step he is taking in trying to improve that future.

Devils Come Away With Point in Calgary

Tonight was a wild one, that much is certain. The Devils fell in Calgary to the Flames, 5-4 in a shootout. But it took a lot of twists and turns to get to that final.

Let’s start with some injury notes. Steven Santini was out with an upper body tweak. His sitting out was merely precautionary. Marcus Johansson was also still out with a concussion. Ben Lovejoy would slot back in on defense while Stefan Noesen came back in up front. New Jersey went back to 12 forwards and six defensemen for this game after having the extra d-man on the bench for Edmonton. The Devils had followed up their first two losses of the season with victories, tonight netted them a point, but not the full two.

It was Hockey Fights Cancer Night at the Saddledome as well as a homecoming for Taylor Hall, who was born and spent the early part of his youth in Calgary. And it was Hall who would pot the first goal of the game. It came at just 1:34 of the first period when Nico Hischier streaked up the wing and took a shot on Flames goaltender Mike Smith. The rebound came right to a trailing Hall and he did not miss, putting it behind Smith. Just like that it was 1-0 Devils.

The Devils held that lead until the 11:07 mark when Michael Frolik scored shorthanded for Calgary. The Flames were killing off a Brett Kulak holding call when Frolik got his second of the season from Mikael Backlund. That would tie the game at one and from there, the craziness set in.

Devils goalie Keith Kinkaid, making his first start in nine days had to fight off a Flames penalty shot when Stefan Noesen hauled down Michael Ferland at 13:15 of the first period. Ferland did not convert and it remained 1-1. Kinkaid came up big all night, including late in the first period when he stopped Sam Bennett coming out of the penalty box after serving a minor penalty. He was sprung on a breakway and Kinkaid made the big save there. He also stopped Mark Jankowski in close with seconds remaining in the period.

The second period began with the Devils retaking the lead when Hischier took a shot coming up the wing and the rebound popped out to Ben Lovejoy. In almost a carbon copy of the game’s first goal, Lovejoy deposited his first goal since December 6, 2016 to make it 2-1 Devils. That goal came at 1:56 of the second and Jimmy Hayes had the secondary assist.

Calgary would net the next two, first when Michael Stone got his first of the year from Kris Versteeg and Frolik at 11:11 to tie things up at two. The goal found twine through traffic in front of Kinkaid. Sean Monahan gave the Flames the 3-2 lead when he scored from Ferland and Johnny Gaudreau at 12:27. That seemed like it would deflate the Devils, but just ten seconds after the Monahan goal, Brian Gibbons scored his seventh of the year unassisted to tie it up at three. That came when Gibbons cut off the puck as Smith was winding it around the boards. He shot from a sharp angle, almost from the goal line and beat Smith, tying the game once again.

Despite that gaffe, Smith was good too. He stopped the Devils on a 3-on-2 late in the second period, stoning Hall. and made a great reaction save early in the third period on Nico Hischier off a shot by Lovejoy.

The third period saw more action as Ferland scored 6:54 into the final frame to make it 4-3 Calgary. He got assists from Gaudreau and Monahan. The Devils seemed dead to rights then, but would again come back when Andy Greene scored his first goal since February 14, 2017 at 11:11 of the third period. That one came when Jesper Bratt fired a puck that came to Greene along the far half wall. Greene fired from that spot and beat Smith to tie things up at four. Lovejoy had the secondary assist on that goal, giving him two points on the night.

Then, more craziness as, at the 13:54 mark of the third period, Matt Bartkowski held Miles Wood on a breakway, which resulted in the game’s second penalty shot. Wood would shoot wide on the penalty shot, and we moved on in the game towards overtime.

And in that OT session, both teams played it very cautiously, opting for puck possession instead of the big play to get the win. We ended with the score still tied up at four. It was time for a shootout.

Taylor Hall led off for New Jersey and Smith stopped him. Sean Monahan scored on his first chance for Calgary. Jesper Bratt was stopped by Smith and then Kris Versteeg was stopped by Kinkaid. Drew Stafford needed to score for New Jersey to keep things going and he did. But Calgary’s Matthew Tkachuk scored to end the game, giving the Flames the 5-4 win in a shootout.

As mentioned, both goalies had monster games: Kinkaid made 30 saves on 34 shots (one of Calgary’s shots came on the power play – they were 0-for-3 on the man advantage – one also came shorthanded) while Smith was 26-for-30 (the Devils had four power play shots and one shorthanded shot – the Devils were 0-for-2 on the power play).

Greene led all Devils skaters in time on ice with 23:56, while Hall led the forwards with 22:32. Hischier led all Devils with five shots on goal and was named the game’s second star with his two assists.

Next up, the Devils look to get back in the win column back at home when they take on the St. Louis Blues at Prudential Center on Tuesday. We will see you then.

Devils Pick Up Hard Fought Win over Vancouver

For the New Jersey Devils, the road traveled has been a tough one, but they have seemed to be tougher than the road. They have given up at least three goals in the last nine games they have played, but have gotten a point in all except the game in Winnipeg against the Jets.

They have done the majority of that as the visitors. Now, they return home to the Prudential Center for one game before heading back on the road on Thursday. That game was against the tough, but struggling Vancouver Canucks (yet another Western Conference opponent). They have also not won a game by more than one goal since November 12. How would they fare tonight against the Canucks?

Beau Bennett was back in the lineup, he was out with a puncture wound to the leg suffered from Kyle Palmieri’s skate at practice. He said that he was lucky, as it could have been his Achilles and he would have missed a lot more time than just a few games. With Bennett back, the Devils needed to make some room on the roster, so John Quenneville was sent back down to Albany. I am sure we will be seeing a lot more from Quenneville in the near future.

Also back in for New Jersey was Sergey Kalinin. He had been ill for the last two games. Out for the Devils were Jacob Josefson and Jon Merrill (both healthy scratches) and Pavel Zacha (facial laceration suffered against Nashville). Sitting for Vancouver was Alex Biega and Joseph Labate.

Between the pipes saw Jacob Markstrom starting for the Canucks, making 19 saves on 22 Devils shots. For the Devils, Cory Schneider got the nod against his former team. He made 22 saves on 24 Canucks shots.

The Devils got on the board first just 3:42 into the first. It happened when Taylor Hall grabbed a puck out of a goal mouth scramble, waited and fired, beating Markstrom over the shoulder, glove side. Kyle Quincey had the primary assist while PA Parenteau picked up the secondary.

From there, things got kind of ugly for both teams.

First, Damon Severson and Brendan Gaunce dropped the mitts, with Severson getting the victory on a takedown.

Then, Travis Zajac is checked from behind went face first into the boards. It was speculated by Ken Daneyko of MSG that his face shield might have cut his face, but no matter what, he was bloodied. He left the ice briefly but would return with a full shield on.

The referees missed the hit from behind on Zajac, but did not miss the penalties in the ensuing melee. Out of that, Michael Chaput (who put the hit on Zajac) got a fighting major and John Moore got a fighting major plus the instigator and the Devils were issued a bench misconduct after coach John Hynes got into an argument with the officials. Bennet served the bench penalty. All of this occurred at the 19:28 mark of the first period.

So with one of their best players off the ice with his face bloody, the Devils would now be down 5-on-3 with Vancouver coming out with the power play. The Devils did what they could, the Canucks power play is only ranked 22nd in the NHL, but ultimately, with just 19 seconds left on the 5-on-3, Daniel Sedin one-timed a pass from Brandon Sutter by Cory. Troy Stecher had the other assist on his goal. The Devils had killed off 19 straight power plays prior to this.

Another, scarier, moment happened in the middle of the second. Philip Larsen, the Danish defenseman coming to the Canucks from the KHL, took a big check from Taylor Hall behind the Vancouver net. He had his head down, but may have hit his head on the ice as he fell. He was stretchered out and taken to the hospital. According to Devils’ play-by-play man Steve Cangialosi via the Vancouver medical staff, he was awake and responsive and had full movement on the way to the hospital, so that was encouraging.

With that, it became a very chippy, emotional game – especially for one against a Western team that they only see twice a year.

No penalty was called on that play, as Hall’s hit was legal. However, Vancouver was whistled a few minutes later, at 5:55 when Erik Gudbranson went off for roughing Sergey Kalinin. Also on that play, Alexandre Burrows of Vancouver went off with matching roughing minors with Devante Smith-Pelly.

The Devils were now up a man and Kyle Palmieri would make the most of it. There was excellent puck movement, as five guys touched the puck on the way to Palmieri firing it from the near faceoff dot. He beat Markstrom to give the Devils the 2-1 lead. Hall had the primary assist while Severson had the secondary one. That goal came at 7:08.

On the night, the Devils were 1-for-2 on the power play, as they continue to click. The Canucks were 1-for-3 in the same situation.

The Devils would go up 3-1 at 11:09 when Ben Lovejoy scored his first goal as a Devil and his first goal since March of 2016 (when he was with the Penguins). It occurred when Quincey pinched in to keep the puck in the offensive zone. Zajac then passed across the point to Lovejoy, who fired on net. His slap shot found twine cleanly and the Devils had the two goal lead.

But the Devils have not played the most overtime games in the NHL this year for nothing. Vancouver would make things interesting when Henrik Sedin scored from his brother, Daniel, and Luca Sbisa at 3:58 of the third. Sedin had shot from an odd angle right after Markstrom had made a big save on Taylor Hall at the other end of the rink. The Devils were now up 3-2.

In the middle of the third period, it seemed that the ice was tilted in the Canucks’ direction. But the Devils weathered the storm. Markstrom was pulled with about 1:30 left in the game. But there would be no OT tonight. The Devils kept Vancouver from scoring and New Jersey came away with the two points.

The Devils remain unbeaten in regulation at home and, at 8-0-2, are off to their best start at home in franchise history. The Devils have still not won a game by more than one goal since mid-November, but this two game mini win streak sets them up to be in a good position for their next challenge.

On Thursday, they head up to the Bell Centre to take on the team with the best overall record in the league and a team that is extremely tough to play at home themselves: the Montreal Canadiens.

The Devils will be in for a tough one as they head up north to take on the Habs. But this team has shown a lot in the last few games, so getting one up on the President’s Trophy leaders should be no sweat to them, surely. We will find out on Thursday.

Early Thoughts on Devils’ July 1 Signings

In the annual overspending frenzy that is the first day of free agency in the NHL, the Devils were somewhat responsible with their signings.

Watching the Sportsnet feed of “Signing Season” on the NHL Network, the big joke was that the Devils came into the day with only seven players under contract. Of course, some of their own guys will be re-signing and they just made the huge splash in acquiring Taylor Hall from the Edmonton Oilers earlier in the week.

The eighth player they got under contract was a good, sound signing. Ben Lovejoy from the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins, who had a very good year for them last season, at 3 years, $2.666 million AAV is a an example of the good use of the team’s cap space.

Lovejoy is a solid defensive defenseman, who still has speed. He will be essentially a stopgap for the Devils, taking Adam Larsson’s spot while the younger guys like Steve Santini and Damon Severson mature. Plus, the Shero factor, as he played under him in Pittsburgh (in Lovejoy’s first go-around in the Steel City – he was traded to Anaheim during the 2012-13 season and eventually returned to Pittsburgh).

Then there is the playoff factor. In his 24 games with the Pens in their Cup season this year, he had two goals and four assists, six points. He was a plus-5 and had 45 hits and 37 blocked shots. The 6-foot, 1-inch, 206-pound, 32-year-old native of Concord, New Hampshire should be a good value for the Devils and work out okay.

The Devils also signed Vernon Fiddler from the Dallas Stars. (For those keeping score, that makes nine players under contract for the Devils.) Fiddler is a 5-foot, 11-inch, 205-pound center who is 36-years-old. His contract is said to be for 1 year, $1.25 million. He is a fourth line center that will give the Devils someone a bottom six forward.

In the two outside signings, the Devils got a little bit of depth, if not a little bit older (although it is fair to say that that is the point with Lovejoy, he is a guy who is going to bridge the gap between the current unit and the younger guys who will take some time to develop – as Ken Daneyko always points out, it takes a little bit longer for blueliners to develop in the NHL than forwards).

Overall, this has been a successful week so far for the Devils and there are still a few names out there. The team will likely try to secure the in-house contracts that they have to take care of first, but this was a good start.

Although any week when you can trade for Taylor Hall should be considered a successful one, that is for certain.