Palmieri’s Two Power Play Goals Help Devils Past Canes

Kyle Palmieri had a pair of power play goals in the Devils’ 4-3 win over Carolina tonight. He also made a huge defensive play late to keep the Devils in the game. Photo: Elsa/Getty Images

Nobody said breaking a playoff drought would be easy. The Devils needed to scratch and claw to get their 40th win of the season tonight, over the Carolina Hurricanes. Their 4-3 win got them to that mark for the first time since the 2011-12 season and put some room behind them and the Florida Panthers, inching them closer to the Philadelphia Flyers who currently occupy the top wild card spot in the East.

The Devils got the win, but it was a real nailbiter. The Devils got goals from Pavel Zacha, two from Kyle Palmieri on the power play and a timely late goal from Sefean Noesen along with some great goaltending from Keith Kinkaid to come away with the victory.

They also got someone back in the lineup. Miles Wood was back from a hyperextended elbow suffered at Anaheim last week. He would play on a line with Zacha and Palmieri. Patrick Maroon was a scratch to heal up some lingering injuries for him. Jimmy Hayes, Ben Lovejoy and Drew Stafford were the healthy scratches with him with the lineup staying mostly the same as the other night against Tampa.

Big news on the injury front, however, is that Marcus Johansson has been skating at practice and could be on his way to coming back. He has not played since January at Boston when he was elbowed in the head on a dirty play.

In the nets, Kinkaid went for New Jersey. He made 31 stops on 34 shots and was amazing at times, coming up big when he had to. The Devils have been playing very well in front of him and they and the coaching staff’s confidence in him has only grown exponentially. Scott Darling was between the pipes for Carolina and made 41 saves on 45 shots on goal. He has had a rough season for the Canes individually, but was good for them tonight.

With the Panthers continuing to win (they beat the Islanders 2-0 last night) and the Hurricanes not letting up (they beat Ottawa at home last night and had won four in a row coming into this game) now was a time for the Devils to step up and gather some points.

The Devils took the early lead just 5:47 into the first period when Zacha scored from Palmieri and Taylor Hall. Mirco Mueller wound the puck around the boards to Hall along the near half wall. Hall centered to Palmieri, who shot and his rebound bounced right to the stick of Zacha, camped out near the far faceoff dot. He put it home to give the Devils the 1-0 lead.

Hall’s assist on that goal, his 50th of the year and the first of three on the night, made him the first Devil since Patrik Elias in 2011-12 with at least 50 assists.

From there, Carolina took over the game for the rest of the period. It paid off when Phillip Di Giuseppe scored from Elias Lindholm and Jeff Skinner at 11:41 of the first period. That tied it at one as Di Giuseppe went high on Kinkaid to beat him.

Almost five minutes later at 16:53, Warren Foegele, who scored on his first NHL shot last night against Ottawa, scored his second career goal from Lee Stempniak and Derek Ryan to give Carolina the 2-1 lead.

Kinkaid made a giant save on the Hurricanes’ Skinner to kick off the second period. Skinner was all alone off a big stretch pass through the neutral zone by Jaccob Slavin. Kinkaid was able to get the heel of his stick blade on the puck on a desperate second chance when he was clearly beaten by Skinner.

The Devils would then settle things down a little bit and were able to tie the game at two. That one came on the power play off the stick of Palmieri at 14:07. Hall and Will Butcher had the assists. It was set up when Di Giuseppe was sent off for holding at 13:22. On the ensuing man advantage, Hall set up shot by the near half wall and played catch with Butcher at the point. Hall took the puck back and found a seam right to Palmieri at the top of the far faceoff circle. He fired and beat Darling, scoring his tenth power play goal of the year, taking over the team lead from Hall in that category.

Also of note on that goal, Butcher notched the 35th assist of his rookie season, setting a new benchmark for assists for Devils rookie d-men. He passed Eric Weinrich (1990-91) and Slava Fetisov (1989-90) who each had 34 in their rookie seasons.

That 2-2 score after two periods set up a big third period for the Devils, but it did not begin the way they wanted it to. Noah Hanifin scored off of a mad scramble in front of the Devils’ net to give Carolina a 3-2 lead. He scored from Trevor van Riemsdyk and Skinner at 3:39 of the third.

But the Devils kept in it. At 9:06, with the Devils already on the penalty kill for a John Moore holding penalty, the Canes’ Valentin Zykov was assessed a holding the stick penalty to give the Devils 21 seconds of 4-on-4 and then an abbreviated power play.

Once they got on the PP, it was Kyle Palmieri again. He scored at 11:05 from Hall and Butcher (again) to tie the game up at three. Travis Zajac came out of the near corner and gave the puck to Butcher at the point. He found Hall along the far wall. Hall shot and Palmieri, who was camped in the slot, redirected the puck by Darling to make it 3-3.

The Devils finished the night 2-for-4 on the power play with nine shots on goal. The Hurricanes were 0-for-3 with just two power play shots on Kinkaid.

Following that goal, Palmieri also made a huge defensive play on a Carolina 2-on-1. He dropped down, blocking a shot and saving a surefire goal, as Kinkaid was down and would have been beaten. Butcher was coming back for support, but credit Palmieri with a huge play there for the Devils and one that just might have won it for them.

This would set things up for a tremendous finish for the Devils. Stefan Noesen scored at 18:27 of the third from Andy Greene and Michael Grabner to give the Devils the late 4-3 lead. Grabner won a puck battle in the far corner and got the puck back to Greene at the point. Greene fired and Darling made the initial save, but could not control the rebound. It came right out in front to Noesen, who tapped it home. Just like that, the Devils had the lead.

Carolina would pull Darling quickly and the Devils tried in vain to ice the game with an empty netter, but some sound defensive play in their own zone saw the time ultimately tick down and the Devils pick up the two points.

Statistically, the Devils were able to get 45 shots on a Carolina team that does not give up many shots, but only win 44-percent of the game’s faceoffs against a Canes team that wins a lot of faceoffs. New Jersey also out hit the Hurricanes, 18-11 and blocked more shots, 8-6.

Individually, Sami Vatanen led in ice time with 22:28 (three seconds more than Greene) – including 2:43 on the power play and 59 seconds on the PK. Shots were led by Vatanen with seven (Palmieri had six and Hall had five), hits were led by Blake Coleman with four, Noesen and Mueller each had two blocks to lead in that category and Zajac had four takeaways to lead there.

That sets up another matchup with the Penguins on Thursday. The Devils will put their perfect record against the defending champs on the line at Prudential Center as they try to take another two points in the tight playoff race. We’ll see you then.

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Devils Outplayed in Carolina

Following defeat in Florida last night, the Devils knew they needed a good showing in Carolina against the Hurricanes to build some cushion between them and the second Eastern Conference wildcard. Unfortunately, they would not get it, falling 3-1 to the Canes tonight.

The good news? From an individual standpoint, Taylor Hall continued his torrid pace. He scored a power play goal, the Devils’ only goal of the evening to move his point streak to 17 straight games and 24 overall.

While the Devils were being knocked off in Sunrise last night, the Canes were also playing in Philly. They managed to defeat the Flyers, becoming the only Metro Division team to win last night. The Hurricanes, much like the Panthers last night, are a hot team gunning for a spot in the playoffs – a place both teams have not been in a long time.

In some roster moves, Eddie Lack was reassigned to Binghamton of the AHL when Cory Schneider was activated off of injured reserve. Although Cory was available, the Devils went with Keith Kinkaid tonight, giving Cory a lighter workload and letting Kinkaid go against a team that he had a 6-1 lifetime record against in the Hurricanes.

Kinkaid would make 27 saves on 29 shots against. With an empty net late in the game, Carolina ended up with 30 total shots. Kinkaid was making his 13th appearance in the last 17 games and his 100th career appearance for the Devils. Facing him was the Canes’ old workhorse Cam Ward. Ward made 25 saves on 26 shots total.

Other than the goaltender, nothing about the lineup changed. Jimmy Hayes, Mirco Mueller and Drew Stafford remained the healthy scratches for New Jersey. In other another milestone, John Moore was playing in his 200th game as a Devil tonight.

The Devils were playing in the second half of their 13th back-to-back game tonight and making their final trip to Carolina this year (although the teams will play each other one final time at The Rock at the end of this month).

Following a scoreless first period, Derek Ryan scored at 11:50 of the second to give Carolina a 1-0 lead. Ryan’s goal, which went in off of Damon Severson’s skate inadvertently, snapped a 15 game goal scoring drought for him. It also rewarded a Carolina team that had played very well through the first period to that point in the second.

And that was the theme of the early part of the game. The Canes dictated the pace and thoroughly outplayed the Devils, with only Kinkaid keeping New Jersey in the game at that point.

But the Devils had an ace up their sleeve. No matter how poor they seem to be playing, they always have Taylor Hall. He once again put the team on his back and tried to will them single-handedly to get back into the game.

He would score to extend his streak and it was a real nice one too. It came with 33 seconds remaining in the second period on the power play (Ryan had gone off for holding with a minute left in the period) and he got assists from Sami Vatanen and Kyle Palmieri. The goal developed when Palmieri wound the puck around the boards to Vatanen at the far point. Vatanen shot and Hall tipped the puck by Ward. He was able to tip the puck through his legs and by the Carolina goaltender in what was a pretty play.

The Devils would finish the night 1-for-3 on the power play with three shots, marking the second consecutive night that they had scored on the man advantage. Carolina was 0-for-1 with one shot on goal.

But, as Travis Zajac would say in a postgame interview broadcast on MSG, the team could not just rely on Hall to will them to victory. While Keith Kinkaid did his part, he made some phenomenal saves throughout the final two periods, the Devils could do no more in front of him.

Teuvo Teravainen scored the game winner at 9:37 of the third period from Brett Pesce and Elias Lindholm to give the Canes a 2-1 lead. It was another deflection, as Teravainen tipped Pesce’s shot by Kinkaid.

Kinkaid would be pulled with just over two minutes left to go in the game to try and get things tied up for the Devils. This was something that had nearly happened prior to getting the extra attacker on when Zajac’s rolling puck late in the third hit the post.

Unfortunately for the Devils, the magic of last night – when Jesper Bratt scored with Schneider on the bench – could not be repeated. Justin Williams scored into the vacant Devils’ net from Jordan Staal at 19:38 of the third period to make the final score 3-1.

On the scoresheet, Vatanen led in ice time with 23:04, outpacing his closest teammate by about 2:15 or so. For Vatanen, 2:42 came on the power play while 1:03 was on the penalty kill, so he continues to play in all situations. Palmieri and Vatanen led in shots on goal with five each, Pavel Zacha and Patrick Maroon tied for the lead in hits with five apiece. Ben Lovejoy led by a wide margin in blocked shots with five and Hall led in takeaways with four. The Devils won only 40-percent of their faceoffs, no surprise as Carolina is one of the best faceoff teams in the NHL.

So, Taylor Hall’s streak remains intact, but you get the feeling after every loss when he does postgame interviews that the two points in the standings would mean a lot more to him than individual points. Next up, the Devils will try to right the ship against another team having a surprisingly good season – the expansion Vegas Golden Knights.

This will be the first ever meeting between the two teams and will take place at Prudential Center on Sunday at 5 PM. I will be attending this game in person so my post will be a little bit late in getting up. Hopefully the Devils can get the W in their first ever game against Vegas’ NHL entry. See you on Sunday.

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Note: the image at the top of this post is copyright Bruce Bennett/Getty Images.

Hall Extends Point Streak, Gives Devils OT Win in Carolina

The Devils got two points the hard way tonight. After giving up the tying goal late, the Devils prevailed over the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 in overtime. They extended their current winning streak to four games while Taylor Hall, with the game winner in OT, has now scored at least a point in his last 18 games played, although officially it is only 11 games.

First, some bad news for the Devils. Miles Wood has been suspended by the NHL for two games and fined $9,946.24 for his boarding/charging hit on Vladislav Namestnikov of the Lightning last night. The fine is based on the collective bargaining agreement and Wood’s average annual salary and goes towards the player’s pension. Wood will miss tonight’s game and Tuesday’s game at home versus Columbus.

This was the quickest turnaround of the season for the Devils, as they had only 19 hours between leaving the ice in Tampa Bay and arriving at PNC Arena in Raleigh. This game would be true test of the Devils’ stamina. But being a young team, that was not much of a concern for the staff.

One guy who was taken out of the lineup simply to get fresh legs in was Will Butcher. Butcher slotted out for Mirco Mueller on defense. The coaches stressed that it was largely a matter of getting fresh legs into the lineup and that Mueller deserved to play. Also, there were a few things that they felt Butcher could work at while watching for a game from the press box. With Butcher being scratched, that leaves Nico Hischier, of all players, as the only Devil who has played in all of the Devils games this season.

One other roster change saw Jimmy Hayes slot out for Blake Pietila at forward. Line combos would see Pietila play with Brian Boyle – who was returning from his shoulder injury – and Nick Lappin. Also, with Wood suspended, Blake Coleman would play on a line centered by Travis Zajac and with Stefan Noesen on the other wing.

Keith Kinkaid and Eddie Lack have both played well in the Devils’ last two. Photo: Getty Images

In net, Keith KInkaid was back in for the Devils. This was a predetermined decision by the coaching staff prior to Eddie Lack’s great performance against Tampa, that they would go right back to him. Kinkaid made 40 saves on 42 Carolina shots. But that only tells part of the story. Kinkaid played just as well as Lack did last night, standing on his head at times to keep the puck out of the net. In the last few games, Lack and Kinkaid have filled in admirably for Cory Schneider, who still has no real timetable for a return.

Opposing Kinkaid would be the Hurricanes’ veteran, Cam Ward. Ward saw only 21 shots and saved 18 of them. Again, like the game in Tampa, the Devils gave up a ton of shots but were still able to come away with the win. Most of this was due to the insane goaltending that they have gotten over the last two games, but they still were able to come away with the two points regardless.

The Devils, with this game, also equaled their point total from all of last season in just 59 games so far. Just a neat little tidbit that I am sure the players who were on last year’s team are very proud of this year. One other interesting item of note from last night is that the Devils and the Vegas Golden Knights are the only two teams this season that have beaten the Tampa Bay Lightning twice. Good stuff.

The Devils kicked off the scoring with Hischier scoring his 13th of the year at 10:56 of the first period with assists to Sami Vatanen and Kinkaid on the power play. It came while Brett Pesce was off for holding and came when Kinkaid settled the puck down for Vatanen at the side of the Devils net. Vatanen hit Hischier in stride behind the Canes defense. He lost the puck momentarily in his skates, but was able to kick it, soccer-style to his stick. He then roofed one top shelf on Ward to give the Devils the 1-0 lead. And that is how it would be going into the first intermission, with the Devils up by a goal.

Overall, with the man advantage, the Devils were 1-for-3 with two shots and a 50-percent shooting percentage. Carolina was 0-for-3 with seven shots on net. While the Devils were a little bit more disciplined on the defensive side of things, taking less penalties and they did score on the power play for the first time in forever, it is a little bit troubling that they generated so few shots. There is still work to be done on the power play as a whole, for sure.

The Canes would tie things up 6:05 into the second frame when Teuvo Teravainen scored from Victor Rask and Trevor van Riemsdyk. That knotted things at one apiece.

But, at the 15:33 mark of the second, the Devils would retake the lead. John Moore had just come out of the penalty box after serving a holding call. He immediately intercepted an errant Carolina pass and broke in with Pavel Zacha and Kyle Palmieri on a 3-on-1. Moore found Zacha at the far wing and fed him. Zacha immediately sniped one into the open side of the net to make it 2-1 Devils.

And that is where it would remain at the end of two periods, with the Devils up by a goal.

That is also where it would stand as we ticked down to about 2:30 remaining in regulation. It was then that Carolina coach Bill Peters pulled Ward for the extra skater. It was a gamble, pulling the goalie that early, but the Hurricanes had been pinning the Devils in their own zone all night at times. This was evidenced by the high shot total for the Canes.

That gamble would pay off, as Jeff Skinner took a slap pass from Jaccob Slavin and put it behind Kinkaid at the 18:42 mark of the third to tie things up at two. Pesce had the secondary assist. Suddenly, it seemed the Devils allowing Carolina too much zone time was coming back to bite them.

Carolina had made a dramatic comeback, but the Devils could challenge that Pesce was offside on the play, since there was more than a minute left in the game. The staff looked at the evidence, however, and decided that they would not get a favoable call. They did not challenge.

So it was off to overtime, which was a typical 4-on-4 back-and-forth chess game of puck possession. Until the clock wound down to show 23 seconds remaining in the OT period. It was then that Taylor Hall took center stage. Vatanen wound the puck around the boards deep in the Canes’ zone to Palmieri. He took it and skated towards the net for a wraparound. Not finding anything he liked there, he kind of wound back towards the blue line to relieve the pressure. That also allowed Hall time to wind back into the neutral zone, gain a head of steam and come charging into the back of the play. Palmieri peeled around and hit Hall with a nice pass as he crossed the blue line. Hall skated in alone on Ward, shot and was able to jam his own rebound five hole to give the Devils the miraculous 3-2 win and extend his personal point scoring streak.

It was a great play that showed a lot of patience and poise from both Hall and Palmieri.

Although they may have given a point up to the Hurricanes, they also were able to put some distance between themselves and the Canes and Islanders, two of the teams (along with Columbus) directly below them in the playoff hunt. Also, by not getting the win in a shootout, they got a crucial ROW (regulation overtime win) – which serves as a tie breaker in the standings. Both the Devils and Philly have 70 points at the moment, but the Flyers have more ROWs, putting them in third place in the division while the Devils sit in the first wildcard spot.

Stats-wise, John Moore led in ice time with 23:55 while shots were led by Hall (four), hits were a tie between Boyle and Coleman (five each), Moore and Greene led in blocks (four each) while Hall and Zajac led in takeaways (three each). The Devils were not very good in the faceoff circle, winning a paltry 28-percent of the game’s draws.

So next up, the Devils return home and will get another shot at the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday. The Jackets put the hurt on them pretty bad last week. This would be another good opportunity to put some padding between them and a playoff contender in the Metro Division. This will be another crucial game and test for the Devils coming up on Tuesday.

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The photo of Taylor Hall at the top of this post is from Karl B. DeBlaker/Associated Press

Hischier Nets 3 Points as Devils Down Canes in Crucial Game

Photo: Getty Images

Coming off of their shootout win over Philly Tuesday, the Devils knew they were still not out of the woods yet. Coming up would be the Carolina Hurricanes, the team just below them in the Metropolitan Division standings and a team definitely on the rise. They would also be facing the Canes four times between tonight and March 27, meaning that these were some very important divisional games on the way. It is not a stretch to say that these games with the Hurricanes could very well determine the playoff picture in the Metro Division.

In the end, the Devils took the first meeting between the two teams this season – Carolina was the last Metro (in fact the last Eastern Conference) team the Devils had not faced this year – 5-2.

The Devils have been making some news with their fashion lately. Coach John Hynes had t-shirts made up for the players with the slogan “New Jersey vs. Everybody” on the front and “Devils vs. the World” on back. This was to show that the team is a confident unit in the face of the experts picking them to not finish very high this season. The team is defying expectations and this is a way to express that.

Taylor Hall is already in the discussion for the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP. Photo: Ed Mullholland, USA TODAY Sports

Other interesting news regarding the team was that Deb Placey of MSG Network talked during the pregame show about the buzz surrounding Taylor Hall and the Hart Trophy. Hall has certainly been the Devils’ Most Valuable Player. Would the league see things the same way? We will have to stay tuned to find out more as the rest of the season progresses. I will say that barring any serious injury, he should certainly be in the conversation come awards time. He extended his point scoring streak to 17 games with an assist on Nico Hischier’s second goal of the evening.

While the game was a major positive for the Devils, special teams remains a problem for them, specifically the power play. They were 0-for-11 in the last three games and continued that trend tonight, going 0-for-2 officially (although they did scored one just as a power play opportunity ended) with no shots on net tonight. The Hurricanes went 0-for-3 with a total of four shots.

Keith KInkaid was a big part of the Canes being stymied on the power play. He played one of his best games of the season and, in the last two games has been beginning to answer the bell for the Devils. He made 27 saves on 29 shots against. Cory Schneider has not resumed skating this week and no one really seems to know just how long he will be out, so Kinkaid playing better certainly bodes well for New Jersey.

Scott Darling was between the pipes for Carolina and made 17 saves on 22 Devils shots. He looked good, particularly early and it seemed like the Devils had run into another hot goalie. But in the end, the Devils came out ahead.

In terms of the Devils’ roster, Brian Boyle (shoulder) and John Quenneville (knee) remain out of the lineup while defenseman Mirco Mueller was the healhy scratch. Nick Lappin was moved up to the second line right wing with Jesper Bratt and Pavel Zacha.

One other item of note was that Kyle Palmieri was playing in his 200th career NHL game. Congratulations to him on this tremendous milestone.

Carolina got the scoring kicked off when Jeff Skinner scored at 17:20 of the first period. The goal was initially waved off on the ice, with the referee saying that Skinner kicked the puck into the net. Toronto got the final word, however. The replay showed that he actually got his stick on the puck before it crossed the line, but after he kicked it, so the call on the ice was reversed to a good goal. The goal occurred just seconds after the Canes’ first power play of the game had expired, so it was technically an even strength goal. Victor Rask and Justin Williams had the assists on the goal.

So the Devils were down 1-0 with time in the first period seemingly through. But then, with 19 seconds remaining, Damon Severson notched his first of two points on the night when he scored from Nico Hischier. It came when Nico chipped the puck up to Severson, who carried it from the Devils blue line and down the ice on a two-on-two with Bratt. He came to the near faceoff dot in the Canes zone and fired a shot over Darling’s blocker to tie things up at one, using Bratt as a decoy. That one came just after a Hurricanes’ power play had just expired making that an even strength goal as well. Hall (who was serving a delay of game penalty) jumped out of the penalty box and was the trailer on the play.

The Devils would take their first lead of the game 6:48 into the second period when Stefan Noesen scored. Travis Zajac and Miles Wood had the assists on that one and it came when Noesen got the puck deep into the Carolina zone. Wood picked it up in the corner and cycled to Zajac, who directed a shot on net. Darling tried to cover the puck up, but could not. WIth the puck loose in the crease, Noesen was “Johnny on the spot” to put it home, making it 2-1 Devils. It was Noesen’s first goal since December 16 against the Ducks, but it would not be his last of the night.

The Devils had no time to enjoy their new lead, as Brett Pesce tied things up at two less than a minute later for the Canes. Pesce got assists from Jaccob Slavin and Williams as the game was now knotted at two.

But the Devils would take the lead back just before the end of the second period, this time for good. Palmieri scored from Hischier and John Moore at 17:28 to make it 3-2. It happened when Palmieri sent the puck down low to Hischier, who was behind the Canes’ net, and then went right to the goal mouth. Nico fed him with a nice pass that Palmieri did not miss putting home.

Carolina coach Bill Peters would challenge for goaltender interference, charging that Hischier impeded Darling from making the save as Nico was collapsing down towards the crease. The replay confirmed that there was minimal contact and the call on the ice stood. It was a good goal and Carolina lost their timeout as a result of losing the challenge.

The Devils took that lead – and the momentum – into the third period. Just 8:06 into the third, NIco Hischier collected his third point of the night, this time a goal, when he scored from Hall and Keith Kinkaid to double the Devils’ lead to 4-2. It developed when Hall blocked a Canes clearing attempt to Nico. Hischier broke in on a two-on-one with Palmieri and elected to shoot. He beat Darling over the blocker and the Devils lead was now two.

The final goal of the evening was probably the most interesting and impressive to watch. It was scored by Noesen (his second of the night) from Severson (his second point of the night) and came when Severson kept a Darling clearing attempt in the Hurricanes’ zone. He shot and it was redirected by Noesen with the puck bouncing over Darling and into the Carolina net. Wood was in front providing a screen. That made it 5-2 and that was your final.

For their efforts, Hischier would be named the game’s first star while Noesen was the second and Severson the third.

In terms of stats, Andy Greene led the Devils in ice time with 22:24, three players (Zajac, Bratt and Greene) led in shots on goal with three each, Palmieri led in hits with five and Greene led by a wide margin in blocks with five. The Devils won 47-percent of the game’s faceoffs. The team had 17 blocks as a whole, which really allowed them to be successful on the penalty kill and in keeping the Canes off of the scoreboard for most of the night.

Next up, the Devils will head south to Tampa to take on the Lightning on Saturday. The Bolts are one of the top teams in the Atlantic Division and are a tough opponent. The teams last met back in the beginning of the season in November – which the Devils won at home in a shootout. The Devils will need to bring a complete game for this one. Hopefully, they can keep the momentum going.

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Aho Scores Two for Canes, Devils Mathematically Eliminated from Playoffs

It was a long time coming, but tonight it was made official: the 2016-17 Devils will not be playing for Lord Stanley’s Cup. They were officially eliminated from playoff contention with a 3-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes at Prudential Center tonight.

It is a big weekend at Prudential Center as the NHL Centennial Fan Arena is setting up shop in Championship Plaza for the weekend. They were there tonight and will be at tomorrow’s game against the Dallas Stars too. The Centennial Fan Arena is an interactive roadshow that includes a museum with artifacts from the NHL’s 100 years, a virtual reality Zamboni game, street hockey on a specially constructed rink and photo opportunities for fans with the Stanley Cup. I will be attending the Dallas game tomorrow and will be able to give a bit of a review of the whole thing.

Tonight was also a big matchup from the perspective of the Hurricanes. The Canes were only five points behind the Bruins and Islanders for the final Eastern Conference wild card spot. A win for New Jersey would be the first time the Devils had swept a season series from the Carolina franchise since way back in 1991-92 when the Canes were still the Hartford Whalers. This was the fourth and final meeting between the teams this season.

In other Devils-related news, today Andy Greene was named New Jersey’s nominee for the Bill Masterton Trophy by the New Jersey chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association. Devils beat writer Andrew Gross (who is the president of the New Jersey PHWA) said that the main reasons he nominated Greene was due to the iron man streak (which was broken this year, but was significant enough), overcoming the death of his father during the season and, he said, because although it has been a trying season for the Devils, he has never seen Greene’s demeanor change. He is always a class act and that went a long way in naming him the Devils’ candidate for the Masterton Trophy.

Roster-wise, Michael Cammalleri and Jacob Josefson did practice with the team this morning, but are still day-to-day. Devante Smith-Pelly is out long term and Stefan Noesen was a healthy scratch tonight. The Devils would be dressing 11 forwards and seven defensemen. Carolina was without Jay McClement, Matt Tennyson and Valentin Zykov. Missing Cammalleri was a big blow to the Devils, as he had four goals in the previous three games against the Hurricanes, including a hat trick.

In goal, Carolina started Eddie Lack, who made 26 saves on 27 Devils shots for a .963 save percentage. The Devils went back to Cory Schneider, who made 25 saves on 28 Hurricane shots for a .893 save percentage. Lack did not have good numbers historically versus the Devils, but came up big tonight when he had to, especially when the Devils began to really pour things on offensively late in the game, as we shall see.

The Devils are a young team, having dressed ten rookies this year. That is tied with Arizona for the most in the NHL. How would those young guys react tonight, knowing that the Devils would likely be officially out of the playoff hunt by night’s end?

The Hurricanes started the scoring when Sebastian Aho scored his 22nd from Elias Lindholm and Klas Dahlbeck. The goal came at the 2:47 mark of the second period to make it 1-0 Carolina.

Following that goal, the Devils would get into some penalty trouble. First, at the 5:57 mark, Blake Coleman went barreling into goaltender Lack and gave him a snow shower resulting in an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. While the Devils were killing that, John Moore was whistled for tripping Jeff Skinner at 7:18 which would give Carolina 39 seconds of a 5-on-3 advantage. The Devils would kill this off – both teams would post an ofer on the power play, going 0-for-2 and it would give them some momentum. From there to virtually the end of the second period, the Devils just assaulted the Hurricanes’ net and Lack. But he fought them off until the 17:02 mark when the puck ricocheted off of the linesman’s skate on an errant Carolina pass and went right to Taylor Hall, who immediately broke in on a 2-on-1 with Travis Zajac. Hall dished to Zajac, who beat Lack through the five hole to tie the game at one.

From there, New Jersey continued their barrage with chance after chance that they just could not finish. With seconds left in the second period, Damon Severson had seemingly broken through when his shot looked like it went in, however Lack had actually gotten a piece of the puck and deflected it up into the protective crowd netting.

The Devils had chances in the third period too. Early in the third, Cory made a save and the Devils cleared the zone, right to Blake Pietila who used his speed to beat Canes’ defenseman Noah Hanifin for a breakaway, but Lack stopped him too.

The game winner would come for Carolina when Skinner poked the puck away from Greene leading to a breakaway and a goal at 9:34 of the third. It came unassisted and was Skinner’s 30th of the season.

Pietila would have another chance, this time to tie things, but was again stopped by Lack late in the third. Eventually, though, Aho scored an insurance goal from a tough angle on Schneider from Derek Ryan to give the Canes a 3-1 lead.

Cory would be pulled with about 2:14 left in the game, come back in for a center ice faceoff with 36 seconds left and be pulled again. But the Devils could not score the two they needed to extend the game and their season and the game slipped away from them.

So, from here the Devils face the Dallas Stars tomorrow afternoon at 5 PM. As I said, I will be attending this game, so my post will be a little bit late. From here on out, this is a test of the young players’ mettle. It is an audition for next season and who will be a part of the team going forward. In its own way, that is a lot of fun to watch, but it will still be disappointing when the playoffs begin and, for a fifth straight year, the Devils are not a part of it.

Devils String Two Wins Together, End Hurricanes’ Home Streak

The Carolina Hurricanes had not had a regulation loss at the PNC Arena since November 10. In that time, the team has gone 10-0-1 in the friendly confines of their home in Raleigh. But streaks are made to be broken and the Devils, fresh off of their win last night over the Boston Bruins, came in and, while it was ugly at times, played well enough to win. They defeated the Hurricanes 3-1, ending their home streak in which they got a point in 11 straight games.

The last time New Jersey came to Carolina, Michael Cammalleri had a natural hat trick, leading the team to a victory over the Canes. The Devils have three wins in three games against the Hurricanes after tonight, their best record against a Metropolitan Division opponent (although they have yet to face the Islanders and Blue Jackets).

Some roster moves saw Jacob Josefson still out with illness. Travis Zajac was back in after being ill for the Boston game. Luke Gazdic and Reid Boucher were also healthy scratches for New Jersey. Speaking of Boucher, according to Deb Placey on the MSG pregame show, he had to be placed on waivers again since another team had put in a claim on him when the Devils did. Therefore, he could not immediately be sent down to Albany of the AHL as per the collective bargaining agreement. That is partly why he was a healthy scratch for the Devils tonight rather than being sent to the American League.

Scratches for Carolina were Klas Dahlbeck, Eddie Lack and Elias Lindholm. Lindholm is out with an upper body injury. Also for the Canes, Justin Faulk is out with a lower body injury. On the injury front, the Devils took a big hit when captain and current iron man (he playing in his 350th straight game tonight) Andy Greene went down after seemingly being hit in the face with the puck during the first period. He did not return to the game. This forced the Devils to play with five defensemen (four when Kyle Quincey had to leave to get stitches late in the game).

The goalie matchup saw Cory Schneider start again for the Devils. He made 29 saves on 30 Hurricanes shots. Cory played very well tonight, as the break he took with Keith Kinkaid starting the two games against Washington seems to have done him good. Carolina threw out their workhorse, the veteran Cam Ward. He made 15 saves on just 17 Devils shots.

The Devils were looking for their first win streak since the first week of December and their first back-to-back wins since November 11 and 12.

There was no scoring in the first period for either team, although there were chances. Right before New Jersey went on their first power play; Adam Henrique was able to catch the Canes in a change and broke in the Carolina zone. The bad change by Carolina led to a too many men on the ice penalty. The Devils did not score on the power play, and went 0-for-2 with the man advantage for the night. The Devils penalty kill was also efficient, killing all four Carolina power plays. Steve Santini made a nice play in the first when he cleared the crease after Cory made a good save on a Hurricanes’ chance.

The Hurricanes had tilted the ice for much of the second period, but it was the Devils who struck first. It came at the 14:56 mark when the Devils went tic-tac-toe from Damon Severson to Mike Cammalleri to Adam Henrique, who fired the puck by Ward giving the Devils the 1-0 lead. New Jersey made all tape-to-tape passes around the rink as everyone seemed to get a touch of the puck. With that goal, Henrique notched his tenth of the season, making him the second Devil behind PA Parenteau to go into double digits in goals.

Cory helped to preserve the lead when he stopped Jeff Skinner on the side of the net while the Hurricanes were on the power play late in the second period.

Carolina came out in the third period looking to tie things up. They again tilted the rink so much that the Devils needed to use their timeout at the 17:55 mark of the third frame. Just about two minutes in.

But the Devils would double their lead after Schneider and Ward each traded big saves back and forth. At the 11:30 mark, they broke by Ward when Cammalleri ended his goal drought. It started when Kyle Palmieri dug the puck out of the far corner and gave it to Henrique. Henrique fired and the puck went into the near corner where Cammalleri took it and shot from an odd angle. The puck deflected off of a Carolina defenseman’s stick and up and over Ward’s shoulder, hitting the crossbar and bouncing down and in. The Devils now had a 2-0 lead.

The Hurricanes were not going down without a fight, though. Less than a minute after Cammalleri’s goal, Carolina wonder rookie, Sebastian Aho scored as he was falling down on the side of Schneider’s net from a bad angle. Ron Hainsey and Teuvo Teravainen had the assists on his goal, which made it 2-1 Devils.

Aho’s goal broke Cory’s 127:13 shutout streak. The Devils goaltender had been playing extremely well and would continue that trend even after giving up that goal.

Down 2-1, Hurricanes coach Bill Peters made the strange decision to pull Ward with almost three minutes left in regulation. With Ward out, there was no room for error as the Canes tried to get the game tied. And sure enough, Palmieri intercepted a pass from Aho to Noah Hanifin in the Carolina zone and buried an empty net goal to give the Devils back a two goal cushion.

Although the Hurricanes would pull Ward again with 1:30 left in regulation, 3-1 was all she wrote. Carolina would take their timeout with 51.8 seconds left in the game, but it was to no avail as time ran out and the Devils had their second straight win.

The Devils now find themselves at NHL .500 at 16-16-7 and only six points out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, currently occupied by the Flyers.

And with that, we will see if the Devils can extend their streak on Friday when they take on the Toronto Maple Leafs at Prudential Center. The Devils will be honoring Dr. John McMullen as the first member of their Ring of Honor in that game. I will be attending that game live and so my report will be a little bit late. It should be interesting to see where the Devils go against a Leafs team that has been playing well of late.

Devils Sweep Hurricanes Home-and-Home with Shootout Win

After Sunday’s win against the Carolina Hurricanes in Raleigh and Michael Cammalleri’s natural hat trick (the first such hat trick for the Devils on the road since John MacLean did it in 1991), the Devils were riding high. They came back to New Jersey looking to pick up two more points against those same Carolina Hurricanes in the back end of a home-and-home series.

The Devils would come away with the 3-2 shootout victory, their first such win of the season.

Some lineup changes for the Devils as Reid Boucher was out while Sergey Kalinin was back in. Also scratched for New Jersey was Devante Smith-Pelly. Scratched for Carolina were Bryan Bickell, Justin Faulk and Ryan Murphy.

Andy Greene made a little bit of history, suiting up for his 623rd straight game, the durable captain moved past Kirk Muller on the Devils all-time consecutive games played streak.

Between the pipes, the teams saw a return to their number ones, as Cory Schneider would take on Cam Ward. Schneider made 31 saves on 33 Hurricanes shots, plus two saves in the shootout. Ward turned away 39 of the Devils 41 shots on the night – he also had a save in the shootout. Cory had given up four goals in consecutive games for the first time since 2014 in his last two starts, but would be looking to stop that. Both goalies played fantastic at times and kept their teams in the game with a chance to win.

Early in the game, there was a little bit of a buzzer malfunction, as the buzzer went off twice during play. They got that sorted out and – although the goal horn was turned off for the Devils first goal of the evening – everything would be fine by the second period.

The Devils got on the board first at 16:50 of the first period. Travis Zajac headmanned it to Taylor Hall, who skated along the far boards and gave it to PA Parenteau who was cutting behind the defense. He buried the puck and the Devils had the 1-0 edge.

The Devils went into the first intermission with the lead, but knew that they would need to play better in the second. They had fired 19 shots on Cam Ward in the first, the most in any period this season so far. But, they have had some problems in the second period keeping up the momentum and tonight was no exception, to be completely honest.

Early in the second period, Cory came up big with a few huge saves on a scramble in front of the Devils’ net. But Carolina eventually broke through when Jaccob Slavin skated through the Devils’ defense and flubbed a shot on Schneider. Jordan Staal recovered the puck and fired it behind Cory, tying the game at one apiece. Brett Pesce had the secondary assist on that goal. This came at 4:23 of the second and on the power play set up when Cammalleri had gone off for hooking Ron Hainsey. The Hurricanes took a 2-1 lead with about 3:30 to go in the second when Klas Dahlbeck scored unassisted.

The Devils would tie things up in the third period when Nick Lappin notched his first NHL goal at 3:51. Kalinin had powered in on net with the rebound coming out to Lappin, who was able to fire it in and tie things at two.

Carolina would challenge the goal for goaltender interference. Ward was the one who really pushed Carolina coach Bill Peters to make the challenge, feeling that he had been interfered with by Vernon Fiddler (although replays clearly showed that Fiddler never made contact with Ward and was trying to stop before he did make any contact). The Canes were 0-for-4 on challenges on the year and this one was no different. The call on the ice stood, giving Lappin his first NHL goal and the Devils a tie game.

Late in the third period, Ward would make a big stop for the Hurricanes when he stymied Parenteau in close. Parenteau was cutting to the net as Taylor Hall made a nice play to get him the puck. Although the Devils were blocked there, Schneider would also work to keep them in the game, coming up especially big in the last minutes of the third period.

After consecutive icings with 2:51 left in the game, Devils coach John Hynes used his timeout to give his players a breather with a faceoff deep in the Devils’ zone. It would work, as the Devils were able to finish regulation 2-2 and come away with at least a point.

Overtime was played a little conservatively by both teams, but they had their chances. Hall was almost sprung home free in the Carolina end when he got behind the defense, but bumped into the linesman and lost his edge. Then, Ward stopped Travis Zajac on a last ditch effort in OT, as Zajac was all alone in on Ward as time was running down.

But time expired on the three-on-three and it would take a shootout to decide this one. The Canes had just beaten Nashville on Saturday in a shootout before coming home to play the Devils. But tonight was the Devils’ night.

PA Parenteau converted first on his chance. Jeff Skinner was stopped by Schneider and Cam Ward stopped Jacob Josefson – who had been almost automatic in these things last year. Schneider again stopped the Hurricanes, turning aside Jaccob Slavin. And the game was on Taylor Hall’s stick. He would convert and the Devils won, 3-2.

It was a big win for New Jersey, giving them a second straight win over a division rival (which is important, as they will not see another Metro Division foe until November 26 when they play Pittsburgh) and two big points in the standings. You have to accumulate these early in the season when you can to build up equity for the playoffs.

Next up, the Devils travel to Buffalo on Friday for a back-to-back, home-and-home with the Sabres.

Devils Defeat Hurricanes on Strength of Cammalleri Hat Trick

The last time Michael Cammalleri scored a goal, the calendar had not yet turned to 2016. Granted, it was only 14 games as he was injured for the majority of last season, but still, for a goal-scorer, that gap of time represents an eternity.

But everything comes to an end, even goal scoring droughts, and Michael Cammalleri was back on tonight against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena. He netted a hat trick, scoring his first goal since December 30, 2015 (when he scored two at Ottawa – the Devils won 3-0 that night as former Devil and current Hurricane Lee Stempniak scored the other). The Devils won the game 4-1.

The Devils actually arrived in Raleigh before the Hurricanes did. The Canes were coming in from Nashville last night where they had gone to a shootout. With Nashville being in the Central time zone and the Devils coming in from Tampa, New Jersey was in their beds earlier than the home team.

This game also represented the Devils’ first this season against a Metropolitan Division foe. They had seen a lot of the Atlantic Division on the road and the Western Conference at home, but no team from their own division yet. It was also a quick turnaround for the Devils, with an earlier 6 PM puck drop tonight.

Coach John Hynes made some changes to his lineup for this game. Inserting Reid Boucher and Jacob Josefson back into the lineup and sitting Devante Smith-Pelly and Sergey Kalinin. Vojtech Mozik was also scratched; he has been traveling with the team but has not seen any ice time yet. Hynes had said that many players could have been benched after the performance in Tampa, but this was more a way to shake up the lineup and less of a punishment.

In goal, both teams went with their backups due to this being the back end of a back-to-back for both. That meant Keith Kinkaid for the Devils, who made 33 stops on 34 shots. For the Hurricanes, that meant Eddie Lack, who stopped 17 of 20. Kinkaid played well, coming up big for the Devils when they needed it most. He got his first win since last March 29. Lack was not bad for Carolina either. He made two point-blank saves on PA Parenteau in the middle of the third period that were his most impressive of the night.

After playing through a scoreless first period, Cammalleri broke through at 4:31 of the second period. It occurred when Beau Bennett gave the puck off the forecheck to Travis Zajac. Zajac skated deep into the Carolina zone, stopped at the near faceoff dot, and fed across to Cammalleri, who buried the one-timer. Cammalleri had his first goal of the year, breaking his drought, and it was 1-0 Devils.

About four minutes later, Cammalleri struck again. First Jacob Josefson picked the puck up in front of the benches and gave to a rushing Cammalleri, who snapped off a shot from just at the far faceoff dot in the Hurricanes’ zone. Cammalleri had his second of the season, second of the period, second of the night and the Devils had a 2-0 lead.

Carolina coach Bill Peters would actually challenge the second Cammalleri goal, saying that he was offside on the play. Although it was pretty obvious he was not offside, Peters was using the challenge more as a strategic move: as a longer timeout to settle down his young team. The call on the ice stood as expected – as Cammalleri was nowhere near offside, the goal was good and Carolina would lose their real timeout later on in the game.

At 8:30 of the third period was when the hats came raining down from the fair amount of Devils fans that were in attendance in Carolina’s rink. Beau Bennett took an outlet pass from John Moore, gained the zone and dropped the puck to Cammalleri. Cammalleri fired a wrist shot from essentially the same spot he scored his second goal to beat Lack and complete the hat trick – the sixth of his career. The Devils now had the commanding 3-0 lead.

The Hurricanes would get on the board when Andrej Nestrasil scored at 13:01 of the third period. He beat Kinkaid with assists to Noah Hanifin and Jordan Staal. It was now 3-1 and they felt they were back in the game enough to pull Lack once the clock got to about four minutes left.

Things seemed to be working in the Hurricanes’ favor when Ben Lovejoy was called for slashing Jeff Skinner and Carolina was put on the power play. With a 6-on-4 man advantage things looked bad for the Devils. But, with the penalty came no icing calls, so it was really a shooting gallery for New Jersey on the empty Canes’ net.

And sure enough, Andy Greene would net his first goal of the year, unassisted, when he launched a clearing attempt from the Devils’ zone that went in to the empty Carolina goal.

It was the Devils first road win of the season and it would set up the rematch on Tuesday at Prudential Center between these two teams. Things got a little bit chippy late in the game, as Carolina tried to set a tone for the home-and-home series.

There are still some questions the Devils need to address: their power play was 0-for-2 on the night, for one thing. But overall, they played a good game; Michael Cammalleri came out of his slumber and the team was able to pick up three of a possible six points on the three game road trip.

Devils Edged by Hurricanes in Easter Sunday Tilt

The Devils traveled to North Carolina with a chance to put more distance between themselves and the Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference playoff race. And they almost battled back to do so, despite an undisciplined first period that saw the Canes take what would go on to be an insurmountable lead for the Devils. They ended up falling 3-2 to the Hurricanes at PNC Arena to fall back behind that same Carolina club in the race for a playoff spot.

Some good news first out of the Devils camp, as Cory Schneider has been placed on injured reserve retroactive to March 4. This was done so that he could practice this Monday with the Albany Devils of the AHL, since the Devils do not have a team practice scheduled between now and Tuesday’s game against the Boston Bruins. He will, however, probably not play in that game against the Bruins at Prudential Center. So, with Schneider on the comeback trail, the Devils got a little bit of good news.

Some other good news for the Devils of the statistical kind is that Adam Henrique (27) and Kyle Palmieri (29) went into this game on the verge of scoring 30 goals on the year. Since 30 goals has kind of replaced 50 as the standard for anyone not named Alex Ovechkin, this is good news too. The last time the Devils had a 30 goal scorer, they actually had three of them. It was the 2011-12 season when Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise and David Clarkson each topped or equaled that number.

Of note in the Hurricanes’ lineup was center Patrick Brown, wearing number 36. He is a rookie and is the son of former Devil Doug Brown. Doug Brown played a big part in the Devils’ 1988 Cinderella run. Could some of that mojo rub off on the current Devils?

In net, Scott Wedgewood would finally seem human as he made 20 saves on 23 shots fired his direction by Carolina. He would suffer his first ever regulation loss in this game. Facing him this evening was Cam Ward, who made 23 saves on 25 shots for Carolina. With the Capitals’ overtime goal the other night, Wedgewood’s shutout streak was ended at just over 159 minutes, the longest for a Devils goaltender since Martin Brodeur in 1994.

The Devils would look to start things off on the right foot after Vojtech Mozik was called for interference and New Jersey went on the penalty kill. Adam Henrique picked off a pass in the Devils defensive zone and he and Travis Zajac were off on a 2-on-1. Ward made the save, but the team looked to be going okay.

Unfortunately, the Devils would beat a path to the penalty box and that would be their undoing in the first period.

It actually started with a Carolina penalty. Brad Malone cross-checked Tuomo Ruutu and was whistled for that, however in the ensuing scrum after the whistle, Malone and Bobby Farnham got into a scrap. The Devils would lose Farnham for five minutes, Carolina would lose Malone for five plus Jeff Skinner would be off for two, as he would serve the cross-checking penalty.

Eighteen seconds into the Devils’ power play, the Hurricanes got in on a 2-on-1 shorthanded and Travis Zajac was called for holding Jordan Staal on that play. Because of this, things would be evened up at four-on-four. The Hurricanes took advantage of the extra room to move when Ron Hainsey beat Wedgewood off assists from Staal and Jaccob Slavin and jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead at 9:10.

The Hurricanes would then go on the power play when Joseph Blandisi was nabbed for tripping Brett Pesce. Carolina now had a 4-on-3 man advantage and Victor Rask would connect, scoring his 19th of the year from Elias LIndholm and Justin Faulk. The power play goal came at 9:46 and made it 2-0 Carolina.

But the Devils were not done taking undisciplined penalties yet. Devante Smith-Pelly was called for tripping Slavin at 13:22 and decided to jaw at the referees, who added an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty to his time in the box. New Jersey would now need to kill a four minute Hurricanes power play. They would (with the help of some big saves by Wedgewood) and would get out of the wild first period only down 2-0. After all those penalties called in the first period, only one more penalty would be called the rest of the night (a Carolina hooking call to Jay McClement).

Just 2:01 into the second, though, Rask would strike again, scoring his 20th from Skinner to make it 3-0 Carolina. The Hurricanes seemed to be in complete control at this point and the Devils were fully behind the eight-ball.

But things would get interesting starting at 6:27 of the second. The Hurricanes were unable to clear the puck when the Devils dumped in. Malone turned the puck over to Bobby Farnham in the slot and he beat Ward with a wrist shot to make it 3-1, Hurricanes. It was Farnham’s first goal since January and ended an 88-plus minute Devils goal drought, going back through the Washington game.

The Devils ratcheted up the pressure just 1:50 later when Palmieri went in strong on the forecheck and Ward turned over the puck. Palmieri passed to Blake Pietila with a wide open net in front of him. His shot trickled off a Carolina stick right to Zajac, who buried his 13th of the season to make it 3-2.

But once the momentum shifted to the Devils, Carolina coach Bill Peters did a smart thing: he quickly called his timeout. This killed the Devils’ comeback on the spot and, although they would pull Wedgewood in the waning minute or so of the third, the Devils were never able to score on a frantic finish.

The only other thing of note that happened late was midway through the third period when Sergey Kalinin fell awkwardly into the boards and seemed to be injured. He would, however, return.

So what is next for the Devils? Well, New Jersey played their final game against a Metropolitan Division foe with this game against the Canes. All of their games from here to the end are against Atlantic Division opponents, starting with the Boston Bruins Tuesday at The Rock, which will feature the return of Lee Stempniak to New Jersey.

The Bruins have been struggling of late, but are still in position to make the playoffs in the Atlantic. Will the Devils be able to pick up points against a playoff contender? Or will this loss to the Hurricanes have crippled their playoff chances beyond hope? We will find out on Tuesday.

Late Carolina Goal Hands Devils Third Straight Loss

The New Jersey Devils and the Carolina Hurricanes are, at the moment, very similar teams. Neither team could buy a win lately. Both teams traded away key parts of their team at the trade deadline (the Devils sent leading scorer Lee Stempniak to Boston while Carolina – among other deals made – dealt captain Eric Staal to the Rangers). And both teams were just on the bubble of the Eastern Conference playoff picture. Something had to give in the first game coming out of the trade deadline for both sides.

They were almost parallel. Which is what made the 3-1 loss tonight at The Rock particularly hard to swallow for the Devils faithful.

The two teams had met three times previous this season, with all three meetings coming in December (12/3 at Carolina, 12/26 at Carolina and 12/29 at Prudential Center). They will meet one more time down at PNC Arena in Raleigh later this month. The Devils had taken two of three against the Canes.

For the Devils lineup, it was exactly the same as the previous game against Tampa Bay, minus Stempniak, of course. Devante Smith-Pelly and David Warsofsky were in the building, but management chose not to play them. Smith-Pelly had come over on the red-eye from San Jose where Montreal was at the time of his trade. Both may be in the lineup later this week against Nashville and Dallas.

The starting goaltenders saw Cory Schneider going for the Devils. He made 16 saves on 18 shots faced. Carolina had a game total of 19 shots. Getting the nod for the Hurricanes was young Eddie Lack, who saw a whopping 30 Devils shots and grabbed 29 of them.

MSG+ had an interview with general manager Ray Shero prior to the game that included some interesting parts, including that he had to call David Schlemko to tell him that he had not been traded (a first for Shero’s career) and that he is taking the same stance on the rumors of Ilya Kovalchuk wanting to return to the NHL as Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly: by dealing with it as it comes.

John Hynes spoke pregame about the loss of Stempniak, saying that other will be able to basically step in to step up, but they are not looking to replace what Stempniak brought to the team immediately. Essentially that the offense will work itself out over time as players get accustomed to new roles, if I am reading what he said correctly.

The Devils scored the first goal of the game when Andy Greene fired a shot from inside the Hurricanes’ blueline that ricocheted off of Tyler Kennedy and then Adam Henrique. Henrique eventually got credit for the goal at 10:54, and MSG+ analyst John MacLean attributed it to the Devils just winning the battles in front of the net, calling it a “bumper pool” kind of goal.

The Devils remained with the 1-0 lead until early in the second period. John Moore took a slashing penalty against Carolina’s Phillip Di Giuseppe and the Canes went on the power play. With about four seconds left in the kill, 29-year-old Hurricanes rookie Derek Ryan scored his first NHL goal off an assist from Jaccob Slavin. The game was tied at one and Ryan had scored what would go on to be the pivotal goal of the game in his initial NHL contest.

The Devils continued to apply pressure for the rest of the game – as the lopsided shot tallies would attest to. Henrique hit a post mid-second and the hances piled up.

A scary moment occurred in the second period when a Jeff Skinner shot hit Cory in the mask right before Skinner took a holding penalty against Kyle Palmieri. The Devils were primed to go on the power play, except that they got caught in a bad line change and were whistled for too many men on the ice. Instead of a New Jersey power play, it was coincidental minors and two minutes of four-on-four. Nothing would come of this.

Things seemed to be going fine, tied at one, sailing along to overtime until the Hurricanes’ Joakim Nordstrom scored at 18:31 of the third. He got assists from Elias Lindholm and Slavin. That knocked the wind right out of the Devils. The late stunner conjured up images of the 2009 Stanley Cup playoff loss to the Hurricanes that also ended on a last minute goal from the Canes in game seven of the opening round.

It was not pretty. That goal, with only about a minute and half left in the contest triggered a smattering of boos from the Prudential Center crowd.

Suddenly the team had to scramble to tie things. Cory Schneider was pulled on the ensuing faceoff, but the Devils never got things going.

Nathan Gerbe would steal the puck from Schlemko at the point and skated it down the rink, depositing it in the Devils cage and giving the Canes a 3-1 lead. The empty net goal came unassisted.

It is not going to be easy for the Devils from here on out. They lost Michael Cammalleri, one of their leading scorers to injury, and then traded away the guy who overtook him as the team’s leading scorer in his absence in Lee Stempniak. If the offense could just get a spark going, the team would still have a chance to make the playoffs.

Unfortunately, those hopes are fading fast. New Jersey just needs to get the younger guys some ice time and groom them to be able to help the Devils next season at this point. Smith-Pelly and Warsofsky, while reinforcements, will not likely be wearing out the red lamp, so they just need to get prepared for the future.

The immediate future for the Devils is a road trip that will take them to Nashville on Thursday and Dallas on Friday. Back-to-back against two of the Western Conference’s best just about twenty-four hours between puck drops. It’s not going to be easy and, at this point, would be a minor miracle should the Devils be able to even stay relevant in the playoff race for much longer.