The Devils reeled off their fifth straight win at the Prudential Center tonight and, more importantly, finally beat the St. Louis Blues for the first time since January 24, 2014. They won 4-2, defeating the defending Stanley Cup champs in a memorable one.
The Blues had not lost since beating the Devils last month. They had set up and knocked down eight opponents and the Devils seemed like easy pickings. New Jersey was coming back from a West Coast trip and, as mentioned, had not beaten the Blues since 2014, which equaled 12 straight wins for St. Louis. But for one night, Cory Schneider stood tall and the Devils played about as well as they could and produced one hell of a game.
Some roster news to get to as the Devils announced yesterday that Will Butcher was done for the year, having successful surgery on thumb ligaments. In addition, Josh Jacobs and Jesper Boqvist were sent back down to Binghamton of the American League. Boqvist can get some more seasoning there, and, as many have pointed out, can play in a playoff race as the B-Devils are in the thick of a playoff push, giving him crucial experience in that kind of situation. Fredrik Claesson slotted back in on the blue line.
In goal, as mentioned, Cory Schneider went for the Devils, making 31 saves on 33 total St. Louis shots, en route to being named the first star of the night. He had a .939 save percentage on the night. It has been great seeing Cory come back to being the Cory we all knew. The win was his first at Prudential Center since March of 2019.
The way he is playing certainly takes a lot of pressure off of Mackenzie Blackwood, who, speaking of which, will see the start tomorrow night at the Rangers. The feeling from interim coach Alain Nasreddine is that Blackwood will be getting some experience playing in a hostile arena like the Garden and will get a chance to play spoiler to New York’s playoff hopes. It should serve to improve the youngster’s confidence even more.
Facing Schneider was St. Louis’ number one, Jordan Binnington. Binnington made 28 saves on 31 Devils shots for a .903 save percentage on the night.
One other roster move saw Miles Wood moved to the top line with Nico Hischier centering and Kyle Palmieri on the right wing.
The Devils were playing their first game in Newark since February 22 and, coming off of a great western swing, they were looking to build.
Jesper Bratt obliged them just 8:38 into the game when he scored. It came off of a defensive zone faceoff. PK Subban quickly transitioned the puck up to Bratt, who cut into the zone, used some nice edgework to make a power move in on Binnington, used a stutter step on him to open him up and scored. The goal was the first of the season for the Devils against the Blues, as they were blanked 3-0 in their trip to Missouri two weeks ago.
But St. Louis being what they were, the Stanley Cup champions, they came roaring right back. At the 12:31 mark of the fist period, Vince Dunn scored on a power play opportunity set up when Damon Severson got the gate for a hook. The Devils could not clear their zone when Dunn bobbled the puck along the far boards. He got it back to Robert Thomas at the point. He went across the blue line to Tyler Bozak, who shot. The rebound came back out to Dunn and he buried his chance. The game was knotted at one apiece.
On special teams, St. Louis was 1-for-4 with seven shots. They also had a pair of shorthanded shots as well. The Devils were 0-for-2 with four shots on the power play and two on the penalty kill.
The second period saw the Devils begin to break away a little. It began 6:50 in when Dakota Mermis tallied his first NHL goal. Severson took a shot and the rebound came to Mermis in the middle of the ice. He spun and, from an odd angle, scored. It was his first NHL goal in 18 games at the level and none other than Cory Schneider got the secondary assist. It was the second time this season that I can recall, that a Devils goaltender recorded a point.
Mermis grew up in Illinois, 30 minutes outside of St. Louis and rooted for the Blues as a kid. What a thrill it must have been for him to get his first NHL goal against the team he grew up rooting for. Congratulations to him.
About 11:08 later, Connor Carrick made it 3-1 Devils when Travis Zajac dug the puck out of the corner and got it to Claesson at the point. He went D-to-D with Carrick, ripped a shot and beat Binnnigton cleanly.
Twenty-nine seconds later, the Devils seemingly made it 4-1 when Kevin Rooney scored. Rooney cut to the net and scored on the power move on a nice backhand shot. Unfortunately, his right skate clipped Binnington’s pad as he cut in. Blues coach Craig Berube used his coach’s challenge, alleging goalie interference. The officials reviewed it and agreed. The call on the ice of a good goal was overturned to no goal.
The official statement from the NHL stated that Rooney “impaired” Binnington from playing his position before the puck entered the net and, hence, it was no goal.
The Blues would come back to cut the Devil lead to one when Jaden Schwartz took a centering pass from Brayden Schenn and scored. Schenn made a nice play behind the Devils’ net, anticipating Zajac trying to move the puck to Severson near the side of the right goalpost, and cutting the puck off, turning and making a lightning quick pass to Schwartz in front. That made it 3-2 Devils at the 16:49 mark of the third period.
The Blues pulled Binnington with about 1:50 left in regulation and Joey Anderson put a capper on it by scoring off of a 2-on-1 with Pavel Zacha into the empty net with 57 seconds to go. Mirco Mueller had the secondary assist on the goal that iced things at 4-2.
The Devils had their elusive win over the Blues and things were looking good as Bratt was the third star and Mermis the second (although they came out to acknowledge the crowd in reverse order). Cory was the first star, as mentioned.
The Devils were narrowly outshot by St. Louis, 33-32, outhit 23-21, had less blocked shots at 11 to ten and had more giveaways at 16 to the Blues’ nine.
The Devils did win 57-percent of the game’s faceoffs, with Michael McLeod winning 75-percent of his to lead the centers, although he was not playing full minutes.
And speaking of minutes, Severson led everyone with 25:26 (including 2:17 on the power play and 2:49 on the PK, as an example of a player who is entrusted with minutes in all situations. Hischier led the forwards in ice time with 17:31 (1:11 on the PP and 37 seconds on the penalty kill included).
Shots on goal were led by Wood and Carrick who each had five. Hits were led by John Hayden, Mermis and Claesson who had three each. Blocks by Mermis with two and takeaways by Zacha with two.
Overall, it was not pretty, but the Devils did it, finally exorcising the Blues. Next up, it’s a trip across the Hudson River to take on the Rangers in Manhattan. This will be another test as the Rangers have been playing very well of late and are in the playoff hunt. Nothing would be sweeter than to knock the Rangers down a peg even if for the moment.
Puck drop is 7 PM for that one and we will have coverage for you right here afterwards. In the meantime, I really hope everyone has wonderful weekend.