Devils Get By Canucks in Vancouver for Best Start in Team History

It was best put by Steve Cangialosi in the waning moments of the Devils’ 2-0 win over the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena tonight. He said (paraphrasing): “this proud franchise that has won the Stanley Cup three times has never had a 9-2 start until the 2017-18 edition!”

The Devils really battled tonight in a game that the Canucks really dominated a lot of, with goaltender Cory Schneider coming up big time and time again. But the Devils also had a secret inspirational weapon on their side. Brian Boyle, after going through training camp and the Leukemia diagnosis, was back in the New Jersey lineup tonight. He was playing in his first game as a Devil and his first game of the season. It was his first game since last season’s playoffs, when he was with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Congratulations to Brian Boyle for making his great comeback.

Boyle had a great game in his return, but the Devils were without a few other key parts. Kyle Palmieri was missing his second straight game with a lower body injury. He was placed on the injured reserve retroactive to mid-October. In addition, Marcus Johansson, just 28 seconds into his first shift of the game, fell awkwardly, face-first, into the end boards in the Vancouver zone and did not return for the game. We will find out more on his condition in the coming days.

One place you knew that Boyle would really help the Devils was in the faceoff department. The Devils had largely been lacking in that part of their game missing Travis Zajac and Boyle, both of whom are key faceoff guys. Sure enough, with the veteran back in, the Devils won 57-percent of their draws with Boyle personally winning 67-percent of his.

In addition to the injuries mentioned, the Devils moved Dalton Prout and Ben Lovejoy out of the lineup on defense and Stefan Noesen was a healthy scratch up front.

Cory Schneider was the real story of this game, though, as he was named the game’s first star. In getting the shutout, he made 37 saves (including six on the power play). In fact, the Devils shut down Vancouver’s power play (they went 0-for-4) while they themselves were stymied (going 0-for-1, but with three shots on goal with the man advantage). But getting back to Cory, he made some key saves including an amazing series with about three minutes left in the second period that allowed New Jersey to weather the storm on a Canucks barrage and keep the game 1-0 Devils.

That goal had come at 10:09 of the second when Jimmy Hayes scored. That developed when Taylor Hall took a breakout pass and skated up the near wing and fired a shot. The rebound came out to Jimmy Hayes at the top of the far faceoff circle. Canucks goalie Jacob Markstrom did seem to have a chance to reset himself, as Ken Daneyko noted on commentary, but could not and Hayes’ shot ripped past him to make it 1-0 Devils.

And that, for all intents and purposes, was it. The Devils added an empty netter with sixteen seconds left in the game by Drew Stafford. Hall also had the assist on that one, as he had a two point night and was named the game’s third star. The empty net goal was reviewed by Toronto for a possible offside, but was called a good goal and your final was 2-0 Devils.

The second star of the game was Vancouver goalie Markstrom. He made 24 saves on 25 shots faced, the Devils finished the game with 26 shots on goal. Aside from that one goal, he also played a good game. But the resilient Devils were the ones coming away with the two points against a tough team to get points out of (Vancouver was also off to a good start at 6-3-2 coming into tonight’s action).

The next stop for the Devils on their Western Canadian tour is Edmonton where they take on a struggling Oiler team that will be desperate. We will be with you here when that game goes down on Friday.

Devils Return From Six Day Layoff With Shootout Win Over Sens

The Devils had six days in the middle of the season to practice and recharge. In a long season, the six day “non-bye week bye week” is a welcome thing. But the fact that it came so soon in the season with the team on a roll as they had been early on, could be troubling.

But New Jersey used the six days to their full advantage and came back better than ever against the Ottawa Senators last night at Prudential Center. They last saw Ottawa exactly eight days ago, last Thursday, which the Devils won on a John Moore goal in overtime following Nico Hischier’s first two goals of his career.

Some roster news for the Devils saw Kyle Palmieri sitting out with a lower body injury. Deb Placey on the Devils MSG pregame show said that he was seen wearing a boot and did not practice this week with the team. Cory Schneider also missed the game, but for a better reason. Cory’s wife gave birth yesterday afternoon to a baby daughter. Congratulations to the Schneider family on their new addition. Keith Kinkaid would get his second straight start (albeit with six days in between them) with Scott Wedgewood backing him up. Mirco Mueller and Dalton Prout were healthy scratches. Ben Lovejoy and Steven Santini slotted back in on defense.

THe Senators were coming off of a win last night against the Philadelphia Flyers, so this was the back half of a back-to-back for them. Kyle Turris was out with an illness and Bobby Ryan was missing with a broken finger.

Ottawa jumped out to an early 2-0 lead, putting the Devils behind the eight ball early on. Mike Hoffman scored at 7:58 of the first period, off assists from Christopher DiDomenico and Jean-Gabriel Pageau to make it 1-0. Former Devil (many moons ago) Johnny Oduya made it 2-0 when he beat a screened Kinkaid from Erik Karlsson and Zack Smith at 17:14.

The Devils were in a hole early, but started the big dig out with just under two minutes left in the first. That happened when Santini broke Pavel Zacha out of the Devils zone. Zacha then skated the puck through the neutral zone and fed Jimmy Hayes who beat Senators goaltender Mike Condon glove side to make it 2-1 before the end of the period.

From there, New Jersey took over the scoresheet. At 9:50 of the second period, Ottawa took a bench minor for a faceoff violation. That set up a Devils power play where Adam Henrique tied it up at two. It happened when Taylor Hall gave the puck to Jesper Bratt. He settled it down along the half wall and spun around to avoid a Sens defender, dishing to Will Butcher at the point. He fired and his rebound came right out to Henrique, who buried it behind Condon. That goal came at 10:52 of the second period.

The Devils grabbed the lead at the 18:07 mark when Brian Gibbons notched his fourth of the year from Zacha and Jimmy Hayes. It came when Hayes and Zacha worked the puck along the boards at the near half wall. Zacha spun and backhanded a pass to Gibbons, who snapped the puck by Condon to put the Devils ahead 3-2.

But the Devils needed an insurance goal and that would come at the 14:10 mark of the third period when defenseman Damon Severson found twine for the first time this year from Hall. This came when Hall made a great one-man effort to work the puck out of the corner, stickhandle it to the point, switch sides with Severson, slide the puck to Severson at the opposite point, only for Severson to fire, beating Condon cleanly for the 4-2 lead.

That should have been it, but Ottawa is a tough out. Coach Guy Boucher pulled Condon twice late in the third, getting the extra attacker on, which resulted first in a goal from Mark Stone (assists to Hoffman and Dion Phaneuf) at 18:45 to make it 4-3 New Jersey. Once the Sens took control of the puck off of the ensuing faceoff, the Senators would pull Condon again with DiDomenico scoring this time to tie things up at 19:23. With that blown lead, the Devils would run out the remaining time and take it to OT again against the Senators.

There were no heroics here, as the teams came close, but did not score in the extra session, taking us to a shootout. And that is where things got really crucial. The Devils shot first, with Condon making a save on Hall. Kinkaid then stopped DiDomenico while Nico Hischier missed on his try. Ottawa’s Tom Pyatt beat Kinkaid to make Drew Stafford’s try a must-score situation. He would convert to tie things up. Erik Karlsson missed for Ottawa and it was up to Jesper Bratt, who deked Condon out of his pads and cooly skated the puck around him to put the Devils up. The contnuation of the shootout was on Hoffman, who had gotten the scoring started for the Sens, but Kinkaid stopped him to give the Devils the 5-4 win.

With that, the Devils improve to 7-2-0. The Devils were able to improve in an area that had been hurting them: they only took two minor penalties on the night, keeping Ottawa 0-for-2 on the power play. The Devils themselves were 1-for-3.

In net, Kinkaid made 23 stops on 27 Senators shots, including one save on one power play shot. Princeton University product Mike Condon made 21 saves on 25 Devils shots, the Devils had five of those shots on the man advantage.

John Moore led the Devils in ice time with 25:34 while Hischier, Henrique, Blake Coleman and Santini all tied for the shots lead with three each.

On a side note, congratulations to the Prudential Center, which opened ten years ago to the day on October 27, 2007 with a game between the Devils and these Ottawa Senators. Two men in this game also played in that, Devils’ captain Andy Greene and the Sens’ Johnny Oduya (who was with New Jersey back then). Patrik Elias assisted on Brian Gionta’s goal (the first Devils goal in the history of the building) that night and was in attendance tonight. When shown on the big board, the crowd gave him a lengthly standing ovation, as is deserving of the legend who will have his number retired this February.

The Devils finish their back-to-back with a game later tonight at home against the Arizona Coyotes. The Coyotes have struggled this early part of the season, we will see how the Devils do against them.