Kyle Palmieri to Form the “Kyle Palmieri Foundation”

The Devils and Kyle Palmieri yesterday announced that the right wing and his fiancee, Ashlee Casper, will be launching the Kyle Palmieri Foundation.

According to the official press release, “(t)he mission of the Kyle Palmieri Foundation is to give back to those who put their lives on the line to preserve our freedoms as Americans.”

Kyle had previously started “Squad21” which allowed active military as well as veterans and their families to attend Devils games. Squad21 eventually evolved into this new Foundation, although according to the press release, it will live on as a part of the Foundation.

This new venture will “raise funds for various programs that benefit the military community.”

The Montvale, New Jersey-native had the following to say regarding his new Foundation: “There are endless challenges facing our nation’s military service members and veterans. We hope to help ease some of these challenges by providing support through The Kyle Palmieri Foundation and through our partnerships with NMFA, SWAN, and Vets for Pets. Each of these organizations provides invaluable supports and services, and the Foundation looks to help expand their incredible work. We’re proud to offer our help as a way to say thank you to the brave men and women who are serving and have served our country.”

The Foundation’s efforts began this week, according to the press release, as Palmieri was participating in the Morgan Hoffman Celebrity Pro-Am Charity Golf Outing yesterday and will take part in the Northern Trust Celebrity Pro-Am tomorrow.

The three official military nonprofits that are supported by The Kyle Palmieri Foundation are:

– Squad21

– Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN) – which advocates for the individual and collective needs of military women. “They are committed to seeing that all service women receive the opportunities, protections, benefits and respect they deserve.” SWAN helps the nearly 2.5 million women active duty and veteran members of the US military.

– National Military Family Association (NMFA) – which strengthens and protects “the families of the men and women currently serving, retired, wounded or fallen.” It helps families members of service people from all branches of the military get information on benefits “and offers programs that improve their lives.”

– Pets for Vets – which “was created to improve the lives of both Veterans and animals by bringing them together in a thoughtful, caring way. They provide veterans with pets while also giving loving homes to the animals.

Palmieri, of course, has deep roots when it comes to the military. His sister, Taylor and his brother-in-law Stephen currently serve in the National Guard and the US Army, making this a very personal venture for Kyle and the Palmieri family.

Round One, Game Four: Lightning Win 3-1, Devils Lose Vatanen

Kyle Palmieri had the Devils’ lone goal in a 3-1 loss at The Rock. The Devils are now down 3-1 in the series to Tampa Bay. Photo: Elsa/Getty Images

Nobody said this playoff thing would be easy.

The Devils lost 3-1 at Prudential Center in game four of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series. This puts them down in the series 3-1 as well, heading into game five in Tampa.

More importantly, they lost their best defenseman, Sami Vatanen, to injury. He was hit with an elbow to the head during a hit by the Bolts’ Nikita Kucherov and immediately left down the tunnel. There was no penalty call on the play. Officially, it was listed as an upper body injury and he did not return. There is a possibility that he could miss game five, putting the Devils in a rough situation. The physical play spilled over from game three and it has taken a toll on both teams.

Another factor for the Devils was special teams. They went 1-for-6, scoring their lone goal with the man advantage with six total shots. And while the power play improved, so did the Devils’ penalty kill. The Devils had been killing penalties at a 44-percent clip, good for last of all the teams in the postseason. Tonight, however, the Devils went 0-for-5 keeping the high-powered Lightning PP to eight shots on net. It was a great improvement and helped keep the game close.

New Jersey went with the same lineup from game three. Scratched were 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. One of the d-men, likely Mueller, should slot in on Saturday should Vatanen not be able to return.

Tampa was playing again without Ryan Callahan (upper body) and Tyler Johnson was a game time decision with an undisclosed injury. He would play.

In goal, Cory Schneider went for the Devils, stopping 34 of 36 shots (Tampa added an empty netter late in the game) and playing extremely well. However, he was being opposed by a 2018 Vezina Trophy finalist and it showed. Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 27 of 28 Devils shots in the game and was, at times, the best player on the ice for Tampa (which is saying something considering their star power). At times, the Devils could not even get shots through to him, Tampa was clogging the shooting lanes that well.

Officiating the game were referees Wes McCauley and Tim Peel. This was significant, according to MSG’s Steve Cangialosi, because McCauley was named the best ref in the NHL by the players and Peel is known for calling a lot of penalties. The league obviously wanted to keep things under control after game three saw 100 minutes of misconduct penalties assessed when the dust settled on that one. They showed that they were not fooling around when Taylor Hall was nabbed for a hooking call just 34 seconds into the game.

Some interesting facts to get to before we delve more into game four. Game three was Cory Schneider’s first playoff win since April 18, 2012 when he was with Vancouver. That was over the Los Angeles Kings – the eventual Stanley Cup champs who beat the Devils to take home the hardware. Also, I read somewhere that game three’s win ensured that the Devils are the oldest NHL club to have never been swept in a playoff series (44 and counting). Nashville has not been swept in 17 tries (and counting) and Vegas in one (a record that they could be adding a lot to in the coming weeks). Also, Devils fans booed Victor Hedman every time he touched the puck in game four, reacting to his cheap stick work on Nico Hischier in game three.

Also, the Devils had a special fan in attendance. Patrick Warburton, Puddy himself, was at Prudential Center to help rally the fans. He was in full facepaint and waving a rally towel. He also took off his jersey to reveal a “D” painted on his chest. It was a reference to the classic Seinfeld episode and it got the fans ready to go.

Things would ramp up even more in the first period when Alex Killorn went off for hooking at the 7:47 mark. The Devils were on their first power play of the game, but were about to go up 5-on-3 when Cedric Paquette was called for tripping Hall as Hall entered the Tampa zone on a rush.

The Devils would convert on this one when Kyle Palmieri scored his first playoff goal as a Devil at 8:23 from Will Butcher and Hall. Travis Zajac won a faceoff in the Lightning zone to Palmieri along the far boards. After retrieving it in the corner, he passed to Butcher at the point. Butcher went to Hall down at the top of the near faceoff circle. He passed back to Butcher at the point. Butcher saw Palmieri set up at the far faceoff dot. He saucered one to him and Palmieri let rip a one-timer that beat Vasilevskiy cleanly to give the Devils the early 1-0 lead.

But that was it for the New Jersey scoring on the night. But they were not without chances. First Zajac was stopped on a breakaway just moments after the goal still on the power play. Blake Coleman would be stopped on a breakaway a few minutes after the Zajac one.

Tampa tied things up at 11:30 when JT Miller scored from Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos. Moments after that, with 7:43 remaining in the first, the Lightning had seemingly taken the lead when Cory Conacher scored.

But Devils coach John Hynes issued a coach’s challenge asserting that Tampa was offside on the play. The replay was conclusive that he was correct and the goal was called back. The game remained tied at one.

The Lightning would take the lead for real and permanently at the 15:02 mark of the first when Kucherov whacked at a rebound, scoring on a second chance from Baydon Coburn and Miller. That made it 2-1 Lightning and that is basically where it would stay for the rest of the game.

Tampa would begin both the second and third periods on the power play, but as noted, the Devils would kill them off.

Andy Greene would be called for tripping at the 12:52 mark of the third which would set up a crucial PK late in the game. Palmieri would come through on that one, blocking a shot and clearing the puck while visibly hurting. He would be okay, but the effort showed that the Devils were really engaged in this one.

They would pull Cory with about 1:15 left in the contest in a bid to get things tied up, but it was to no avail. Kucherov iced the game with his second of the night, an empty netter from Miller at 18:52. That made it 3-1 in the game and gave the Lightning the 3-1 series lead.

With Vatanen – a d-man who plays in all situations and accrues the most ice time on the team – out, Butcher actually led the team in TOI with 21:52. Down a man, the time was more spread out on the defense corps. Of Butcher’s time, 7:32 of it was on the power play. Damon Severson led the team in shots on goal by a wide margin with eight. Hits were led by Brian Boyle, Drew Stafford and Marcus Johansson with four each. Ben Lovejoy led in blocked shots with four and Greene had three takeaways to lead in that category.

Team-wise, Tampa led in shots 37-28. The Devils won 59-percent of the faceoffs and led in hits 25-19. Blocks were even at ten for each team.

Next up, the Devils head fown ot Florida for a do-or-die game five. The Devils will be hosting a viewing party for the game at Prudential Center. Tickets are $5 each and will benefit the survivors and family of the Humboldt Broncos tradedy in Saskatchewan. I will be attending so my post on the game will be a little bit late. That game is at 3 PM on NBC as well.

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Devils Pick Up Point, Fall in OT to Penguins

Travis Zajac’s line did a good job shutting down Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. They also produced a goal in the 4-3 OT loss. Photo: Andy Martin/USA TODAY Sports

Major League Baseball began today, with the Mets getting a big win over St. Louis in Queens earlier. But while the baseball season is just beginning a marathon, the NHL and the Devils are coming down to the wire. Points are at a premium and New Jersey needs to pick them up.

They were playing the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight, a team that they were trying to sweep in a season series for the first time since the 2009-10 season. But that was not to be. The Devils lost 4-3 in overtime to the Pens, picking up only a point.

Some roster moves for the Devils to get to first. Patrick Maroon was back in, playing on the second line with Pavel Zacha and Michael Grabner (who was back in a top six role). Jesper Bratt was out up front, scratched along with Jimmy Hayes, Ben Lovejoy and Drew Stafford. Kyle Palmieri was moved up to the top line with Taylor Hall and Nico HIschier.

The checking line of Blake Coleman, Travis Zajac and Stefan Noesen would be called upon to contain the Sidney Crosby/Evgeni Malkin unit again, as they would be key if the Devils were to win this game and complete the sweep. That line along with the Andy Greene and Sami Vatanen defense pairing did a lot to stop those superstars tonight.

Also, on the injury front, Marcus Johansson has started practicing with the team. He had been skating on his own for a few days.

In goal, Keith Kinkaid was called on to do what he has been doing best down this stretch run for the Devils: get a win. This would be a little bit easier on home ice. The Pens, according to MSG+, were 15-20-4 (34 points) away from PPG Paints Arena coming into tonight. Kinkaid ended up making 31 saves on 35 shots.

Opposing him was Matt Murray. Murray made 28 stops on 31 Devils shots.

Kinkaid was tested early when the Penguins broke in on a 2-on-1 just seconds in. He made a big save and the game was off and rolling.

It was Murray who blinked first, though with Palmieri beating the Pens’ goalie at 12:18 of the first off an assist to Hischier. Nico was relentless meeting Malkin at the Devils’ blue line, stripping him of the puck and using a soccer-style play to kick the puck up to his stick. He dished off to Palmieri on the rush. Palmieri skated in and deked Murray using a head fake to open him up and scored through the five hole. It was a beautiful play as Hischier was relentless on the puck and Palmieri finished the play. It was 1-0 Devils.

Nico’s assist gave him 50 points on the year, making him the first rookie since Adam Henrique in 2011-12 to notch at least that many points.

But it would only take 25 seconds for a response from Pittsburgh. Conor Sheary scored at 12:44 from Patric Hornqvist and Jamie Oleksiak to tie things at one.

The Pens began the second period with Justin Schultz hitting the post right away to get the frame started. And Pittsburgh would grab the 2-1 lead when Kris Letang scored at the 6:59 mark from Carl Hagelin and Brian Dumoulin. On that one, Letang beat Kinkaid up high while he was all alone in the slot. The puck was on end and he just roofed it.

The Devils seemed to be behind the eight-ball, but at 13:40, Oleksiak was sent off for interfering with Maroon. It was then that Hall went to work. He scored his 34th of the season from Will Butcher. On that one, Maroon was strong on the forecheck and rushed the Pens’ clearing attempt. Butcher held the line and gave to Hall at the far point. Hall walked in, had time and space and shot a laser beam that clanged off of the far post and in. Maroon was providing a screen in front, just careful not to interfere with Murray and the game was tied up at two.

Overall on the night, the Devils were 1-for-3 on the power play with five shots on goal. The Devils kept the Penguins off of the scoresheet again on the power play, as Pittsburgh went 0-for-2 with five shots as well.

As if all of that action in the second period were not enough, the session ended with a spirited scrap between Miles Wood and Matt Hunwick. The fight got the crowd pumped up and into the game even more and things were at a fever pitch going into the third.

The Devils would oblige the home fans early on when Coleman scored at the 5:11 mark of the third frame to make it 3-2 Devils. Travis Zajac had the lone assist. It came on a delayed penalty against the Pens when Coleman intercepted a Pittsburgh clearing attempt at their blue line. He broke in with Zajac, giving to him and driving towards the net. He got the puck back and went to his backhand. Murray got the first one, but Coleman roofed his own rebound by him to put the Devils in front.

The Devils would hold that lead until the 11:26 mark when Hornqvist scored a weird one. His shot, which came off like a knuckle puck, took a perfect bounce behind Kinkaid and bounced off the post and into the net. Kinkaid clearly had some trouble with the shot as it beat him. That goal made it 3-3 and Hornqvist got assists from Dumoulin and Riley Sheahan.

After about a half a period of frantic, playoff-like action, the final horn sounded and the game went to overtime. It was in the OT period where Sidney Crosby took a pass from Letang 19 seconds into the extra session. He shot the puck off the post and batted his rebound out of mid-air and behind Kinkaid to win the game for Pittsburgh. It was a signature Crosby move (he has done it a few times before) and fitting for a day when the baseball season kicked off.

So where does that leave the Devils? In exactly the same place they were at the beginning of the night. The Panthers lost in OT on a penalty shot goal by the Senators to only take home a point. There remains three points separating the two teams. It was the best possible outcome for the Devils barring an outright Florida regulation loss.

Statistically, New Jersey won 43-percent of the game’s faceoffs, were outshot by the Pens 35-31, were outhit 27-17 and out blocked 10-7. Individually, Vatanen led the way in ice time with 23:43, Hall led in shots with seven, Coleman, Greene and John Moore led in hits with three each, Brian Gibbons led in blocks with two and Hischier led in takeaways with three.

Next up, the Devils take on the Islanders at home this Saturday. It should be a good one, as a local rival who has already been eliminated from playoff contention will come in and try to play spoiler while the Devils just need to play their game and get two points. We will see you then.

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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 Edge By Tampa For Second Straight Win

Nico Hischier scored his 18th of the season and second goal in as many nights in a 2-1 Devils victory over Tampa. Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Another Stanley Cup contender, another Devils win, another day at the office. The Devils, who have seemingly continued to play up to elite competition this season did it again, defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning at Prudential Center last night, 2-1.

The win helped the Devils gain some ground on Philly, who play tomorrow against the Penguins. They are only two points behind the number one wild card team in the East. Florida did win to keep pace, beating Arizona 4-2, and do have games in hand, but the Devils can only worry about themselves and that is what they are doing.

The Devils’ lineup got a bit of a shakeup, as Ben Lovejoy sat in favor of Mirco Mueller on D while Jimmy Hayes and Drew Stafford were the other scratches. Stefan Noesen drew back in up front and Miles Wood remains out with an upper body injury.

The Devils also went back to the red-hot Keith Kinkaid in net. He stopped 35 of 36 shots against, playing out of his mind at times. There is no doubting that Kinkaid is in a zone right now and the Devils will ride him as long as they can. Kinkaid would be named the game’s number one star at the end of the night. Andrei Vasilevskiy went for Tampa and made 29 saves on 31 Devils shots.

Nico Hischier kicked off the scoring in the game, getting the Devils on the board first. Nico notched his 18th of the season and second in as many nights when he scored at 17:51 from Will Butcher and Mueller. The goal came when Nico skated deep into the Lightning zone with the puck. He came out from behind the net and dished to Butcher at the far point. Butcher faked a shot and went D-to-D with Mueller. Mueller returned the pass after gaining some space and Butcher shot. Vasilevskiy knocked the shot down, but the rebound came right to Nico, who was able to shovel it in as he was falling down to make it 1-0 Devils.

The Devils had the early lead on the Eastern Conference’s best team and would keep it through the first intermission.

In the second period, Kyle Palmieri doubled the Devils’ lead with a goal at 10:59 from Pavel Zacha and Taylor Hall. This one developed when Zacha gave to Palmieri at the near half wall. Palmieri made a nice individual effort to get free in the high slot, fired and beat Vasilevskiy to the stick side to put the Devils up 2-0. That would prove to be the game winner.

The teams had played at 4-on-4 just prior to the Palmieri goal. That was a strange situation as Brian Gibbons of the Devils was called for hooking against Alex Killorn. On the ensuing faceoff in the Devils’ zone, the Lightning had a faceoff violation. JT Miller jumped into the circle and he was also called for a faceoff violation, leading to a delay of game penalty for Tampa. The Lightning power play was nullified before it even got a chance to start.

In the third period, Ondrej Palat scored at 4:22 on the power play to cut the Devils lead to 2-1. He got assists from Mikhail Sergachev and Brayden Point. The Devils’ Butcher had been taken off for tripping at 2:27.

After a frantic last few minutes where the Devils were just not able to put the puck into the Tampa net vacated by Vasilevskiy for the extra skater, the Devils won a few key faceoffs in their zone and got some timely goaltending by Kinkaid to come away with the 2-1 victory.

The Devils ended the night 0-for-1 on the power play with no shots on goal. The Lightning ended up 1-for-2 with three shots.

Statistically, the Devils won 42-percent of the game’s faceoffs, outhit Tampa, 27-16 and had ten more blocked shots with 18 to Tampa Bay’s eight. Individually, Sami Vatanen again led all New Jersey skaters in ice time with 25:48 (1:05 on the power play, 2:43 on the PK) while Hall led the forwards with 17:57 (inlcuding 1:05 on the power play). Stefan Noesen and Blake Coleman, the Plano,Texas boys, led in shots on goal with four apiece. Coleman also led in hits with five. Kyle Palmieri and Brian Gibbons led in blocks with three and Hall led in takeaways with two.

With this win, the Devils swept the season series against the powerful Bolts, going 3-0-0 against the Cup contenders this season.

Next up, the Devils remain home as they take on the Carolina Hurricanes at Prudential Center on Tuesday. Hopefully, the Devils can keep up the momentum they have built against legit contenders in taking on a team that is below them in the standings. We will see you Tuesday.

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Devils Downed by Ducks 4-2

After winning the first two games on their big road trip, the Devils were still in the thick of things in the Eastern Conference playoff race. They sat five points above the Florida Panthers, who do have games in hand.

But after falling 4-2 to the Anaheim Ducks while the Philadelphia Flyers won to distance themselves a little bit from the wild card teams, that tenacious hold they have had on a playoff spot all season does seem a little bit precarious. It’s not time to panic yet, but points are at a premium and they need to grab them when they can.

The Ducks are also on the bubble in the Western Conference playoff race and also need points. With both teams desperate, it should have made for an interesting night.

This was the beginning of the second half of the Devils’ marathon road trip, three down and three to go.

Roster-wise, Patrick Maroon was back in the lineup tonight, missing only one game with his injury. He would play on the third line and play a big role later on in the game. Jesper Bratt and Mirco Mueller were the healthy scratches while Jimmy Hayes and Pavel Zacha remain out. An update on Marcus Johansson via Steve Cangialosi of MSG+ was that he has been skating. Concussions are, of course, hard to come back from, especially when suffering two in such short succession. He will, obviously not be on this trip and they will not rush him back.

The Devils did lose Miles Wood to an upper body injury in this game. He appeared to hyper extend his elbow in a freak play while reaching for a loose puck and getting his arm caught up a Ducks’ players body. The Devils said that Wood was questionable to return tonight (and he did not) but he could be back as soon as San Jose on Tuesday.

The goaltending matchup saw Keith Kinkaid start again for New Jersey. That decision by the coaching staff was due to his play in his recent starts and the fact that this was not a traditional back-to-back. The Devils played at 1 PM local time in Los Angeles on Saturday and played at 6 PM local time in Anaheim on Sunday. Kinkaid made 32 saves on a whopping 36 Anaheim shots. He did not have good numbers versus Anaheim going in and is now 0-4 against them lifetime.

Anaheim went with John Gibson. It was a relatively light night for him, as he stopped 15 of 17 Devils shots.

An interesting moment 16 seconds into the game as a whistle blew calling the Devils offside. Sami Vatanen – making his first appearance in Anaheim since the trade in November that brought him to the Devils – apparently did not hear it and shot on goal, beating Gibson. The initial call from the referee was that it was a goal, but it was quickly waved off when it was realized that the linesman had blown the play dead. It was the correct call, but a strange one, made stranger when the ref called it a good goal.

So, back to 0-0. But that would not last long. At the 1:14 mark of the first, Ryan Getzlaf scored when Kinkaid thought he had the puck way outside of his crease. He was too far out to recover when he did not get it and Getzlaf scored. It was the seventh time that Kinkaid has surrendered a goal in the first two minutes of a game this season. That made it 1-0 Ducks.

Anaheim would double their lead at the 6:37 mark of the first when Jakob Silfverberg redirected a Josh Manson shot by Kinkaid to make it 2-0. Hampus Lindholm had the secondary assist on that one. Manson would be lost for the Ducks later in the game with an upper body injury that he would not return from.

So the Devils were deep in a hole early on. But there was some hope late in the first, as at 19:25, Adam Henrique was called for hooking Vatanen. The former Devil went to the box to give the Devils a power play. At 19:52, Brandon Montour was collared for high sticking Taylor Hall to make it a 5-on-3 for the Devils. They would have 1:34 total of 5-on-3 power play time, including 1:26 in the second on fresh ice if they did not score in the first.

They would not score at all. In fact, they ended the 5-on-3 with just one shot on goal.

Their power play seemed anemic, but the Devils would get on the board in the second period off of a power play goal. The Ducks received a bench minor for too many men on the ice at 9:57 and Kyle Palmieri would capitalize at 10:31 from Travis Zajac and Hall. Hall worked the puck along the near half wall and passed to Zajac in the slot. He collected the puck in his skates and moved it along to Palmieri, who was set up at the far faceoff dot. He fired and beat Gibson to get the Devils on the board and cut the Ducks’ lead in half at 2-1.

Kyle Palmieri scored his 20th of the season against his former club, the Anaheim Ducks. It marked his third straight year of reaching that milestone. Photo: Elsa/Getty Images

For Palmieri, this was his 20th goal of the season, the third straight year he has reached this milestone. And to do it in a year when he has missed some time to injury is extremely impressive. Congratulations to Kyle Palmieri on reaching this mark.

Overall, on the power play, the Devils were 1-for-4 with three shots while the Ducks were 1-for-2 with three shots.

But the story of the Devils’ night was that they would give one up, seem to get back into the game, and then surrender one. At the 7:29 mark of the third period, John Moore was called for cross checking Silfverberg. Anaheim would score on that power play when Montour received a perfect pass from Getzlaf and beat Kinkaid to make it 3-1. Rickard Rakell had the secondary assist. The Devils were in a hole again.

But a trio of former Ducks would cut the lead to 3-2. Patrick Maroon would score from Vatanen and Stefan Noesen at 10:05 of the third. Noesen dug the puck out of the corner and gave it to Vatanen at the far point. He walked up the wall and found a passing lane to Maroon, who was camped out in front of the Anaheim net and simply shoveled it behind Gibson to cut the Ducks’ lead again.

But the Ducks would answer right back. It began when Blake Coleman was rocked by a hit from Marcus Pettersson in the neutral zone. Anaheim’s Rakell then scored from Cam Fowler and Pettersson to make it 4-2. Coleman immediately got into it with the Ducks. Maroon immediately came to the smaller Coleman’s aid and, when the dust settled, Getzlaf and Maroon were both off for roughing at 10:51, making it 4-on-4.

But that was it for the Devils. Kinkaid would be pulled with about a minute remaining, but to no avail. The Ducks had the 4-2 win.

On the scoresheet, the Devils were outshot 36-17, won only 41-percent of the game’s faceoffs and only got in front of 14 attempted Anaheim shots – those blocks were a big dropoff from the LA and Vegas games. As Steve Cangialosi said, shots were simply getting through to Kinkaid.

Individually, Vatanen led Devils skaters in ice time with 25:52 (including 3:31 on the power play). Hall was a close second with 24:03 (4:17 on the power play) as he was being double shifted. Palmieri led in shots on goal with five, Ben Lovejoy led in hits with four of the Devils’ 33 on the night, Andy Greene led in blocks with four of the Devils’ 14 and Palmieri also led in takeaways with two.

So, next up, the Devils visit Pete DeBoer and the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday night in Northern California. As Deb Placey said on the Devils postgame, the Sharks are in a similar position to the Devils and, like the Devils and Ducks, will need points in their playoff push. We will see you then.

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Devils Dominate Golden Knights in Sin City

The Devils made their very first trip to the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas a productive one. They defeated the Vegas Golden Knights 8-3, paying back a one-goal loss last week in New Jersey where the Devils were just not able to muster one last one past Marc-Andre Fleury.

This loss marked just the eighth regulation loss at home for the first-year Golden Knights, who have had a dream season for an expansion team. This also marked the worst home loss the Knights have had this year.

The big question coming into last night’s game was how the Devils’ three off days in Vegas would affect them. To a man, the players said that they were “on their best behavior” and, while they enjoyed their time in the city, knew they were on a “business trip.”

Some roster business to get to as Travis Zajac, who had injured his back against Winnipeg last week, made the trip west with the team and played tonight. With him in, Jesper Bratt was a healthy scratch up front. Kyle Palmieri slotted into the top line with Nico Hischier and Taylor Hall as a result. Pavel Zacha remains out with an upper body injury, as he could join the team later in the trip according to the team and Steve Cangialosi of MSG. Jimmy Hayes and Mirco Mueller were the other two out of the lineup.

Vegas was without James Neal and Reilly Smith, two big producers who would be missed for the Golden Knights.

Keith Kinkaid got the nod in goal for the Devils, as his performance in Nashville was too good and coach John Hynes wanted to continue with the hot hand. He made 39 stops on 42 shots against. The Golden Knights started Fleury again, who recently became the fastest goalie to 400 wins in his NHL career. He made seven saves on 11 shots, being chased after the fourth Devils goal in favor of Maxime Lagace. Lagace made 13 saves on 17 shots. The Devils finished the night with a total of 28 shots, being outshot in the victory.

There were a few hundred Devils fans who made the trip to Vegas to see their team take on the Pacific Division leaders, according to Deb Placey and Ken Daneyko of MSG. They were ready, so let’s get to it.

Blake Coleman scored twice and was named the game’s first star of the night as the Devils won 8-3 in Vegas. Photo: Andy Martin/Getty Images

The Devils broke the seal on the game with a shorthanded goal. It was their ninth shorty of the year and, of course, involved Brian Gibbons and Blake Coleman. The Devils’ Damon Severson was serving a tripping penalty and, off of a faceoff in the Devils’ zone, which Vegas won, the puck bounced back to the point. Gibbons was right there, picking it up and skating it into the Knights’ zone. He stopped just inside the blue line and found Coleman driving to the net. Coleman chipped the puck over Fleury to give the Devils a 1-0 lead at the 6:23 mark.

The Devils would double their lead about a minute and a half later when Nico Hischier scored from Severson and Sami Vatanen. That one came when Nico moved in on a two-on-one with John Moore. Using Moore as a decoy, he threw the puck towards the Vegas net. Tomas Tatar inadvertently got his stick on it and tipped it by Fleury to make it 2-0. Finally, it seemed, the Devils were getting a little bit of puck luck. The Devils were up by two going into the first intermission. But would that be enough against a good team like Vegas?

They would not let it get that far. Just 1:55 into the first, Zajac put the Devils up 3-0 to start to create some separation between them and the Knights. Will Butcher had the secondary assist, but getting the primary was Michael Grabner. It was his seventh assist of the year, but his first point as a New Jersey Devil. The goal developed when Butcher skated crossed the blue line with the puck and dropped for Grabner, who was trailing just behind. Grabner tic-tac-toed to Zajac, who was entering the slot. He fired a wrister by Fleury to make it 3-0 just like that.

And it only took 36 seconds for the Devils to extend the lead to four. Stefan Noesen notched his eleventh from Andy Greene when Greene swept the puck from a Golden Knights player and connected with Noesen behind the Vegas defense. Noesen had a partial breakaway and beat Fleury five hole to put the Devils up 4-0 and knock Fleury out of the game.

This was the first time the Golden Knights had trailed by as many as four goals in their history at T-Mobile Arena.

But they would quickly have some pushback. Erik Haula scored on the power play at 11:08 from Colin Miller and Nate Schmidt to cut the Devils lead to 4-1. On the evening, the Devils would go 1-for-2 on the power play with two shots. They also had one shot shorthanded. Vegas was 2-for-5 with the man advantage, as they had their chances. They had 11 power play shots.

Miller would cut the Devils lead in half just before the second intermission when he scored unassisted at 18:55. Things were not looking good for the Devils heading into the third, as the Vegas crowd was loud and back into things.

But the Devils would silence them very fast. Blake Coleman scored unassisted just 2:04 into the third period. Coleman stole the puck from Deryk Engelland and skated into the Vegas zone. He shot and had it blocked in front by Jon Merrill. Coleman grabbed his own rebound and beat Legace to make it 5-2 Devils. This was Coleman’s first career two goal game.

At the 7:02 mark, Grabner would notch his 26th of the year, and first as a Devil, from Hischier and Gibbons to make it 6-2. Hischier came out of the far corner, skating to just inside the Vegas blue line. He fired on net, with the rebound coming back to him in the near corner. He was a ball of energy as he grabbed it and worked along the boards with Gibbons. They got it to the front of the net and Grabner took a pass from Nico, simply shoveling it into the empty side of the net.

But the Devils were not done yet. With Merrill off for tripping Grabner (who had his best game as a Devil so far), Kyle Palmieri got onto the scoresheet. On the power play, he scored from Patrick Maroon and Taylor Hall. The Devils won a faceoff in the Vegas zone, with the puck going back to Sami Vatanen. He walked the line and gave it to Hall at the near half wall. Hall found Maroon at the side of the Vegas net. He tried to jam it home and the rebound came to Palmieri at the other side of the net. He put it into the empty side of Legace’s net to make it 7-2 Devils.

With that seventh goal, the Devils had scored seven for the first time since the comeback in Chicago earlier this season on November 12. But they still were not done.

The final one to get in on the Devils’ goal scoring binge was Taylor Hall. He scored his 31st of the year from Brian Boyle at 14:31 of the third to make it 8-2. Hall skated in to the Golden Knights’ zone, shot and, with Boyle battling in front of the Knights’ net, took his own rebound and stuffed it home. The Devils had put up an eight-spot on the road for the first time since November 25, 2005 against the Lightning.

Vegas’ Haula scored from David Perron and Tatar with 28 seconds remaining in the game on the power play, but it was simply window dressing. The Devils had sealed their second straight victory to kick off a rough road stretch.

Stats-wise, Vatanen led in ice time with 24:05 (including 1:18 on the power play and 3:48 on the PK). Zajac led all Devils skaters with 18:06 (including 1:09 on the power play and 4:06 on the penalty kill). Shots were led by Hischier with four, hits by Boyle with seven, blocks by Moore with five. Takeaways were led by Boyle and Grabner who each had one. The Devils won 52-percent of the faceoffs in the game.

Blake Coleman took home first star honors while Keith Kinkaid was the second star and Taylor Hall the third.

Next up the Devils will head off to Los Angeles for a game with the Kings on Saturday, St. Patrick’s Day. That game is a 4 PM start time here in New Jersey. Hopefully the Devils can get the California leg of their road trip off on the right foot when they travel to Staples Center.

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Hall’s Streak Ends as Devils Lose Tough One to Jets

They say that all good things must come to an end. That was never more true than tonight as, for the first time since December 30, 2017, Taylor Hall failed to register a point in a game. The Devils fell to the Winnipeg Jets 3-2 at Prudential Center. The streak ends at 26 games.

It was a rough loss for New Jersey, as the Devils played the much better game but just had trouble solving Winnipeg goaltender Connor Hellebuyck. The Jets are a big, “heavy” team that plays very physical, one of the best in the Western Conference where that style of play is more prevalent. That was definitely in evidence tonight, as the bodies were flying, including Travis Zajac taking a big hit and leaving the game in the second period with an apparent injury.

Speaking of injury, Pavel Zacha was out of the lineup tonight, as he is day-to-day with an upper body injury suffered in the Montreal game. He joined Jimmy Hayes, Mirco Mueller and Drew Stafford as scratches. The Devils did get Brian Gibbons back, as he played his first game since breaking his thumb on January 20 at Philadelphia.

Winnipeg was missing, among others, Mark Scheifele and backup goalie Steve Mason. An interesting story with the Jets’ goaltending as Devils emergency goalie Zane Kalemba – a Saddle Brook, New Jersey native who went to Princeton – had to dress for them for warmups and early in the game as call-up Michael Hutchinson had some travel problems and did not arrive until mid-way through the game.

The Devils have their next six games coming against Western Conference teams that are in playoff contention. This will be a rough stretch for them and they need to get good goaltending to steal a few here and there. To that end, Cory Schneider got the start tonight, making 21 saves on 24 shots. He played well for the Devils, but, unfortunately, the Winnipeg goalie just played a little bit better.

That was, as stated, Connor Hellebuyck. He made a whopping 41 saves on 43 Devils shots. As mentioned about goalies stealing games, this was one where Hellebuyck stole one for the Jets. He was named the game’s first star.

The Devils lost to the Jets back on November 18 in Winnipeg, getting blown out. It was a much different story tonight with the same result.

Patrik Laine scored the game’s first goal and his fourth straight after scoring a natural hat trick versus the Rangers the other night. He got assists from Paul Stastny and Nikolaj Ehlers to give the Jets the early 1-0 lead. It was a broken play as the puck just kind of came to a stop in the high slot as Laine finished. The goal came at the 4:12 mark of the first. It was also the first shot of the game for Winnipeg.

The Devils would get a break at the 18:29 mark of the first when the Jets’ Josh Morrissey was assessed a double minor for high sticking Blake Coleman. The bulk of the power play would come on fresh ice in the early part of the second period. The Devils would not score and would go 0-for-4 with nine shots on goal. Winnipeg was 0-for-1 with just two shots on goal. The Devils played a clean game which is good considering the Jets’ puck control game in the offensive zone. They are relentless in their opponent’s zone and very physical on the puck.

In the second period, Joel Armia gave Winnipeg a 2-0 lead when he scored at 13:26 from Ben Chiarot and Hellebuyck. Just prior to that was when Zajac had suffered his injury, gutting out the rest of his shift, as Ken Daneyko put it, before he left the game. He would not return.

Nico Hischier had a goal and an assist in being named tonight’s second star of the night. Photo: Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire

The Devils would get on the board in the second on a nice play. Nico Hischier flung a hail mary pass from the Devils’ zone to Kyle Palmieri who broke into the Winnipeg zone. He snuck behind the Jets’ defense and beat Hellebuyck glove side at 16:41 to make it 2-1 Jets. In contrast to Winnipeg scoring on their first shot on goal, it took the Devils 22 to finally beat Hellebuyck.

In the third, Ehlers would score to make it 3-1 at the 9:55 mark when Dustin Byfuglien’s shot had seemingly beaten Cory. He celebrated, but the puck had not gone in, hitting the crossbar. Ehlers would put home the rebound and the Devils were down two again.

But Hischier would give hope at 11:07, cutting the lead to 3-2 off assists from Jesper Bratt and Will Butcher. That one developed when Hall gave to a cutting Butcher just inside the Winnipeg blue line. Butcher shot and after a couple of whacks at the puck by both Bratt and Nico, Hischier was able to bat it out of the air and in. The Devils were within one.

They would need to kill off a penalty on the way to getting a shot at tying it. Patrick Maroon took a penalty for boarding Morrissey at 14:52 for the Jets’ only power play of the game. The Devils penalty kill came through and Cory was pulled for the first time with about 2:14 left in the game.

But it was not meant to be. Time simply ran out on New Jersey as the Jets got the victory. The Devils now only have one regulation win in their last 13 games against Winnipeg, a team that they do not matchup well with and who always seem to get them.

For the Devils, Sami Vatanen led every skater in the game in ice time, with 27:46, including 5:59 on the power play and 34 seconds on the PK. Palmieri, who played a really good game, led in shots with seven. Coleman led in hits with six while Palmieri, John Moore and Vatanen all led in blocks with two each. Brian Gibbons, in his return had a takeaway to lead in that category. The Devils won 51-percent of the game’s faceoffs.

Next up, their big two week road trip kicks off at Nashville on Saturday. The Predators are another good, physical and talented Western Conference team. Hopefully the Devils can rack up some points here, as both Columbus and Florida have crawled back into the wildcard race (they both won tonight). We will see you Saturday.

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Note: The photo of Kyle Palmieri above this post is copyright Bill Kostroun/AP Photo.

Devils End Pens’ Home Winning Streak

The Pittsburgh Penguins are always a tough team to play. They are the back-to-back Stanley Cup champs, who only got better at the trading deadline. But beating them at their home rink, PPG Paints Arena, has been an even more daunting task of late. The Pens, coming into this game against the Devils had won eleven straight home games.

Faced with that on their plate, what did the Devils do? They won 3-2 as they put more separation between themselves and the teams below them in the standings and move within two points of Pittsburgh for third place in the Metro Division.

First, I wanted to get some details about Patrik Elias night that I forgot about. First was Elias’ entrance through the crowd that really hammered home that he was one of us. He was a real fan favorite and that and taking the plastic green hat from the fan who offered it, putting it on and then throwing it back to the fans was a nice touch.

Another point I missed was that the Devils were playing the Islanders because that was the team that Patty played his most games and had his most points against. Also, the Devils wearing the white road jerseys for a change was a nice touch.

And finally, the Devils kept their winning streak on jersey retirement nights intact. They defeated the Hurricanes on Stevens Night, the Bruins on Daneyko Night, the Stars on Niedermayer Night, the Oilers on Brodeur Night and Saturday, they came from behind to defeat the Isles on Elias Night.

With that out of the way, we move on to tonight’s game versus the Penguins. The task of beating the Pens only got bigger as Derick Brassard was making his debut for Pittsburgh following his blockbuster three-way trade from Ottawa also involving Vegas. The Devils’ newest addition, Patrick Maroon, did not play tonight, as he traveled all night from San Jose (where the Oilers were playing tonight) to Pittsburgh via Atlanta. Maroon did practice with the team today, but did not play due to travel fatigue. He will make his Devils debut at Florida on Thursday.

Along with Maroon, Jimmy Hayes and Mirco Mueller were the scratches for New Jersey. Michael Grabner was playing in his second game as a Devil and was on a line with Travis Zajac and Stefan Noesen (who was playing in his 100th NHL contest tonight – congrats to him).

With 20 games remaining in the 2017-18 season including tonight, the Devils knew it was time to really make that final push for the playoffs and can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Cory Schneider will rejoin the team in Florida after making an AHL rehab start tonight.
Photo: downloaded from BleacherReport.com

Goaltending-wise, there is some news on the Cory Schneider front. Cory played a game for Binghamton at the Belleville Senators tonight in a conditioning stint. His return is imminent (he will rejoin the team in Florida) according to the MSG broadcasters, with Bryce Salvador in particular saying that an AHL stint will help him out. If he had had something happen to him against the Penguins tonight, things could have gotten disastrous. In the AHL, he can have a bad night if he needs to as he gets in game shape. For the record, he won that game 4-1.

In his place, Keith Kinkaid made another start – as he adds to his career highs in starts and wins – played brilliantly at times tonight. He stopped 36 of 38 shots on goal. For the Penguins, Casey DeSmith got the start as Matt Murray got hit in the head with a puck at practice and is suffering from concussion symptoms. The undrafted DeSmith made 35 saves on 38 Devils shots.

One of the big stories coming out of this game was the Devils’ special teams. The Pens have the top ranked power play in the NHL. But it was the Devils who came out on top in that facet of the game. New Jersey was 1-for-1 with the man advantage with two shots on net while Pittsburgh was 0-for-2 with the Devils limiting them to a single shot. The Devils power play and penalty kill came up huge for the team tonight.

However, it was the Pens who got on the board first in what seemed like business as usual. Sidney Crosby scored at 8:17 of the first period from Brian Dumoulin and Jake Guentzel. On this play, the puck got through Kinkaid’s legs, squirting over to Crosby, who simply tapped the puck into the empty side of the net to make it 1-0. Following the goal (and some technical difficulties with the monitors on the Devils’ bench), coach John Hynes challenged for goalie interference, saying that Crosby’s leg as he was swooping across the crease impeded Kinkaid’s ability to make the save. Replays showed otherwise and the goal stood. The Devils lost their timeout with the failed coach’s challenge.

Immediately following the Pittsburgh goal, the Devils got right to work. Michael Grabner hit the post on a shot right after, but it was not until the 12:19 mark that Kyle Palmieri continued his hot streak and tied the game. Damon Severson and Taylor Hall had the assists. Hall dropped to Severson at the Devils’ blueline and Severson and Palmieri began to criss-cross up ice. Severson left for Palmieri at the Penguins blueline and he skated in up the left wing boards, shooting from the top of the faceoff circle and beating DeSmith stick side to tie the game up at one all.

With that assist, Hall continued his point scoring streak – now to 22 games. That is a season high in the NHL for this season.

The game was tied up at one going into the first intermission, but things looked a little bleak for the Devils. Ben Lovejoy took a hooking penalty at 19:38, giving Pittsburgh an almost full power play on fresh ice to begin the second period. But as noted above, the Devils were able to stifle the Pens’ power play and nothing came of it.

Instead, Hall would add to his point total by scoring the go ahead goal for the Devils to make the score 2-1. This one came on the power play and was set up by Severson and Travis Zajac. It happened when, at the 4:25 mark of the second, Zajac passed to Severson in the slot. The defenseman shot and hit the crossbar with the puck caroming to Hall, who was just under the goal line. He shot and beat DeSmith to give the Devils the lead. It was a weird one, but the Devils would take it.

Severson would joke with Deb Placey on the MSG postgame show that he was making a “post pass” since Hall was calling for the pass and Severson elected to shoot.

The Devils lead would last until the 17:02 mark of the second period when Matt Hunwick scored for Pittsburgh to tie things up at two. Guentzel had the lone assist on that goal.

The score was tied going into the second intermission as it was in the first, but the resilient Devils were not done. At the 5:01 mark of the third period, Stefan Noesen put the Devils up 3-2 on a goal with assists to Andy Greene and Zajac. It came when Noesen passed from behind the net to Zajac in the slot. DeSmith made the save and pushed the puck to the near corner. The puck came to Greene at the wall and he fired from that angle. Noesen was able to get a stick on it as he was cycling by, tipping the puck by DeSmith, who was not able to get across his crease and get set in time to make the save. The Devils had the lead back and would not relinquish this one.

DeSmith was pulled with about 1:30 left in the game. But Hynes was dogged in getting the Zajac line matched up against the Evgeni Malkin line and that continued late in the game. With a few blocked shots and key saves by Kinkaid, the Devils withstood the final minute and a half and got out of Pittsburgh with the victory. A huge two points in division for the Devils.

Stats-wise, Sami Vatanen led in ice time with 27:14 (including 1:06 on the power play and 2:13 on the PK). Palmieri and Pavel Zacha led in shots on goal with five each. Nico Hischier was the most physcial player with four hits. Blake Coleman and Greene each had four blocks and Noesen had two takeaways. Hall, Zajac and Severson each had two points on the night and the Devils won 43-percent of the game’s faceoffs. Hall was named the game’s first star for his efforst while Severson was the second star. Crosby earned third star honors.

It was a big win, but the Devils work is not done. Thursday they are in Sunrise to take on the Florida Panthers – a team that has also been pretty hot of late. It will be the Devils’ only trip to South Florida this season and will mark Patrick Maroon’s Devils debut. We will see you then.

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Patrik Elias Night: Devils Win on Two Goals from Palmieri

Last night, the Devils honored a legend by retiring the number of their greatest offensive player ever. There were many former players and Devils greats in attendance to help pay homage to the past glories of a great franchise.

Kyle Palmieri led the Devils to victory with two goals on the night. Photo downloaded from Docsports.com

But the current team made a big step of their own, getting a big Metro Division win in a tight race in come-from-behind fashion. The Devils defeated the New York Islanders 2-1 off of two goals from Kyle Palmieri. Taylor Hall assisted on both goals to extend his personal point scoring streak to an amazing 21 games total.

First the ceremony. It was very well done by the Devils organization and featured prominent Czech players from Devils history who were also teammates of Elias’ both on the Devils and internationally. Players like Marek Zidlicky, Bobby Holik and his A-Line linemate, Petr Sykora. Among other teammates present were: one of the all-time underrated Devils, Sergei Brylin; Michael Rupp – who won a Cup with Elias in 2003; former Devils goalie Kevin Weekes; former Devils captain turned broadcaster Bryce Salvador and former Devils coach Robbie Ftorek, who also coached Elias with the AHL’s Albany River Rats.

Also present were the four previous Devils to have their numbers retired: Scott Stevens, Ken Daneyko, Scott Niedermayer and Martin Brodeur as well as dignitarites like current Devils GM Ray Shero, ownership and NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly. Elias’ family including his wife, children, parents and brothers were also in attendance.

Devils radio play-by-play man Matt Loughlin emceed the event and there were speeches from Stevens (representing past players), Josh Harris and David Blitzer (respresenting management), Daly (representing the NHL) and Travis Zajac (representing the current players – Zajac also spent about ten years as Elias’ teammate and is a close friend of his). There were also taped comments from former Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello (who is currently busy with the trade deadline for the Toronto Maple Leafs). In addition, the fans voiced their approval with chants of “Patty! Patty!” throughout the proceedings.

Highlight videos were shown, of which there are many to choose from for the man who is the franchise’s all-time leading scorer in goals, assists and total points. The main focus of most of the speeches was that Elias was the offensive heartbeat of a team that was known as being very defensive during it’s heyday.

Once the speeches were done, the banner featuring Elias’ number 26 was raised to the rafters of Prudential Center, never to be worn by a Devils player ever again.

Throughout the night, there would be taped segments shown on the big video board featuring fans and former teammates (including Zach Parise, who took the ceremonial faceoff with Andy Greene when Elias dropped the puck last game versus Minnesota) giving their memories and impressions of the career of Patrik Elias the player and the man.

But there was still a game to be played and one that was very important at that.

The Devils had a lot on their plate with the Islanders. But they also had the debut of former-Islander Michael Grabner, acquired from the Rangers on Friday. Roster-wise, he was in at forward while Jimmy Hayes and Mirco Mueller were the scratches.

WIth Cory Schneider still out, Long Island-native Keith Kinkaid got the start against his boyhood team. He made 30 saves on 31 New York shots. He also came up big when he needed to, playing a good game once again. Kinkaid is a solid backup and has largely played very well in his recent time in the spotlight. Against him was Jaroslav Halak for the Isles. He stopped 31 of 33 shots faced.

The game was pretty cleanly played and the officials let a lot go, as evidenced by the three power plays total in the game. The Devils were 0-for-1 with four shots on their man advantage while the Isles were 0-for-2 with a pair of power play shots.

Following a scoreless first period, it was the Islanders who got on the board at 3:55 of the second period. Jordan Eberle scored from Anthony Beauvillier and rookie phenom Mathew Barzal. That made it 1-0 New York and it would stay that way through the second intermission.

It seemed we were headed for a defensive struggle, possibly one the Devils would lose until an inspired Kyle Palmieri basically took over the game. He tied it up at 6:35 of the third period off assists from Hall and Nico Hischier. It came when Hischier made a nice defensive play in the Devils’ end to chip the puck up to Hall along the far boards. Hall gave it to a streaking Palmieri who skated up the left wing. He pulled the puck by an Islander defender just inside the New York blue line and fired at the top of the faceoff circle, beating Halak glove side to tie things up at one.

It was a nice goal and one that almost caught the crowd by surprise, he snapped the shot off so fast. With the assist on that goal, Hall extended his point streak to 14 games straight and 21 total.

But the Palmieri/Hall show was not over. Palmieri notched the game winner at the 11:11 mark of the third period. He got assists from Sami Vatanen and Hall. It occurred when Hischier won a board battle behind the Islander net and kicked the puck over to Hall in the far corner. Hall, who is having his number retired by the Windsor Spitfires on Sunday, wound the puck around the boards to Vatanen at the near point. Vatanen fired on net and Palmieri, camped in front of the net, tipped it by Halak to make it 2-1 Devils.

And that is where it would stand. The Isles would pull Halak with about 1:30 left in the game, but the Devils weathered the storm and pulled out the victory. Kinkaid would be named the game’s third star, Hall the second and Palmieri the first. Both of Hall’s assist announcements were met with chants of “MVP! MVP!” from a crowd hoping the NHL rewards Taylor’s heart with Hart this summer.

Vatanen led the team in ice time with 23:09, Palmieri led in shots on goal by a wide margin with eight, Brian Boyle and Andy Greene each led in hits, throwing four of them, Greene also led in blocks with three and Blake Coleman (who switched his jersey number to 20 with Grabner taking number 40) led in takeaways with two. The Devils won 47-percent of the game’s faceoffs.

Grabner played well in his debut, firing two shots on net with an even plus/minus rating and a takeaway. He did that in 13:34 of ice time (1:53 of which was on the penalty kill).

Next up, the Devils will face another stiff divisional test as they head to Pittsburgh on Tuesday to take on the Penguins. Hopefully they can carry over the momentum of a hard-fought, emotional win on what was a very emotional night.

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Note: the photo of Patrik Elias’ retired number banner at the top of this post was downloaded from 24-hours-news.com.