The Devils had not won two straight games since before Thanksgiving. Were they to do that tonight, they would leapfrog the Ottawa Senators in the Eastern Conference standings and move within striking distance of the Rangers in third place in the Metropolitan Division.
With a little help from Mike Cammalleri and Cory Schneider, they got just that. The Devils defeated the Senators in their final game of the 2015 calendar year and head into 2016 on a positive note.
Starting with some injury news, Jacob Josefson was a healthy scratch for yesterday’s game against Carolina and was taking some extra time at practice when he was hit in the foot by an Eric Gelinas shot. He was placed on the injured reserve today retroactive to December 26. He joins Patrik Elias who is on IR retroactive to December 21. To fill in the roster spot left by Josefson, Mike Sislo made his season debut, called up from Albany.
The Devils also announced that they have signed Mackenzie Blackwood, their second round pick (42nd overall) in last summer’s Entry Draft, to a three year entry level deal earlier today. He is currently 1-0 with Team Canada in the World Junior Championship, having served his suspension from the Ontario Hockey League. Congratulations to him and it looks like the Devils goaltending ranks are shored up for some time to come.
Speaking of goaltending, tonight’s game featured a great matchup. Cory Schneider got the start for New Jersey, playing brilliantly at times in making 36 saves for his third shutout of the season and his 20th in his career. Facing him for the Sens was “the Hamburgler” Andrew Hammond. He ended up seeing 20 shots and making 18 saves.
The Devils got things started with three straight power plays in the first period. First, Chris Wideman went off for tripping at 4:51, then Kyle Turris for holding at 7:19 and then Chris Neil for charging at 10:30. Ottawa was able to kill off two of the three, with the only goal coming during the Turris penalty.
On that play, the Senators won the faceoff deep in the Devils’ zone, only for Mike Cammalleri to break up the play at the blueline and take the puck all the way to the Senators’ goal, where he beat Hammond glove side, low at 9:11. It was 1-0 Devils all on the efforts of Cammalleri. That goal was unassisted, but he had more to come.
At 18:08, Travis Zajac dug the puck out of the corner, feeding Cammalleri at the top of the near faceoff circle. Cammalleri fired and beat Hammond with a slapshot, stick side. Two goals for Mike Cammalleri, Devils up 2-0, and that was all they needed.
Ottawa pressed all night, but kept running into a wall known as Cory Schneider.
In a relatively penalty filled game, no one was on the scoresheet more than Bobby Farnham. He had a scrap with Max McCormick at 16:49 of the first and then went off for embellishment at 14:13, after seemingly being clipped on a hip check by Erik Karlsson. He left the game briefly and the penalty was served by Stefan Matteau. The call was a strange one at first, but understandable since that is what the officials saw. According to a post-game interview on MSG+ with Deb Placey, Farnham said he was just trying to get out of the way of Karlsson, trying to avoid a knee-on-knee hit.
The Devils had seemingly weathered the storm when late in the third; Ottawa pulled Hammond to go up the extra man. Then at 18:48, John Moore took a holding call and the Senators had a 6-on-4 advantage with the goalie still pulled. Cory was able to keep the Devils out of trouble and, because of the fact that they were killing a penalty and there was no icing, it was open season on the empty net. Lee Stempniak took advantage and potted an empty net, short-handed goal at 19:44 to seal the deal for New Jersey.
With the Devils 3-0 win, they moved ahead of Ottawa for the final wildcard spot in the East and within one point of the Rangers, who were not finished with their game at the end of the Devils game, for third place in the Metro Division.
Coming up for the Devils though is their first game of 2016. And what a way to ring in the new year, with the Dallas Stars coming to Prudential Center. In what will be a true test for the Devils, they will faceoff with the best overall team in the NHL. Will the Devils be able to continue their upswing? Tune in Saturday night to find out as the Devils take on the Stars.