The Devils were back in action following their five-day bye week. They were able to get a practice in on Saturday afternoon, but their game against the San Jose Sharks on Sunday afternoon still looked at times like they had been off for five days.
Some roster news saw Joseph Blandisi recalled yesterday from Albany and John Moore return to action off of the injured reserve. Moore had been out since being checked hard into the glass against Washington on New Year’s Eve that resulted in a concussion. It was good to see the veteran defenseman back on the ice as it had been a long road to recovery for him.
Scratched for the Devils were Kyle Quincey and Devante Smith-Pelly. Out for San Jose were Joonas Donskoi, Tim Heed and Marcus Sorenson.
The goaltending matchup saw the Devils go back to Cory Schneider between the pipes. He made 34 saves on 37 Sharks shots faced; San Jose had a game total of 38 shots. Martin Jones went for the Sharks and made 21 saves on 22 Devils shots. Shots on goal would be an issue for the Devils all afternoon.
Things got off to a rocky start as both teams got in a little bit of penalty trouble. None more so than New Jersey when, at the 8:10 mark of the first period, Blandisi was called for holding and then, at 8:28, Ben Lovejoy went off for high sticking. The Devils were on a 5-on-3 power play for about 1:30 or so. They would kill those off and, in fact, keep San Jose 0-for-6 with the extra skater on the afternoon. The Devils were 0-for-2.
Case in point on the shots issue: the Devils were outshot 19-3 in the first period. They would, however, score on their first shot of the game. It did not come until the 11:42 mark of the first when Damon Severson headmanned the puck up to Jacob Josefson, who skated the puck through the neutral zone. He passed to PA Parenteau, who dumped it into the Sharks’ zone. Josefson created the turnover on the forecheck and Taylor Hall grabbed it, throwing it on net. The rebound came out to Parenteau, who buried it behind Jones to make it 1-0 Devils.
The Devils would take the lead into the second period. But by then, the game changing nature of Brent Burns kicked in and became very apparent. The defenseman scored first at 2:27 from Joe Thornton and former Devil Paul Martin to tie things up. He then broke the tie at the 7:46 mark of the second period to with assists to Kevin Labanc and Joe Pavelski. Joe Thornton finished off the Sharks’ second period binge when he scored at 11:22 from Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Labanc. That goal gave San Jose a 3-1 lead and that would essentially be it.
The Devils would pull Schneider with about 2:05 left in the game and San Jose would an empty netter from Tomas Hertl (assists to Justin Braun and Joel Ward) to cap off a 4-1 win.
Seth Helgeson and Micheal Haley had a spirited scrap at the 13:15 mark of the second, with Helgeson trying to get the Devils moving after falling behind, but to no avail for the Devils.
The Devils actually outshot the Sharks in that disastrous second period, 12-7, but that just showed the wacky nature of the game. The defending Western Conference champions are a good team that is made all the better by their secret weapon, Brent Burns. The dynamic defenseman scored his 23rd and 24th goals today and is a real game changer for them.
Next up for the Devils is a Valentine’s Day tilt against the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday. The Avs have had a rough go of it this year and hopefully the Devils will be in a better state of mind with some practice under their belt to win this one.
Following the game, the Devils did the screening of Damon Kwame Mason’s film “Soul on Ice: Past, Present & Future.” A good number of fans stuck around to watch a film that I cannot recommend highly enough.
After a short panel discussion that included former Devils captain Bryce Salvador and current Devil Devante Smith-Pelly on the concourse, the fans were brought into the club area of the seating bowl of Prudential Center to watch the roughly hour and a half movie.
The movie covered the history of the Maritime Coloured Hockey League, which existed at the turn of the last century in the Canadian Maritime provinces. It also covered some of the black pioneers of hockey like Willie O’Ree, Tony McKegney and the Oilers backstop for their 80s dynasty, Grant Fuhr, and what they had to go through to make it, including some of the abuse – which was brutal to watch and listen to at times.
It also covered some of today’s young black hockey players, including a Pittsburgh Penguins prospect as he was being drafted and some of the great black players in the NHL today, including PK Subban, Wayne Simmonds, the Sharks’ Joel Ward and the Devils’ own Smith-Pelly. There was also coverage of grassroots hockey movements such as Hockey in Harlem and how it helps to get kids from underprivileged backgrounds into hockey and help them in life beyond the sport as well.
The movie was well made, it is Mason’s first film and was a real labor of love (he related that he was a radio announcer from Edmonton who had to sell his condo to get the money to make the documentary).
I highly encourage any hockey fan to go over to www.soulonicemovie.com to check out more about this fascinating film.