We’re In! Devils Clinch Playoff Spot With Win Over Leafs

The New Jersey Devils have qualified for the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Photo: Elsa/Getty Images

They were not supposed to even be in this position. Win and they are in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since they lost in the Final in 2012.

Well, hold on to your hats. The New Jersey Devils have crashed the party! They do not know where they will be starting the playoffs, who they will be playing or anything like that yet. But right now, none of that matters.

Taylor Hall got a huge monkey off of his back by finally getting to play in the postseason, they were in a playoff position all year and held on to it through the thick and the thin. A team that was supposed to be in a rebuild got a shot in the arm by winning the lottery last season and picking Nico Hischier first overall. Now they are playoff bound. A little ahead of schedule? Maybe. But it does not really matter.

New Jersey is back where it belongs, battling for Lord Stanley!

To the game against Toronto tonight. It was the Devils’ final home game of the season, a win would, of course, negate whatever Florida and Boston did tonight. The only other game that could affect seeding was Pittsburgh-Columbus. If that game did not end up as a three-point game (which it would), the Devils would leapfrog one of those two to move up to as far as third place in the Metro Division. The Jackets won that game in overtime, so it was a three-point game.

Also, Philly defeated Carolina, so there was no effect on the standings there. Florida is still technically alive since the Flyers have not clinched a spot just yet.

The healthy scratches were once again Jesper Bratt, Jimmy Hayes, Marcus Johansson (who may end up getting some playing time at Washington on Saturday according to Deb Placey of MSG+ – I would assume to get him ready for the playoffs), Damon Severson and Drew Stafford. The lineup, including line combos and defense pairings, were largely the same as Tuesday’s Ranger game.

Keith Kinkaid made another start for the Devils and once again played fantastic. The NHL’s hottest goalie made 31 saves on a total of 35 Toronto shots. He made some big stops at opportune times, including off of Devils turnovers late in the first period and midway through the second. For the Maple Leafs, Frederik Andersen went, making 37 saves on 39 shots.

The Leafs have the second ranked power play in the NHL and it showed. The Devils tempted fate by taking a tripping call by Hischier at 6:44 of the first. William Nylander converted on that one, scoring his 20th of the season from Patrick Marleau and Auston Matthews at 6:56. It only took them a few seconds to take a 1-0 lead.

Overall, the Leafs were 1-for-2 on the man advantage with a single shot – which they converted on. New Jersey was 0-for-2 with two shots.

The second period was where the Devils grabbed the scoreboard and did not let go. It began at 7:55 when Pavel Zacha scored from Patrick Maroon to tie things. Zacha stripped the Leafs puckcarrier in the neutral zone and he and Maroon broke in to the Toronto zone. Zacha gave to Maroon and drove towards the net as Maroon skated up the near boards. Maroon passed back as Zacha went to the net. Zacha shot stick side just under the crossbar. Andersen might have gotten a piece of it with the knob of his stick, but it still found twine to make things 1-1.

Midway through the second, Michael Grabner made a nice individual play to steal the puck and jump past the Toronto defenders for a partial breakaway. He would not score, but it was a nice play.

The breakthrough came at 17:02 of the second period when Miles Wood scored the game winner from Maroon. Maroon took the puck at the Leafs’ blueline and drove along the far boards and behind the Toronto goal line. He protected the puck hard and made a quick pass to Wood as he was coming out from the other side of the net. Wood was set up in front of the Leafs’ net and he shoveled it five hole through Andersen to score what would be the game winner, making it 2-1 Devils.

As Placey noted just before the start of the third period, this was the most important 20 minutes of the Devils season so far.

And they responded. With some back-to-back action and some offensive pushes from the Maple Leafs, the Devils weathered the storm. They held on. Through a near scrap between the Devils’ Mueller and the Leafs’ James van Riemsdykm, they held on.

When Toronto pulled Andersen with about two minutes left, the Devils held on.

Through some icings and, finally, to the Leafs’ Mitch Marner being called for a trip with 19:29 left in the game to put Toronto on the penalty kill to end it.

When the final horn sounded, the Devils had weathered it all and were playoff-bound.

Statistically, the Devils outshot the Leafs 39-32, won 47-percent of the game’s faceoffs, were out hit by the Leafs 17-14 and had more blocks with 12 to the Leafs’ nine.

Individually, Andy Greene led in ice time with 24:38 (31 seconds on the power play, 1:18 on the PK) edging out Sami Vatanen who had 24:12 of ice time. Shots on goal saw Wood lead the team with five. Greene led in hits with three and blocks with four as he had a really good game. The Devils’ high in takeaways was two with Blake Coleman, Grabner and Will Butcher each registering there.

Many people have already made the connection that this 2018 Devils team strongly resembles the team from 30 years ago in 1988. We will see if they have what it takes to complete some upsets and get as far as that team did. Until then, we have the final game of the season on Saturday against the Washington Capitals. Seeding will still be at stake for most of the teams in the Eastern Conference. We will get it all sorted out then.

Until Saturday, congratulations to the New Jersey Devils on getting back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Enjoy this for now!

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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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Hall Extends Point Streak, Gives Devils OT Win in Carolina

The Devils got two points the hard way tonight. After giving up the tying goal late, the Devils prevailed over the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 in overtime. They extended their current winning streak to four games while Taylor Hall, with the game winner in OT, has now scored at least a point in his last 18 games played, although officially it is only 11 games.

First, some bad news for the Devils. Miles Wood has been suspended by the NHL for two games and fined $9,946.24 for his boarding/charging hit on Vladislav Namestnikov of the Lightning last night. The fine is based on the collective bargaining agreement and Wood’s average annual salary and goes towards the player’s pension. Wood will miss tonight’s game and Tuesday’s game at home versus Columbus.

This was the quickest turnaround of the season for the Devils, as they had only 19 hours between leaving the ice in Tampa Bay and arriving at PNC Arena in Raleigh. This game would be true test of the Devils’ stamina. But being a young team, that was not much of a concern for the staff.

One guy who was taken out of the lineup simply to get fresh legs in was Will Butcher. Butcher slotted out for Mirco Mueller on defense. The coaches stressed that it was largely a matter of getting fresh legs into the lineup and that Mueller deserved to play. Also, there were a few things that they felt Butcher could work at while watching for a game from the press box. With Butcher being scratched, that leaves Nico Hischier, of all players, as the only Devil who has played in all of the Devils games this season.

One other roster change saw Jimmy Hayes slot out for Blake Pietila at forward. Line combos would see Pietila play with Brian Boyle – who was returning from his shoulder injury – and Nick Lappin. Also, with Wood suspended, Blake Coleman would play on a line centered by Travis Zajac and with Stefan Noesen on the other wing.

Keith Kinkaid and Eddie Lack have both played well in the Devils’ last two. Photo: Getty Images

In net, Keith KInkaid was back in for the Devils. This was a predetermined decision by the coaching staff prior to Eddie Lack’s great performance against Tampa, that they would go right back to him. Kinkaid made 40 saves on 42 Carolina shots. But that only tells part of the story. Kinkaid played just as well as Lack did last night, standing on his head at times to keep the puck out of the net. In the last few games, Lack and Kinkaid have filled in admirably for Cory Schneider, who still has no real timetable for a return.

Opposing Kinkaid would be the Hurricanes’ veteran, Cam Ward. Ward saw only 21 shots and saved 18 of them. Again, like the game in Tampa, the Devils gave up a ton of shots but were still able to come away with the win. Most of this was due to the insane goaltending that they have gotten over the last two games, but they still were able to come away with the two points regardless.

The Devils, with this game, also equaled their point total from all of last season in just 59 games so far. Just a neat little tidbit that I am sure the players who were on last year’s team are very proud of this year. One other interesting item of note from last night is that the Devils and the Vegas Golden Knights are the only two teams this season that have beaten the Tampa Bay Lightning twice. Good stuff.

The Devils kicked off the scoring with Hischier scoring his 13th of the year at 10:56 of the first period with assists to Sami Vatanen and Kinkaid on the power play. It came while Brett Pesce was off for holding and came when Kinkaid settled the puck down for Vatanen at the side of the Devils net. Vatanen hit Hischier in stride behind the Canes defense. He lost the puck momentarily in his skates, but was able to kick it, soccer-style to his stick. He then roofed one top shelf on Ward to give the Devils the 1-0 lead. And that is how it would be going into the first intermission, with the Devils up by a goal.

Overall, with the man advantage, the Devils were 1-for-3 with two shots and a 50-percent shooting percentage. Carolina was 0-for-3 with seven shots on net. While the Devils were a little bit more disciplined on the defensive side of things, taking less penalties and they did score on the power play for the first time in forever, it is a little bit troubling that they generated so few shots. There is still work to be done on the power play as a whole, for sure.

The Canes would tie things up 6:05 into the second frame when Teuvo Teravainen scored from Victor Rask and Trevor van Riemsdyk. That knotted things at one apiece.

But, at the 15:33 mark of the second, the Devils would retake the lead. John Moore had just come out of the penalty box after serving a holding call. He immediately intercepted an errant Carolina pass and broke in with Pavel Zacha and Kyle Palmieri on a 3-on-1. Moore found Zacha at the far wing and fed him. Zacha immediately sniped one into the open side of the net to make it 2-1 Devils.

And that is where it would remain at the end of two periods, with the Devils up by a goal.

That is also where it would stand as we ticked down to about 2:30 remaining in regulation. It was then that Carolina coach Bill Peters pulled Ward for the extra skater. It was a gamble, pulling the goalie that early, but the Hurricanes had been pinning the Devils in their own zone all night at times. This was evidenced by the high shot total for the Canes.

That gamble would pay off, as Jeff Skinner took a slap pass from Jaccob Slavin and put it behind Kinkaid at the 18:42 mark of the third to tie things up at two. Pesce had the secondary assist. Suddenly, it seemed the Devils allowing Carolina too much zone time was coming back to bite them.

Carolina had made a dramatic comeback, but the Devils could challenge that Pesce was offside on the play, since there was more than a minute left in the game. The staff looked at the evidence, however, and decided that they would not get a favoable call. They did not challenge.

So it was off to overtime, which was a typical 4-on-4 back-and-forth chess game of puck possession. Until the clock wound down to show 23 seconds remaining in the OT period. It was then that Taylor Hall took center stage. Vatanen wound the puck around the boards deep in the Canes’ zone to Palmieri. He took it and skated towards the net for a wraparound. Not finding anything he liked there, he kind of wound back towards the blue line to relieve the pressure. That also allowed Hall time to wind back into the neutral zone, gain a head of steam and come charging into the back of the play. Palmieri peeled around and hit Hall with a nice pass as he crossed the blue line. Hall skated in alone on Ward, shot and was able to jam his own rebound five hole to give the Devils the miraculous 3-2 win and extend his personal point scoring streak.

It was a great play that showed a lot of patience and poise from both Hall and Palmieri.

Although they may have given a point up to the Hurricanes, they also were able to put some distance between themselves and the Canes and Islanders, two of the teams (along with Columbus) directly below them in the playoff hunt. Also, by not getting the win in a shootout, they got a crucial ROW (regulation overtime win) – which serves as a tie breaker in the standings. Both the Devils and Philly have 70 points at the moment, but the Flyers have more ROWs, putting them in third place in the division while the Devils sit in the first wildcard spot.

Stats-wise, John Moore led in ice time with 23:55 while shots were led by Hall (four), hits were a tie between Boyle and Coleman (five each), Moore and Greene led in blocks (four each) while Hall and Zajac led in takeaways (three each). The Devils were not very good in the faceoff circle, winning a paltry 28-percent of the game’s draws.

So next up, the Devils return home and will get another shot at the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday. The Jackets put the hurt on them pretty bad last week. This would be another good opportunity to put some padding between them and a playoff contender in the Metro Division. This will be another crucial game and test for the Devils coming up on Tuesday.

Thanks for reading and, as always, if you enjoyed this post, please follow us on Twitter @LGDevilsNet, email us (look for the email in the “About” section on the main page) or simply leave a comment below.

The photo of Taylor Hall at the top of this post is from Karl B. DeBlaker/Associated Press

Devils Hang on to Defeat High-Powered Bolts

While it snows here in New Jersey, the Devils traveled to warm, sunny Florida to take on the NHL-best Tampa Bay Lightning in their only trip to Tampa this season. The Devils were able to hang on for a 4-3 victory that was as big a win as they have had all season.

The Devils sort of have the Bolts’ number this year, beating them in their other meeting, way back on October 17 in Newark, in a shootout. In the time since, the Lightning have had their way with the rest of the league, currently leading in the President’s Trophy race for the best overall record in the NHL. But this was the Devils’, or more specifically, Eddie Lack’s, night.

The Devils goaltender turned away a career high 48 shots as the Lightning blasted 51 on his net. Lack got the start primarily because the Devils play in Carolina tomorrow afternoon at 5 PM, a 22 hour turnaround between tonight and tomorrow. With that little time between games, you do not want to go with Keith Kinkaid for both. He also notched his first win as a Devil and first overall since November 13, when he was with Calgary. Lack would be named the game’s first star.

Opposing him was Tampa’s Andrei Vasilevskiy. He stopped 24 of 28 Devils shots. Less of a workload and the Devils were able to break through with goals when they needed to.

Some roster news for the Devils as John Quenneville has been placed on injured reserve retroactive to February 10. He is out with the knee injury. The Devils called up Blake Pietila from Binghamton, but he did not play as a healthy scratch. Brian Boyle remained a scratch with his shoulder injury. He may return to the lineup as soon as tomorrow’s game in Raleigh. Mirco Mueller was the other healthy scratch.

The Devils needed to stay out of the penalty box against a high powered offense like Tampa has, but were not successful on that front. Coach John Hynes said repeatedly in his postgame press conference that they did not stay disciplined, saying that he “was disappointed in their penalty discipline.” Tampa ended up 2-for-6 on the power play, getting a whopping 15 power play shots through to Lack. The Devils were 0-for-3 with four shots on goal. The Devils did a good job on the penalty kill, blocking shots and getting sticks in lanes. When that failed, Lack was phenomenal and helped the Devils cause as much as he could.

Chris O'Meara/Associated Press
Ben Lovejoy scored the opening goal of the game for New Jersey. Photo: Chris O’Meara/Associated Press

The Devils got on the board first, at 2:59 of the first period when Ben Lovejoy scored unassisted. It came when Lovejoy took a Lightning clearing attempt along the half wall and threw it on net. The puck squibbed by Vasilevskiy to make it 1-0 Devils. Lovejoy told Deb Placey during a first intermission interview that the players have been instructed to just get the puck on net when they were along the wall like that and he did so. He had a little bit of luck on his side however, as the puck had eyes and found its way into the back of the net.

Another former Pittsburgh Penguin would tie the game up for Tampa. Chris Kunitz, like Lovejoy he played for years with the Pens, winning three Stanley Cups there, took a perfect backhanded pass from Ryan Callahan at 12:41 and fired a nice shot that beat Lack to make it 1-1. That is where we would be come the first intermission. A good start for the Devils as they got out of the first period tied with a very good team.

But that good team would be given too many chances to score as the Devils beat a path to the penalty box. Early in the second, Sami Vatanen was called for holding Brayden Point. The Bolts would score with just seven seconds left on the power play. Point scored on a rebound as he crashed the net at 2:47 to put Tampa up 2-1. Yanni Gourde and Mikhail Sergachev had the assists.

The Devils, however, would not be deterred. Just 26 seconds after the Point goal, Nico Hischier would score to tie things up at two. It happened when Vatanen got the puck out of the Devils’ zone and to Taylor Hall. Hall made a nice move around a Tampa defender, jumping up with Hischier on a two-on-one. Hischier elected to shoot (something the coaches have been asking him to do more of) on the ensuing odd man rush, and beat Vasilevskiy stick side to tie the game up. Vatanen and Hall had the assists, extending Hall’s consecutive points streak to 17 games total and ten officially – the NHL counting the games that he missed with an injury in between the first seven game streak and this new streak against him.

Nico’s goal was also set up by a nice defensive play by Will Butcher, as he stood the Lightning up at the Devils blue line as they broke in on a two-on-one to give the Devils possession of the puck in the first place.

At 4:54, the Devils would again find themselves in penalty trouble. Miles Wood hit a vulnerable Vladislav Namestnikov and got a boarding call out of it. Andrej Sustr took exception and the two started jostling, leading to matching roughing calls for Wood and Sustr. With the initial boarding call, though, New Jersey was going on the PK.

But things would work out for them. At 6:27, Pavel Zacha put in a shorthanded goal from Vatanen and Lovejoy to give the Devils the 3-2 lead. It happened when the Devils caught Tampa in a bad line change after circling the puck back to center to buy time. Vatanen hit Zacha with a nice pass through the neutral zone and he and Blake Coleman broke in on a two-on-one. Zacha took the shot himself, beating Vasilevskiy to the stick side to regain the lead for the Devils.

The Devils killed off the rest of the penalty and things seemed to really be going their way. An “oh boy” moment occurred when Hall seemed to score midway through the second period. The red light came on briefly but the goal was immediately waved off by the on-ice officials. Replay did show that the shot bounced off of Tampa’s Anton Stralman and off the far post, never crossing the goal line. It was the correct call, even if a little bit disappointing for Devils fans.

The Devils got out of the second with the lead and things were beginning to point in the direction that they could actually pull this off. Things looked even more like that when Wood scored just 1:24 into the third frame. That one came when Vasilevskiy made two great saves, the second a nice reaction save on Travis Zajac in front. The puck was directed to the near corner, where Stefan Noesen won a puck battle to gain control. He centered to Wood in the slot. Wood beat Vasilevskiy as the goalie was moving side-to-side to square up to his shot. That made it 4-2 Devils and seemed to ice the game for New Jersey.

But against a team like the Bolts, that is never true. Especially when the Devils are taking as many penalties as they did in this game. With Kyle Palmieri in the box for tripping, it only took 12 seconds for the Lightning power play to notch one. Steven Stamkos (who drew the penalty) scored from Victor Hedman and Nikita Kucherov 5:15 into the third period. That would set up a dramatic finish.

With Tampa down by one, coach Jon Cooper would pull Vasilevskiy with just under two minutes left in the game. With the Bolts with the extra skater, it was a shooting gallery on Lack. But he came through, making the big saves when he was most needed and preserving the Devils’ 4-3 win.

Stats-wise, Vatanen led in ice time with 25:25. Wood led in shots on goal by a wide margin with six, doubling up Zajac and Noesen, who had the second most with three each. Noesen did lead in hits with three while Andy Greene led in blocked shots with four. Hischier was the leader in takeaways with three while the Devils won 53-percent of their faceoffs, a feat without Boyle – one of their strongest faceoff guys.

Eddie Lack played the game of his career for the Devils, making 48 saves. Photo: Chris O’Meara/Associated Press

So don’t look now, but the Devils have won three in a row and are creating some breathing room for themselves in the wildcard race. Next up they have a big showdown with the Hurricanes again tomorrow with the puck drop at 5 PM. Carolina has lost two straight (the Devils game and then the following night against the Islanders). Hopefully the Devils can keep up the momentum and this early start will play into their hands.

As always, if you enjoyed this post, please follow us on Twitter @LGDevilsNet, email us (the email can be found in the “About” section on the main page), or simply leave a comment below. All photos in this article credited to Chris O’Meara/Associated Press.

Devils Drop Narrow One to Flames

The Devils have dropped their second straight, this one to the Calgary Flames by a score of 3-2. Calgary’s stars showed up with Sean Monahan scoring two goals and Johnny Gaudreau scoring once.

The Devils finally ditched the eleven forwards/seven defensemen for a more traditional twelve forwards/six d-men lineup. Coach John Hynes had said that they would run with it as long as it was working. It apparently stopped working in Ottawa. John Quenneville, who was called up from Binghamton late last week, finally got the nod as he was in the lineup. He finished with two shots and two hits in 13:51 of total ice time in his NHL season debut.

Jimmy Hayes and Mirco Mueller were the healthy scratches while Cory Schneider is still sitting out injured.

In goal, Eddie Lack did not get to start against his old team. He had told Andrew Gross of the The Record that he had wanted to go against his old team and that playing time played a part in him wanting to be traded from the Calgary organization. Keith Kinkaid got right back on it after being pulled Tuesday at the Senators. He stopped 22 of 25 Calgary shots. For the Flames, David Rittich stopped 30 of the 32 shots he faced.

After a scoreless first period, Monahan got his first of the game at the 4:16 mark of the second period off a feed from Dougie Hamilton. Mark Giordano had the secondary assist on the goal that would put the Flames up 1-0.

The Devils, however, would respond just over three minutes later at the 7:23 mark when Taylor Hall extended his points scoring streak to twelve games. It happened when Drew Stafford smoked the puck out on the forecheck, allowing Hall to grab a clearing attempt, shoot and then score on his own rebound. His goal came unassisted and tied the game at one.

From there, however, the rest of the scoresheet in the second was dominated by the Flames. Gaudreau scored from Michael Ferland at 14:33 to put Calgary up 2-1 and then Monahan scored his second on what was the game winner at 18:05. That one came from Gaudreau and TJ Brodie and made the score 3-1.

In the third period, the Devils would mount a comeback. It began as Travis Hamonic took a high sticking penalty at 6:49 putting New Jersey on the power play. With the extra man, Pavel Zacha would score an absolutely beautiful goal at 7:23. It occurred when Hall pushed the puck into the Flames’ zone to Brian Boyle. Boyle took it and went down low with it. From behind the net he found Zacha camped out in the slot. Zacha took the pass on his forehand, swung around to his backhand and shot the puck between his legs and past Rittich to make it 3-2. A nice one that has to be seen to be believed.

The Devils would finish the game 1-for-2 on the power play with two shots. New Jersey played a clean game with Calgary not getting any power play opportunities.

Kinkaid would be pulled with just over a minute left in the game and, despite a few key faceoffs won (the Devils won exactly 50-percent of the game’s faceoffs) in the Flames’ zone, the Devils were unable to beat Rittich a third time and time ran out on their comeback leaving the final as 3-2.

With the team now back to a normal lineup and Taylor Hall no longer being as aggressively double shifted as he was the last few games, Andy Greene led the way in ice time with 20:50. He narrowly beat out Sami Vatanen, who logged 20:28. Shots on goal saw Hall, Nico Hischier, Miles Wood and John Moore each lead with four. Blake Coleman, Travis Zajac and Stafford led in hits with three apiece. Greene led in blocked shots with three.

In one other item of note from today, the Devils also traded Binghamton Devil Viktor Loov to the Minnesota Wild for Chistoph Bertschy and Mario Lucia. Bertschy and Lucia were playing for the AHL’s Iowa Wild and will be assigned to Binghamton.

Bertschy is a 23-year-old native of Fribourg, Switzerland and has one NHL appearance under his belt with the Wild. Lucia, 24-years-old, of Fairbanks, Alaska has yet to appear at the NHL level.

Next up, the Devils travel Saturday night for the first half of a back-to-back against divisional rival the Columbus Blue Jackets. This is a big game to get them back in the winning column and to take two crucial points against a Metro Division foe. Hopefully they can get back on track by then. See you Saturday right here.

Devils Win Fourth Straight, Drop Blackhawks at Home

The Devils have reached the mandatory Christmas break in their National Hockey League season and the question now has been “are they for real?” Well, after a pretty convincing 4-1 win over a Chicago Blackhawk team that is still one of the best in the league, the answer to that question is inching closer and closer to “yes.”

With 30 of 31 teams in action across the NHL tonight, the Devils could also, with a loss by Washington (who were playing Vegas tonight), be in first place in the Metropolitan Division by the end of play this evening. More on that later.

The Devils got some good news from a roster perspective tonight. Jesper Bratt was back in the lineup after missing just one game. Unfortunately, by the end of the night, the Devils would be without both Brian Boyle and Kyle Palmieri. The two, who both scored goals tonight, left the game with injuries. Palmieri began the night playing primarily on the top line with Nico Hischier and Taylor Hall. New Jersey would be down to ten forwards for the game by the end of the night. The healthy scratches were Jimmy Hayes, Ben Lovejoy, Dalton Prout and Drew Stafford.

Goaltending tonight saw Cory Schneider make another start for the Devils. He made 39 saves on 40 Chicago shots and was named the game’s first star. On the other side of the coin was the Blackhawks. Corey Crawford got the start for Hawks, making four saves on seven shots faced. He was chased for only the second time this season (the other time was November 12 against the Devils when New Jersey had that big comeback at United Center) in the first period and gave way to Anton Forsberg. Forsberg made 21 saves on 22 shots faced.

Devils coach John Hynes was hoping that the team settled down following their emotional win over the Rangers on Thursday. That was a big win and the team did not want to get too far ahead of themselves before the holiday break.

Their answer? Come out strong in the first period and bombard the Blackhawks. It started just 2:48 into the game when Boyle notched his tenth of the year unassisted. That came when Boyle intercepted a Hawks clearing attempt at the blue line and fired on net. Blake Coleman was acting as a screen in front and the shot found the back of the net to make it 1-0 Devils just like that.

The next goal was a bit of an odd one and turned out to be the game winner. It also came on the power play being set up when Hawks captain Jonathan Toews was called for slashing at 9:13 of the first. On the man advantage, Travis Zajac won the first faceoff in the Hawks’ zone back to pointman Will Butcher. He went to the other point (Taylor Hall), who passed down low to Kyle Palmieri. Palmieri looked like he was going to fake a shot and slap pass to Boyle, who was open on the other side of the net. However, Palmieri’s pass banked in off of the Chicago defenseman’s skate and in, giving the Devils a 2-0 lead at the 9:20 mark. It was Palmieri’s first goal since November 11 – but he has been injured a lot this season.

On the power play for the evening, the Devils were perfect, 1-for-1 with one shot. Their power play shooting percentage was a perfect 100-percent. Chicago was 0-for-2 with three shots. But that is little surprise as they are also 1-for-31 as a team in their last handful of games.

So Palmieri was able to get a goal, ending a long drought for him, but there was a longer drought on the team that needed to end. Pavel Zacha put that to rest when he scored at the 13:22 mark of the first to make it 3-0. It came when Butcher passed out of the Devils’ zone to Zacha. Zacha skated the puck through the neutral zone and dropped for Miles Wood at the far end of the blue line. Wood passed across to Butcher at the near point. He hit Stefan Noesen coming down through the slot. Noesen went wide, drawing Crawford out, as he had to respect Noesen’s shot. Noesen then passed back into the slot to Zacha, who ripped a shot stick side by Crawford to make triple the Devils lead.

The period ended with a scrap between John Hayden, who was trying to spark something for the Hawks and Steven Santini, who was more than happy to oblige. It was won by Hayden and was the first of two fights on the night. The other was between Ryan Hartman and Damon Severson that ended in a draw.

New Jersey had played a picture perfect first period, but were in for a bit of a shock in the second period. Chicago would come roaring out of the gate. In the end, they unloaded a single-period season high 22 shots on Cory and were able to cut the lead to 3-1 Devils when Patrick Kane scored at 17:18 of the second from Jan Rutta and Gustav Forsling. It was Kane’s 300th NHL goal, a great milestone for him and seemed to be setting up a Blackhawks comeback, as the shoe was on the other foot from their meeting last month in Chicago.

But it was not to be for the Hawks. The Devils had weathered the storm of the second period and were ready for the third. Just 2:02 in, Hall was sprung by Wood on a breakaway and used an inside out move to beat Forsberg to make it 4-1. The Wood pass was set up by a great poke check by Butcher just inside the Devils blue line.

Jesper Bratt had the chance to give the Devils a 5-1 lead when he was awarded a penalty shot after being hauled down on a partial break by Jordan Oesterle at the 12:38 mark of the third. He was stopped, however.

With a minute left in the game, Sami Vatanen was called for delay of game for shooting the puck over the glass, giving Chicago a power play to end the game, but it would not matter. The Devils came away with the two points and would wind up in first place by the end of the night in the Metro Division, as the Captials lost to the Golden Knights in Vegas. The Rangers also lost to the Maple Leafs, giving the Devils some breathing room there, however the Islanders did beat the Jets, so there are always teams keeping pace.

Cory Schneider was the game’s first star, as mentioned. Butcher was the second star and Hall the third. Andy Greene led the team in ice time with 22:02 while Noesen led the team in shots with five. Santini led in hits with four and Greene also led in blocked shots with five. The Devils, who played a good first period, a lousy second and a good third, won 51-percent of the game’s faceoffs.

So the Devils, who are on a five game home winning streak will continue their homestand on Wednesday, December 27 against the Detroit Red Wings. In the meantime is the Christmas holiday break as the Devils get three days to rest and recoup. Hopefully they will be able to keep their good play intact coming out of the break.

Happy holidays and a very merry Christmas to everyone!

Devils Double Up Toronto, 6-3 to Move Record to 3-0-0

The Devils rolled into Air Canada Centre in Toronto to take on a high-octane offensive Maple Leafs team that had the weapons to annihilate the Devils in a track meet. It was their first night game following two afternoon matinees and Leafs’ coach Mike Babcock thought that with two young, speedy teams, this one should be a good one.

In the end, though, it was the Devils who came away with the 6-3 win and the Devils who showed the offensive onslaught in the face of spending a lot of time in the penalty box. The Devils came into the game having scored ten goals on the year while the Maple Leafs had 19. For Toronto, that was their most goals to start a year (through three games) since 1917 when they were known as the Toronto Arenas.

But the Devils were riding high thanks to players like Jesper Bratt who, with five points in his first two games, set a team record. Other New Jersey Devils history would be made tonight, more on that later.

Injury-wise, Kyle Palmieri was back in the lineup, he did not want to miss what broadcaster Deb Placey was saying felt like a big game feel in October. Drew Stafford is still day-to-day with a lower body injury, he hopes to be able to go for Washington on Friday. Ben Lovejoy and Dalton Prout were the healthy scratches for New Jersey.

To the highlights, as there were a lot of them in a 6-3 game. New Jersey-native James van Riemsdyk gave the Maple Leafs the early 1-0 lead at the 8:33 mark of the first period while on the power play. Brian Gibbons had gone off for slashing at 7:24. Mitch Marner and Morgan Rielly had the assists on van Riemsdyk’s third of the season.

But just as the public address announcer was letting the crowd know about that one, Miles Wood would tie things up. At 9:07, Jimmy Hayes kept the puck in the Leafs’ zone, off a strong forecheck from Wood, and rolled it around to Will Butcher. Butcher slid it across to Steven Santini who fired a puck on net that was tipped in by Wood to tie things at one.

Wood followed that up by giving the Devils the lead just a minute and a half or so later. That one came when Adam Henrique chipped one up towards Wood and it was mishandled by Leafs’ defenseman Calle Rosen. Wood grabbed the puck and beat Toronto goaltender Frederik Andersen on the ensuing breakaway. It was 2-1 Devils. Will Butcher had the secondary assist on the play, giving him two points already on the night. Wood would go on to be named the game’s second star of the night by the media.

At the 11:30 mark of the first, Stefan Noesen took offense to a hit by a Leaf on his teammate and went after Matt Martin. They fought and Noesen would end up with the extra instigator penalty plus a misconduct. The Devils killed off the ensuing Toronto power play.

Dominic Moore of the Maple Leafs tied things up at 13:33 of the first to make it 2-2 going into the first break. He got assists from Nikita Zaitsev and Ron Hainsey.

The second period was when the Devils really got rolling. First, at 8:15. van Riemsdyk was called for slashing and the Devils got a look at a power play. With the extra attacker, Pavel Zacha connected for his first goal of the season at the 9:58 mark. It happened when Marcus Johansson sent the puck to the far point and Jesper Bratt fumbled it, but made a nice play to keep it in the zone and the play alive. Bratt skated deep and played catch with Johansson, who returned him the puck and then played tic-tac-toe to Zacha in the slot. Zahca buried a nice pass from Bratt and it was 3-2 Devils on the power play goal.

History would be made as the Devils made it a 4-2 score. It began at the 14:44 mark when John Moore was nabbed for a cross check against Tyler Bozak at the same time Zacha went off for hooking Rielly. The Devils had a full two minute 5-on-3 power play to kill off, but Brian Gibbons would see to that. Just ten seconds into the penalty kill, Adam Henrique won a faceoff deep in the Devils’ zone. Andy Greene went to clear it and banged it off the boards to Henrique. Henrique charged in with Gibbons on a 2-on-2 Gibbons shot home Henrique’s rebound to give the Devils a 4-2 lead on a very rare 5-on-3 shorthanded goal. How rare? The NHL began to keep this stat in 1987-88 and the Devils had never done this in the regular season. MSG Network statisticians would confirm that it had never happened in the team’s history in the regular season (since 1982-83) until tonight.

The Devils had actually turned the trick once before: in the 2000 playoffs, Scott Niedermayer scored a shorty while killing a 5-on-3 against the Florida Panthers. But this was the first time it happened in the team’s regular season history. The Devils would also kill off the rest of the 5-on-3 power play.

Going into the third period with the lead, the Devils would look to add to it. They did when, at 3:35, Blake Coleman struck unassisted. It happened when Coleman intercepted a Leafs clearing attempt off of a faceoff win deep in their zone. Coleman then shot from the top of the slot, beating Andersen under the left pad using Noesen as a screen. The Devils now had the 5-2 lead. Although the goal was officially unassisted, Gibbons did a good job pressuring the Leafs, forcing them into the interception and leading to the goal.

It was 5-2, but again the Devils went to the penalty box. This time Will Butcher was called for high-sticking at 12:22 and Santini went off at 12:59 for delay of game. The Devils had another 5-on-3 to kill, but would not be as lucky this time. Auston Matthews made them pay at 13:34 with assists to William Nylander and Patrick Marleau. That cut the lead to 5-3. On the night, Toronto was 2-for-8 on the power play. The Devils were 1-for-5.

But the Devils had one more in them to put the game out of reach. Pavel Zacha, the game’s first star, at 17:21 of the third, won a faceoff deep in the Toronto zone back to John Moore. Moore snapped one that Zacha tipped by Andersen to put the icing on the cake, 6-3.

And that was it. Cory Schneider played a fantastic game, keeping the Devils in it as he stopped 47 of 50 Toronto shots. The Leafs had a lot of power play time, leading to that gaudy shot total, but Cory kept the puck out of the net and was named the game’s third star of the night. Andersen made 25 saves on 31 Devils’ shots.

Next up, Friday the 13th. The Devils return home to take on the Washington Capitals in yet another test for a team that is 3-0-0 for the first time since three seasons ago (Pete DeBoer’s final year in New Jersey). We will find out then if the team is up for the challenge of Alex Ovechkin’s crew.

Devils Blow Out Sens; Shut Out by Isles

It was a tale of two games for the Devils tonight. They played two split-squad games, one at Summerside, Prince Edward Island in the Kraft Hockeyville Canada game against the Ottawa Senators and one that started an hour later at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York against the New York Islanders. They came away 1-1 on the night, beating the Senators 8-1 and losing to the Islanders, 3-0.

Now, obviously, the Devils had their “A” team playing at the Credit Union Place in PEI while the “JV,” so to speak, was playing down the North American coast in Brooklyn. But both games showed some very interesting things for fans to take in and digest.

Full disclosure: I did not get to see the game in Canada due to it being blacked out regionally down here on the NHL Network. I am again going by what I could scrounge up from the Internet. I did get to see the Islander game, as it was televised locally on MSG+, however.

Let’s start with the good news, shall we? The Devils defeated the Sens, 8-1 after jumping out to a 5-0 lead in the first period. According to Amanda Stein on the Devils’ website in her “10 Takeaways” column, Marcus Johansson scored “less than two minutes into the game.” She also said that Johansson had four points on the night, as he also had three assists.

Drew Stafford, Pavel Zacha and John Quenneville each had two goals for John Hynes’ squad while Nico Hischier also added one to give the Devils the boost. The Devils had a 7-0 lead when Mike Condon was relieved in goal by Andrew Hammond (a preseason thing, he was not chased, apparently).

Speaking of the goaltenders, Cory Schneider played the whole game and made 20 saves on 21 shots faced.

Meanwhile, in New York….

Geoff Ward was coaching the Devils’ “B” team and things did not go as smoothly against the Islanders. They fell 3-0, falling into some penalty trouble and being smothered in the shots on goal department.

Keith Kinkaid, the Long Island-native, made the start and played the entire game for New Jersey. He made 42 saves on 44 shots against. With an empty net goal, the Islanders would finish with 45 shots on goal. For New York, Thomas Greiss started and also played the whole game. He made 25 saves in the Islanders’ shut out win.

The Islanders took the early lead just 1:11 into the game when Brock Nelson scored from Josh Ho-Sang and Johnny Boychuk. Just that suddenly, it was 1-0 Isles and that was all they needed.

At the 12:02 mark of the first, the Devils’ Ben Thomson took on the Islanders’ Scott Mayfield in a good scrap that brought some energy to the game.

Then, at the 13:54 mark of the first, Joseph Blandisi was called for slashing, a not uncommon sight in this preseason with the crackdown on slashing, and the Islanders went on the power play. Mathew Barzal would score a nice goal, using his speed to slice through the Devils defense and making a good move around Kinkaid to give the Isles a 2-0 lead. John Tavares had the lone assist on the goal. That goal made New York 1-for-6 on the power play while the Devils finished the night 0-for-1.

Late in the first period, a scary moment occurred when Michael McLeod of the Devils was helped off of the ice with an apparent leg injury. He was favoring his left leg and would not return.

The Devils’ best period was the second when they actually outshot New York and really tested Greiss. They missed on a 3-on-1 late in the period and he stopped Jimmy Hayes on a nice chance late in the period too.

The Devils would pull Kinkaid with a little over a minute left in the game and Johnny Boychuk would score the empty netter from Nikolay Kulemin and Cal Clutterbuck to put the game away at 18:41.

In the end, the Devils were outshot 45 to 25 and lost 52-percent of their faceoffs. But those were the only places where the Devils were outplayed on the stat sheet. They out hit the Islanders, 29 to 24, had 15 blocked shots to 13 for New York and only gave away the puck four times to the Isles’ 11.

In the end, despite losing in Brooklyn (and getting blanked to boot), the Devils outscored their opponents on the night, 8-4, which is a good sign for the big squad and gives Devils fans some optimism as they head into the season. They just may have opened some eyes in Canada.

Next up, the Devils head south to Washington on Wednesday for their final game of the preseason. That game will be televised on MSG+ and we will have a recap here for you.

Devils Fall in OT to Rangers in Second Preseason Game

The Devils ventured across the Hudson River to Madison Square Garden to take on the rival Rangers in the team’s second preseason game of the year. It was a good matchup, marred by a choppy flow that came from the officials calling everything and anything and in the end, the Rangers came away with the 4-3 overtime victory.

Kevin Shattenkirk was making his Rangers debut tonight with the highly hyped free agent suiting up for the Blueshirts in the first time at MSG. The Devils were not dressing Nico Hischier or Will Butcher. New signee Drew Stafford and captain Andy Greene slotted in instead.

The goaltending matchup saw Cory Schneider make his first preseason start. He made 14 saves on 17 shots in 30:16 of ice time. He looked good, making two post-to-post stops in close that stood out. Opposing him for the first half of the game was the Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist, who made 11 saves on 13 shots in 30:09 of time on ice. Their relief for the second half of the game saw Mackenzie Blackwood come in for New Jersey, going 11-for-12 in 34:35 while New York put out Alexandar Georgiev who was 15-for-16 in 34:08.

The major story from this game were the new rule changes and how they were being called. Faceoff infractions were the main thing here. Two faceoff infractions on one faceoff now results in a delay of game penalty, and the linesmen are being more strict with what they are calling as infractions. For instance, if a player’s skate crosses over the line that runs in front of the faceoff dot in the circles, an infraction can be called. If a player on the outside breaks into the circle too soon, an infraction can be called.

In the end, the Devils were 1-for-7 on the power play while the Rangers finished 2-for-9, including the game winner in OT with the man advantage. There were a few 5-on-3’s for both teams due to the nature of the officials calling everything they felt needed to be called.

The Rangers’ Kevin Hayes, whose brother, Jimmy, was in the Devils’ lineup tonight on a professional tryout (PTO), broke the seal on this one, scoring at 15:54 of the first period on the power play to give the Rangers the 1-0 lead. New York would take that lead into the first intermission. He got assists from Jimmy Vesey and Shattenkirk.

The Devils, however, would not take long to get that back. Just 4:11 into the second period, Miles Wood pushed the puck up to Stafford, who stopped along the far half wall in the Rangers zone, spun around and centered a pass to Pavel Zacha. The puck fluttered over to him and Zacha batted it out of the air and behind Lundqvist to tie the game at one.

But the Rangers would strike right back. Just 21 seconds after Zacha’s goal, Chris Kreider scored from Mats Zuccarello to put New York back in front, 2-1.

The back-and-forth nature of this game was evident when the Devils re-tied it at two at the 7:15 mark of the second. Stafford took the puck from Jimmy Hayes off the cycle on the power play. He left the puck for Brian Gibbons on a nice drop pass and Gibbons beat Lundqvist glove side to make it 2-2.

But once again, the Rangers had the answer with David Desharnais scoring from Shattenkirk and Kreider at 10:16 of the second to give the Rangers the 3-2 lead going into the second intermission.

The second period also featured a good scrap between the Devils’ Nick Lappin and Matt Puempel of the Rangers at the 13:00 mark.

The new faceoff infraction rules benefitted the Devils on the goal that would tie things up for them in the third period. After the Adam Henrique got kicked out of the faceoff circle, Jimmy Hayes came in to take the faceoff deep in the Rangers’ zone at the 3:20 mark of the third. Hayes won the faceoff back to Damon Severson, who ripped a shot as Hayes went towards the net. He tipped it past goaltender Georgiev to tie things up at three.

And that was it. The game went to the OT period tied at three. The Devils would get a good chance as Miles Wood was hauled down in the neutral zone and did not know that Pavel Zacha was coming in for the loose puck. He used his hand to try to get the puck to Zacha and was called for a hand pass. Zacha would have had a clear breakaway. Michael McLeod also made a nice kick save on a scramble in front of his own net when New York had a wide open net to shoot at.

Instead, it was Filip Chytil who scored with four seconds left in OT from Zuccarello and Shattenkirk on the power play to give the Rangers the 4-3 win.

Next up, the Devils play tomorrow night at Montreal. I do not think this one will be televised down here, but I will try to get something up if I can.

Devils Win Nail Biter over Isles

With a win tonight, the Devils could move within two points of their opponents, the New York Islanders in the Eastern Conference playoff race. They were able to come away with the win at the Prudential Center but it was not without some drama at the end.

Some relatively big trade news to talk about first as the Devils sent Sergey Kalinin to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for defenseman Viktor Loov. Kalinin had cleared waivers yesterday and was to be sent to Albany before the Leafs came calling. He will now report to the Toronto Marlies of the AHL while Loov will also report to the AHL, he will go to Albany.

This was the first meeting of the year between the Devils and Islanders, as it took almost three quarters of the season for New Jersey to meet their streaking Metro Division rivals. The Isles were in last place in the East this time last month. After the coaching change from Jack Capuano to Doug Weight, they have gone 9-3-2 and have surged up the board to the point where, if they had won tonight, regardless of what Toronto did in their game against Ottawa, the Islanders would have taken over the last playoff Wild Card spot currently occupied by the Leafs.

In some major lineup news, Michael Cammalleri, who is enduring an 18-game goal scoring drought, was a healthy scratch on the night. He joined Seth Helgeson in watching from the press box. The veteran has been having a rough go of it of late and the benching will hopefully get him back on track. He is a very streaky scorer, so maybe this will jumpstart him and get him going. Taking his place in the lineup was Devante Smith-Pelly, who would be skating on a line with Joseph Blandisi (who was playing center tonight) and Miles Wood. This line would play a big role in tonight’s game on the scoresheet.

The Islanders were without Travis Hamonic and Cal Clutterbuck (who are injured) and Adam Pelech and Shane Prince. Up for the Islanders was former Devil Stephen Gionta. Gionta would get a nice video tribute by the Devils on the big board at Prudential Center and a nice reception from the Devils faithful in his return.

The starting goaltenders were Thomas Greiss for the Islanders, who made 18 saves on 21 shots faced and Cory Schneider for the Devils. Cory made 40 saves on an amazing 42 shots faced from the Isles.

About four minutes in, Taylor Hall had a breakaway and was stopped by Greiss. Greiss was able to just get his stick on the puck and knock it off of Hall’s stick before he could get a shot off. This set the tone for the game right off of the bat.

The Devils would connect at the 7:10 mark of the first period when Devante Smith-Pelly took a pass from Travis Zajac that sprung him for a breakaway. He went to his backhand and slid the puck five hole by Greiss to make it 1-0 Devils. Jon Merrill had the secondary assist on the goal.

Cory Schneider made what would be a huge save for the Devils at the 8:10 mark of the first when he stopped John Tavares on a penalty shot. Zajac was called for a hook on a Tavares breakaway to set that up. Cory’s save would end up looming very big later on in the game for the Devils.

The Devils had a chance to double things up when former Islander PA Parenteau hit the post on New Jersey’s first power play of the evening. It was also in the first when the Isles got a bit of a scare as both Johnny Boychuk and Anders Lee left the game for them. They would both return for New York, however.

The second period featured a nice scrap between New York’s Scott Mayfield and the Devils’ Miles Wood. Wood’s father, Randy, played for the Islanders for five years. The fight was triggered after what was a clean hit on Brock Nelson.

The Devils would double their lead on the penalty kill. New Jersey’s Taylor Hall was called for roughing at 8:03 to put New York a man up. Adam Henrique just missed on a chance right before he grabbed the puck in the Devils zone and sped away on a two-on-one with Travis Zajac. He made a nice pass to Zajac, who ripped the puck by Greiss to make it 2-0 Devils at the 8:49 mark. The Devils had scored another shorthanded goal this year to double their lead. For the game, New York went 0-for-3 on the power play while the Devils were 1-for-2.

That power play goal would come at the 6:21 mark of the third. Pavel Zacha had that one when the Devils zig-zagged the puck through the Isles’ penalty kill. It started at the far point with Damon Severson, who side across to Parenteau. He went back across to the top of the far faceoff circle to Zacha, who fired a shot just over Greiss’ shoulder and under the crossbar stickside to make it 3-0 Devils.

From there, the Islanders began their comeback. Andrew Ladd scored at 8:58 of the third from Calvin de Haan to make it 3-1. The Devils challenged this goal for goalie interference, alleging that Tavares had bumped Schneider and kept him from being able to make the save. The call on the ice and from Toronto was a goal and that was where it stood after the review. The review showed that it was actually Andy Greene who got caught up with Cory, impeding him from making the save.

Anthony Beauvillier of the Islanders would score to make it 3-2 Devils at 13:48 from Alan Quine and Boychuk. Things were beginning to get even tenser.

At the 16:57 mark of the third, Henrique was called for cross checking Tavares in front of the Devils net. The Islanders would pull Greiss with about 1:30 left in the game and about 25 seconds left on that power play (giving them a brief 6-on-4 man advantage). But the Devils stood pat and Kyle Palmieri even blocked a big shot with seconds left before the Islanders shot themselves in the foot with consecutive offside calls. Time ran out and the Devils came away with the 3-2 victory.

Next up the Islanders, but this time at the Barclays Center. The Devils travel to Brooklyn trying to take two straight from New York in what should be a very tense playoff-like battle. The Isles are 8-0-2 in their last ten at home and the Devils have been a very good road team all season long. As MSG play-by-play man Steve Cangialosi put it: something has got to give.