The Devils traveled to Sunrise, Florida – the site of their opening night OT loss – still looking to pick up road win number one. They would leave with some mixed feelings. On the one hand, they battled back from a two goal deficit to earn a point and force overtime again against a tough Panthers team. On the other hand, they ended up losing the game 4-3 in the extra session again.
The Devils came into the contest having played two fewer games than Florida, but having more points than the Cats. A good sign to be sure, but the Devils had still not won a game on the road in OT or regulation (losing in Florida in OT, Tampa in regulation and Boston in regulation) something they would like to get corrected as soon as possible.
Cory Schneider would get the nod in goal for the Devils, making 27 saves on 31 Panthers shots. He would not get to face his friend and former Vancouver Canucks teammate, Roberto Luongo tonight, as Florida opted to go with James Reimer, the former Maple Leaf and Shark. He made 31 saves and faced a total of 34 Devils shots.
Special teams played a big role in the game for the Devils. Florida would get their first chance on the power play 11:37 into the first period when a close boarding call was missed by the officials on the Panthers. Kyle Palmieri came to the aid of his fallen teammate and ended up sitting two minutes for roughing against Mark Pysyk.
Florida would connect on the ensuing man advantage when Aaron Ekblad scored from Keith Yandle and Jonathan Marchessault at 12:58. The Panthers were up 1-0.
Penalty trouble again reared its ugly head when Pavel Zacha went off for high-sticking against Vincent Trocheck at 5:05. On that power play, Denis Malgin, a Swiss player who played in Switzerland with Auston Matthews, scored his second of the season from Jason Demers and Colton Sceviour at 6:44 to double the Panthers’ lead 2-0. This was right around the time that Taylor Hall and Devante Smith-Pelly just missed on an odd man rush the other way as Smith-Pelly cut in just a little bit tight to the post and could not put the pass just in front of him home.
But the Devils power play would strike back. Gregg McKegg tripped Vernon Fiddler at 16:44 and the Devils’ power play unit went to work. At 18:04, Taylor Hall gave the puck to Damon Severson at the point; he passed to Kyle Palmieri at the top of the near faceoff circle, who fired with the rebound coming out to Travis Zajac, who put the puck home for his fourth of the year. The Devils had cut the lead in half to 2-1. The second period would end with Cory making a huge stop and cover up with 2.6 seconds left on the clock.
Overall, the Devils had their chances, going 1-for-5 on the power play. Florida made better use of their time with the extra man, going 2-for-3.
The third period was a wild one, as Cory picked up where he left off, making some big saves early off of a scramble in front. But, at 4:29, Vincent Trocheck would give the Cats a 3-1 lead when Jaromir Jagr came off the bench to join the play and set up Trocheck’s goal. Pysyk had the secondary assist.
The Devils were now behind the proverbial eight ball, but answered right back when Nick Lappin dumped the puck into the Panthers’ zone, John Moore picked it up down low and fed a cutting PA Parenteau at 4:49 to cut the Florida lead to 3-2. Moore and Lappin, both Illinois natives, were on a high after the Chicago Cubs thrilling victory in last night’s game seven of the World Series.
But the Devils had a game of their own to win tonight. And Pavel Zacha would help them take that step. Zacha, playing in his ninth NHL game, will not be returned to the Sarnia Sting of the OHL, his junior team and will not be sent down to the AHL’s Albany Devils. His entry level contract kicked in with his ninth game and he will likely stay with the NHL club.
And he would score his first NHL goal in this game, the game tier at 16:05 of the third period. It happened when Beau Bennett made a nice move to gain the Panthers’ zone and fed it to a cutting Zacha. He buried it behind Reimer and the game was tied at three. Damon Severson had the secondary assist. Congratulations to Zacha on his achievement and hoping there are many more where that came from.
Time would eventually expire and the Devils would earn the one point. With the game heading to overtime, New Jersey would look to avenge their opening night loss to the Panthers.
And they had some looks. Taylor Hall had a breakaway early in the extra session, but was stopped by Reimer. Eventually, Trocheck was able to hammer home an extra chance on a shot, giving him the game winning goal. Reilly Smith had the assist on the game winner.
The Devils have gained a point in each game that they have given up the first goal this season so far.
Next up, New Jersey heads up to central Florida on Saturday to Tampa to take on the Lightning. The Devils handled the Bolts the last time they met, at Prudential Center. That was after a hard OT loss to the Blackhawks the night before. Will the Devils respond similarly on Saturday? We will find out then.