Clowe Named Head Coach of ECHL’s Growlers

Not sure how this slipped under my radar, but I wanted to get this in on the site. Back on June 20, the Newfoundland Growlers, an expansion team in the ECHL that will serve as an affiliate of the Toronto Maple Leafs, annouced Ryane Clowe as their first head coach.

Clowe is a Newfoundland native and spent the last two seasons coaching with the Devils on John Hynes’ staff. He retired from NHL competition back in 2016 following battles with concussions.

He was looking to get deeper into coaching and this is a great opportunity for him as a head coach. The Maple Leafs said in a press release on June 20 that he would be attending “the Maple Leafs development camp next week as well as training camp with the Maple Leafs and Marlies in September.”

Both Clowe and new Leafs GM Kyle Dubas thanked Devils GM Ray Shero and Hynes as well as the Devils organization for allowing Clowe to pursue this opportunity with the Growlers, who will play out of St. John’s, Newfoundland. Clowe was grateful for the Devils giving him an opportunity to get his feet wet as a coach in the NHL.

Clowe’s connection to the area (he “was recently inducted into the Newfoundland and Labrador Hockey Hall of Fame” according to the press release) and the aptitude that he has shown for coaching in his short time behind the bench for the Devils made him a natural fit as he begins his climb up the ladder to try to land a National Hockey League coaching gig.

Clowe, 35, is the second assistant coach to move on from the Devils in about a month. Assistant Geoff Ward joined Bill Peters’ staff in Calgary back in May.

Congratulations to Ryane Clowe as he begins this next chapter of his professional career.

Lamoriello Will Not Return as GM of Leafs

A little off the Devils track here, but some news out today that the Toronto Maple Leafs will not bring back Lou Lamoriello as General Manager for next season.

Lou, who won the Stanley Cup three times with the Devils (1995, 2000 and 2003) while serving as New Jersey’s GM for 28 years, held the position in Toronto for three seasons. In that time, the Leafs won the 2016 Draft Lottery, going on to pick Auston Matthews first overall in the subsequent Draft.

With Matthews, they would make the playoffs in both 2017 and 2018, losing in the first round in 2017 to the Washington Capitals (and a series ending goal by Marcus Johansson) and this year to the Boston Bruins.

The press release mentioned that this season, the Leafs finished third in the Atlantic Division with a team-record 49 wins (106 points).

Team President and Alternate Governor (and former Devils player who was drafted by Lamoriello), Brendan Shanahan said: “I would like to take this opportunity to thank Lou for his tireless work over the last three years as general manager. His leadership in helping establish a cultural foundation, as well as his invaluable mentorship to everyone in this organization, has been instrumental in our development.”

Lamoriello, who is now 75-years-old, singed a contract with the Maple Leafs three years ago that would see him serve as GM for three years and then “transition to senior adviser (sic) for the following four years.” according to Shanahan via the press release. Shanahan will begin looking for the team’s next GM immediately.

How this pertains to the Devils directly is more, now that Lamoriello is serving in an advisory role with the Leafs, will he be available to come back to Prudential Center and be honored in some way? That may be via a banner in the rafters, or more likely, in the Ring of Honor.

The Devils held off on inducting anyone into the Ring of Honor last season so as not to take away from Patrik Elias’ jersey retirement. Next season, they will be ripe to induct a new name and Lou just may fit that bill.

The fact that he is no longer in as prominent a role with the Maple Leafs might make that easier.

Time will tell on how the Devils honor Lou, or even if another team lures him away from Toronto. One thing is certain though, the man who was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2009 has cemented his legacy by not only essentially building the Devils from scratch into one of the premier franchises in hockey, but also in helping resurrect one of the flagship franchises of the NHL in the Leafs.

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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Devils Lose Heartbreaker in Toronto

Following Sunday’s come-from-behind 7-5 victory in Chicago, you would think that the Devils, a fast, offensive team and the Toronto Maple Leafs, another fast, offensive team, would be poised for a bonanza of goals. After all, the last time these two teams met, the score was 6-3.

The funny thing about hockey is that it never quite works out the way you would think.

New Jersey and Toronto, two of the most prolific goal scoring teams in the league, played to a scoreless tie before the Leafs won, 1-0 with just 2.2 seconds remaining in overtime. There were a lot of twists and turns along the way, so let’s get to it.

Some roster news for both team, first. For the Devils, Michael McLeod was cleared to play, returning off of IR after his preseason injury, and was sent back to his OHL team, the Mississauga Steelheads for a bit more seasoning. Travis Zajac was also cleared to come back and was in the lineup tonight. The original timeline for his return was four to six months after his offseason pectoral injury, but internally, the Devils and Zajac had a timeline of about three to four months and he met that, returning much sooner than expected. Mirco Mueller would almost immediately take his place on IR, having successful surgery on his broken collarbone, suffered in Chicago on Sunday. He will be out for 10 to 12 weeks.

One guy who was missing who the Devils were glad not to see was Auston Matthews. The Leafs’ young superstar has missed the last four with a sore back, but New Jersey would not be shedding any tears not having to go up against him in their second and final visit to Canada’s largest city this year. They will not see the Leafs again until April, when the teams meet in Newark.

Because of the injury to Mueller, Ben Lovejoy moved back inot the lineup on defense. Jimmy Hayes and Pavel Zacha were the healthy scratches up front, while Dalton Prout sat on D.

It was also Brian Boyle’s return to Toronto, where he played late last season into the playoffs before joining the Devils as a free agent this past summer. He was obviously not in the lineup on the Devils’ first trip to Leafs Nation this year.

Having Zajac back in the lineup takes a lot of defensive pressure off of guys like Kyle Palmieri and Taylor Hall. Zajac is one of the best 200-foot forwards in the game and the longest serving Devil on the team played primarily on a line with Drew Stafford and Jesper Bratt, although things were mixed and matched throughout the night as John Hynes looked for the best fit for the veteran. He had practiced with a few different line combos when he did return to the team earlier this week. Zajac said that coming back to a team that is winning is hard to do, since there are higher expectations and you do not want to mess with the chemistry of the team.

As this was a scoreless tie for the whole of regulation, the game could be described as a goaltender’s duel. Cory Schneider, who had not started since last Saturday against Florida, made 24 stops on 25 shots faced. He was named the game’s third star. The Leafs had not played at all since Saturday (at Boston), so their starter, Frederik Andersen, was fresh too. He was equal to all 42 shots the Devils threw his way on his way to earning first star honors. (Toronto’s William Nylander, who scored the game-winner, the only goal of the game, was the game’s second star.)

Stats do not tell the whole story though, as Cory was brilliant for almost the entire night. He made a few nice saves in the first period, including one in close on James van Riemsdyk (a rebound of a shot that he also made a brilliant save on). He would almost make a series of carbon copy saves on Tyler Bozak and van Riemsdyk late in the second period. He also stopped Bozak in the third period when Bozak got free and broke in deep in the Devils’ zone.

After three periods of scoreless hockey, the game went to overtime. It was the first scoreless OT game this season in the NHL. The Devils seemed to be in the driver’s seat. After all, they had weathered the third period storm (the Leafs have outscored their opponents 28-19 in the third frame this season), they seemed to be firing at will on Andersen (although they had nothing to show for it) and they were 6-0-0 this season against Atlantic Division teams so far. Everything seemed to be pointing in the direction of a New Jersey win.

Things were looking even better for the Devils when Jake Gardiner was called for interference against Nico Hischier just 42 seconds into the extra frame. The Devils had an OT power play and seemed poised to win it. But Andersen kept the Maple Leafs in the game and they eventually killed off the man advantage. Although the Devils played very well on the power play tonight, they would finish up going 0-for-3 with a whopping nine shots on goal with the man advantage. Toronto was 0-for-2 with five shots.

The Devils would exit Air Canada Centre with one point, but could not pick up the full two. Nylander would score with just 2.2 seconds left on the clock in OT, from Nazem Kadri and Morgan Rielly to give the Leafs the full two. Nylander’s shot was redirected in off of Kyle Palmieri’s leg, changing directions on Schneider and winning the game for Toronto.

But the Devils did play a very good game. Andy Greene led the game in TOI with 24:01. Palmieri and Hall were the leaders in shots on goal with seven each and Steven Santini once again led in hits with three. WIth Zajac and Boyle (two of the team’s better faceoff men) now in the lineup, the Devils also cut into the opponents’ faceoff percentage, winning 45-percent of the draws in the game. Boyle personally won 42-percent of his faceoffs while Zajac won 40-percent of his.

Next up, the Devils head west to Winnipeg on Saturday to take on the Jets at 3 PM east coast time. Hopefully the Devils can get back on the winning track against a Winnipeg Jets team that has been very good of late and currently stand in second place in the Central Division.

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 Fall Despite Two Goals from Moore

After a big win against the Rangers on Tuesday, the Devils traveled north of the border for the final time this season to Toronto to take on the Maple Leafs. The Leafs are where the Devils want to get with their young guns propelling them towards the playoffs for the first time in ages. With a lot of the Devils’ youth coming from the Toronto area, this should have been a game that they were up for.

Unfortunately for New Jersey, the Maple Leafs spent the majority of the game in possession of the puck and the Devils played a pretty sloppy second period and the Leafs came away with a 4-2 victory. This was the Devils’ one and only trip to Toronto this year as the other two meetings between these teams came earlier in the year in Newark.

In roster moves, Nick Lappin and Steven Santini were healthy scratches for the Devils. Blake Pietila and Dalton Prout slotted back in for New Jersey. Michael Cammalleri (week-to-week), Jacob Josefson (day-to-day) and Devante Smith-Pelly (day-to-day) all remain out injured. For Toronto, Eric Fehr, Martin Marincin, Ben Smith and Nikita Soshnikov all sat. Roman Polak had a recent disciplinary hearing and likely has been suspended, so he was not in the lineup tonight for the Leafs.

The goalie matchup saw the Devils go to Keith Kinkaid for the first time since March 16-17, when he had back-to-back starts. He made 26 saves on 29 Leafs shots for a .897 save percentage. The Maple Leafs had an empty net goal, so had a total of 30 shots on the night. The Leafs also went to their backup, playing back-to-back games, as coach Mike Babcock turned to Curtis McElhinney. He stopped 30 of 32 Devils shots for a .938 save percentage on the night.

The Devils opened the scoring as John Moore scored his first of two on the night just 2:59 into the first period. It came when Moore skated from the Devils’ zone and moved to his forehand, shooting and handcuffing McElhinney glove side. The puck slipped in and the Devils had a 1-0 lead. Although it was not a power play goal, a delayed penalty was being called on Toronto and Kinkaid had left the net. Kyle Palmieri had the secondary assist on this goal while Damon Severson had the primary.

The Leafs would tie things up on the power play at the 5:46 mark. Jon Merrill had gone off for interference and, with the ensuing man advantage, Josh Leivo took a shot that Kinkaid made the initial save on, but when he tried to cover the puck with his glove, it got away from him and went into the net. William Nylander and Auston Matthews had the assists on that goal. The game was tied up at one.

Toronto took the lead late in the period at the 18:17 mark when Nylander scored his 21st of the year from Matthews and Nikita Zaitsev. On the play, Devils defenseman Ben Lovejoy bumped a Maple Leaf player into Kinkaid, taking him out just as the puck entered the net, after it was shot. If the Devils had tried to challenge here, they most definitely would have lost it, as the player bumped Kinkaid after the shot had already been released.

A scary moment late in the first period came when the Leafs’ Alexey Marchenko blocked a Taylor Hall shot and went down in a heap. He would turn out to be all right and return for the second period.

In the second period, Toronto would take a 3-1 lead when New Jersey native James van Riemsdyk scored from Mitch Marner and Tyler Bozak. This goal came at the 2:04 mark. The second period was a bit of a disaster for New Jersey. They failed to apply any pressure, despite getting a lot of rebounds when they did have the puck. Otherwise, Toronto outplayed them and spent the majority of the time with puck possession.

Things would pick up for the Devils in the third period. It began at 7:14 when Matt Hunwick checked Kyle Palmieri with what would have been a legal hit – had Palmieri had the puck. Travis Zajac saw Palmieri go down, as Palmieri was caught by surprise on the hit, and jumped to his aid, going after Hunwick. He would end up fighting Brian Boyle and the two would go off for fighting. Zajac and Boyle also took roughing calls here, but it was the Devils who came out with the two man advantage. They were already on the power play for a holding call on Morgan Rielly at 6:49 and Hunwick was also sent off for interference.

With the 5-on-3 power play, Moore would strike again. It was actually 5-on-4 when Moore scored, since the Rielly penalty had expired already. It came at the 9:04 mark when Pavel Zacha held the line on a Maple Leafs clearing attempt. He passed across to Moore at the other point and Moore fired a wrist shot by McElhinney to make it 3-2 Leafs. Taylor Hall had the secondary assist on Moore’s Devils defensemen leading ninth goal of the season. Toronto used their coach’s challenge for goaltender interference on this goal, but replays showed the officials that Joe Blandisi bumped McElhinney after the puck had already crossed the goal line. The call on the ice stood as a good goal and the Leafs lost their timeout.

The Devils seemed to have things in their favor. Miles Wood drove in on McElhinney late and got a one-handed shot off on the goaltender before crashing into the endboards. He seemed shaken up and was clutching his left arm, but did not miss a shift, so he seemed okay.

New Jersey would pull Kinkaid with about one minute left in the game in an attempt to tie things up, but Connor Brown scored into the empty net, icing the game for Toronto with a 4-2 victory at 19:14. He got assists from Leo Komarov and Nazem Kadri.

So, as the Devils move closer to being officially mathematically eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs, we look ahead to the next game. The Devils will return home to play the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday. The Hurricanes are still on the fringe of the playoffs, but seem to be fading as well. We will see just what the Devils have left as this season limps to a finish.

Devils Honor Past; Fall to Leafs in Present

The New Jersey Devils tonight honored the man who brought the team to New Jersey and then proceeded to play a very strange game, falling 4-2 to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Devils’ night started with a special ceremony to induct original team owner, Dr. John J. McMullen, the man who bought the Colorado Rockies and brought them east, as the first member of their new Ring of Honor.

It was a nice ceremony, with a video package narrated by former Devils broadcaster Mike “Doc” Emrick, appearances by Dr. McMullen’s family as well as Devils alumni. Those alumni included “Mr. Devil” Ken Daneyko, Bruce Driver, current Maple Leafs president and former Devils’ player Brendan Shanahan, 1995 Conn Smythe Trophy winner Claude Lemieux, Glenn “Chico” Resch, Stephane Richer, John MacLean, Randy McKay and Sergei Starikov – one of the first Soviet hockey players to play in the NHL, who was signed by Dr. McMullen. Also present was former Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello, now GM of the Maple Leafs. After everyone was introduced, dignitaries from the City of Newark and the Devils, as well as Devils’ all-time leading scorer, Patrik Elias, dedicated a stretch of Lafayette Street near the Prudential Center as “Dr. John J. McMullen Way,” presenting a road sign to the late owner’s wife, Jacqueline and son, Peter.

After that, the in-arena dedication of a mural was unveiled in section 103 of the Prudential Center. This will serve as the actual “Ring of Honor” where McMullen’s name will live on. Following that, the Devils’ Kyle Palmieri and the Leafs’ James van Riemsdyk took the ceremonial faceoff. This was significant since both men grew up in, and played their youth hockey in, New Jersey: Palmieri in Montvale and van Riemsdyk in Middletown.

After all of the pomp and circumstance was over, there was still a game to be played. The Devils would wear their white uniforms, as those were originally their home unis and what they were wearing when they clinched their first Stanley Cup in 1995 against the Red Wings at Brendan Byrne Arena. They also wore a small red, white and green patch in honor of Dr. McMullen, combining the logo of the Colorado Rockies and the Devils in the original Devils’ colors.

And that game would be the first time in 350 that would be played without Andy Greene. The Devils captain is out with what the team is calling an “upper body injury.” He left the ice in the first period in Carolina on Tuesday, clutching at what seemed to be his eye, but it turned out that it may have been a wrist injury.

So due to that turn of events, Seth Helgeson was called up from Albany to fill in on the blue line. Also scratched for New Jersey were Jacob Josefson and Luke Gazdic. Sitting for Toronto were Frank Corrado and Josh Leivo.

The goaltending matchup saw Cory Schneider start for the Devils. He was starting his third straight game, but only faced five shots, giving up three goals (including a puck handling gaffe on the power play that led directly to a Maple Leaf goal) before being pulled in favor of Keith Kinkaid who stopped eight of nine shots. In net for Toronto was Frederik Andersen. The Devils assaulted him with 32 shots on goal, but he was equal to 30 of them in being named the game’s first star.

The Leafs came out flying in the first period, scoring three different ways. First, Nazem Kadri scored on the power play at 9:26 after Jon Merrill was whistled for boarding. Kadri’s goal was assisted by Tyler Bozak and van Riemsdyk.

At 11:28, Toronto’s Mitchell Marner was called for hooking and the Devils were on the power play. The puck would be played back into the Devils’ zone and, eventually, to Schneider. Cory fumbled the puck and the Leafs’ Connor Brown jumped on it, putting it behind Schneider unassisted at 13:17. The shorthanded goal was a rare miscue from Cory, who has been getting steadily better at handling the puck. It was now 2-0 Maple Leafs.

Just 1:23 later, Maple Leaf super rookie Auston Matthews scored his 21st of the season from Zack Hyman and Jake Gardiner. That was when Devils coach John Hynes had seen enough and pulled Cory in favor of Keith Kinkaid.

But Toronto was not done with their onslaught. The first shot Kinkaid faced, from Tyler Bozak at the 15:15 mark of the first period, found twine and it was 4-0 Maple Leafs. Van Riemsdyk and Kadri had the assists. That one was a power play goal, as Kyle Quincey was serving a roughing minor.

Any Devils fan in the stands or watching at home could only assume that it would only get better from there. And it did. The Devils had numerous scoring chances in the second and early in the third periods, but missed all of them. It did not help that they went 1-for-4 on the power play while Toronto converted on two of three power play chances.

The Devils finally found life late in the third period when Toronto’s Roman Polak was called for hooking Sergey Kalinin. With him in the box, Michael Cammalleri dished from the near corner to Adam Henrique at the right point. He fired and PA Parenteau gathered the rebound, was stopped and then buried his own rebound for his 12th goal of the year to make it 4-1, Toronto. That goal came at the 16:36 mark of the third.

At the 17:31 mark, Devante Smith-Pelly broke the Devils out of their zone, giving the puck to Miles Wood. Wood gave to Jon Merrill, who shot, missed the net, gathered his own rebound behind the Toronto net and scored on a wraparound to make it 4-2.

The Devils would pull Kinkaid, trying to finish the rally, but it was not to be. Time ran out and the Devils’ brief win streak was halted.

But it is a quick turnaround for the Devils, as they cannot dwell on this loss. Adam Larsson and the Edmonton Oilers come to town on Saturday night. It will be Taylor Hall’s first shot at his former teammates. Hall was very upset with the Oilers trading him last summer. Can revenge be a motivating factor in Saturday’s game? We will find out Saturday night.

Cammalleri Returns, Devils Steal Shootout Win from Toronto

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

The Devils returned from a brutal western road trip looking to snap a three game losing streak at home, a place where they have been almost unbeatable this year. They have not dropped a game in regulation at Prudential Center yet and, despite Maple Leaf super rookie Auston Matthews’ best efforts, that streak would continue tonight. New Jersey took a shootout victory from the Leafs, 5-4.

Good news right off the bat for the Devils was that Michael Cammalleri was returning from his personal hiatus. He had left the team in Buffalo to return to New Jersey where his daughter had come down with a bad case of pneumonia, was hospitalized and needed surgery. She is better now and resting at home and Michael had spent time practicing with the Princeton University Tigers hockey team during his time off to keep in game shape. He would go on to play a huge part in tonight’s game.

The Devils also got Yohann Auvitu back, as he said he was hurt for about 48 hours after a puck hit his index finger in the Dallas game. He was a healthy scratch for the other two games he missed in California. To accommodate him in the lineup, Jon Merrill would be sitting. Kyle Palmieri was also a scratch for the Devils as he is still dealing with an injury.

Coming into this game, the Maple Leafs had exactly one road win this year and were following up a loss at the Air Canada Centre last night to Carolina on a late shorthanded goal. The Devils would be able to leapfrog Boston in the standings with a win tonight and take a playoff spot for the first time since their losses in California.

The Sharks game was also John Hynes’ 100th game coached in the NHL. So congratulations to him on that milestone.

In goal for Toronto was Jhonas Enroth, who made 26 saves on 30 Devils shots for the night. He finished the night with his goals against average at 4.21 and just a .866 save percentage in just 215 minutes played. Rough numbers for sure.

The Devils sent out Cory Schneider to oppose him. He made 27 saves on 31 Leafs shots. He also came up big in some major spots for the Devils.

The Maple Leafs came out firing in the first period. Auston Matthews scored his first of the night at the 10:33 mark, with an assist to Zach Hyman. He was able to chip a shot by Cory on only Toronto’s second shot of the game. The goal ended Matthews’ 13 game goal drought. However, Toronto has yet to win a game that Matthews has scored in this season. That includes his opening night four goal performance against Ottawa.

But the Leafs were rolling with a 1-0 lead. At 11:36 of the first frame, PA Parenteau would take a slashing call against Morgan Rielly and sit for two minutes. With time expiring on that penalty kill, Nazem Kadri buried one from Matthews and William Nylander to make it 2-0 Leafs.

About five and a half minutes later, at 18:52, Matthews netted his second of the period and his third point of the night from Hyman and Connor Brown to put the Maple Leafs comfortably ahead 3-0.

Things looked dire for New Jersey. But all it took was 4 minutes and 58 seconds and the Devils would climb back into things.

First, at 32 seconds, Nick Lappin kept the puck in the Toronto zone, getting it to Kyle Quincey, who passed to Michael Cammalleri at the far circle. Cammalleri connected with Travis Zajac, who found room to beat Enroth and cut the deficit to 3-1.

Then, at the 1:12 mark, Martin Marincin was called for high sticking Pavel Zacha. The Devils were on the power play. Now, for the last 29 tries with the extra man, this had really meant nothing. Beau Bennett had also not scored a goal yet as a New Jersey Devil through the first month and a half of the season. This time was different this time, however.

At 3:10, Andy Greene passed point-to-point to Cammalleri. He fired and the puck bounced off of Devante Smith-Pelly’s backside right to the stick of Bennett. Bennett put the puck behind Enroth and then looked skyward, mouthing “Thank God!” It was not pretty, but Bennett’s goal scoring drought was over and the Devils’ power play futility was done all in one fell swoop. It was 3-2 Toronto.

The game tying goal would come off of the stick of Cammalleri, who, after this goal, had three points on the night – equaling Matthews. It came at 5:30 when Greene slid the puck to Zajac at the far circle. He shot from the top of the faceoff circle and the rebound came right out to Cammalleri, who promptly corralled it and shot it by Enroth. The game was knotted at three.

Toronto coach Mike Babcock elected to use his timeout at this point in order to settle his young team down. That decision would go on to play an important role in the outcome of the game.

Things would remain that way despite some tries from Toronto. Nylander hit the post on a power play opportunity late in the second. Finally, the Leafs broke through when Matt Martin scored his first of the year at 9:26 from Nikita Soshnikov and Nikita Zaitsev. Toronto had retaken the lead, 4-3.

But the Devils were not done. In the third period, they would tie things up again when, at 5:50, the Devils held the zone and Cammalleri kept the puck in for Zajac, who passed to Yohann Autvitu. The French defenseman fired on net and the puck went in to tie things up. Nick Lappin in front had initially gotten credit for the goal, but replays showed that he did not touch the puck on the way in.

What he did touch was Enroth’s stick blade with his skate, dragging it away from Enroth being able to make the save. Toronto could have challenged goalie interference on this – and probably have been successful – had they not used their timeout earlier in the second period. A break for the Devils and the game was now tied once more. Cammalleri, with the assist, also had a hand in each of the Devils’ goal scored so far.

Things would get tense for the Devils late in regulation. Middletown, New Jersey native James van Riemsdyk would nail the post with less than a minute left in the third period. But things stayed tied and we were headed for overtime.

The three-on-three period was back and forth intensity. Cory had had some miscommunication with his defensemen throughout the night at various times and nearly gave one up to Mitchell Marner when he tried to move the puck to a d-man and instead turned it over. Marner shot in close, but Cory was equal to the task.

Once the five minute OT had expired with things still not settled, it was time for the shootout.

Parenteau went first for New Jersey. He was stopped by Enroth. Cory Schneider then stopped Auston Matthews; Jacob Josefson scored for the Devils and then Cory stopped Marner. In two rounds of the shootout, Schneider had stopped two of the most offensively gifted young guns in the NHL.

After Cammalleri was stopped, it all came down to Nikita Soshnikov. Cory stopped him too and the Devils had pulled victory from the jaws of defeat and picked up two points.

The Devils remained without a regulation loss at home as they begin their mini home stand. Next up is Detroit at home for the Devils on Friday. I will be attending that game, so the report will be a little bit late. Until then, I hope everyone has a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

Elias Nets Goal, Two Assists in What Could Be His Final Game as a Devil

If this is goodbye to Patrik Elias in New Jersey Devils black-and-red, then what a farewell it was. In a 5-1 defeat of the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Devils played a game for the ages that may well have summed up Elias’ time as a Devil: reliable, unselfish, a leader by example.

With nothing really to play for, the team would see two players reach the plateau of 30 goals and play an all-around strong game.

Three Devils made their NHL debuts last night: Steven Santini, Miles Wood and the much-touted Pavel Zacha. Zacha, a native of the Czech Republic, played primarily on a line with Patrik Elias and Devante Smith-Pelly. He would gain two assists on the night and show some good chemistry with the veteran Eilas.

In goal, Cory Schneider was back in net for the Devils. He made 19 saves on 20 shots, including some while practically standing on his head. Opposing him for the Leafs was Garret Sparks. He made 31 saves on 35 Devils shots.

But despite Cory’s stellar play, this night was not about the goaltenders. It was all about what the guys up front were doing.

The Devils fell behind early when former-Islander PA Parenteau scored his 20th of the year from Brooks Laich and Andrew Campbell at 2:53 of the first period. During the first TV timeout after Toronto took the lead, the Devils showed a video tribute to Lou Lamoriello on the jumbotron and Lou was shown acknowledging the crowd in his first official trip back to Prudential Center as general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs. The crowd on hand gave him a standing ovation.

And from there on, it was all Devils.

Devante Smith-Pelly knotted things up at 9:10 of the first when Zacha won the offensive zone draw and pushed it forward to Smith-Pelly, who buried it behind Sparks. It was Zacha’s first NHL point and Smith-Pelly’s 14th goal of the season. It was 1-1 going into the first intermission.

The Devils came out roaring in the second period, with Adam Henrique scoring his 29th of the year at just 58 seconds into the second frame when Adam Larsson, who was set up at the point, took a pass from Patrik Elias. Larsson fired on net and Henrique gathered the rebound and stuffed it home. It was now 2-1 Devils and Henrique was one goal closer to the 30 goal mark.

That 30th goal would occur about 10 minutes later when John Moore hit Tuomo Ruutu with a nice breakout pass and both Ruutu and Henrique converged on the Toronto net. The puck went in off of Henrique’s skate and was in fact reviewed to make sure there was no kicking motion. There was not and Henrique got credit for his 30th of the season at 10:42. It was now 3-1 Devils.

The time spent in the penalty box was skewed towards the Maple Leafs, as they had twice as many penalties as the Devils did. The Devils were 0-for-6 on the power play while the Leafs were 0-for-3 with the man advantage.

The Maple Leafs pulled Sparks with about three minutes left in the third period in a Hail Mary type attempt to salvage the game. What occurred was something special. Pavel Zacha dug the puck out of the near corner in the Devils end of the rink. He pushed it up to Patrik Elias, who had a clear shot at the empty net, but passed it up to give it to Kyle Palmieri. Palmieri potted the puck and had his 30th goal of the season at 17:04 of the third period. It was a show of Patrik Elias’ unselfishness and class. He passed up a clear shot at a goal for himself to give his teammate a chance to hit a personal milestone.

But he was not done. At 19:44 of the third, Palmieri would return the favor by forechecking hard and causing a turnover behind the Toronto net. He centered the puck to Elias in the slot, who beat Sparks cleanly over the glove. With just about 15 seconds left in what could be his final game in a Devils uniform; Patrik Elias netted his third point of the night and passed into legend. And that was it: 5-1 was the final score.

On a night that could only be described as magical, the Devils had played one of their best games of the season, gotten to a final record of 38-36-8 for 84 points. Although they did not have a whole lot to play for here, except for pride, they really came up big.

In the end, Kyle Palmieri was named third star of the game, finishing with a goal, an assist, six shots and a plus-2 rating on 19:15 of ice time. Adam Henrique was the second star with two goals, 4 shots, a plus-1 in 17:22 on the ice. And, of course, Patrik Elias was the first star on one goal, two assists, three shots, one hit, a plus-4 rating all in 14:27 time on ice.

Time will tell if this was Elias’ last game as a Devil. He may retire, he may sign on to play elsewhere or he may decide to resign with New Jersey for next season. All of that is to be decided, though. For now Patrik Elias had the night of a lifetime and made New Jersey Devils fans everywhere smile even in the midst of the finale of a season where they missed the playoffs.

That, my friends, is one hell of a feat.

Devils Drop Shootout to Leafs

In a sign that the season is truly winding down and, thus, points will be at a premium for teams with playoff aspirations, the Devils paid their final visit to Canada of the 2015-16 season. They were in Toronto to take on a Maple Leafs team that is mostly out of the playoff race in the Eastern Conference, but would like to get another victory over New Jersey for their new boss, Lou Lamoriello.

The Devils were still without Michael Cammalleri, but defenseman John Moore did make his return to the lineup. Healthy scratches for New Jersey were Stefan Matteau, Tuomo Ruutu and Damon Severson.

One small area of concern was Cory Schneider’s health. The All-Star was rumored to have had suffered an undisclosed minor injury (though he is scheduled to start on Saturday afternoon against Washington). Coach John Hynes said that “he has no level of concern about Schneider’s injury” and Cory himself said that he was just a little sore from all of the hockey he has been playing. So it seems like normal wear and tear and nothing more. Hopefully, Cory can stay healthy because an injury to him could be catastrophic for this team.

With all of that, he would get the night off in Toronto, giving Keith Kinkaid his tenth start of the season. The backup had a good game, making 37 saves on 39 Maple Leaf shots. He played really well at times, making the big save when he had to. He will be getting some chances down the stretch as coach Hynes has mentioned that the team has “a lot of back-to-backs” and some tough opponents coming up. Hopefully, this gives him a chance to get some time in and be more comfortable coming off the bench.

Facing him was Toronto’s James Reimer. He made 32 saves on 34 shots faced and was perfect in the shootout, blanking the Devils there in the Leafs’ victory.

The Devils would take the lead early when the Maple Leafs’ Matt Hunwick took a delay of game penalty at 4:07. This set up a Devils power play, on which Jacob Josefson would convert at just nine seconds into. Travis Zajac won the faceoff in the Leafs’ zone, sending it back to David Schlemko at the point. He gave the puck to Josefson at the near halfwall. Josefson fired a wrist shot from the top of the faceoff circle that beat Reimer clean. Since coming back from injury, Josefson has been a boon to the Devils’ power play and helped to prove that here. The Devils had a 1-0 lead.

But the Devils would not get out of the period with the lead. Shawn Matthias scored at 8:34 off a redirect of a Tyler Bozak shot. Former Islander PA Parenteau had the secondary assist. The game was tied at one heading into the second.

There was no scoring in the second, but that does not mean there were not plenty of chances. Early in the period, Adam Henrique was called for hooking against Nazem Kadri. On the Leafs’ power play, the Devils developed a 2-on-1 with Stephen Gionta and Lee Stempniak. Gionta had seemingly scored, but the play was whistled dead when the linesman called offside. Gionta had gone in over the blue line just a step ahead of Stempniak and a Devils near-lead was taken away.

The third period saw an exciting finish. New Jersey retook the lead at 6:27 of the period when Joseph Blandisi picked up the puck in the corner, skated it behind the Leafs net, and gave it to Eric Gelinas at the far point. He slid it over to David Schlemko who one-timed it behind Reimer. Toronto coach Mike Babcock used his coach’s challenge here, asserting goalie interference on Reimer by Lee Stempniak. The replay showed that, while this was a much closer call than the challenge in the Rangers game, it still was pretty cut-and-dry. MSG+ analyst Ken Daneyko said that while Reimer was bumped by Stempniak, the contact came outside of the goal crease and Reimer still had time to get reset to see the shot. The goal counted and Toronto forfeited their timeout for later in the game. It was Schlemko’s second point of the game and the Devils led 2-1.

Two points in the game would move New Jersey past the Islanders in the Metropolitan Division standings, but it was not to be.

First, Babcock pulled Reimer with about 2:30 left in the third. Then, Bozak would beat Kinkaid with a snap shot off assists to Peter Holland and Dion Phaneuf. With just over two minutes left, the game was tied. It would stay that way, forcing another overtime chance for the Devils. The Devils did come away with a point, but would need a victory in the extra session or a shootout to move up in the standings.

Overtime was wild, simply put. The moment that best stands out was Blandisi (playing his first game in his hometown) being hit with a stretch pass that would have given him a breakaway and likely put the game winner on his stick. But he lost an edge just inside the Maple Leafs’ blue line and fell, nullifying the breakaway. Neither team would find the back of the net and it was on to a shootout for the second time in two meetings between these teams.

First up for Toronto was Holland and he missed. Reid Boucher missed for the Devils and it was on to the second round. PA Parenteau would score the only goal of the shootout, beating Kinkaid over the glove and Jacob Josefson was up. Although he usually seems automatic in these things, he missed and Kinkaid would have to stop Bozak to keep New Jersey alive. He did and it was up to Stempniak to tie things up for the Devils. His shot was saved by Reimer and the Devils dropped the game to Toronto.

The Devils do not have long to dwell on this loss. Next up, a 1 PM matinee Saturday in Newark against the high-powered Washington Capitals is in the cards. Alex Ovechkin will be back in the lineup for the Caps and Cory Schneider will be back between the pipes for the Devils. An upset win would go a long way in helping the Devils, plus Marty Brodeur will be in attendance to drop the puck in the ceremonial faceoff prior to the game. With an all-time legend in attendance, we will see what the Devils can do on Saturday.