On Star Wars Night at the Prudential Center, the Devils were able to make a comeback for the ages, overcoming a 2-0 deficit to defeat the Detroit Red Wings in overtime.
The major news coming out of the Devils camp was that Travis Zajac was put on injured reserve, leaving an open roster space that would be filled by rookie center Joseph Blandisi. Blandisi wore number 64 and played a decent game, with three shots on goal. He got the “Max Domi treatment” when the entire team stood back and let him take the ice by himself for pregame warmups. A little bit of hazing for the rookie. Blandisi took it in stride, though, and the team had a good laugh at it.
Jiri Tlusty also made his return to the lineup. Adam Henrique was scratched, still recovering from his injury for the Toronto game. Stefan Matteau and Jon Merrill were healthy scratches.
Cory Schneider started in net for New Jersey, making 27 saves on 29 shots in the win. Jimmy Howard started for Detroit, corralling 35 of 38 shots. He was named the game’s third star at the end of the night.
The first period passed by with no scoring events. The only item of any real note was that Henrik Zetterberg went off for a face-off violation, giving the Devils a power play at 19:51. This would give them the bulk of the power play in the second period with clean ice.
However, the Wings would kill that off and, in fact, net two power play goals of their own in the second stanza. The first goal came when Brian O’Neill went off for slashing at 8:40 to give Detroit a power play. They would take the 1-0 lead at 8:51 when Gustav Nyquist (with Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall netting the assists) beat Cory. Tomas Tatar converted when Patrik Elias was nabbed for interference against Dylan Larkin at 14:19. Tatar would score at 16:08 from Brad Richards and Mike Green. The Red Wings had a 2-0 lead after two. Things were looking pretty dire for the Devils, in danger of losing their third in four games.
However, the Devils would embark on their comeback in the third. It began at 2:40 when Stephen Gionta dug the puck out of the corner, giving it to Jordin Tootoo, who sent it to Damon Severson at the point. Severson unleashed a slap shot which beat Howard clean for the defenseman’s first of the year. The Devils had cut the lead in half, 2-1.
At 12:59, Zetterberg took the only period of the third when he went off for hooking Jacob Josefson. The Devils were going on the power play with plenty of time on the clock. On the ensuing man advantage, Sergey Kalinin and Jacob Josefson played catch with the puck down low. Josefson gave to Tootoo in the high slot, he saw nothing and worked it back to Kyle Palmieri at the point, who fired and Kalinin tipped it past Howard to tie the game. The secondary assist to Tootoo was his second assist of the game.
Detroit challenged the goal, saying Kalinin played the puck with a high stick. Upon further review, the call on the ice stood and the game was tied up at two. It was clear on the replay that Kalinin played the puck with his stick under the crossbar, but Wings coach Jeff Blashill gave it a try anyway.
Once regulation expired The Devils were headed to overtime for the second straight game. This time, though, the outcome would be drastically different.
As is typical with the new 3-on-3 format, things went back and forth and it all hinged on puck possession. The winner came at 4:20 into the OT period when Palmieri was sprung when Lee Stempniak banked the puck off the boards to him. Palmieri used his footspeed to beat Tatar. He was one on one with Howard and went to his backhand, beating him stick side. The Devils had completed the comeback on a very memorable night at the Rock.
Overall, the night was a success. Star Wars Night drew a great crowd who was into the game all night, even when things looked bleakest for the Devils. This was a good promotion that is the kind of thing the new regime is really trying to implement. A little fun at a hockey game never hurt anyone and this showed it. From the Star Wars characters on hand for kids (and adults) to get their pictures with on the concourse to mascot NJ Devil dressed up in Star Wars garb, everyone had fun and the finish to the game only made things better.
Next up for the 15-10-4 Devils, a 5 PM matinee against the Islanders in Brooklyn on Sunday, another big test for the Devils, as New York has been played well of late. The Devils skated with the Wings, though, and showed that they belong with the big clubs in the NHL.