The Devils first brought back their retro-inspired 1980’s red, green and white jerseys for St. Patrick’s Day during the 2009-10 season and have not had much success in them since. They defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins that year, but have since lost the last four games they brought the jerseys out of mothballs. There was a defeat at the hands of Washington in 2011, a loss to Pittsburgh in 2012 and then two losses wearing them in 2014 (including a blowout by their arch rivals, the Rangers, outdoors at Yankee Stadium in the NHL Stadium Series and the St. Patrick’s Day game against Boston). They did not wear them in the lockout-shortened 2013 season.
This year, they would continue the tradition and face the Penguins for the third time in their old unis and would break through with a win for just the second time in six tries. New Jersey got a goal from Jacob Josefson in the second period that would prove to be the difference in a 2-0 shutout win at Prudential Center. Adam Henrique would add an empty netter to seal the deal for New Jersey.
The Devils have always looked sharp in their red and green third jerseys. The red, green and white colors being a rarely-used combination in the NHL (only the Minnesota Wild currently use the colors on a full-time basis) really makes for an eye-catching on-ice look from the red helmets to the green pant shells. And the Devils have been smart enough not to overdo it. With the exception of the Yankee Stadium game, the Devils have only worn them once a year – and wearing them at the Stadium Series game was a “lesser of two evils” situation for the team, since the other option would have been wearing a specially designed look (like the Rangers and Islanders did for the games) that could very easily have fallen flat. The league wanted them to wear something other than their normal home red-and-blacks and the Devils decided to go with their vintage look. While some fans scoffed back in the ‘80s when the Devils were actually wearing the uniforms on a full-time basis, calling them the “Christmas tree” colors, there is no doubt that the throwbacks are a hit with today’s fans.
As for the game itself, the story, as it has been a lot down the stretch for the Devils, was Cory Schneider. Although a lot of credit needs to go to defensemen like Andy Greene and, especially, Adam Larsson (who kept Sidney Crosby in check the whole game, frustrating the superstar for most of the game – Crosby finished with a -1 rating, four shots on net and 19:03 total time on ice), Schneider was brilliant at times in making 35 saves in his fifth shutout of the season. He was named the game’s first star by the media, something that he did on Saturday against Arizona, as well, and has done more than any other Devil this season. Schneider has kept the Devils in games that they had no business being in and could, due to his .929 save percentage and 2.16 goals against average, be a candidate for the Vezina Trophy come the end of the year, despite the fact that the Devils will most likely miss the postseason. You have to be thinking of him in the same category as league leaders like Montreal’s Carey Price and Minnesota’s Devan Dubnyk at this point.
Michael Ryder was also back in the lineup due to Patrik Elias being a scratch (back spasms) and had the primary assist on Josefson’s goal. Ryder has been a healthy scratch along with Martin Havlat for most of the last month and a half or so, but he did suit up against the Coyotes on Saturday and played well, so with Elias missing another game due to injury, he got the nod.
The Devils also did not let Pittsburgh’s vaunted power play; with all of its firepower (although to be fair to the Pens, Evgeni Malkin and Patric Hornqvist, two important offensive weapons for the team were not dressed due to injury) get a chance in action. The Devils took one penalty (Mark Fraser for tripping Daniel Winnik at 1:26 of the second) which was nullified by Winnik going to the box for embellishment on the same play. Neither team scored on the ensuing four-on-four. The Devils did not take another penalty and, thus, kept one part of Pittsburgh’s success nailed to the bench. The Pens killed off both of the New Jersey power plays.
The Devils played a good game overall, helped by Pittsburgh missing key players in their lineup. However, they did neutralize Sidney Crosby (largely due in part to Larsson, who got under Crosby’s skin early and often) and if you can do that, then you will most likely have a successful night. The Devils earned this victory and, no matter how ugly, will take it.
Things don’t get easier for the Devils, as next up is three games in four days: New Jersey travels to Buffalo on Friday and then returns home to play the Islanders on Saturday, followed by the Los Angeles Kings coming east for a matchup next Monday. Since the team is not technically mathematically eliminated from a playoff berth, fans can take them one game at a time and hope for the best.