Friday night in Newark, the New Jersey Devils (7-5-1) proved that they could play with the big boys after downing the defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks (7-6-1) by a final score of 4-2. The Devils jumped out to a three goal lead in the first period, including two goals that came just 26 seconds apart. Lee Stempniak opened the scoring for New Jersey just 3:48 into the opening frame, after picking off an errant pass from Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson, moving in on goaltender Corey Crawford and slipping a shot through the legs of the netminder.
At 17:48, Devils center Travis Zajac tied up the Blackhawks’ Andrew Shaw in the faceoff circle and kicked the puck back to New Jersey native Kyle Palmieri, who rifled a quick shot that nobody was expecting passed Crawford’s blocker on the short-side. A mere six seconds later on the game clock, in an effort to spark his team, Hawks’ captain Jonathon Toews initiated a fight with Devils’ forward Adam Henrique, who got the worst of that fight but returned no worse for the wear in the second period. While Toews’ effort was valiant and admirable, the Devils were the team that seemed to feed off of the energy generated by the fight. 20 ticks of the game clock later, Zajac did a give-and-go play with defenseman Damon Severson. Zajac fired a weak backhand towards net that got kicked back out to him, but with the puck on his forehand he snuck one past the out of position Crawford to extend the Devils’ lead to three goals.
The Devils’ first period heroics were enough to chase Crawford from the crease and have him be replaced by Scott Darling. New Jersey managed to not only continue to hold on to their three goal lead, but also continued to drive the play and generate quality scoring chances on all four lines throughout the second period. One of those opportunities were capitalized on by Mike Cammalleri, who received a beautiful pass from Severson to pound home a one-timer and make it a 4 goal game. New Jersey nearly made it a five goal lead, in fact they did get the puck in the net, when Sergey Kalinin made a break to the net on which Darling made the initial save, and Palmieri smacked the rebound into the cage. However, the officials ruled that the goal would not count because Kalinin’s leg interfered with the goaltender, causing him to fall down and inhibiting his ability to make a save. Feeling that the goal could be overturned, head coach John Hynes used his Coach’s Challenge for the first time in Devils history. After reviewing the play, officials held up the call on the ice.
New Jersey continued to control the play for the most part up until the closing minutes of the second period when the Hawks started applying a lot of pressure to the Devils. With 1:18 remaining in the middle frame, the ever-so-dangerous Patrick Kane found twine after firing a wrist shot from the point that skimmed off Severson’s back and in past a screened Cory Schneider to get the Blackawks on the board. And with 20.3 seconds remaining in that period, David Schlemko took a high-sticking minor penalty which gave the visiting team a chance to get within striking distance late in the second period or early in the third.
The New Jersey penalty kill answered the call in the third period, successfully killing off the Schlemko minor and the first 10 seconds of an Adam Larsson cross checking penalty later in the period before Jacob Josefson put his speed on display, blowing past two Blackhawks defenders and drawing a holding penalty on Brent Seabrook to return the game to evens at 4-on-4. The remainder of the third period was controlled by a pressing Chicago team, including having the Devils pinned in their own zone for the last 7 minutes of the game. With 6:42 remaining in the game and down by three goals, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville pulled his netminder for a sixth attacker(!!!). This resulted in even more offensive zone time for the Hawks, and they were able to find the back of the net with 1 minute and 26 seconds remaining in the game to make it a 4-2 score in favor of the home team, which would go on to be the final score.
Some final stats from Friday night’s game:
Shots: 29 – 26 Blackhawks
Hits: 25 – 30 Devils
Blocked Shots: 5 – 17 Devils
Faceoffs: 40 – 29 Blackhawks
3: Travis Zajac (1g, 1a)
2: Lee Stempniak (1g, 1a)
1: Kyle Palmieri (1g, 1a)
My Choice for Three Stars:
3: Adam Henrique (4 SOG, 5 PIM) – Henrique had countless scoring opportunities and was a constant threat whenever he was on the ice. His line accounted for two goals, three points, and eight shots on net. He also got had a pretty nice scrap with Toews that sparked his team.
2: Travis Zajac (1g, 1a) – Zajac made an impact on the scoresheet with two points and also logged nearly 22 minutes of ice time while killing off penalties, setting up plays, and being all over the ice. Zajac also had several good scoring opportunities.
1: Cory Schneider (27 saves) – Schneider bailed the Devils out when they needed him to and made some excellent saves over the course of the evening. Without his strong performance, the Devils would not have won this game.
The Devils are back in action on Sunday when they host the Vancouver Canucks at 5:00pm.
The Albany Devils defeated the Syracuse Crunch by a final score of 4-3. Joe Blandisi scored a pair of goals on the power play to help propel Albany to a 5-3-2 record. The infographic for the A-Devils game can be viewed below.