The New Jersey Devils took on the Buffalo Sabres at home last night, who are struggling in the race for an Eastern Conference wild-card spot. Before the game even began, Kurtis Gabriel and Zach Bogosian were exchanging words at center ice. Bogosian was seen slashing and shooting pucks at Gabriel, who didn’t seem phased by the 6-foot-3, 215-pound defenseman.
It's getting chippy out there and the puck hasn't even dropped yet! 😳
— MSG Networks (@MSGNetworks) February 17, 2019
The first period was a hard fought back and forth battle as the Devils struggled to get quality shots on net, while the Sabres struggled to sustain offensive zone time. The Devils had a few good looks on the powerplay in what is definitely the best possible unit without Taylor Hall. Credit to John Hynes for putting together three patient puck handlers in Will Butcher, Nico Hischier, and Jesper Bratt, a power forward in Miles Wood, and Kyle Palmieri’s hard shot.
Schneider had not one but two unreal saves just five minutes into the second period to bail out the Devils. One save came on Jack Eichel, but the stretch save on 2017 first-round pick Casey Mittelstadt gave New Jersey a real a wake-up call without having to fall behind in another game. Eight minutes into the second, Miles Wood came into the zone going a thousand miles per hour, and Palmieri worked around Bogosian to hit Wood for the easy tap in. The Devils power play went back to work with seven minutes left in the second, this time with Marcus Johansson, Travis Zajac, Damon Severson, Bratt, and Palmieri. 30 seconds into the power play, Bratt whistled one five-hole on Hutton off a cross-ice feed from Palmieri to make it 2-0. But with a minute left in the second, Buffalo answered right after the Devils killed off their power play to make it 2-1.
The third period was a stressful one, with the Devils barely holding a 2-1 lead on the back of Schneider. Finally, Devils fans could exhale with 6 minutes left when Palmieri beat Lawrence Pilut wide and shelved it post in on Hutton to give the Devils a 3-1 lead
— Buffalo Sabres plays and goals (@SabresPlays) February 18, 2019
I think I speak for all Devils fans when I say watching Palmieri snipe on goaltenders regularly has been one of the few highlights of the season. Joey Anderson gave the Devils another insurance goal, scoring an empty netter with 3 minutes left. The Devils would hold at 4-1, scoring 4 goals on just 24 shots, compared to the Sabres’ 35 shots. An also impressive stat, the Devils went 3/3 on the penalty kill, and outhit the Sabres’ 27 to 20.
Cory Schneider had an outstanding game with 34 saves and got a roaring “CORY” chant with a standing ovation at the end of the game. The forward lines were about as effective as possible, so look for the Devils to follow a similar structure moving forward. Credit to Hischier, Wood, and Kenny Agostino for leading the pack on the forecheck. If I was John Hynes I would keep Wood with Palmieri, as Wood’s speed and physicality combines well with Palmieri’s scoring ability.
1st Cory Schneider (34 Saves)
2nd: Kyle Palmieri (1G, 2A)
3rd: Jesper Bratt (1G)