For the sixth time in seven games, the New Jersey Devils managed to score three or more goals and strung together consecutive wins for the first time in almost a month. It was definitely one of (if not) the most eventful games we’ve seen the Devils play this season, as they managed to remain the only unbeaten NHL team on home ice (8-0-1). The at home unbeaten streak is the longest in franchise history, and it was all the more significant because it marked the first regulation victory for the Devils since mid-November. Cory Schneider made a solid 22-save performance, which was the first time in his last seven starts where he surrendered under three goals.
Aside from the string of aforementioned achievements, last night’s matchup was highlighted by the chippy play that occurred between the end of the first period and midway through the second. After the officials missed a blatant hit from behind on center Travis Zajac that resulted in a broken nose, it was the Devils who wound up getting penalized (echoes of the 2012 SCF) and had to deal with a five-on-three after John Moore went in to defend his teammate and Coach Hynes gave the officials a piece of his mind. It led to the Devils squandering a 1-0 lead in the early minutes of the second period when Daniel Sedin took advantage of his team’s two-man advantage. Moments later, Taylor Hall delivered a thunderous hit on Philip Larsen, who was knocked out cold by the impact. While Larsen was taken off the ice on a stretcher, Vancouver’s retaliatory actions resulted in a Devils power play, after which they dictated the rest of the match.
Kyle Palmieri gave the Devils a 2-1 lead off a power play goal, which was his fourth of the season and first tally in eight games. Ben Lovejoy would put the Devils up 3-1 moments later, scoring his first as a New Jersey Devil. Henrik Sedin scoring his seventh of the year was the highlight of an otherwise uneventful third period, in which the Devils managed to hang on for the much-needed victory. The game was filled with takeaways and observations worth mentioning that speak volumes about what this Devils team is truly capable of.
The Taylor Hall hit…I always try to be a straight-shooter when evaluating these scenarios. After reviewing different angles of the incident, I’ve concluded that Taylor Hall’s crushing hit on Larsen was clean, unavoidable, and resulted in a very unfortunate outcome. While I wish nothing but a full and speedy recovery for Larsen, his head was down when the hit occurred (he broke one of the golden rules of hockey). The hit wasn’t malicious in nature and although there was contact with Larsen’s head and Hall’s shoulder, it was purely incidental and Hall didn’t lean into the hit at any point to maximize the subsequent impact. You never like to see anyone get taken off on a stretcher like Larsen was, but in terms of infringement on the NHL’s strict regulations, Hall shouldn’t have anything to be afraid of.
Officiating…Last night was one of the poorest games I’ve ever seen a group of NHL referees and linesmen call. It’s instances like last night, which happen all too often around the league why I feel the NHL has the worst officials in all sports (yes even worse than the NFL). The missed call on Zajac was inexcusable and referees Dan O’Rourke and Brad Meier added insult to injury when they threw on the extra penalty after Coach Hynes (rightfully) voiced his frustrations on their inability to keep his players safe. While I’m sure the league will review the festivities that occurred last night, I truly hope the officials I mentioned are held accountable for their poor quality of officiating to some degree.
The unprecedented rise of Miles Wood…I didn’t notice him much at first (outside of his goal last week against Winnipeg), but the Devils might have a gem in left wing Miles Wood. The 21-year old was called back up four games ago, and has averaged around 12 minutes of ice time each game. While there are still some assets of his game that remain relatively undeveloped, his speed is apparent, which he demonstrated when he had two big breakaway opportunities, which hasn’t been uncommon out of him since making his season debut in New Jersey. Him and Lappin are playing nicely on the fourth line on the sides of center Vernon Fiddler, and they’re giving the Devils a gritty, energetic, speedy checking unit that they haven’t had since the hay day of the CBGB line.