The Devils offense built on their big first game with another 5 goals on Saturday against a lost-looking Florida Panthers team. The young defensemen had a big impact and the team came away with an easy victory, even while giving up 8 power play opportunities.
The first period started out a bit disjointed, but the Devils offense gathered itself and picked up where they had left off against the Flyers on Thursday. The Devils scored early on an Eric Gelinas wrister from the point at 2:37, as the shot got through some traffic and beat Roberto Luongo to get New Jersey on the board. They would score off of another Gelinas shot only a few minutes later, this time on the power play, when Martin Havlat tipped a shot from the defenseman in front to pot his first goal as a Devil and make it 2-0. They were far from done, though, as they would convert on another power play opportunity when Damon Severson fed Marek Zidlicky for a slapshot that found the back of the net (the goal was changed to Mike Cammalleri after the game, so he must have gotten a piece). The goal made it 3-0 and was Severson's first point of his career, but the rookie D was not finished. With under a minute remaining in the first period, Severson would corral a failed Panthers clear and beat Luongo with a wrister from the point for his first ever NHL goal. The Devils would head into the first intermission up 4-0 and with the game already feeling nearly over.
The offense wasn't quite done though, as they would tack on another early in the second. Michael Ryder got the puck down low in the Panthers zone and hit Ryane Clowe with a nice backhand pass that Clowe would blast under Luongo to push the score to 5-0. That would end a forgettable night for Luongo, who allowed 5 goals on 14 shots including a couple from a distance. After that, the Devils would ease off the gas a little bit. Their play got loose for a little bit in the middle of the second as the Panthers generated a couple chances and then they would start an extended parade to the penalty box for much of the rest of the night. In the last 10 minutes of the second, Tuomo Ruutu, Jordin Tootoo, and Stephen Gionta would all take minor penalties, with the Panthers converting on the Tootoo penalty to pull within 4 before the end of the second.
The Devils would continue to take penalties in the third, with Cammalleri, Jon Merril, and Havlat each taking a minor in the first 10 minutes. Two were sort of unlucky delays of game on batted pucks, but the Devils were still taking tons of minors and trying to allow the Panthers back into the game. Fortunately, the penalty kill was up to the task for most of the opportunities, killing off 7 out of 8 power plays in the game. As the game wore down, the Panthers tried to press a bit as the Devils sat back, but Schneider and the defense were up to the task, shutting the door on the game without much issue. The game would end 5-1 and the Devils seal up their second win in as many games to open the year. A far cry from last year's 0-4-3 nightmare start.
Here are the highlights for the game, which I highly recommend and approve of:
Other notes from the game:
The Opposing View: Go check out Litter Box Cats for the Panthers view of this game, which I'm sure will not be a positive one.
Young Guns Fire Away: The group of Eric Gelinas, Damon Severson, and Jon Merrill combined for 5 total points on the night. It's great to see the young players contributing and having them all on the ice gives the Devils a ton of offensive options from the back end. Gelinas and Severson each put up 3 SOG on the night. There is a lot to be excited about on the Devils blue line, but I get the feeling Adam Larsson may have to wait a little longer for that opportunity he's been told he'll get.
Damon's Big Night: Severson was impressive tonight and I think it would be hard to say otherwise. He tallied his first NHL point and his first NHL goal in the first period and looked comfortable on the puck while playing in all situations. He also led the team in ES shot attempt differential with a +8 on a night where the Devils had the lead basically the entire way. If he continues to play this way, I have a hard time believing he will be coming out of the lineup.
Discipline An Issue: This was really the only big criticism to come out of this game. After handing the Panthers 8 power play opportunities, the Devils have now had to kill 13 penalties in 2 games. That is not ideal and it is really something the team has to rein in. Being down a man a half dozen times every night is not a good look for any team.
Sigh... The Fourths: The fourth line only saw a few attempts against them tonight at even strength, in stark contrast to Thursday night's game. Part of the reason for this, however, might have been that one of them committed a penalty almost every damn time they were on the ice tonight. The line took 5 penalties on the night in total, which doesn't seem like the type of impact you'd like your fourth line to have. Hard to create energy when you are sitting in the penalty box. Maybe we'll see a shakeup there against Tampa.
The Mikes Stay Hot: After big opening nights for both Mike Cammalleri and Michael Ryder on Thursday, each added another point against the Panthers. Cammalleri got a goal on a deflection of a Zidlicky slap shot, and Ryder added an assist on a nice feed to Clowe for the Devils fifth goal. Both being productive would go a long way to turning this team's offense around this season.
Schneider Solid: The Panthers put up 29 shots on the night and Cory Schneider denied 28 of them. The Panthers were only really threatening in a few spots, even with 8 power plays, but Schneider made some tough saves when called upon and was finally able to vanquish his former teammate, Luongo, in a head-to-head match up.
Last Thoughts: I don't expect it to continue forever, but it has been nice to watch this team light up the scoreboard the first couple games of the season. If they can manage to score with consistency this season, they will likely be battling for a division crown. Either way, it's just nice to start the season with a couple wins after last season's horrid start. Big early test coming against a strong Tampa team next, hopefully the Devils are up for the challenge.
Your Thoughts: Tonight was a dominating effort, even with some discipline issues. How did you feel about the game? Any good/bad performances stick out to you? Sound off below with your thoughts.