As the game started at 10 PM EST, this recap will be done a little differently. I will breakdown each period and really leave it at that.
As a general summary, the New Jersey Devils beat the Vancouver Canucks 3-2. That second goal came with less than a second left in regulation, so it wasn't that close of a game on the scoreboard. Vancouver definitely out-shot the Devils for the better part of the game. They had the benefit of being behind in the game since early in the second period. They had the massive benefit of having 12:24 of power play ice time. The Canucks put up fifteen of their thirty-eight shots on net in that time. Fortunately for the Devils, Cory Schneider was on his game in his crease and the Devils punched back on offense appropriately. Mike Cammalleri, Andy Greene, and Adam Henrique all scored to keep the Devils ahead tonight.
If the game was at even strength for more than it was, then it would have been clearer that this was a better performance than their other two games on this road trip. All the same, it was from the puck movement alone and the winning result was earned. New Jersey will return home with two out of a potential six points on this trip. More importantly, they can feel good about how they played aside from their discipline issues.
The First Period: In a word, it was an even period. Both teams got two power plays. No one converted. The remaining twelve minutes at 5-on-5 yielded no goals. Both teams were OK at moving the puck from their own zone and through the neutral zone, but there was a lot of sloppiness on offense. Most of that is a credit to both team's defenses. They kept their positioning well and didn't go out of their way to leave someone too open. Cory Schneider and Jacob Markstrom had to swallow loose pucks but they didn't have to make any crazy stops.
My concern going into this game was penalties and the first twenty minutes didn't make me feel better. Jacob Josfeson got tagged with a tripping call not long after a good Devils power play completed. It wasn't much of a step on his stickblade, but Brandon Prust fell and so it was caught. Adam Larsson holding Adam Cracknell was more obvious and concerning in that he had to tug at his shoulder before Cracknell hit the net. Fortunately, the Devils' penalty kill was solid as one could hope for. Vancouver probably isn't happy with their penalties either. Derek Dorsett just put Bobby Farnham on his wallet early away from the play; the Devils - namely, Kyle Palmieri - did good work tried to punish them for it. Markstrom cleared a puck over the glass with authority. But bouncing pucks, poor reads, and less than ideal puck movement yielded nothing on that advantage save for Chris Higgins getting stung by a slapshot from Eric Gelinas.
Gelinas and Stefan Matteau entered the lineup as David Schlemko was ruled out with a lower body injury and Jiri Tlusty was a scratch. Tlusty hasn't done much recently and Schlemko is day-to-day, so the swaps make sense. Gelinas was pretty good on defense with Jon Merrill, believe it or not. He did make a good move on offense to charge into the offensive zone as a trailer, allowing for a good shot on net. Matteau, as a bottom six forward, hasn't been run over and hasn't done anything dumb. I guess that's a mark in his favor.
I was impressed with Palmieri on the first power play, but Adam Henrique slowly been more frantic around the net. He has been credited with four shots, with plenty of white jerseys in Markstrom's grill. This is a good thing. Henrique really does need to stand out more for the Devils' offense to function. On the opposite end, the Sedins have been kept somewhat quiet but with Jannik Hansen flying early on, I can't expect that to continue. Their bangers - Dorsett, Cracknell, Prust - have been decent.
Overall, 0-0 is a fair assessment for this period. Amid the details and despite a 9-6 shot differential in favor of New Jersey, it was an evenly played first third. We'll see whether the Devils smarten up on discipline, give Markstrom more dangerous shots, and don't lose themselves much in their half of the rink.
The Second Period: In a word, this was an uneven period. The beginning of the period was great. Kyle Palmieri was a horse on an excellent offensive shift. His hard work kept the attack going. Travis Zajac fed it across to Palmieri, who slid it across to Mike Cammalleri. Markstrom was flailing, Cammalleri was patient, and he didn't miss. Vancouver would respond with offensive pressure and then the calls began.
The goalscorer hooked Alexander Edler down low. Minutes later, Josefson hooked Cracknell after a dump-in by Vancouver. Later, Damon Severson got beat by Jannik Hansen during a power play and fouled him from behind to deny him a shorthanded chance. That last one was defensible - and not really a cross-check - but with each successive call, the Vancouver power play became more and more threatening. Schneider had to make some tough saves; namely a point-blank stop on Daniel Sedin and then a blocker stop on a re-direction from the slot. While the possession didn't always yield shots, it kept wearing down the Devils. After that last penalty kill (an abbreviated one), the Canucks just kept pinning the Devils back. They scrambled and somehow escaped. The Canucks being down one will likely push more in the third; New Jersey would be wise to respond.
This isn't to say they did nothing since the goal. They did draw two calls from offensive moves, the fourth line did some good work in spots, and Eric Gelinas hit the crossbar from distance. Stefan Matteau got a breakaway coming off the bench. He was trying to go around Markstrom, only to loose the puck when Edler slashed him in the hip. In the dying seconds of the period, Sergey Kalinin attempted a power move from the left side. As he tried to cut to the middle, Daniel Sedin hooked him. The first power play led to nothing and didn't even last all two minutes due to Severson's penalty. The Sedin call happened with 4.5 seconds left, so the Devils will get the beginning of the third to try to do something positive with it.
Ultimately, any hope that the game would stay at evens was dashed in this period. The Devils took five minors in forty minutes. So much for hoping they take fewer than six in a game. The referees seemingly made a point of it to call hooks, holds, and similar fouls to prevent the game from getting out of control. With the tempers kept relatively calm, they've done that. Yet, it's undercut the Devils' efforts in that they've been doing fairly well at evens. It wasn't until after that fifth penalty kill that Vancouver has taken over. Refs tend to swallow their whistles in the third period, so perhaps it will be at 5-on-5 for most of it. Though the Devils will have to be wary of the Sedins (Daniel Sedin has 7 shots on net after only having one in the first period), their fourth line, and the rest of the team.
The Third Period: In a word, the third was dramatic. So much happened. Here's a summary:
The Devils would convert that power play Kalinin drew to close the second. Andy Greene got a rare power play shift. He was at the center point, he attempted a wrister, and it got in. Markstrom was screened by Matt Bartkowski, which helped. Alas, it couldn't be easy as the discipline issues struck again. Bo Horvat made a play across to the left for a great shot Schneider stopped and was hooked by Josefson. Josefson's third minor penalty yielded a scrambling penalty kill. They nearly beat Schneider with a puck trickling through the crease. John Moore just fell on it in the paint and the referee awarded a penalty shot. Schneider denied Radim Vrbata the PS and then went back to enduring pressure on the power play. Not long after that, special teams would finally work out for the Canucks.
Luca Sbisa went off for tripping Stephen Gionta, who crashed hard into the boards. The power play did worse than nothing. Schneider attempted to play a cleared puck up to a teammate, only to have it picked off by Daniel Sedin. Daniel passed it to Henrik, who buried the shorthanded goal. Eric Gelinas nearly re-created it with a giveaway of his own that forced Schneider to rob Brandon Prust in the slot. At 2-1, things got nervy. But Adam Henrique gave the team some breathing room. His first shooting attempt since the first period was blocked. His second beat Markstrom to the far side of the net to make it 3-1.
From that point on, the game switched back and forth between solid defense and calamitous play. The most notable of those attacks featuring Horvat torching Damon Severson and feeding Alexandre Burrows for what would look like an easy goal. Schneider stretched to rob him and keep it 3-1. The Canucks really did pile it on. When they pulled Markstrom, they did it against the softest unit they could do it against: Moore, Severson, Gionta, Brian O'Neill, and Farnham - who lost his stick at some point. They were out there for a hundred seconds, Moore took a double minor for high sticking (really a high cross check) Burrows down, and they just scrambled, scrambled, and scrambled some more. The Devils did their best to kill their seventh shorthanded situation. Alas, they did not. Vrbata put home a rebound that deflected up and over Schneider into the net with 0.5 seconds left. It was a consolation goal if there ever was one. The Devils still held on to win 3-2.
The shot count was a massive 7-19 deficit. Total attempts were 58-43 in favor of Vancouver over all three periods. That was boosted by the power play and the extra skater play. The Canucks put up fifteen power play shots alone. If we only look at even strength play, the Canucks were only ahead 37-31 in attempts. The Devils played with fire from a penalty standpoint and only got burned at the end. Their power play did get a conversion, though it's hard to say it was good given that some of them did nothing and one of them conceded a goal and came close to conceding two. Again, if this game was kept at even strength more often, then I think the Devils would have looked much better. It was what it was and the Devils got something out of this road trip.
In terms of impressive performances, I really liked how Palmieri, Cammalleri, and Zajac played. They were attacking, they were smart in their own end, and they helped on pressure. Henrique's goal was big, obviously, and I liked how active he was to start the game. I think Gelinas and Matteau had good nights, Gelinas' ghastly giveaway aside on the team's last power play this evening. Both had their offensive moments (Matteau's breakaway which drew a slash; Gelinas hit a crossbar) and Gelinas wasn't a disaster at even strength. Greene and Larsson did their usual, big-minute efforts for a penalty kill that basically bent, bent, and bent some more for seven situations. Lastly, Schneider may have helped create a goal against him, but he was excellent in net with 36 saves and making Vrbata, Prust, and Burrows talk to themselves with some big stops in the third.
In terms of who didn't do so well, this was not a good game at all for O'Neill. O'Neill contributed nothing and got pinned back a lot. Gionta and Farnham were pinned back quite a bit too, but they each drew a call and Gionta put in four hard minutes on the PK tonight. Moore and Severson were drowning out there. The last hundred seconds they played didn't help, but it was a rough night for them. I don't think it was an accident that we didn't see Severson on the power play after the one where he took the penalty. Josefson was definitely a negative tonight. Not that he's expected to help out much on offense, but when he was responsible for three of the team's seven shorthanded situations. That was rough.
Overall, this was a better game than their other two games on their road trip. Terrible discipline aside, the team was better at moving the puck and completing their passes. Jordin Tootoo was making good reads; the Devils didn't just settle for dump-and-chase hockey for the most part; and they were able to gain Vancouver's zone multiple times through simple passes. The puck control was better; the Devils didn't just lose it at random times. If the Devils didn't take seven calls, then it would have been more apparent that this was miles ahead of their performances in Calgary and Edmonton. That should be the main takeaway after the two points.
Your Take: The Devils beat Vancouver in another penalty-fest of a game, this time in regulation. What's your take on the victory? Who really impressed you tonight? Who did you think had a bad game? What should the Devils do differently - other than giving the other team seven power play opportunities - for their next game on Wednesday? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about this win in the comments.
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