How should a team respond to a shutout loss where they got out-played in most aspects of a hockey game? A shutout win of their own is as good as any. Cory Schneider was perfect against all 25 shots he faced. The defense cleaned up as many rebounds and loose pucks as they could to support their goalie. In contrast, two rebounds of sorts created the goals that put the game in their favor. The New Jersey Devils went to northwest New York again and beat the Buffalo Sabres, this time by a 2-0 score.
Clearly, this was a better performance by the Devils than Sunday. Then again, a still action picture from the 1999-2000 season would've displayed a better performance than that game. The Devils put that awful night behind them and played a rather proactive game with the Sabres. While the game had a total of only forty six shots and ninety seven attempts, it was not at all a sleepy effort. Even when both teams were deadlocked at three shots apiece in the second period, there was plenty of back and forth action. The Sabres and Devils backchecked well enough to deny offensive opportunities. The accuracy for both teams left something to be desired. And the goalies were on point, even though Linus Ullmark looked shakier than Cory Schneider as he conceded plenty of rebounds. The crowd wasn't into it, but the teams on the ice put in a strong effort. Every unit had their moment of offense; especially Buffalo in the third period.
The rebounds ultimately doomed Buffalo. With a few minutes left in the second period, the Devils' top line finally struck. Adam Henrique passed it across the zone for a one-timer by Mike Cammalleri. Ullmark kicked out the rebound in front - right to Lee Stempniak on his proverbial doorstep. All open with plenty of space in between Zach Bogosian and Jake McCabe. The puck was in, Stempniak hopped into the goal frame, and it was 1-0. About four minutes into the third period, another bounce yielded a score. Bogosian attempted a clearance off the sideboards, it was challenged by Kyle Palmieri, it hit off Jacob Josefon's skate by accident, and just dropped in the high slot for a turning Jiri Tlusty. He unleashed a slapshot and it beat Ullmark. His first legitimate goal of the season put the Devils up 2-0. The Sabres, to put it one way, they steeled their resolve.
That goal by Tlusty was 4:19 into the period; the Devils' second shot of the period. Their third shot of the period would come 15:45 into the third period. The Sabres just tilted the ice in one direction. Score effects would suggest that would happen, but it was complete domination for about ten minutes by the home team. Matt Moulson, among others, just kept putting rubber on Schneider. He alone had three shots. The team had another seven shots out of a total of twelve. Their third power play of the night was actually threatening. The Devils had to collapse. When the Sabres pinned them back, they just struggled to get any zone exits much less any exits that could have possession to keep Buffalo honest. The fourth line had to survive a nightmarish two-minute shift with an icing coming in between as the sole reprieve. The Sabres absolutely wanted to make it a game. Thanks to some key interventions and the continued excellence of Cory Schneider, it would not happen.
Tonight's game featured two good team efforts. I don't think Buffalo should come away with this one feeling too bad about it. The Devils should feel good, though. Of course, they won which is always worth good feelings. But they survived some really rough minutes, they didn't panic in the first two periods when the game was going back and forth with little on the scoreboard, and every unit contributed in their own way. Therefore, I think this was a very good response after a really bad loss.
The Opposition Opinion: Check out Die by the Blade for a Buffalo-based opinion on this game.
The Game Highlights: Check out the goals and many saves in the highlight video of tonight's game at NHL.com:
Stupendous: Cory Schneider was really on point as the Sabres wanted and often succeeded at making chaos around the net. Whether it was to screen the goalie, create a situation where a loose puck would find a Buffalo stick amid a crowd, try to get a rebound, or just finding a teammate all alone in front, Schneider had a lot to deal with around him. While the defense helped him greatly after the initial shot, Schneider had to make the save without putting it into too many precarious situations. For me, my favorite stop from him came in the second period. Sam Reinhart beat Damon Severson down the wing, cut to the middle, took a shot, hopped past John Moore, and then took a shot off his own rebound. Schneider moved with Reinhart perfectly to stop his attempts. At that point, I figured he was going to have a good night. He already had at least three solid stops on Reinhart. He ended up having the best possible night for a goalie: a shutout.
The Return of Henrique: Adam Henrique returned to the lineup and was used like he never left. He took twenty one draws (he won ten of them), he took twenty-seven shifts, he played 18:35, and he played a bit in all situations. He was OK. The penalty he took was questionable but it didn't turn out to be damaging. He only had one shot on net and he overskated a choice rebound that he could've put home for the game's first goal. However, he did contribute a legitimate secondary assist to Stempniak's goal. Henrique spent much of the game on defense, though the shot differential he was on the ice for was nearly even. It was still good to see him back all the same.
The Best in a While: Jiri Tlusty and Jacob Josefson both played really well tonight. Tlusty has had his struggles establishing himself on the team. Would he be a scorer? A veteran to help the bottom six? A top six winger who just facilitates play? What would he do? Tonight, he was winning pucks, making plays, taking attempts (two shots out of six) and keeping plays alive and going in the right direction. His goal makes his good performance stand out even more. Josefson had a strong effort with Tlusty and Palmieri. He had his share of potential scoring chances that he could have done better on, but it didn't detract from how he performed on and off the puck. This was a good night for him as well even without any points on the boxscore.
Defensively, it was great to see Adam Larsson and Andy Greene not suffer from a massive negative attempt differential, which comes from just having to play long shifts in their own end over and over. They didn't have to do that as much and that's a reflection on how well 5-6 were on defense and how well the forwards helped them out. I really liked how they performed on the penalty kill, which was very good against a potent Buffalo power play. The other penalty killers did well, but Greene and Larsson were excellent among them.
Struggling: Jon Merrill entered the lineup for Eric Gelinas. His play on the puck was often calamitous. He had some solid clears late, but for the most part, he was picked on more than anyone else on the defense. More than Severson and Moore, who saw a lot of Buffalo's top six and not often for the better. With one shooting attempt - a missed shot - it's hard to see what exactly he brings to the table. I think Gelinas will draw back into the lineup soon.
The Call Up: With Henrique back, Joseph Blandisi got moved down to the fourth line and played wing with Jordin Tootoo and Stephen Gionta
Brian O'Neill. I thought Blandisi would get his first NHL point when he hit Tootoo with a great pass into the slot. Alas, Ullmark robbed Tootoo. Like the other lines, they had some good attacking shifts. They also were infamously featured for getting run over by the Sabres for two minutes in the third period. Nevertheless, I thought Blandisi handled his changed role well. As I wrote earlier, he may be going back to Albany, but we'll see him in New Jersey in the future.
A Note on Buffalo's Top Defender: Rasmus Ristolainen is amazing. 27 plus minutes, no penalties, and constantly making things happen. The rest of Buffalo's defense was not on his level tonight and it showed. With the Devils facing another great U-20 defenseman on Thursday, they should take notes on how to handle him. Namely, make the others suffer.
Two Last Thoughts: I liked how the Devils performed in the first and second periods. The third was mostly Buffalo, Buffalo, and more Buffalo with a few long ENG attempts. Again, score effects helped drive that, but the Devils had an easier time when they worked to have some possession and forced Buffalo to actually go backwards for a little bit. They should work on that more often, especially when the opposition is trying to pen them in their own end. It isn't easy, but it's better than throwing pucks away to give it back to the team either on the rink or by an icing.
Lastly, with this 2-0 victory. the Devils won their first game in regulation on a Tuesday in this season. It's their second win on Tuesday all season as well. Well done.
Your Take: The Devils put up a shutout victory. Cory Schneider was great again and the Devils skaters supported their goalie quite well. What did you make of tonight's game? Other than the goalie, who impressed you the most on New Jersey? What did you make of Buffalo's effort? What should the Devils learn from this game to take into their game on Thursday? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about this win in the comments.
Thanks to everyone who commented in the Gamethread and/or followed the team's Twitter account, @AATJerseyBlog. Thank you for reading.