The Calgary Flames came into Newark to play the New Jersey Devils for the second and final time this season. The Devils had lost their last 6 consecutive bouts to the western conference foes, but this match up would buck that trend. New Jersey's leading scorer Michael Cammalleri returned from an eight game absence due to injury and injected the offense with a much needed boost.
The first period started with a ton of pace and the Devils nearly jumped out to a lead in the first minute with Joe Blandisi redirecting a Kyle Palmieri shot off the post. The game didn't see its first stoppage until 4:15 into the first period. Not long after, Adam Larsson scored the game's first goal off of a nice give-and-go play with Reid Boucher. Cory Schneider got his first real test about 8 minutes in shutting down Johnny Gaudreau and securing the rebound as well. Moments later Tuomo Ruutu committed a wildly unnecessary penalty that the Flames would take advantage of with Johnny Hockey setting up Sean Monahan for the equalizer. It was a very nice pass by Gaudreau, but Larsson and Andy Greene both uncharacteristically got caught heading behind the net to defend. The Flames owned the middle part of the period generating several good scoring chances, but the Devs took control of the game-play towards the end of the period with strong shifts from every line and another post by Adam Henrique.
Play got off to another fast start in the second period with Andy Greene blocking what should have been goal for the Flames right on the doorstep in the first 20 seconds of play. The Devils came right back with a nice red line step up by John Moore allowing Henrique to gather the puck and spring Micheal Cammalleri and Lee Stempniak for a 2 on 1 that Stempniak would bury to take the lead. Only 17 seconds later the Devils third line put the home team up by 2 with Reid Boucher jamming away at a goalmouth puck to tally his second point of the game. New Jersey would go on to dictate play for the first portion of the period before the Flames started firing back, pun intended. Calgary came with a fleury of chances including hitting the post on a short handed 2 on 1. Later in the period David Schlemko got called for a hooking penalty trying to slow down Johnny Hockey. The Devs were on their way to a good kill before a very weak slashing call landed Henrique in the box for a 23 second 5 on 3 Calgary power play. Gaudreau wasted little time in setting up another Flames power play goal. Another penalty late in the period by Sergey Kalinin left the Devs shorthanded heading into the third period of the back and forth contest.
As the third period started it became clear that the Flames were not going to hand the Devils the victory. Corey Schneider made a myriad of big time saves to maintain the Devils one goal advantage. That trend pretty much continued for the better portion of the third period, but the Devils eventually started playing with possession again about half way through the final frame. The refs gave the Flames one last chance when they decided not to call an obvious trip on Joseph Blandisi that thwarted a would be 2 on 1 with two and a half minutes to play. Calgary pulled their goalie moments later and Captain Andrew Greene put the game on ice with the empty netter.
The Opposition Opinion: You can see what the Flames fan base though at Matchsticks & Gasoline.
The Game Highlights: Here are the game's highlights from NHL.com:
Offense: The offense got their leading scorer back, and he goes by a new name. It was reported that Mike Cammalleri prefers to be called Michael Cammalleri, and when you lead the team in scoring and come back from an 8 game layoff and pick up right where you left off, you get to be called whatever you want. With Cammy slotted back in his old spot on the top line with Henrique and Stempniak, the top 6 actually looks sort of like a real NHL top 6, that is if you are as high on Joe Blandisi as I am. Blandisi has high end speed, high end skill, plays with an edge and doesn't take gruff from anybody. If he can start to bury some of the 3-4 scoring chances he generates each game, Hynes will have no choice but to keep him with the big club.
With Cammy back, Boucher was relegated to the third line. He had not shown too much promise as a bottom six NHLer up to this point, but was able to contribute with a very nice assist to open the scoring and the aforementioned game winner. He is only two games into his call up and its easy to become a prisoner of the moment, but Boucher putting up points is a very welcomed addition to the forwards.
Each line looked pretty good at one point or another throughout the game. I for one don't understand why Ruutu is ever in the line-up. I know Stefan Matteau hasn't set the world on fire, but you can't tell me he is a down grade from Rutuu. He is essentially the same player, just younger, faster, has more potential and will actually drop the gloves if called upon.
It is also worth mentioning Travis Zajac's goal drought. We all knew he would have one, but he has had so much experience with them, you would think he would be better at breaking out of them. I know other parts of his game are very good and all that, but its tough to accept a 25 game goal drought from a guy making $5.75 mil a year and playing 20 minutes a night.
Defense: I thought Greene and Larsson had their typical strong games, barring the snafu on the first Flames power play I mentioned earlier. Larsson in particular looked really good joining the rush on a few occasions and scoring his first goal since October. I also thought Schlemko and Moore were steady, not spectcular but nothing in particular to complain about. Severson is not playing with the same confidence he did as a rookie, but he isn't floundering either. And as for Gelly, he made a few good defensive plays, made a few bad ones, and never got to fully unleash the Truth. With Merrill being place on IR and not being available until after the All-Star break at the earliest, Gelly has a real chance to earn a regular spot in the line-up and I hope he takes advantage of it.
Special Teams: The power play continues to be unwatchable. It looks almost decent if they get it set up, but man do they struggle to get it set up. Ken Daneyko seemed to think that Jacob Josefson's absence along the half wall is a major factor in the unit's struggles, but I am not sold on that. The penalty kill gave up a couple goals tonight, but one was on a 5 on 3 and both were examples of Johnny Hockey being Johnny Hockey.
Goaltending: Entering tonight's game, Schneider ranked in the top 6 in the league in GAA, save %, wins and shut outs. Take out a couple of guys who have only played in 15-20 games and he's basically top three in GAA and save %. Not much else to say about the guy. Without him in net tonight, there is a good chance we lose a game like this.
The Flames: Johnny Gaudreau is a monster. I feel like I heard Cangi say his name 100 times tonight and I feel like I typed it 100 times here (there's bound to be a spelling error somewhere). Can't say enough about how good that guy is. That teenager Sam Bennett is also very promising.
Milestones: The Devils improved to 14-0-1 when entering the third period with a lead this season; Tyler Kennedy played in his 500th career NHL game; Adam Henrique picked up his 100th career assist; Reid Boucher recorded his first multi-point NHL game.
Thanks for reading.