The New Jersey Devils finally won their first road game of the season, beating the Carolina Hurricanes, 4-1. As with most wins, there were several good performances. The best came from an unexpected someone from this season. Michael Cammalleri.
Yes, that Michael Cammalleri. The Michael Cammalleri that spent the first ten games of this season taking calls. The Michael Cammalleri that seemed lost at times among an offensive attack that really could have used him. The Michael Cammalleri whose performances led the coaches to try him on his off-wing. The Michael Cammalleri who certainly was not scoring any goals; his goalless streak reached fourteen games. The Michael Cammalleri who looked like he wasn’t going to be scoring any goals any time soon. How was he the star?
Easy. He scored three goals. Cammalleri scored a natural hat trick tonight that led the Devils to tonight’s win. The last time any New Jersey Devil had a hat trick it was January 3, 2015 when Jaromir Jagr did it to the Second Rate Rivals. There have been some close calls in this season; Taylor Hall was on the cusp twice. But Cammalleri did it and it was crucial to the team’s win. Let’s quickly break each down:
Goal #1: Travis Zajac should get a lot of credit for making this play. He delayed in the hopes of getting Noah Hanifin to move, and he did. Ryan Murphy was too deep and Cammalleri was wide open in the right circle. Cammalleri was so open, he could have ate half of a sandwich before he got the puck. Pass, shot, 1-0 New Jersey and Cammalleri ended his goal drought.
Goal #2: Jacob Josefson rushed this puck up ice from his own end (good!) and attempted to pass it across to Cammalleri in the neutral zone so he could carry it in with speed. The pass did not go so well; it appeared to be hit by Ron Hainsey. Or that Cammalleri didn’t receive it cleanly. But he managed to recover it in stride and he had a 2-on-1 going with Beau Bennett. There was no hint of a pass to Bennett. He lifted his right leg and beat Eddie Lack with a great snap shot.
Goal #3: John Moore makes a long pass into the neutral zone to Beau Bennett. Bennett and Cammalleri do not criss-cross there, but they do so after Bennett carried the puck into the zone. After the short drop pass, Murphy - who gave plenty of space to Bennett - was just a spectator for what would be to come. Cammalleri took the puck to the top of the left circle and fired a laser to the top right corner.
Cammalleri’s night: three shots, three goals. They were all beautiful goals. They were “goal scorer’s” goals. They were important goals as it provided the base for the Devils win. And the Devils really needed them. Cammalleri’s first two goals were the only shots on net the Devils had in the second period. Imagine how this game would have went if he didn’t score either or both goals. The Devils’ offense returned to decency in the third period, but the run of play was in favor of the home team. After Cammalleri’s third goal, the Devils at least then had a large enough lead for Carolina to dictate the pace of the game. It would have been really deflating if the Devils were to be as so poor in attack for two straight periods. But Cammalleri did score his goals, Carolina only answered one of them, and Andy Greene sailed in an empty-net goal from his own slot to seal the 4-1 win.
The result was enjoyable. The team’s performance, well, it could have been better. But there were players that did have good games that drove New Jersey to their victory. Keith Kinkaid was very good in net. He made 33 saves and plenty of difficult ones at that. Despite Carolina out-attempting the Devils 56-36 in 5-on-5 play, Andy Greene and Damon Severson had a great night. They saw plenty of Jeff Skinner, Victor Rask, Lee Stempniak, Andrej Nestrasil, and others and they somehow came out positive in attempt-differential. They did great; Greene’s shorthanded empty netter was an exclamation mark. Beau Bennett played one of his best games as a Devil. Travis Zajac was good again. But the star? Indubitably and unexpectedly, it was Michael Cammalleri with his hat trick.
The Opposition Opinion: Brian LeBlanc recapped the game at Canes Country.
The One Against: I thought Nestrasil was going to score when he was able to collect a loose puck right in front of Kinkaid in the third period. He had time. He had space. He had Kinkaid stretching out to his right in desparation to stop him. And Kinkaid did stop him with the right pad. It was a great stop on what I thought would be a sure-fire goal.
Instead, the one that Nestrasil did score was a jam play at the left post. Kinkaid perhaps could have covered it better. Oh well. Kinkaid was excellent tonight. So was Nestrasil given his eight shots on net. His line with Joakim Nordstrom (1 SOG) and Jordan Staal (5 SOG) was strong all night against the Devils. That Kinkaid only allowed that one goal was big for the Devils’ result.
The Upstart: Nick Lappin played 13:22 of ice time tonight. He received both power play and penalty kill ice time. He had three shots on net. Needless to say, the coaches are very pleased with him.
The Returns: Reid Boucher and Jacob Josefson both returned to the lineup tonight in place of Devante Smith-Pelly and Sergey Kalinin. Josefson had a decent night. He did help set up Cammalleri’s second goal. Boucher didn’t do too much. We’ll see whether John Hynes makes another change.
The Penalties: I was not a fan of the penalties the Devils took tonight. They took three in the second period that helped lead to a 14-2 shot differential in favor of Carolina. Severson’s high-sticking penalty early in the period; P.A. Parenteau tripping Ryan Murphy; and Taylor Hall hitting Eddie Lack while literally charging into the net. The Devils’ penalty kill did a good job tonight as did Kinkaid. They limited Carolina to only seven shots on net out of four opportunities. But those three penalties helped ensure that the Devils’ offense would be limited in the second period. Again, it was a good thing that both shots on net actually went into the net.
Late in the game, while Carolina had Lack pulled, he slashed Jeff Skinner. Skinner did have an open shot so it may be seen as a justifiable play. I wish Lovejoy would be better about his positioning so he does not have to foul there. It was what it was, though.
The Reminder: Sorry, Carolina, but these are your goalies.
The Departure: Justin Faulk, Carolina’s #1 defenseman, had a strong night against Taylor Hall, Travis Zajac, and P.A. Parenteau. Plenty of physical play against Hall to try to limit him as much as possible. And Faulk absolutely helped push the play forward as he usually does. Unfortunately, he left tonight’s game early due to an apparent injury. It remains to be seen what that is, but that’s a big loss for Carolina even if he just misses Tuesday’s rematch in Newark.
The Long Extra Skater Situation: With just over four minutes left in regulation, Carolina decided to pull Lack for the extra skater. The Devils dealt with something similar last Saturday when Tampa Bay pulled their goalie with over three minutes left to play and down two goals. The Devils only allowed one shot and four attempts before Ben Lovejoy slashed Jeff Skinner. In the resulting 4-on-6 situation, the Devils faced two shots on five shooting attempts before Andy Greene scored an empty netter from down town and Phillip Di Guiseppe took a penalty to force Lack in back in net. The point: the Devils handled themselves very well in a long extra skater situation and Kinkaid stood solid.
One Last Thought: Here’s a list from Hockey Reference of all New Jersey Devils hat tricks since January 1988. Add Cammalleri to the list. Now there are 57 Devils who have done it.
Your Take: The Devils end their road trip 1-1-1 and will take on Carolina again on Tuesday night. They earned their first road win of the season tonight and they did it with an unlikely hat trick by Michael Cammalleri. What did you think of the win? How did you react to all three goals by Cammalleri? Who had the best night on New Jersey other than Cammalleri? What should the Devils take from this game ahead of their next one against Carolina? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about this game in the comments.
Thanks to everyone who commented in the Gamethread and/or followed along on Twitter with @AAtJerseyBlog. Thanks to Devin for writing the game preview. Thank you for reading.