Comeback X2! In a surprising, but well-earned result, the Devils beat the Wild 4-3 in Minnesota.
In the first, the game looked lost. The Wild absolutely dominated the Devils possession and shot-wise. The Wild out-shot the Devils 15-6, with Jared Spurgeon scoring a magnificent goal on the power play. Despite my sadness initially, I soon found myself marveling at the goal, which required unbelievable skill. Spurgeon dominated the Devils tonight, contributing heavily on the offense, and playing solid defense as well. This was particularly noticeable during the first half of the game, when the Wild were shooting on will against the Devils.
In the second, during a lull in the game, Taylor Hall made a bad choice in attempting a pass through two Wild players, and Granlund was able to feed a pass to Zucker, who sped by the falling referee and Kyle Quincey, backhanding a shot by Schneider, which he probably should have saved. At this point, the game looked hopeless, and it seemed the Wild would walk away with it.
Then the beast that is known as the Devils offense awoke.
Sarcasm aside, the Devils responded well to this deficit, and actually scored on a power play given to them. The Wild completely fell for Kyle Palmieri’s bluff, thinking he would shoot (as he usually does). Palmieri then was able to pass it straight to Zacha, who deflected the shot off of Spurgeon’s stick and into the empty net for his 3rd of the year, and his first since November.
The third period was one of the best periods the Devils played all season.
Taylor Hall was able to redeem himself for his previous giveaway, delivering an excellant pass to Adam Henrique. Henrique then shot a perfect wrister off the bar and in, and the Devils found themselves tied again.
Erik Haula gave the Wild the lead again, depositing a backhand over Schneider’s shoulder. The shot was well-placed, and Schneider was out of position. Those goals happen sometimes.
The Devils then got lucky on the next goal. Kyle Palmieri was able to somehow squeek the puck past Dubnyk, and the goal seemed so unlikely that even the refs didn’t initially signal the goal. Realistically, we were blessed to get that goal against the Vezina Candidate that is Devan Dubnyk. Then again, even the best goalies give up bad goals.
Beau Bennett’s goal however, was just magnificent play on Blake Coleman’s part. Blake Coleman, possessing the puck in the corner, was able to get around Christian Folin before getting knocked down. He still was able to deliver a hard pass to Beau Bennett in the slot. Bennett used Suter as a screen for Dubnyk, and slotted it top right for the 4-3 Devils lead, and win. What a first career NHL point for Blake Coleman, and congratulations to him on that.
Opposition Opinion: Joe Bouley wrote this recap for the Wild SBNation.
Beau-Jo-Pav: The line of Beau Bennett, Jacob Josefson and Pavel Zacha were, in my opinion, the best Devils line on the game. John Hynes stated Jacob Josefson has come back with a second gear, and it showed this game. Throughout the game, Minnesota was unable to contain the line, and Hynes put them on in high-pressure situations. Whenever they were on the ice, they always seemed to pin Minnesota in the offensive zone, and although the line didn’t get any points while with each other (Coleman and Wood assisted Bennett’s goal), they constantly dominated the Minnesota players with their speed and grittiness.
Although Bennett and Zacha had the goals, I thought Jacob Josefson might’ve had himself the best game. Maybe this is a stretch, but he was incredibly involved. However, he seems to have a curse where even if he performs well, he can’t seem to get a point. With more performances like this, Josefson should eventually find himself on the score sheet, hopefully sooner rather than later.
Oh no Nino: Throughout the game, Nino Niederreiter caused havoc to the Devils defenseman, particularly Kyle Quincey. His pace early in the first led to him always getting at the puck before Quincey could. Niederreiter also juked by Quincey and had a one-on-one chance against Schneider, which Schneider stonewalled. Niederreiter had the highest Corsi For% by far for the Wild, at nearly 80%. In short, he absolutely dominated the Devils on the game, and luckily Schneider stopped him on all chances.
According to Corsi Stats Quincey had himself an alright game, with an even-strength Corsi over 50%. From what I saw, he had himself a rather quiet game, aside from the Niederreiter moments. For a defenseman, I guess that’s better than being exposed as a liability, as Quincey was earlier in the year.
The Kids are Alright: This game highlighted the paly of the Devils rookies. Blake Coleman had himself another good game. His Corsi was 58.62% on the night, which was the highest of all Devils forwards. He had a better night on faceoffs (50%), after a horrendous faceoff performance against the Canucks (25%). Miles Wood had himself YET another good game. His speed caused the Wild defenseman to be wary, and watch the edge of the ice. Based on the fanfare on this site, Wood seems to have himself a fanbase. Will Coleman maintain this level of production? Nick Lappin had a lot of support when he was initially called up, but then he cooled down and was eventually sent down to the AHL. Of course, Lappin would probably have more use than, let’s say Luke Gazdic, who is surprisingly still with the Devils. Wood I’m not so concerned about — his speed is an invaluable asset for a Devils team lacking on that.
Our Star Pairing.... Lovejoy and Merrill?: If I was told weeks ago that Jon Merrill and Ben Lovejoy were to be the #1 pairing for the Devils, I would probably break down in tears, thinking the season was completely lost. After a horrendous performance against Edmonton, however, the pairing have been incredible placeholders during Greene’s injury. Merrill particularly seems to have taken his performance in the Edmonton game to heart, and has seemingly redefined his defensive game during his last few appearances. I’m not a huge fan of Ben Lovejoy, but he has been playing relatively solidly tonight. He had a bad mistake on the penalty kill, but aside from that he seemed to be fine. If they continue playing like this, I would feel more comfortable with our defensive core, knowing we have four (maybe 5?) reliable defencemen on a night-by night basis. I will never be convinced by Kyle Quincey or Karl Stollery. Steven Santini has played well, and has shown why he is so highly valued as a prospect for the Devils with his strong defensive play.
Speaking of Greene...: Greene and Fiddler will be back sooner rather than later. Both have resumed skating since last week, and it remains to be seen who gets taken out of the lineup. For the forwards, it should be easy - Devante Smith-Pelly has done absolutely nothing on the ice these past few weeks. On defence, it’s a bit more difficult. Karl Stollery, while a journeyman AHL-er, has played well for the Devils, although his Corsi stats from this game will not support that claim. Greene needs to play though, as he’s our definite #1 defenseman. Maybe Quincey? If I were Hynes, I would probably take out Stollery, even though he has been playing well. Quincey is the only defenseman with a hard slapshot, a dimension not offered by any other Devils d-man. Let me know what you guys think.
Our #1, Our Beloved: Cory Schneider had himself yet another good game. Only the second goal was a weak goal to give up, but he single-handedly saved the Devils from the force that is Nino Niederreiter this game. He has slowly been working up his save percentage to a somewhat respectable number, and he almost has a .940% on the New Year. As I’ve mentioned last time, Schneider and Kinkaid are both very solid options, so I can feel comfortable now with whoever starts in net.
Short Aside: I don’t want to end this article without giving credit to Palmieri, Hall and Henrique for having good games. So here it is.
Also the Devils apparently broke Jonas Brodin’s finger this game, which is really unfortunate for the Wild.
Your Take: I’m very happy right now. The Devils beat the best team in the West, although they were admittedly outplayed for the first half of the game. What do you guys think of the current lines? Where do we fit in Fiddler and Greene when healthy? Who do you guys think was the best player on the ice? Can we maintain this hot streak? Lastly, three points off! Have a good night.