It was a night of reunions. Adam Henrique for the Devils, Stefan Noesen for the Ducks. It didn’t look great for the hometown New Jersey Devils after the first period. However, Monday night’s Devils vs Anaheim Ducks game at the Prudential Center is a reminder of why a game’s outcome should not be assumed based on the first 20 minutes of action. New Jersey, trailing 2-0 headed into the second, showed the kind of hunger and determination that can make them a competitor when the season starts to boil down to it’s end. But, for tonight, there was a game to be won.
Starting in the second, New Jersey out-chanced their opponents by a total of 34-25, they out-shot them by a total of 27-18. And in the column that matters the most, they out-scored the Ducks 5-1 in the final 40 minutes of play.
So, to the first we go. John Hynes rolled his best forward line to start the game in Taylor Hall, Kyle Palmieri, and Nico Hischier. Sami Vatanen and John Moore were the D-men on the opening draw. Those five squared off against Hampus Lindholm, Josh Manson, Andrew Cogliano, Jakob Silfverberg, and the former Devil, Adam Henrique. It took Anaheim a little under seven minutes to kick off the scoring in this one. With New Jersey outnumbered along the boards at the top of the Anaheim zone, Travis Zajac, with a couple Ducks smothering him, tried to force the puck deep, only for it to be swatted out by an Anaheim stick directly to the tape of Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf. Getzlaf dished it to Rickard Rakell, they skated up the neutral zone with only one New Jersey defenseman in front of them, and Rakell dished a pass to Getzlaf, who took a low shot bound for the five-hole from the left faceoff circle that trickled in behind Cory Schneider. 1-0 Anaheim 6:44 into the first. That unfortunate play would manifest itself again just under four minutes later. With the Devils again in the Anaheim zone, Damon Severson would get caught up-ice and out of position as a pass from in front of the Anaheim net deflected off the boards, and onto the tape of a now long-gone Andrew Cogliano. Cogliano, a former fastest skater competition winner, with Jakob Silfverberg and Brandon Montour, entered the zone on a 3-on-1 for Anaheim. He dished the puck to the high slot, where Silfverberg found a home for it, putting the Ducks up 2-0, with two goals in a span of 3:46. Not good. Adam Henrique picked up the second assist on this play, his first point against New Jersey.
The remainder of the first was pretty uneventful from a statistics perspective, so to the second period we go. Just over eight minutes into the second, to be exact. With Josh Manson in the box for a delay of game penalty, the Devils power play went to work, and capitalized. With the Anaheim defenders backing off, Drew Stafford carried the puck over the Anaheim blue line, dished a pass off to Jesper Bratt on the left-side boards, who then sent the puck back to Sami Vatanen on the near blue-line. Vatanen wound up, let a blast go from the point, which was deflected in front by Miles Wood, and into the net, past Ducks goalie Ryan Miller. 2-1 now with 8:11 gone in the second. Unfortunately, that goal wouldn’t stand up for long. 3:10 later, with an Anaheim penalty just about killed, we got to see a rare occasion in which two players who were traded for each other get to go one-on-one. All that’s gone through my head since seeing this one is the Disney Mighty Ducks movies. Henrique gathered the loose puck in his own end, skated over his own blue line, and then flipped the puck about fifteen feet in the air over the head of Sami Vatanen. Rico turned on the jets, got the puck back, out-muscled Vatanen in the midst of driving to the net, and then flipped a beautiful backhand over the glove of Cory Schneider. Clap, clap, clap, Adam. Clap, clap, clap. Anyway, 3-1 Anaheim with 8:39 left in the period. From there, it was all New Jersey on the scoresheet. With 1:44 left in the period, Miles Wood turned and slung a wrist shot on net from the left-side boards. The puck found a home in the back of the net, making it 3-2 New Jersey. I’m sure that’s one Ryan Miller would like back, but 3-2 either way.
Early in the third, the Devils would hold Anaheim to one shot on their first power play of the night. They’d then cash-in on the momentum from the kill. Brian Boyle flipped a pass out to Blake Coleman, who hit the newly-freed Jesper Bratt in stride as they gained the Anaheim zone. Bratt let loose a cannon-like wrist shot from above the right faceoff circle, and it beat Miller to tie the game at 3-3 with 14:11 remaining in regulation. Just over ten minutes later, it was the former Anaheim Duck, Stefan Noesen, who gave the Devils the lead for the first time this night. With Ryan Miller out of position, he slipped home his fourth goal this year. 4-3 New Jersey with 4:07 remaining. The Devils weren’t quite done yet, though, and neither was Noesen. He would bury an empty-netter with 6.6 seconds remaining to ice the game and send the hometown fans home happy. What a night.
So, that was fun. New Jersey scored five goals for the third-straight time on home-ice. Anaheim extended a streak of scoring 2 or 3 goals a game to 11-straight on Monday. Miles Wood buried his career-high ninth goal, and Brian Boyle had three assists on his 33rd birthday. Sami Vatanen had his first point as a Devil, an assist on Miles Wood’s first goal that made it 2-1 way back in the second period. New Jersey moves into a first place tie with the Washington Capitals at 43 points, the extra game-in-hand gives the Devils the technical lead in the Division. Those stats from Andrew Gross’s Twitter, @AGrossRecord.
The Devils and Our Hated Rivals will renew tensions this Thursday night at the Prudential Center. That’s the next time New Jersey will see any action. Those other guys will play the Anaheim Ducks Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden. That’s all folks. Enjoy your week. Comment in the comments section anything on your minds about this wild ride of a game.