Final Score: Devils 4, Canadiens 1

The New Jersey Devils defeated the Montreal Canadiens 4-1 from Bell Centre on Tuesday night. The win brings the Devils record to 20-18-10 on the season.

- Montreal scored the first goal of the night on a Max Pacioretty tally.

- The Devils answered back on a goal by Jaromir Jagr, which put him past Mark Messier for the 7th most goals in NHL history with 695 goals scored.

- From there, it was almost all Devils, as Eric Gelinas and Adam Henrique scored second period goals.

- That would be all the Devils would need, as Martin Brodeur rebounded from a poor start to stop 29 of the 30 Montreal shots.

Dave Turner

When Max Pacioretty ripped home an early first period goal high glove side on Martin Brodeur on a shot that should have been saved, it looked like it might be a long night for the New Jersey Devils.

How quickly things can change.

Timely goal scoring, stellar defense and an excellent performance by Brodeur paced the Devils to a 4-1 win in what was one of their best all-around road performances of the season.

Needing two goals to get back in it in the third period, the Devils defense suffocated the Canadiens to just six shots. The Devils haven’t had many multiple-goal leads this season, but they played with poise in the third to erase any chance of a comeback.

The defense playing up to par shouldn’t be a surprise, as they’ve done so throughout the season. With timely goal scoring, it makes the job of the defense and goaltending that much easier and there were more than enough goals tonight.

Jaromir Jagr, who scored his first goal in 10 games, bulldozed his way to the net en route to the their first goal of the night. It was the type of play that only someone like Jagr could make. With the game tied up heading into the second, New Jersey exploded for two goals in the second stanza to blow the game wide open.

Eric Gelinas reminded everyone of his offensive potential when he ripped a bomb of a shot past Carey Price to give the Devils the 2-1 lead. Despite his struggles in his own end, his presence alone makes the power play more dangerous. Sure, he’s going to have some moments where he’s in over his head defensively, but there is no one on this roster who can shoot the puck like he does.

Adam Henrique continued to impress, notching his 12th goal of the season. Any thoughts that Henrique was a product of Zach Parise, etc are no longer valid.Adam Henrique Henrique is carving a niche for himself in his third NHL season and playing with Ryane Clowe and Michael Ryder has allowed him to excel. The man who scored the most recent historic goal in Devils history might not ever be a 40-goal scorer, but he’s now showing that he has the ability to score 20-plus.

As for Clowe, he’s beginning to show some of the playmaking ability that led to his signing in the offseason.  In 10 games since returning from injury, the former Shark and Ranger has eight points (one goal, seven assists).   Together, the line of Henrique, Ryder and Clowe has been a welcomed source of offense for a team that has struggled to score.

Moving forward, this team has to be feeling good about where they are. With Patrik Elias and Damien Brunner still to return to the lineup, the Devils not only got to two games over NHL .500 for the first time this season, but reinserted themselves right back into the playoff mix.

As of Tuesday night, the Devils have 50 points and are just two points out of second place in the Metropolitan Division. They also sit just one point out of the wildcard spot, behind the Toronto Maple Leafs and New York Rangers who round out the top-eight with 51 points each.

Next up for the Devils is another tough road test, as the Devils take on the Colorado Avalanche from Denver on Thursday, looking to bring their points streak to five games.

Final Score: Devils 1, Stars 0

The New Jersey Devils bounced back tonight with an important, shutout win over a struggling Dallas Stars team at the Prudential Center.  This one pushes the Devils’ record to 18-18-9 on the season.

Michael Ryder made the most of a perfect play and pass from Travis Zajac, snapping it past Kari Lehtonen to give New Jersey a 1-0 lead midway through the second.  This was Ryder’s 15th goal of the season, and his third straight game lighting the lamp. 

Corey Schneider stops all 26 for his 3rd shutout of the season.  This was the first time all-year that Dallas had been held scoreless.

Ryan Jahnke

New Jersey snapped their skid, coming out ahead in a low-scoring duel between two struggling teams.  With talks of the playoffs beginning to gain more traction, both the Devils and the Stars came in desperate to tally a “W”.  Dallas arrived at the Prudential Center as the losers of three-straight allowing a total of 18 goals across those defeats.  The Devs weren’t looking much better, having blown two-straight leads before tonight, and losing a total of three in-a-row themselves.

As we’ve seen so many times this season, it was the stoppers for the Devils that lead them to the victory.  Between netminder Corey Schneider stopping 26 shots and the exceptional play of the defenders in front who blocked another 18, the Stars were kept off the scoreboard for the first time this year.  Tonight was a big test for the New Jersey defense, facing some dynamic, young scorers in Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin.  After stumbling in their last three efforts, the Devils rose to the challenge Dallas provided, even strength and on the penalty kill.

There wasn’t much offense to speak of from New Jersey tonight, but all the credit for that goes to Dallas goaltender Kari Lehtonen.  The Devils created more than their share of offense, firing 34 shots on net.  Mike Sislo showed surprising speed, and Adam Henrique continues to impress.  But, tonight the offensive stars were Travis Zajac and the red-hot Michael Ryder.  Travis Zajac is showing exactly why the Devils have so much faith in him as their number one center.  Tonight he was a rock, playing the Stars strong at both ends of the ice, and keeping the puck in attacking zone.  This effort turned out to be the key to the game, as Zajac protected the puck and made enough room for a perfect pass to, and shot from, Michael Ryder.  Since coming together with Adam Henrique, and now Ryan Clowe, Michael Ryder has been electric with points in all but one of those games, and goals in the last three.  Tonight though, it was Zajac, and not Henrique, that set Ryder up to continue his impressive play.

Pregame Primer: Game Thirty-Eight – Devils at Blackhawks

New Jersey Devils at Chicago Blackhawks – 8:00 pm

United Center, Chicago, Illinois

TV: MSG+ 2  Radio: WCBS 880-AM

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Dainius Zubrus – Travis Zajac – Jaromir Jagr
Mattias Tedenby – Patrik Elias – Steve Bernier
Reid Boucher – Adam Henrique – Michael Ryder
Jacob Josefson – Stephen Gionta – Cam Janssen

Andy Greene – Mark Fayne
Eric Gelinas – Marek Zidlicky 
Anton Volchenkov – Jon Merrill

Goaltender: Cory Schneider

Some thoughts on tonight’s game:  

1. The element of surprise?  These two teams haven’t squared off since late March of 2012 and the Blackhawks marek-zidlicky-mulhollandjpg-7cc91b25ddd83cd3haven’t beaten the Devils since April 2, 2010.  Unfortunately for the Devils, that Hawks are 9-1-2 against the East this season.  However, maybe that number begins to even out over the course of the year?

2. Huge advantage if the Devils are on the PP.  As unbelievable as the Blackhawks are this season, they do have one big flaw; their penalty kill at the United Center.  They are dead last in the league at 72.7 percent.  This is not the case of a small sample size; their road PK is under 78 percent.  For whatever reason, the Devils power play on the road is miles better than it is at home.  Away from the Pru, they are connecting at a 23.4 percent rate, good enough for 4th in the league.  Maybe they’re more focused, there’s less pressure, or something else, but whatever it is, that’s one major area where the Devils have a leg up on the Hawks.

3. Need success from bottom two lines.  The Top-6 of the Hawks is ridiculous.  You know the names…Kane, Toews, Hossa, Sharp, Shaw, Saad.  Now, the Devils top two lines will have their share of scoring chances but it’s hard to imagine them dictating the pace of play when those quality players are on the ice.  Therefore, the Adam Henrique line and the Stephen Gionta line need to outplay their opposition on a high majority of their shifts.  If they can produce some chances and maybe even some goals, that would go a long way in getting the the Devils a victory.

Prediction – Blackhawks 4 Devils 2

I do think the Devils will be up for this game and will stick with them.  I see it as a pretty closely played contest with Chicago potting an empty netter at the end, in turn, making the game look a little bit more one-sided.  If the Devils got any amount of points tonight, I think that would be considered a good evening.

Enjoy the game, everyone.

Final Score: Devils 5, Capitals 4

The New Jersey Devils came to the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. and fought off an offensive onslaught as they rallied back to beat the Capitals 5-4.  This one pushes the Devils’ record to 15-15-7 on the season.

- Marek Zidlicky with a first period, power play goal that came together after some great puck movement from Andy Greene, Jaromir Jagr, and the rest of the power play line.  That’s Zidlicky’s 4th of the season, all of them coming on the power play

- Jason Chimera scored at the midway point of period number 2 on a rebound off his own wrap-around to tie the game at 1.

- Mikhail Grabovski was left all-alone behind the Devils’ D to pop in the go ahead goal, his 10th goal of the season, off a nice pass from Eric Fehr.

Joel Ward found his own rebound just before the end of the 2nd period off of a Mike Green slap shot to net his 11th of the year, and the Caps’ 3rd of the night.

Jaromir Jagr netted a power play goal from Greene and Patrik Elias to breathe a little bit of life back into the Devs.  This ties him with Mark Messier at 694 career goals, and counting.

Alexander Ovechkin and the Caps took advantage of a turnover by Elias and took a little bit of wind out of the Devils sails making it a 4-2 game.

- Marek Zidlicky responded on a great feed from Travis Zajac, netting his second of the night, and his first even-strength goal of the year.

-Dainius Zubrus got the tip off another beautiful pass by Travis Zajac.  New Jersey rallied back from the brink to tie it up at four.

- Andy Greene sealed the comeback victory after he chipped in a rebound off a shot by Jaromir Jagr.

Ryan Jahnke

The Devils gave their fans another collective heart-attack tonight.  The Devils were winded and hurting, playing their third game in 4 days, and it almost came back to bite them.  But, it was all worth it, as the comeback kids scored 3 unanswered goals to beat take down Washington and bring themselves to NHL .500.

We’ve talked a lot about the impressive youth movement that is exciting the fans in New Jersey, with the likes of Eric Gelinas and Reid Boucher playing important roles in the Devils’ starting lineup.  Tonight was no different, the younger players looked good and hustled hard.  But tonight was all about the vets.  With goals from Zidlicky, Jagr and Zubrus, and Greene, the only man on the New Jersey scoresheet younger than 30 was Travis Zajac.  Jagr, Elias, Greene, and Zajac also each had a pair of assists, meaning that every player on the Devils’ side of the scoresheet had a multi-point night.

And what more can be said about Jaromir Jagr?  The man never ceases to amaze, playing like a number one forward at age 41, and making everyone around him better.  Tonight #68 continued his climb towards history as he recorded his 694th NHL, regular season goal.  This tied him with former Rangers teammate , Mark Messier, for 7th all time.

And, even on a night where they gave up 4 goals, there is something to be said for the Devils’ defense.  Only a few games removed from fighting off top scoring tandems of Crosby and Malkin, and Getzlaf and Perry, tonight the Devils were faced with the task of holding off offensive superstars, Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Ovechkin, and hold them off they did.  Backstrom, the league leader in assists coming into the game, was completely absent, and Ovechkin, was a non-factor until a Patrik Elias turnover in the zone gave the league’s top-scorer an open shot at Martin Brodeur.

It wasn’t a perfect effort, not by any means.  I’m sure a fair amount of people were ready to give up after the second period.  But in the end, they worked hard and earned themselves the 2 points that they desperately needed.  Now they’re sitting at third in a very shaky division and starting to show that they’re a team that can do some damage going forward.

Final Score: Penguins 3, Devils 2

The New Jersey Devils rallied to put together a decent effort, but could not overcome early mistakes as they fell to the Pittsburgh Penguins from the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, PA., by the score of 3-2.  This one pushes the Devils’ record to 12-15-6 on the season.

Pascal Dupuis got the final touch as he and Chris Kunitz rushed Corey Schneider who thought he had the puck covered.  A mental lapse from the goaltender and the defense that should have been back supporting him put the Devils on the wrong-end of their earliest deficit on the season.

- Chris Conner scored off of a pretty pass from Brandon Sutter and a pretty awful defensive breakdown by both Eric Gelinas and Jon Merrill.

- Jason Megna  put the exclamation point on an awful period from the Devils with a wrist shot goal at 14:40 to put the Pens up 3-0 going into the first intermission.

- Patrik Elias brought the New Jersey back to life with a beautiful redirection of an Anton Volchenkov pass from the side boards to give the Devils their first goal at 3:24 into the second.

- Dainius Zubrus poked in goal number 2, less than a minute after the first, pushing a Jaromir Jagr shot across the line.

Ryan Jahnke

With the loss to Columbus still fresh in their minds, fans of the New Jersey Devils were hoping for the team to come out angry and looking to make up for lost points.  What they got, however, was a mistake-ladened team that got overwhelmed all-too quickly, and almost let the game slip away without a fight.

The first period was one of the worst in recent memory.  It only took 41 seconds to get this game going in the wrong direction for the Devils as Pascal Dupuis and Chris Kunitz came barreling down on a loose puck that Corey Schneider thought he had covered up.  A big mental mistake by Schneider, but even more so from the defense that let two Penguins come in unimpeded to take their shots at the Jersey goaltender.

Things would only get worse for the Jersey defense in the first, in particular their rookie defensemen, Jon Merrill and Eric Gelinas.  After Merrill mishandled an easy pass from Gelinas, turning it over to the Penguins, Eric Gelinas made a rookie mistake and left his post to cover for Merrill along the boards, leaving Conner open to score his second goal of the season, one-on-one over Schneider.  Shortly after this, the Gelinas – Merrill pairing was separated.  Jason Megna’s somewhat controversial goal towards the end of the third, his fourth of the season, the Devils headed down the tunnel for the first intermission with their heads hanging.

In the second period, however, things got turned upside-down.  The Devils didn’t just play better, they thoroughly dominated the class of the Metro division, outshooting the Penguins 32-11, and outscoring them 2-0.  All of the momentum was on the side of the Red and Black for the final 40 of the game, and had it not been for a few posts in their way, we could be talking about a different outcome here.  But in the end, unfortunately for the Devils’ Army, New Jersey couldn’t find any more than those two quick second period goals, and dropped their second straight game.

In a rare turn, especially considering that we’re talking about a losing effort, the bright spots for the Devils came from the offense tonight.  Jaromir Jagr, Patrik Elias, and Travis Zajac played superb games for the Devils at both ends of the ice, as did tonight’s fourth line of Jacob JosefsonTim Sestito, and Cam Janssen.  Three players in particular who had great games out there for New Jersey, but were left with nothing to show for it, were Adam Henrique, Steve Bernier and Damien Brunner.  Brunner continued trending upward while playing alongside Elias, and was robbed of his third goal in his last two games by a fantastic save from Marc-Andre Fleury, a feeling that Steve Bernier can relate to tonight.

Henrique, on the other hand, beat Pittsbrugh’s goaltender to the glove side with a chance to tie the game, but couldn’t best the post.  A similar situation occurred in the closing seconds of the game, but that time Henrique’s backhander sailed wide.  It’s unfortunate that all that Adam Henrique can take away from this game are a couple of missed opportunities and a costly penalty for playing with a broken stick, because he had a good game tonight.

The defense didn’t have their best game tonight, although they weren’t terrible.  In a game where defensive mistakes cost New Jersey at least 2, and maybe all three, goals, they were scored by Dupuis, Conner, and Megna.  Pittsburgh’s high-scoring superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were shut down by the Devils’ D.  Between them, the league’s top scorers managed just 2 shots and a lone secondary assist, which Crosby collected on Pittsburgh’s first, fluky goal.

In the crease, another good night by Schneider will be marred by the first goal.  After all, defense or no, if he just drops his pad down on the ice, the whole thing never happens.  After that he played about as well as any goalie could under the circumstances only surrendering the other goals on a bad breakaway and after some contact in the crease from Megna lead to a bad rebound and a goal.  But tonight, regardless of how well Corey played, Marc-Andre Fleury was the star between the pipes.

Fleury has had a bad reputation in the years since the Penguins’ cup victory, and even briefly lost his job to veteran Tomáš Vokoun.  But, he has responded with a grit that many didn’t know he had, and he showed that tonight.  His 37 saves on the Devils 39 shots, especially those against Brunner and Bernier, were what kept Pittsburgh from giving this game away.

Final Score: Devils 4, Rangers 3

The New Jersey Devils defeated the New York Rangers for the third straight time, this one ending 4-3 in overtime from Madison Square Garden in New York, NY.  The win pushes the Devils to 12-13-6 on the season.

Brad Richards scored on a 2 on 1 against Martin Brodeur in the first period continuing his recent string of good play.  He currently stands at 3 goals in his last 6 games.

- Mats Zuccarello started off the second period with a big goal off a rebound from a shot by Ryan Callahan to give his team a 2-0 lead.

- Cam Janssen stood up strong for his teammates and used his skates rather than his hands to make his biggest contribution with a big response goal for the Devils to bring the game 2-1.

- Travis Zajac tied up the game at 2 midway through the third going top-shelf off a rebound from Jaromir Jagr.

- Michael Ryder netted his third goal in his last four games beating Henrik Lundqvist through the 5-hole to give the Devils a 3-2 lead.

Chris Kreider got a chip-in goal on a 6 on 4 power play in the last minute of the game, after Travis Zajac took a terrible delay-of-game penalty.

Eric Gelinas scored his own power play goal on a bomb from beyond the top of the circle in overtime to secure the OT win for the Devils.

Ryan Jahnke

Coming off three consecutive losses to Eastern Conference foes, the Devils came into Madison Square Garden this Saturday night needing a win to help get things back on track.  In the end, the comeback kids came through, as another never-say-die third period effort and a timely power play in OT lead to a big win for Jersey’s team.

Special teams came through in a huge for New Jersey.  While their penalty kill was nearly lights out again, save for that nearly infamous 6 on 4, the Devils’ power play got to play the role of hero tonight.  Granted, it took an overtime 4 on 3 to set things right, but when they got the chance, they stepped up and Eric Gelinas sealed the deal.  Still, as good as the Devils’ kill was, you have to wonder if the PK crew has seen too much action recently with 15 penalties against the Devils in the last 4 games.  We’re going to have to pay attention to this going forward, as all that time shorthanded is bound to catch up to any team eventually.

There were plenty of good moments for the Red and Black, and so many of them came from fan favorite Cam Janssen.  Cam, well-known as bit of a fire-starter, was all over the ice with big hits and game-changing plays.  He skated over and stood up for Patrik Elias against Rangers’ defender Justin Faulk, before motoring down to the other end of the ice to slide feet first into the Devils’ opening goal.  While controversial to everyone wearing blue, new rules allow for redirection as long as there is still no distinct kicking motion.  So the goal was deemed clean, which was consistent with the way that similar situations have been ruled by the crew in Toronto thus far this year.  But, even beyond that first goal, Janssen made sure that his presence was felt, and his team fed off that energy turning a potential disaster, after the Zuccarello goal, into a very good second period and game for the Devils.  Simply put, the Devils don’t win tonight without #25 on the ice.

As has become the norm this season, the Devils also saw some pretty strong performances from the usual suspects.  Jaromir Jagr was as strong and prominent as anyone on the ice tonight.  Travis Zajac, Andy Greene, and Eric Gelinas played top-flight hockey throughout the game, holding their positions and creating strong chances and points for the offense.  Michael Ryder continued his hot-streak finding the net yet again, this time for the win and Adam Henrique was highly aggressive and was a constant threat to Henrik Lundqvist.  Some surprise contributions also came in from Cam Janssen, as well as Tim Sestito who provided a strong forecheck and the primary assist on Janssen’s and Ryder’s goals.

And, no Devils recap would be complete without mentioning a terrific effort by one of their two superstar goaltenders.  Tonight was Brodeur’s turn between the pipes, and the vet did not disappoint.  After letting in a goal on a rough 2 on 1 against Brad Richards where he dipped his shoulder a hair too low giving Richards the top corner, #30 was fantastic stopping all but the unreachable.  And, while tonight it was the offense who stepped up big, this was another big win in MSG for Martin Brodeur.

For those of you who are wondering, the points challenge between Marty and Cam is on, but because Marty got the secondary assist on the goal, neither player gained any ground tonight.

By the numbers – Where has all the scoring gone?

Dave Turner

Not so long ago, the Devils put together a string of games that saw them post 20 goals in a seven game span, which was an average of 2.86 goals per game. Now, this team has struggled to score, tallying just four goals over their last three games, two of which have been losses.

Aside from Jaromir Jagr and more recently, Patrik Elias, and to some extent Ryan Carter, the Devils have struggled to score. With the goaltending turning in a strong performance almost every night, it’s almost safe to say that two goals may get this team at least a point in more games than not. Scoring that second and even a third goal, has been a major struggle as of late.

Here are some offensive numbers for the Devils notable forwards over each of their own last ten games played:

Jaromir Jagr - 6 goals, 2 assists – plus-4 rating, 28 shots on goal

Patrik Elias - 3 goals, 6 assists – plus-1 rating, 16 shots on goal

Dainius Zubrus - 1 goal, 5 assists – plus-5 rating, 17 shots on goal

Including Elias, who missed a few games in November, these three have been producing. They don’t exactly have jaw-dropping numbers, but Elias is scoring almost a point a game over his last ten games played. Patrik Elias

Jagr has lead the team in shots over that span and it has payed off, his six goals on 28 shots is good for 21.4% which means that just over one in every five shots he’s taken has found the back of the net.

After those three, that’s where things get a little dicey, after that, the scoring numbers drop off drastically:

Travis Zajac - 2 goals, 2 assists – plus-2 rating, 15 shots on goal

Adam Henrique - 1 goal, 2 assists – plus-1 rating, 13 shots on goal

Michael Ryder - 1 goal, 2 assists – minus-2 rating, 16 shots on goal

Andrei Loktionov - 0 goals, 1 assist – minus-2 rating, 16 shots on goal

Damien Brunner - 0 goals, 0 assists – minus-2 rating, 16 shots on goal

Travis Zajac has been playing an excellent two way game, so though his numbers are far from stellar, he’s at least contributing to the club in other ways. Adam Henrique and Michael Ryder were expected to be big parts of the offense this year and their numbers just don’t cut it. Henrique has the fewest shots of anyone who was listed here. Furthermore, he’s had some good chances, but just can’t seem to bury them.

As for Loktionov and Brunner, it has been very much a downhill struggle since the beginning of the season. Andrei Loktionov started strong and looked like he was poised for a breakout season of sorts. Now, he’s struggling, with only one point in his last ten games played. There might not be any bigger disappointment so far this season than Damien Brunner. He got off to such a good start, with five points in his first five games in New Jersey. Since then, he has been held off of the score sheet in 16 of his last 17 games played. That has has to change.

To put this in perspective, Eric Gelinas’s six points over his last ten games are more than Henrique, Ryder and Brunner COMBINED. In that same span, Marek Zidlicky has four points. Combine the two defensemen’s points totals and they have just one fewer point than Zajac, Henrique, Brunner, Ryder and Loktionov combined.

Clearly, the offense has struggled. It almost seems as if players such as Michael Ryder and Damien Brunner have struggled to fit into the Devils system, that requires players to forecheck, win pucks in the corners and grind their way into goals. Damien BrunnerRyder and Brunner are above-average shooters, but both need space to work with. A lot of times you’ll see Ryder with a little room and he tries to make a move. That’s just who he is, an open ice player. For both of them, the best bet would be to put them in a situation that allows them to just shoot the puck. Whether it’s keeping Elias at center to help distribute, or some sort of different line combination that will allow for more shots, something has to be done to help get those players out of their current slumps.

The goaltending has been there. This team is in every game they play because of the strong play of the defense and both Martin Brodeur and Cory Schneider. The difference right now is that this team has been unable to give enough support to either to capitalize on enough of their chances to gain points.