The Devils finally got their first win of 2014, beating the Dallas Stars (a team who has also gone winless in 2014) 1-0. Devils goalie Cory Schneider shut the door on the Stars by stopping all 26 shots he faced. Michael Ryder was the lone goal scorer for the Devils with his team-leading 15th goal of the season coming halfway through the second, with assists from Travis Zajac and Ryane Clowe.
Despite what the score line says, the Devils looked very good offensively. Puck movement was crisp, the return of Eric Gelinas at defense provided a hard shot from the point, there were some good open looks from the slot, the team broke free on a couple odd man rushes, and Zajac looked solid getting some point blank shots. However, Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen played very well, thwarting all but the one shot.
If the Devils keep playing the way they did last night, the offense is bound to rebound. Like other sputtering teams, they need to improve the power play, but if they keep getting the puck out to the point for Gelinas, Volchenkov, and Salvador to shoot, and get big bodies like Jaromir Jagr and Ryane Clowe (both desperate to break out of their goal-scoring droughts) to the front of the net, some long- range shots will go in. If Zajac and Ryder keep skating the way they did last night, getting between the faceoff circles and into the slot for shots, it should start to pay off soon. Those two spent a lot of time in the Dallas zone cycling the puck and getting good shots on net. If not for some very strong play from Lehtonen, they could’ve easily put up three or four goals.
On the defensive side of the puck, the Devils deserve a ton of credit. Besides enforcing Schneider’s shutout, the team went three-for-three on the penalty kill — including a four-minute double minor late in the 2nd period where Cory Schneider really took control of the game. The Devils defense did a good job forcing Dallas to the outside a lot of the game, blocking 18 shots.
My 3 stars for the game would be #3 Kari Lehtonen from Dallas for his excellent play in net stopping 33/34 shots; #2 Michael Ryder for scoring his 15th goal of the season ; and #1 Cory Schneider for the shut out.