Devils Win a Wild One; Keeping Playoff Hopes Alive
Things got interesting in Newark on Monday night between the New Jersey Devils and the Florida Panthers. The two lowest goal-scoring teams in the Eastern Conference combined for nine goals. In addition to this, the Devils utilized both goalies, nearly blew a two goal lead twice, and got a hat trick! Safe to say, if you didn’t see the game, you’ll want to read on for what happened.
The Devils finally got off to a hot start in a game. In their last two games they didn’t get anything going until the second period, but on Monday they really turned that around in a big way.
Travis Zajac revved the game into high gear just :12 seconds into the first when he wristed one past Panthers goalie Dan Ellis. Nine minutes later, Jaromir Jagr got on the board with his 24th goal of the year, making it 2-0. Then, the Devils did something they haven’t done in a while — score a power play goal! Zajac got his second of the game, and it looked like the Devils would cruise to an easy two points. But then things turned around.
With just under three minutes left in the first period, the Panthers would get one back through Dmitry Kulikov’s shorthanded goal, cutting the lead to 3-1. Less than a minute into the second period, the Panthers would get a second from Brad Boyes. Now it was 3-2, but the Devils would answer three minutes later to make it 4-2.
What happened next is sure to be a bizarre memory seared into the minds of Devils fans for a long time. The Panthers cut the score to 4-3 as Brandon Pirri deflected a shot past Martin Brodeur, so coach Pete DeBoer decided to pull the long time Devil goalie in favor of his backup Cory Schneider. The sight of Brodeur angrily walking off the ice is one you don’t see too often. The second period came to an end with the Panthers on the power play and the Devils’ fans’ hearts in their throats.
The third period started out as badly as the second ended. When one Panthers power play ended they were quickly handed another, and it looked as though the Devils were trying to shoot themselves in their feet. The Devils took back the momentum on the penalty kill and never relinquished it again. Jacob Josefson would level the shorthanded goal count when he powered one past Dan Ellis. Then a wonderful effort from Travis Zajac, staying with the puck once he was behind the icing line, then putting it into the net gave him a hat trick and the Devils a 6-3 lead.
When the game ended, the Devils had skated to a position of three points back of the second wild card spot. The Devils take on the Buffalo Sabres, the NHL’s worst team, tonight with a chance to close the wild card gap even more.
Listen to The Penalty Box, hosted by Sam Mines, every Monday at 11am.