For an interconference game between two non-rivals this afternoon’s game with the Canucks certainly featured an unusual amount of fireworks – on and off the ice. From a successful coach’s challenge that nullified a second-period Canucks goal to Bobby Farnham and Jordin Tootoo making like the Hanson brothers to a contreversial third-period major penalty/game misconduct for Adam Larsson that drew the ire of coach John Hynes and the nearly 15000 Devil fans in attendance, there was no shortage of emotion or contreversy in this game. Even after the game Tootoo was fired up by unspecified comments the Canucks’ Alex Burrows made when both were in the penalty box. Throw in some hideous power plays by both teams (or great penalty kill work, depending on your perspective), a lot of bad goaltending early, and clearly this game had a little of everything.
In a way then, I suppose it was fitting that the Devils won this wild and wacky contest with a 4-on-3 OT power play goal after the Canucks were whistled for a blatant New England Patriot-like pick play. Jersey native Kyle Palmeri whipped the crowd into a frenzy with his OT winner at 3:33 of the extra period, as the Devils hung in there after blowing a 3-1 lead in regulation. Perhaps this game epitomized the Devils, not exactly artistic but very gritty in terms of effort and determination and contributions from just about everyone on the roster. More importantly from a team standpoint the win made their Friday performance against the Hawks stick and gave them still more confidence going into a brutal week that sees the Devils play the red-hot Blues on Tuesday then go on a one-game trip to Chicago Thursday before playing the Penguins on Saturday night.
Even during the first period you could tell there was something a little wacky about this game when just 2:20 in Sergey Kalinin and Damon Severson got caught playing soccer with the puck instead of hockey, and backup goalie Keith Kinkaid gave up a weak turnaround goal by Chris Higgins in the slot. Perhaps Kinkaid was rusty after not having played for a month, and this certainly was far from his best game as a Devil. Second-year defenseman Severson didn’t have a great start either, taking an early penalty just a couple minutes after Higgins’ goal, but the Devils’ PK turned into a man disadvantage for Vancouver when Travis Zajac and Adam Henrique teamed up for a shorthanded goal at 5:18 with Zajac making the nice cross-ice feed to Henrique for his seventh goal of the season. Despite being outplayed for much of the period, the Devils took the lead at 16:32, taking advantage of overpursuit by Vancouver in the offensive zone with Henrique and Lee Stempniak starting a breakout and Mike Cammalleri finished it off, deking out Ryan Miller for an easy goal, his fifth of the year. For good measure the Canucks tied the game late in the period with Jake Virtanen beating Kinkaid on a wraparound…but coach Hynes used a challenge to appeal for goaltender interference/contact and unlike Friday night this challenge overturned the call on the ice and disallowed the goal.
After a roller-coaster first period emotions certainly picked up during the second although according to Tootoo the seeds were planted during the first when Canuck agitator Burrows made some below the belt comments, and then declined to resolve the issue himself when Tootoo challenged him, leaving it to Derek Dorsett to fight Tootoo in the second period. Since the fight took place before the faceoff both players also got ten-minute misconducts. After thumping Dorsett in the fight, Tootoo whipped the crowd even more into a frenzy by raising his fists in the air. Just two minutes later Farnham also decided to get into a scrap with Virtanen, and though he didn’t do as well in his fight he still played to the crowd afterwards himself – and got another rise out of the patrons in attendance. Between the fights there was actually hockey being played, with some very questionable goaltending on both sides. Kalinin got his first NHL goal at 10:31 beating Ryan Miller with an excuse me floater that was so bad I was even mocking Millertime. Of course, with this game being what it was I could barely say anything before Kinkaid gave up his own soft goal, albeit one deflected by Tootoo just before his takedown of Dorsett. That fight didn’t stop Vancouver’s momentum as Sven Baertschi scored just two minutes later. Although Kinkaid wasn’t directly at fault for this goal his horrible rebound control seconds earlier kept the play alive in the offensive zone.
Just after Baertschi’s goal came Farnham’s fight, and soon after that the Devils found themselves with an extended 5-on-3 after penalties by Yannick Weber and Alex Edler just twenty-eight seconds apart. Of course the Devils’ PP again looked worse than their PK offensively, and that opportunity to retake the lead went by the boards. Midway through the third after the action had quieted a bit, Larsson checked Jared McCann into the boards and he was given a game misconduct for interference. Try to mute/not get influenced by the obvious homerism from the Canuck announcers and judge yourself how dirty this hit was. It’s pretty bad when even many Canuck fans felt the call was unjust and way over the top. Admittedly on first glance I also thought it was dirty but I didn’t have an ice-level view of the play the way the refs did either. Be that as it may, the Devils now had to kill off a five-minute major in a tie game without one of their key penalty-killing defenseman. Somehow…someway…this team found a way to do it, and that sequence turned out to be the difference between getting zero points and getting two. Hockey being the back and forth game it is, the Devils had their own glorious chance to win in regulation after a late penalty on Edler gave the Devils a power play. Kalinin had by far the best chance of the man advantage, getting a breakaway on a counterattack and somehow missing the net entirely from point-blank range on a backhand. A cruel twist of fortune indeed for the KHL import that could have really made the night of his first NHL goal memorable.
Somewhat fittingly the game finally went into overtime, and once Dan Hamhuis committed an interference penalty by taking John Moore out on a pick play the Devils had one final chance to cash in after going 0-4 on the power play in the game. Stempniak and Cammalleri gained the zone with Cammalleri making like he was going to shoot from the faceoff circle – but passing at the last moment to Palmeri, who rifled a one-timer past Miller for the winner. After everything that happened in the game it was certainly one of the most emotional wins I can remember since the Spring of 2012. So nice I even wrote a second recap this week haha…seriously though, when there’s so much to write about doing recaps are a lot easier, particularly happy recaps.