#Relentless. That’s been the theme of the 2015-16 Devils. Like the popular hashtag on Twitter, these Devils continue to battle hard for first-year coach John Hynes. The rookie coach is getting results. Facing the defending champs again, the Devils stunned the Hawks for the second time in six days.
Rookie Sergei Kalinin’s power play goal with 2:27 left in regulation proved to be the difference. Ultimately, it was the brilliant play of Cory Schneider who finished with 27 saves to give his team another thrilling victory. Following an 0-3-1 start, the Devils have won nine of their last 12 (9-3-0) and are right in the thick of things in a tight Metropolitan Division. At 9-6-1 with 19 points, they sit fourth a point behind third place Pittsburgh who they face Saturday at home.
It’s not always pretty. But the Devils make it work with timely scoring and clutch netminding from Schneider. The most encouraging aspect is their best players continue to step up in key moments. After trailing on a Patrick Kane goal, they responded with a two goal second period. Adam Henrique stayed hot scoring his team-leading eighth from John Moore 59 seconds into the second.
Kyle Palmieri slammed home his sixth with 2:59 remaining in the middle stanza. It was set up by the improving Kalinin. Signed out of the KHL, the 24-year old Russian is showing more confidence as his role has increased. His willingness to go to the dirty areas is paying off.
”When you play more, when coach and team trusts you, it’s more power for you,” Kalinin said after recording a power play goal and assist. ”You feel more comfortable on the ice, and try to create things.”
When the Hawks fell behind, they did what they usually do. Turn up the heat. As the Devils found out less than a week ago, when Chicago pushes the attack they’re nearly impossible to control. Puck possession has long been a Blackhawk trait during their three Cups. Even without top defenseman Duncan Keith, they’re a handful. They came in waves launching an all out assault at Schneider, who for a good portion of the third was up to the challenge.
That didn’t stop the Hawks from finally getting the equalizer. Another talented Russian KHL import Artemi Panarin (Panera Bread anyone?) was able to beat Schneider with a quick wrist shot evening the score with 6:41 left. Erik Gustafsson and Kane set it up. Considering that Schneider had made other sprawling saves, it was a stoppable shot. However, that doesn’t account for the pressure he faced. Plus Panarin is gonna be in the Calder conversation. He’s that dangerous.
The thing about the Devils is they usually bounce back. Following Panarin’s goal, they had two point blank chances to go back ahead. But Corey Crawford made his best stops including thwarting Palmieri on the doorstep. He also denied Cammalleri prior to Panarin’s tying marker.
Chicago had a power play with less than six minutes to play on a iffy tripping call on Mike Cammalleri. But New Jersey was able to kill it off. With the game still hanging in the balance, Kane was nabbed for hi-sticking with 2:35 left. It gave the Devils the chance they needed.
Off a face-off win, Palmieri deflected a David Schlemko shot into Crawford. But a pesky Kalinin poked the puck home before Crawford could get a whistle for the game-winner at 17:33. They used only eight second of the power play.
”The game-winner was great,” beamed Hynes. ”We have him now net-front on the power play, which he earned.”
The game wasn’t over yet. The Devils still had to deal with the predictable Hawks onslaught. They sure had their chances. But even with Crawford pulled, they were unable to beat Schneider. The Devils defensively did just enough to seal the victory.
”What we’re real happy with, even more than the record, is just the way the team’s come together,” Hynes added. ”Guys are playing for one another. There’s a lot of belief in how we’re playing.”
BONY 3 Stars:
3rd Star-Kyle Palmieri, NJD (goal-6th of season, assist)
2nd Star-Cory Schneider, NJD (27 saves incl. 10/10 in 2nd)
1st Star-Sergei Kalinin, NJD (game-winning PPG with 2:27 left in 3rd, assist, 4 SOG, 4 hits in 20 shifts-14:33)