Just a week ago it looked like the season was hanging in the balance for the Devils after a string of up and down efforts with up and down results to match. However I’m sure coach John Hynes is a happier man tonight after one of the team’s most complete performances of the season, where they not only beat the Stars 3-2 in OT but played well throughout against a fine team. Of course that isn’t unusual this season where the Devils have usually stepped up to the challenge of facing good teams, but the win tonight gave them a three-game winning streak with two of them at home – both welcome developments to be sure after it’d been weeks since the Devils had even a two-game winning streak and weren’t winning as frequently at home.
All in all it’s been a good week to be a Devils fan starting with the open practice and autograph session the team held on Sunday afternoon at the Rock. The event itself was well done with about a dozen tables of two players each spread throughout the arena to cut down on lines although with approximately a thousand people there and about an hour wait between the end of practice and when the players got to their tables, the lines still got packed. I wasn’t going to stay for the autographs being I had a big Jet game to watch but going out of the seating area I wound up next to the Cory Schneider line and it hadn’t filled up yet so I figured I’d at least stay for that. I wound up getting him, Keith Kinkaid, Jon Merrill and Sergey Kalinin to sign the poster and still left around 1:30, every other line had filled by then anyway so my attention was back on the football at that point.
Of course on the ice things improved as well even though Tuesday’s game against Carolina the Devils were more fortunate to win than anything else, being they were outplayed badly as the game wore on and all three goals they scored went off a body part. The next night they shut out Ottawa in a Cory showcase game with 36 saves. Tonight’s game however was a complete effort, their remodeled d-pairings held up against a high-powered offense for most of the night while their offense chipped in just enough to win, despite the surprise absence of leading scorer Mike Cammalleri with an upper-body injury.
At least the Devils still had Kyle Palmeri in the lineup, and among others he played maybe his best game as a Devil, not only scoring the team’s first goal on a wraparound early in the second period but taking the body throughout with some physical play. He was credited with three hits in twenty-one minutes but it seemed like more. Centerman Travis Zajac was also singled out for effective work shadowing Dallas’s dangerous scorers in the postgame both by coach Hynes, and by his teammates who gave him the hardhat of the game. Another Devil who’s impressed lately – really since he’s got here – is sparkplug Bobby Farnham. Initially thought to only be a fourth-line energy guy, Farnham scored his fifth goal of the season which is quite impressive considering he’s only played nineteen games so far. And every one of the goals has been more of a goalscorers’ goal as opposed to the lucky random goals fourth-liners typically get. Even his bank shot off a defenseman against the Canes on Tuesday took some thought. Tonight he had a nice shot from inside the faceoff circle after good work from Stephen Gionta and Jordin Tootoo on the boards. Sure he’s not going to keep up a 26% shooting percentage but hey if you’re going to put guys like Tootoo, Jacob Josefson (relegated back to being a healthy scratch this week) and AHL’er Mike Sislo on the PP why not give Wild Thing a shot? Maybe this guy could follow a David Clarkson path and develop some late-blooming offense?
Palmeri and Farnham scoring in a five-minute span of the second period gave the Devils a 2-0 lead but even with Schneider and the team playing well I wasn’t totally confident we’d be able to hold a lead against that offense. Sure enough in the third period Dallas’s skill began to show when John Klingberg abused David Schlemko out of his skates and whipped a pass off the stick of Adam Larsson to Patrick Sharp in front for an in-close score to cut the lead to 2-1 at 10:54. Less then four minutes later the Stars tied the game with the immortal Colton Sceviour beating Schneider through traffic (some of which was apparently caused by Schlemko, who got benched pretty much thereafter). Fortunately the Devils were able to get the game to OT after Schneider stoned an unidentifed Star with a wicked glove save late in the game. In OT, Jamie Benn’s early penalty gave the Devils a 4-on-3 chance, and for the second time this season in OT John Moore delivered with a bomb from the point to win the game. Overall, the Devils are 6-1 in games decided in OT this season, yet another incentive to avoid the shootout. And don’t look now, but not only do the Devils have a wild card spot but they’re actually gaining ground fast on the other local teams for one of the automatic three playoff berths in the Metro.