Was there a New Jersey Devils game on today? No? Okay.
The Devils (23-22-10) fall to the San Jose Sharks (34-18-5) in their first game back from their bye week and looked like they were still on it. San Jose snaps their four-game losing streak. The Devils were outshot 38-22 and had only three during the first period. The Devils got on the board first with their first shot on goal of the game nearly 11 minutes in. P.A. Parenteau scored his 13th goal of the game and snapped a 14-game goal drought. The Devils’ offense couldn’t send pucks into the back of the net even though they had a ton of good scoring chances throughout the game. Taylor Hall and Steven Santini had the most shots on goal of the team with three each.
Cory Schneider made 34 saves on 37 shots and posted a .919 save percentage. He was solid all night (afternoon) long (he was screened on those first three goals). Brent Burns scored twice to put him at 24 goals on the season (leads all defensemen and has 11 more than the next defenseman, Shea Weber). Joe Thorton scored his fifth of the season and Tomas Hertl had an empty-netter to seal the win.
The Devils got off to a bit of rough start. They spent way too much in their own zone during the first period and couldn’t find ways to clear the puck. The rough start was to be expected after the bye week but they took a 1-0 lead into the second period. Schneider had an excellent first period, saving all 19 shots he faced. San Jose scored three unanswered in the second and the Devils couldn’t send pucks into the back of the net. The credit for that goes to Martin Jones.
The game wasn’t a complete disaster. The Devils penalty kill did extremely well tonight, killing all six San Jose penalties (even though maybe not all of those penalties were warranted). New Jersey had two power play opportunities but failed to score on either of them. Their power play has been doing much better as of late and will need to keep going in this home stretch. They had 24 hits on the night (again, afternoon): Santini, Miles Wood, and Kyle Palmieri all had three. Seth Helgeson got into a scrap as well.
New Jersey didn’t lose too much ground in the hunt for a playoff spot over the bye week but not picking up at least a point tonight is going to hurt. They’re still only five points behind Toronto for the final wildcard spot but they have five teams in front of them with two of them playing tonight. Buffalo (who also have 56 points) face Vancouver, and the Isles take on the Avalanche. Detroit is currently down 2-1 to the Wild.
New Jersey will play four games between now and Sunday, and will have to pick up most of those eight available points in order to stay in the playoff hunt. They face Colorado, Ottawa, and the Isles twice, all but one of them at home. The Devils will be back in action on Valentine’s Day (or just another Tuesday, in my opinion) against the Avalanche; puck drops at 7PM.
P.S. In other somewhat related Devils news, the Mississauga Steelheads (OHL) defeated the Saginaw Spirit today. Michael McLeod had a goal and an assist for Mississauga, and Evan Cormier saved 28 shots of 31 faced. The Albany Devils (AHL) are currently playing the Toronto Marlies (it’s live on NHL Network!) and are down 3-2. Carter Camper and Reece Scarlett have the two Albany goals.