Brick City Breakdown: Columbus Blue Jackets 2, New Jersey Devils 3, F


The New Jersey Devils just completed their best win of the season. On a night where they should have won with no problems against a severely injured Blue Jacket team, the Devils made it as difficult as possible to grab the two points. Credit to Columbus for playing as well as they did, but they had no business being in this game. The Devils should have jumped on them early and ran away with the game. As it is, the Devils never do anything easy and they had to scrape and claw their way to victory. Cory Schneider once again led the way with 32 saves and was the rock the Devils needed to survive on a night where they did not play their best hockey. This is two straight fantastic games for Schneider and he’s looking every bit of the #1 goalie the Devils know they have.

The game got off to an inauspicious start when the Devils let Columbus get on the board just one minute into the game. Ryane Clowe sent a tough pass back to the point where Bryce Salvador was pressured into throwing a wild shot/pass that got deflected into the neutral zone. Columbus sprung out to a 2-on-1 against Marek Zidlicky. Zidlicky played the man with the puck and let Jack Skille get in behind him. Brian Gibbons sent a simple pass through Zidlicky to Skille who beat Schneider. It was an ugly goal and it took the life out of the team. It was eerily similar to the first period on Thursday night against Winnipeg where Zidlicky got beat for an early goal. Salavador and Zidlicky played so well on Thursday when they weren’t paired together; it makes no sense why Peter DeBoer went back to that combination tonight.

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Zidlicky would make amends, however, as he tied the game at one early in the second. The Devils were on their fourth power play of the game and the first three were not impressive. It took them just eight seconds this time as Zidlicky took a beautiful pass from Michael Ryder and beat rookie Anton Forsberg short side. Unfortunately, the Devils would let Columbus take the lead again later in the period when Travis Zajac took an unnecessary hooking penalty and the penalty kill was unable to pick him up. It’s truly been the ugly story of the season – take a bad penalty and give up an important goal. It felt like the game was taking a downward spiral the way many others have gone this season.

Then the third period came around and Peter DeBoer did his best coaching of the entire season. He can’t be praised enough for the moves he made in the third period. It was clear that the Devils needed to shake the lines up. Adam Henrique needed to get off the third line and Jacob Josefson needed more minutes than he was getting on the fourth line. DeBoer finally noticed these things and moved Henrique up to center the second line with Ryder and Patrik Elias. Josefson was bumped up to the third line with Ryane Clowe and Damien Brunner. Even Reid Boucher got some time on the top line with Travis Zajac and Jaromir Jagr. It was brilliant coaching by DeBoer who’s been taking a lot of heat lately, and deservedly so.

It’s no surprise that the Devils woke up after the lines were smartly shaken up and ended up scoring a pair of goals to win the game. The game-tying goal came on the power play courtesy of Adam Henrique in a play that was the spitting image of his game-winner in the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals against the New York Rangers. There was a mad scramble in the goal crease, no one knew where the puck was, no whistle was blown, the puck popped out to Henrique and he buried it with no problems. Then Bryce Salvador and Adam Larsson would combine for the winning goal – weird right? Salvador passed up a shot and sent a pass across to his new partner in Larsson. Larsson gathered the pass and wound up for a booming slap shot that beat Forsberg clean on the short side. After being benched for a good portion of the season, that goal must have felt so good.

The Devils survived a late penalty and won the game 3-2 on the back of Schneider. It was a huge win and let the Devils build on the momentum they gained on Thursday when they won their first shootout in a decade (joking). The Devils now have a record of 6-3-2, 14 points, good enough for second place in the Metropolitan Divison for the time being. New Jersey is back in action Tuesday as they take on the St. Louis Blues at the Prudential Center.