Shorthanded New Jersey Devils End Losing Streak in Toronto


For the first time in two weeks, the New Jersey Devils were able to celebrate a victory. The Devils ended their five-game losing streak by defeating the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-3 at Air Canada Centre. This win was impressive because New Jersey was down four top-6 forwards coming into the game. Travis Zajac and Martin Havlat are both on injured reserve with lower-body injuries while Jaromir Jagr (flu) and Patrik Elias (groin) were unable to play as well. In addition to those four, Adam Larsson who has really stepped up this last month also missed the game with the flu. Down five important players, to win in such convincing fashion is truly impressive.

What was great about the win was the fact it wasn’t just one player that carried the team. It was a group effort that got the two points for the Devils tonight. Starting in goal, Cory Schneider was terrific once again. Schneider has been playing a great brand of hockey lately and tonight was no different. He made 29 saves and it’s hard to pin any of the three goals allowed directly on him. Schneider made 13 strong saves in the first period to set the tone for the rest of the game. Even on the final goal he allowed, Schneider made a sequence of highlight reel saves before Phil Kessel was able to put home the power play goal. The Devils played great tonight and Cory Schneider was a big part of that.

More from Pucks and Pitchforks

Moving on to the defense, wow were they fantastic. They had some mental lapses where they just stood around and did nothing, which needs to be cleaned up, but overall they were great. I have to start with Seth Helgeson who easily played the best game of his NHL career. Helgeson was credited with ten(!!) hits tonight. As a team the Devils had fifty(!!!!!!) hits. The Devils need to be more physical on the blue line and Seth definitely fits that role. It was a great decision by Lou Lamoriello to keep him up and send down Peter Harrold instead.

It was odd to see rookie sensation Damon Severson struggle so badly seeing as he’s been outstanding all season, but tonight his fellow youngsters on the blue line such as Helgeson picked him up. In addition to Helgeson, the pairing of Jon Merrill and Eric Gelinas was brilliant. The duo was solid in their own end (11 hits combined) and then added some much needed offense. Eric Gelinas got the Devils on the board with a first period power play goal, assisted by Merrill, and each defender would add an assist later in the game. As a whole, the Devils got six points out of their defense (Marek Zidlicky also picked up two assists) which was great to see.

Then there’s the forwards. Without 66% of their top-6, the Devils’ forward corps played brilliantly. There were only a handful of forwards who had no impact on the game, but most of them did. Scott Gomez did not record a point but he was strong on the puck all night. Dainius Zubrus had one of his best games of the season and picked up assist number one as a reward. Michael Ryder notched two assists after being a healthy scratch in the prior game so that must have felt good.

Dec 4, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; New Jersey Devils center Adam Henrique (14) celebrates his goal in the third period against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre. The Devils beat the Maple Leafs 5-3. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

It might be a cop-out to say that the four goal scorers were the four best forwards tonight, but oh well; they were. Mike Cammalleri, Adam Henrique, Stephen Gionta and Steve Bernier were tremendous tonight. Cammalleri scored his team-leading goal 11th goal of the season to put the Devils up 3-2 and would have gotten the game-winner if not for the late Kessel goal. Henrique scored goal five for the Devils, but it was his leadership that really stood out. After Andy Greene got boarded, Henrique went right after the culprit and stood up for his teammate. After what happened to Jaromir Jagr last game, that was a sight for sore eyes.

Stephen Gionta and Steve Bernier both started the game on the fourth line, but had big impacts on the result. Gionta scored on a sweet assist from Bernier and then Bernier would later add his own goal, the eventual game-winner. To get two goals and an assist from the fourth line is a welcomed sight each and every night. There are probably better options in Albany, but it would be tough to ignore how well Gionta and Bernier have been playing. Tonight was a much needed win for the Devils and hopefully will spring them into a nice winning streak.