Steve Bernier, Big Second Period Springs Devils Over Kings


Can we call it revenge for 2012? Well, whatever it was, tonight was one of the most enjoyable and surprising games the Devils have played all season. In what has been a massively disappointing year, the Devils showed up in Los Angeles and demolished the reigning Cup Champs. Riding the back of Steve Bernier – two goals – and a huge, four goal second period New Jersey was able to skate to a 5-3 victory. The Devils are still ways away from making a real push at the playoffs, but tonight was incredible regardless of what the rest of the season holds. It’s always nice to get some payback.

Surviving the First

Interestingly enough, the Devils did not come out of the gate strongly. They were on their heels for much of the first period and took some early penalties that could have let the Kings grab momentum. However, the penalty kill was outstanding and killed off the three infractions the Devils were whistled for. Marek Zidlicky, a valuable asset at the deadline, had a scary moment when he blocked a slap shot with his right hand but he was able to return. Hopefully there isn’t any lingering injury from that.

Top Line Winger?

January 14, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; New Jersey Devils right wing Steve Bernier (18) celebrates his second goal of the game scored against the Los Angeles Kings during the second period at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

When Steve Bernier was practicing on the top line all week, it made little to no sense. There are much more qualified players to fill the hole left by Jaromir Jagr who was out with a bad case of the flu. Bernier made sure to put all the questions to rest as he got the Devils on the board late in the first. New Jersey drew a penalty with almost exactly two minutes left in the period and they cashed in. Mike Cammalleri threw a backhand toward the net that hit Bernier’s skate and sat in the crease. LA defender Matt Greene came in and pushed the puck into the net. Bernier would score another and I’ll get to that in a second.

Monster Second

After the Kings tied the game up early in the second period on a ridiculous dangle and pass by Drew Doughty, the Devils decided not to mess around anymore. They went on to score three goals in 1:08 – or 68 seconds, perhaps honoring Jagr? – and put the game away. Steve Bernier gave the Devils the lead again, and for good, when he scored another power play goal that went in off a King. Sure Bernier got lucky twice, but they all count the same. 23 seconds later, Martin Havlat came in and absolutely sniped Martin Jones into the top corner of the twine.

Los Angeles decided to pull Jones and put in all-world goaltender Jonathan Quick. It didn’t matter. He never made it to the third period. 45 seconds after Quick entered the contest, Cammalleri would find a rebound and put it home. It was Cammalleri’s team-leading 14th goal of the season. Up 4-1 against LA after three super quick goals, it couldn’t get better could it? Oh, but it could! As the period was dying down, Michael Ryder got in on the act putting some icing on the cake. Ryder picked up a loose puck off an Andy Greene point shot and smoothly put it past a sprawling Quick. The Kings would get two back in the third, but that was as close as they would get. The balance was never really in any doubt.

Multi-Point Nights

When you score five goals, you expect some players to pick up multiple points. Tonight, the Devils had four players fit that bill. Steve Bernier obviously had his two goals. Scott Gomez picked up a pair of assists. Cammalleri and Ryder each tallied a goal and an assist. All-in-all, the Devils had 11 of their 18 skaters pick up at least one point. Talk about some balanced scoring.

Bright Spots

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In a strong win, there are going to be bright spots. Aside from the goal scorers, here are the three biggest bright spots I noticed tonight. First, I have to mention Adam Larsson who was once again a stud out there. He put that mistake against the Islanders behind him and had another strong game. Larsson had 21:54 TOI, an assist, three blocks and was a +1. He has been flourishing under Scott Stevens’ tutelage and was the game’s second star. Second, the power play was huge going 2-4 with both Bernier goals coming with the man-advantage. Lucky goals or not, it’s good to see the PP click. Third, the penalty kill was instrumental. The Devils were a perfect 4-4 on the kill and really set the tone in the first not allowing LA to get any momentum.

The Devils were terrific tonight. They played hard, found a lot of finish and were able to get a big win to start off their California road trip. LA Kings: check. Next up, the Anaheim Ducks.