New Jersey Devils Ride Great Effort In Defeat Of Penguins

NEWARK, NJ - NOVEMBER 13: Taylor Hall #9 of the New Jersey Devils is congratulated by his teammates after scoring an empty net goal in the third period against the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Prudential Center on November 13, 2018 in Newark, New Jersey. The Devils defeated the Penguins 4-2. (Photo by Andy Marlin/NHLI via Getty Images)
NEWARK, NJ - NOVEMBER 13: Taylor Hall #9 of the New Jersey Devils is congratulated by his teammates after scoring an empty net goal in the third period against the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Prudential Center on November 13, 2018 in Newark, New Jersey. The Devils defeated the Penguins 4-2. (Photo by Andy Marlin/NHLI via Getty Images) /
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The New Jersey Devils are done with the daunting seven game road trip that saw them go 1-6 and fall into last place in the Eastern Conference. That trip is over. It is behind us. Forget it ever happened. At least that’s what you should do when you remember that there are 66 (!) games left in the season for the club.

Marty Brodeur Night at the Prudential Center was a huge success. The Devils are good at home. That’s the biggest takeaway from the first month of the season. Improving to 6-1-1 at home, beating the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-2. The win did not come easy, as many do not. The Devils were able to manage a solid third period and defeat the Penguins, which is good after some troubling third periods even in games they’ve won.

The game sort of sparked the New Jersey Devils vs Everyone theme that we heard a lot about last season. It started with Jesper Bratt putting one past Penguins goaltender Casey DeSmith, but the goal being waved off because the whistle blew due to a fight behind the play between Devils forward Brett Seney and Penguins forward Phil Kessel, even though neither player got a fighting major.

Following that was the Pens tying the game at two when Sidney Crosby made a very good play to put himself in alone. Keith Kinkaid made the save as Crosby took him out, and Jake Guentzal put it in for the Penguins. John Hynes challenged the play for goaltender interference, and was ruled a goal because the war room in Toronto determined that Blake Coleman had something to do with Sidney Crosby taking out Kinkaid. It seems like a bit of a stretch, but that’s the way it was ruled.

Instead of quitting, the Devils dug deep and did what needed to be done. They got the lead thanks to a smooth move by the reigning MVP, Taylor Hall. Hall did what he does best, he took the team and lifted them to victory. It was a four-point night for Hall. He chipped in the primary assist on the first two goals, creating a great chance for Travis Zajac who buried one, and putting one on a tee for a Damon Severson blast. Then he scored the mentioned go ahead goal, and sealed the game with an empty netter.

There’s a lot of competition for the Hart trophy this season so far, but Taylor Hall is no doubt the MVP of the Devils. There is nothing wrong with your best players being your best players, and that is exactly what happened in this one. The Devils will need Hall at his elite MVP level this season.

The early portion of the day came with a bit of bad news during the morning skate. Forward Brian Boyle was placed on the injured reserve, and isn’t available to return until the night before Thanksgiving. Nico Hischier wasn’t at the morning skate and was labeled out for the game and is considered “day to day”. This leaves the team without two very important centers.

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The good news is that the team recalled forward Pavel Zacha, who spent some time gaining his confidence offensively in Binghamton. Zacha played 4 games with the baby Devils and registered five assists. He played very well in his return to the big club, and although he didn’t register a point, played a key roll in Hall setting up the Severson goal. Look for him to finally break through. The Devils would benefit greatly if this happens.

Another note from this game is the play of Travis Zajac. He had the assignment of playing with Taylor Hall and Kyle Palmieri in the absence of Nico Hischier. He was awesome, always tasked with the tough assignments defensively, and none tougher than Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. He also chipped in a goal and allowed Palmieri and Hall to play their game.

The defensive effort was much improved in this one. The first goal was a pass only Sidney Crosby and maybe about 5 others in the NHL make to Phil Kessel on the power play. They were good at getting their sticks in lanes, blocking shots, and lifting sticks at the right times. The play where Crosby was kept from sweeping in an easy rebound after an Evgeni Malkin backhand was kept out sticks out as the defensive play of the game.

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The Devils are in Philadelphia for a one game trip against the Flyers on Thursday where they will try to end the road woes, where they only have one win this season so far.