(Cory Schneider making a save on Tuesday night – @NJDevils)
The Devils are having a great season and are in the hunt for a playoff spot because of the superb play of goaltender Cory Schneider.
This is the second season that Schneider has been the Devils starting goalie, filling the shoes of Martin Brodeur.
His numbers have been very impressive, as he already has 26 wins, matching his win total of last season, with a very impressive 2.01 goals-against-average.
The Devils have won games due to his play and that of their defense – the way the Devils have always won games.
The one downside the Devils have faced recently is they don’t know where their offense is going to come from on a given night. They have plenty of gifted offensive players, like Travis Zajac and rookie Joseph Blandisi, but are missing that one go-to guy.
On Tuesday night against the Rangers, Schneider came up big early, as he did not allow a goal in the first five minutes while facing sustained pressure.
Incredibly, when the Devils finally got it out of their zone, Damon Severson and Sergei Kalinin found Tyler Kennedy at the blue line, and Kennedy launched a slap shot that found the top left corner of the net to give the Devils a 1-0 lead.
The Rangers responded a few minutes later with two quick goals from Kevin Hayes and Dominic Moore to make it 2-1, which was the score at the end of the first.
Even though the Rangers got a lead, if not for Schneider, it could have been a lot worse.
The second period was a whole different story, as the Devils really took it to the Rangers, putting up 17 shots to five for the Rangers and getting goals from Kyle Palmieri and Lee Stempniak to take a 3-2 lead.
The second period was gritty as well, with the Devils’ Joseph Blandisi and the Rangers’ Dylan McIlrath twice getting into out and getting roughing penalties.
It ended with a fight between the Devils’ Sergei Kalinin and J.T. Miller of the Rangers with just one second on the clock.
The fight really benefited the Devils, as Miller, one of the Rangers’ top scorers, was given not just a major, but a 10-minute match penalty because his hands were taped up. You cannot fight with tape on your hands because it is perceived to be an intent to injure.
The third period was pretty even, and Schneider made some big saves to preserve the Devils’ lead.
With around three minutes left, just out of a timeout, Kalinin got an outlet pass from the Devils end and got a breakaway down the left side of the ice to make it 4-2 Devils with 2:41 left.
Adam Larsson got an empty-netter with 29 seconds remaining on a long shot from his own end to make it 5-2 New Jersey.
This was a huge win for the Devils because they lost three straight -to Philadelphia, the Islanders, and Washington – entering this one, while the Rangers have played amazing hockey over the past three weeks, re-establishing themselves as a contender.
In the season series with the Rangers, the Devils took three of four games. They also beat the Rangers on October 18 at Madison Square Garden and February 2 in Newark. The Rangers’ only win against the Devils came on February 8.
It was a big win for Schneider, as he finished with 17 saves to bounce back from those rough outings, in which he gave up six goals to Philadelphia and four to Washington.
Schneider said of the game, “It was a great win from my point of view. I thought after the first ten minutes there, we completely controlled the game and the second period was probably one of the best offensive periods I’ve seen this team play. If it wasn’t for (Henrik) Lundqvist there in the second, it could have been five, 6-2.
“I think the best part is that we stuck with it. We didn’t get down after we didn’t score on the power play, that long one. We got an insurance goal at the end, we didn’t defend, defend, defend, we kept attacking, kept getting chances, and I think that’s what we’ve been looking for all year. Not only was the response after our last game good, but I thought our response after they got two quick ones to go up was very good,” said Schneider.
On what the Devils did to turn it around after the Rangers went up 2-1, Schneider said, “I think we started playing in their end. They had a good amount of time in our zone the first ten minutes of the game, but I thought we did a better job containing their offensive attack once they got in our zone. We were clearing pucks out of the zone. We played with speed, we made the defensemen turn, we went wide on them, we chipped pucks behind them, and obviously on the rush there we had some good chances after that. I think we were playing smart with our puck management and, like I said, we defended well and didn’t give them too much time in our end.”
Schneider said of how important this win was to the Devils, “It was a critical win. They’re all important this time of year. You can’t necessarily put a value on it, but I think getting it after a three-game slide against our rivals, it feels good, it’s an important win, but you’re only as good as you’re next one, so we’ve got to make sure we go out and finish this month strong with the back-to-back (at Columbus Thursday, vs. Tampa Bay Friday). If we come out and don’t do well in those games, then this game doesn’t mean a whole lot, so you enjoy it for a little bit and then you move on to the next one.”
On if he saw desperation in the Devils in this one, Schneider said, “I saw a lot of urgency, but it wasn’t panic at all. I wouldn’t call it desperation, you know, desperation implies that there’s some kind of panic. I thought the urgency was good, the readiness, the preparation was good, we skated well, again, I thought we were moving quickly by them and got some good looks because we used our feet and speed. I can’t say enough about how the guys played tonight.”
Devils Head Coach John Hynes said of the win, “We had confidence in our game even though we didn’t get results last week. So, we knew we had to come out with a real good effort against an excellent team tonight, and we were able to do that.”
Rangers Head Coach Alain Vigneault said of the game, “The first period, I thought we played extremely well. After that, it was all them. I don’t know if it’s a combination of them being that good or us being that bad, but we certainly weren’t very good. We made tons of mistakes and they made us pay for it.”
Stempniak said of the game, “It’s a big win. You can see where we are in the standings…To not get points in three straight games, you’re going to fall behind, so it was a big win for that. It’s a huge rivalry game. You always want to beat those teams.”
Blandisi said of what this win does for the Devils, “Lots of confidence for us. We knew we had to win this one, we’ve been focused on it the for the last couple days here, and obviously these rivalry games mean a lot to us so I think the work we put in practice and the focus the guys had tonight, everybody was dialed in. We really wanted this win after losing three of four.”
On this being the Devils’ biggest win of the year, Blandisi said, “Yeah, I think the point we’re at this time of year it’s really crunch time and after losing three in a row we definitely knew we needed this win to get our feet back under us. We’ve been able to respond well all year after losing three in a row. It was good to get a win and now we’re pretty focused to keep it rolling.”