Raleigh, NC — Earlier this month, the New Jersey Devils pummeled the Canes 5-1. After that game, the Canes had team meetings with and without coaches, and whatever was said worked as they went on a good run for the next five games. On the day after Christmas, the Canes beat the Devils 3-1 in a solid team effort for the full 60 minutes.
The Canes were determined to not to repeat their previous performance against the Devils and started the game with a bit of an attitude – and none was greater than Eric Staal’s. Whether he was showing by example or just had the fire in his belly, Staal had the look of either not getting that special present the day before or desperately wanting revenge.
He broke a stick on the opening face-off with a swift two-handed check to the side of Travis Zajac. The Devils then got the puck in the Canes’ end with John-Michael Liles and Brett Pesce gaining possession and passing up to Elias Lindholm. Lindy brought the puck into the Devils’ end, sending the puck around the board to the far corner allowing Staal to break his second stick across the back of former Cane Juri Tlusty for the first penalty of the game in just 35 seconds.
The Canes did a very good job killing the penalty against an effective power play unit for the Devils and gave up just one shot that Cam Ward came through with a save. Both teams played a tight checking game, knowing the importance of the two points. The Devils are just shy of a playoff position, and the Canes are trailing the Devils by eight points. The Devils are a team the Canes will have to leap in order to have any shot at the playoffs.
Pesce Starts the Scoring
The second period saw both teams continue to play a tight but physical game. It wasn’t a chippy or dirty game, just one that saw end-to-end action with each team just trying not to make mistakes. Shots were limited, but the ones taken were all quality shots with both Ward and Cory Schneider making quality saves with either redirecting rebounds or burying the puck.
Just under midway in the period, the Canes were attacking with the second line on the ice. Joakim Nordstrom was along the far half boards passing up to Liles on the left point. Liles saw Jordan Staal and Andrej Nestrasil using their size to create traffic in front of the crease, so he sent a slap shot towards the net. Somehow, Schneider made the save, directing the puck to the corner that went around the boards up to Pesce on the right point. Pesce settled the puck, saw the same two big-bodied teammates winning the position in the crease, then sent a hard pass to Nesrtasil’s stick for a tip in. Adam Larsson lifted Nester’s stick, not allowing a tip-in, but the puck had eyes and slid along the ice into the far corner for a 1-0 Canes lead.
Faulk, Nordstrom Seal the Win
The Devils came out with a nasty attitude in the third, possibly knowing the importance of the two points at hand. Their top line undressed the Canes in the first game, and it takes a lot to contain that highly-talented line. The Canes dilly-dallied on getting the puck out of their zone that resulted in a turnover to Mike Cammalleri. Cammalleri passed to Kyle Palmieri behind the net, closely guarded by Ron Hainsey with one foot on the back of the net. Palmeri did a head fake to the left then went strong to the right around the net while teammate Adam Henrique blocked Ward, sending a wraparound in far side to tie the game.
Several minutes later, the Canes had the puck deep in the Devils’ end with Lindholm digging hard and keeping the puck in the Devils’ zone. Kris Versteeg got the puck over to EStaal in the far corner, who used his size to keep his defender off the puck.
Staal held the puck while the Canes were having a defensive line change. Staal made a beautiful lead pass to Justin Faulk just as he crossed the blue line. Faulk settled the puck then sent a wrister past Schneider for Faulk’s first even strength goal of the season. With so much at stake, the teams continued their solid forechecking while being stingy on shots. Late in the game, Faulk cleared the puck from the Canes’ end, passing up to Nordstrom while the Canes were making a forward line change. Usually, players will dump the puck for the line change, but Nordstrom decided to surprise Schneider with a shot, and, without question, Schneider was surprised as the puck went in short side to seal the win for the Canes.
Next Home Game
The next game is New Year’s Eve with a special 6 pm start, and all fans in attendance with get a wristband for First Night in downtown Raleigh. It’s also Family Night, which means four great seats with food and drink at great prices. Be there!