– by Adesina O. Koiki
A Lot of Sports Talk editor-in-chief
NEWARK, N.J. — When New Jersey Devils goalkeeper Cory Schneider whiffed so badly on what should have been a routine glove save from a long-distance shot that he managed to knock the puck behind him and into his own net, it did more than just represent the low point in New Jersey’s game on Friday. The boos that rained down on the Devils before and after that gaffe, as well as a listless start to the game represented the nadir of a Devils’ season that quickly was heading to a crossroads.
Or so it seemed. The final 50 minutes of the contest saw a turnaround the Devils hope mirrors what is to come as they attempt to ascend from the Eastern Conference cellar.
Nico Hischier’s goal 41 seconds into overtime capped off four unanswered goals scored by the Devils in their stunning 5-4 come-from-behind victory over the Vegas Golden Knights on Friday night.
“It’s time to go out and make some plays,” said Devils winger Brian Boyle. “We’re working plenty hard enough. It’s time to put it to work on the ice and make the plays.”
New Jersey came back from two separate three-goal deficits, the first coming just 9:23 into the game, when William Carrier’s hopeful attempt on goal from the left wing boards went off Schneider’s glove and mask before trickling past him and into the net for a 3-0 Golden Knights lead. That, along with Alex Tuch’s goal scored just 79 seconds into the game and William Karlsson’s tally at 7:45, was enough for Devils coach John Hynes and the Prudential Center crowd, as Kinkaid was summoned to replace Schneider after allowing three goals on just seven shots.
“It wasn’t a dream start by any means, being down three,” said Kyle Palmieri, whose unassisted goal at 6:24 of the third period brought the Devils to within one. “It was one of those things where we didn’t really know what [Vegas] could handle as a team over there. Once we got to our game, we knew we could control the play and get scoring chances. We had a ton of scoring chances in the first and finally broke through in the second, and I think throughout our lineup we had contributions.
New Jersey piled on the pressure on Vegas goalkeeper Marc-Andre Fleury for the majority of the game and finally broke through on the power play, as a Travis Zajac shot from the slot deflected off a Vegas stick and into the net at 2:59 of the second period to get New Jersey on the board.
Though the Golden Knights responded quickly, with Karlsson’s second goal of the game just 58 seconds after Zajac’s tally giving Vegas a 4-1 advantage, the Devils remained undaunted in tilting the ice their way in the second, outshooting Vegas 16-6 in the period. Miles Wood scored halfway through the period to once again cut New Jersey’s deficit to two, setting up what would become a hectic final 20 minutes of regulation.
Palmieri scored on the backhand on a wraparound at 6:24 to make it 4-3 before Brett Seney was given credit for the game-tying goal with 5:05 remaining, as he crashed the net just before Vegas defenseman Nick Holden knocked the puck into his own net while trying to clear the loose puck from the crease.
In overtime, the Devils ended it on the first shift, as Hischier took a pass from Marcus Johansson and scored in front while being taken down from behind to cap the unlikely comeback. The play was reviewed for offside, but the call on the ice was upheld.
“It is one of the first goals in your career you will remember your whole life,” Hischier said.
From the start of the second period, the Golden Knights were outshot 30-12. Fleury ended the night making 37 saves, while his counterpart, Kinkaid, only had to make 14 in relief of Schneider, though he denied point-blank opportunities from both Tuch and Paul Stastny in a span of five seconds late in the second period to keep the scoreline at 4-2.
“I think when we got up 3-0, the boys thought it was over and we just stopped skating,” said Vegas head coach Gerard Gallant. “You can’t stop skating against a team like New Jersey.”
*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Friday evening’s game, with all photos taken by New Jersey-based photographer Arturo Holmes. After clicking on the first photo to enlarge the picture, make sure to press the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the rest of the pictures. There are 22 pictures in total.