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Devils Cruise Tree Points Ahead for Wild Card Spot

It was a warm, wet winter night at the Prudential Center when the Carolina Hurricanes took on the New Jersey Devils. The Devils were just one point ahead of Carolina for the first wild card spot.

Before the National Anthem, the Devils held a moment of silence for the school shooting in Florida on Wednesday, February 14.

As soon as the puck dropped to begin the game, the tempo was all about speed. It was a back-and-forth transition style game that seems to be the trend the NHL is skating towards. Around 13:19 left in the first period, the Devils started controlling the pace and had some grade A chances to score.

This sense of Devils dominance lasted until 4:49 left in the first when Jesper Bratt took a tripping minor against Sebastian Aho, which gave Carolina their first powerplay of the game. During the powerplay there was a close call for Carolina to score when Keith Kinkaid and Andy Greene both lost their sticks and forced Blake Coleman to make a great block at the point and clear the puck. Just as the powerplay ended, Jeff Skinner scored by tapping home a rebound giving Carolina a 1-0 lead with 2:38 left in the first period. Just 14 seconds later, Taylor Hall took a Delay of game penalty for shooting the puck over the glass in his defensive zone, giving Carolina their second powerplay of the game.

The Devils kept the scoring chances to a minimum and just as the penalty was about to expire, Damon Severson took a pass off the wall from Nico Hischier and went down on a 2 on 2 rush into Carolina’s zone. Severson shot far post and just above the pad of Scott Darling to tie the game at 1 with 18.8 seconds remaining in the period.

The second period began the same way as the first with back-and-forth style hockey. At 15:32 left in the second, Jordan Stall took a hooking penalty on Damon Severson to give the New Jersey their first powerplay of the night. The Devils had some good scoring chances, but it was not until the penalty expired that Stefan Noesen tapped in Zajac’s rebound to give the Devil’s a 2-1 lead. Just under a minute later Brett Pesce walked in from the blue line and shot near side through a crowd of players to beat Keith Kinkaid and tie the game at 2. No team controlled the play for a majority of the rest of the period. It was more of the back and forth play until around 3 minutes left in the period when the Devils set up zone control and eventually scored. Kyle Palmieri scored glove side off a rebound from Nico Hischier.

To begin the third period Carolina dominated the play keeping the puck in the Devils zone for the first 4 minutes of the period nearly scoring. At 11:54 left in the third Nico Hischier got a pass from Taylor Hall to break out of the Devils’ zone and went down on a 2 on 1 odd man rush. Nico shot far post just above the pad, almost identical to the Severson goal, giving the Devils a 4-2 lead.

Taylor Hall’s assist here extends his point streak to 16 consecutive games, the most by a player in Devils’ history. When Hischier was asked in the post-game if he was thinking pass at all during the play he responded, “No I was first thinking pass and then I saw an opening and took the shot. Luckily it went in.” When Devils coach John Hynes was asked if Hischier shooting instead of passing shows his level of confidence now, he replied, “Yeah it definitely does, and after the game when we went in the locker room and the other coaches said, ‘hey finally he shot the puck and scored.’”

The Devils scored just 30 seconds later to make the game 5-2. Stefan Noesan tipped in a shot from Damon Severson at the point to beat Scott Darling over the shoulder. This was Noesan’s second goal of the game. At 9:01 left in the third period Jesper Bratt took a slashing penalty on Justin Williams giving Carolina their third powerplay of the game. A minute later Jeff Skinner took an interference penalty on Sami Vatanen to make it 4 on 4. The play continued to be back and forth with no real surge by Carolina to tie the game. The game ended with the final score of New Jersey 5 and Carolina 2. This win tied the Devils with Philadelphia in points and gave them a three-point cushion ahead of Carolina.

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