NEWARK–If the Devils, presently seated in the bottom-five in NHL standings, they could point to Friday’s 5-4 comeback victory over the Golden Knights as a turning point in their season.
Vegas was the decidely quicker and more relentless team in the opening 10 minutes of play. Alex Tuch wrapped the puck into the net on the Golden Knight’s third shot of the game to give them a 1-0 lead. Goals by William Karlsson at 7:45 and William Carrier at 9:23 would chase Devils goaltender, Cory Schneider, who made his first home start of the season.
Schneider didn’t have a good start–he allowed three goals on 7 shots and had a puck trickle past him on the third goal ending his night. But John Hynes attributed the change to a much broader issue.
“It wasn’t so much about Cory at that point,” Hynes said. “It was early in the game. There was zero energy in the building. You saw the players–you just have a feel that you can’t keep him in. Sometimes you can keep a goalie in and you can keep him in and let him fight through, but it was just a time where it needed a change. For the team and the environment.”
Keith Kinkaid’s relief effort, which saw him earn his 11th win of the season, was made better by the Devils improved, hungrier play with the puck–having 7 of the next 10 shots on goal before the end of the first twenty.
New Jersey found some life in the second period with a Travis Zajac power play tally 2:59 in. But, Vegas’ Karlsson added his second of the contest less than a minute later to return a three-goal deficit to the Devils.
Despite trailing and with the building occasionally working against them as boo’s reigned down following unsucessful power play’s, New Jersey kept on the pressure outshooting the Golden Knights 16-2 in the second and while they were only rewarded once more–a Miles Wood goal at 10:21, the ice started to tilt.
In the third, the Golden Knights continued to play loose hockey and it cost them. Kyle Palmieri wrapped it around at 6:24 and Brett Seney found some good luck at 14:55 when his shot made it to the front of the net and was tapped in by Vegas’ Nick Holden for an own goal.
Trying to obtain their first OT win of the season didn’t seem like an easy task, but it took just 41 seconds for Nico Hischier to score the team’s first OT-winner since March 23, 2018.
“It was a tough start,” Hischier said. “They scored three goals, but we kept going and going and it was a great comeback.”
The win was particularly nice for Hynes, who noted his teams efforts after a rough start. They outshot the Golden Knights 29-11 and owned a large territorial advantage that helped shift the momentum.
“I think tonight was probably one of the best games where our puck management and puck decisions were really strong,” he said. “We were able to set up our game, get out of our zone a little bit cleaner and make some strong plays.”
For Vegas, who owned an early multi-goal lead, it did little to push their pace.
“We played a real good first 10 minutes of the hockey game and then we let New Jersey take over,” Head coach, Gearard Gallant said. “They played real hard, real well and they battled back. And we weren’t prepared for that I guess.”