NEWARK, NJ — No matter where you stand, what color sweater you sport or which side of the ice your loyalties lie, the fight against cancer is a cause we can all get behind and a fight we must all make together.
Transcending the very game itself, the New Jersey Devils celebrated life and the ideology of a cancer-free world on “Hockey Fights Cancer Night” at “The Rock.”
Inspired by stories told — tales of survival, remission and finding a cure — 16,514 stood up in unison on this night, each with a sign, “I Fight,” sparking the Devils to a 5-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings Saturday night at Prudential Center in Newark.
Will Butcher snapped a one-all tie 4:42 into the third period, Blake Coleman scored twice and Taylor Hall found an empty net as part of a four-goal flurry in the final frame to pull out the win.
“It’s just resiliency,” Butcher said after registering his third-career game-winning goal. “We had a game plan coming in, capitalized on some opportunities and stuck with it as a group.”
“We believe in the character in this room– and we got the job done at home in the second (game) of a back-to-back,” said Devils’ Kyle Palmieri, who erased a 1-0 deficit 26 seconds after Taro Hirose opened the scoring for Detroit. “We’re trying to find some traction in our game and hopefully this propels us toward a good week.”
After a slow start to the season, the Devils have won three of their last five and improve to 8-10-4 overall.
“You look back at some of the things that have gone wrong for us this season, it’s crucial times in a game whether it’s a shift after a goal or late in periods or the start of periods — that’s huge,” Palmieri, the team leader in goals with eight, said. “Going forward, it’s contributions up and down the lineup — whether it shows up on the scoresheet or not — that’s going to go a long way for our team.”
Both teams went 0-for-4 on the power play thanks in large part to the Wings’ Jonathan Bernier (29 saves) and Louis Domingue, who made 19 saves to post a win in his Devils debut.
“From start to finish I was seeing the puck, and you know what? When you see the puck it’s because your team is doing a great job in front of you,” Domingue, acquired in a trade with the Tampa Bay Lightning on Nov. 1, said. “We did a great job of keeping it to the outside, limiting them to one rebound… it was a great team effort from everyone.
“I was excited — it was a long-time coming for me,” Domingue said after coming out victorious in his first game with New Jersey. “It feels really good to get the nerves out of the way. I’ve played 100-something (NHL) games but you still get nerves sometimes, especially when you play in front of a new team, you want to do well, you want to get it out of the way… It feels really good. I’m going to enjoy it tonight.”
After designating 12-year veteran Cory Schneider to AHL Binghamton, the door has opened up for Domingue to see extended icetime alongside Mackenzie Blackwood.
“I think he looked really confident,” Palmieri said. “We’ve only had a couple days of practice since he got up here, but I think you look at the way he moves in his net and plays the puck — it’s something — the confidence he plays with, the poise, and he showed it tonight. He made some huge stops for us. It’s got to feel good to get that first win in a Devils jersey.”
After Hirose converted a tight pass from Madison Bowey in the slot for a 1-0 lead, the Red Wings had difficulty generating a sustained attack. To compound matters, leading scorer Anthony Mantha left the game in the first period with a lower-body injury and did not return. After a promising start to the season, Detroit is 7-15-3.
“I liked our game until (the third period),” Wings forward Dylan Larkin said. “Then it’s the same story for us, they score one and things don’t go our way and we kind of go into a shell. It’s pretty frustrating.”
“We have to make sure we are playing ‘winning’ hockey, and through most of the year we have been playing (that type of hockey),” Detroit head coach Jeff Blashill said. “Five-on-five, not giving up tons of chances, and getting our chances. But now we’ve been real porous defensively the last couple of games.”
Conversely, Devils coach John Hynes liked what he saw from a defensive unit that limited Detroit to just five shots on goal in the first and third periods.
“Guys played well up and down the lineup — four lines, six defenseman that played well, Louis in net — and when you have that, guys making contributions, it helps you play a consistent game,” Hynes said. “That was the biggest difference — the consistency and liability of the guys in the lineup.”
The Devils will look to continue its roll against the Minnesota Wild next time out on Nov. 26 at home. Detroit will look to snap its five-game losing streak Sunday back at home against the Carolina Hurricanes. The Wings will likely be without Mantha for”a little bit of time” Blashill said, with an update likely to come on Sunday.
“We’re just trying to stay with it and execute the game plan. That was our focus and that’s what you have to do on the back-to-backs,” Butcher said. “We need to be ready to go again and get back to it,” Butcher added.
The lavender jerseys worn by players during warm-ups, and sticks adorned with lavender tape, the official color of The Hockey Fights Cancer campaign, will be auctioned off from Nov. 23 at 7 p.m. through Dec. 7 online at newjerseydevils.com/auction. All proceeds from the auction, as well as the game’s 50/50 raffle, will go towards the Clara Maass Medical Center Infusion Center renovation.
Fans can also purchase official “Hockey Fights Cancer” merchandise here.
Written by John Christian Hageny / @JCCSPORTS
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