By Andrew Gross/The Record (Hackensack, N.J.)
Halfway through what Taylor Hall billed as potential “make it or break it” four-game road trip, well, the Devils aren’t broken.
Showing no signs of weariness after Hall’s return to Edmonton the previous night, the Devils played a solid game in both ends of the rink and hung on for a 2-1 win over the Flames on Friday night at Scotiabank Saddledome.
If anything, the Flames seemed the sleepier of the two teams. So the Devils (17-18-9), who snapped a four-game losing streak, now have collected three of four points so far on the trip. The Devils face the Canucks next on Sunday.
Keith Kinkaid made 31 saves, Kyle Palmieri had a goal and an assist and Hall scored his first goal in six games.
Chad Johnson stopped 34 shots for the Flames (23-20-20), who had won four straight at home in regulation.
The Devils entered Friday’s game having scored just four goals in their 0-2-2 slide while allowing 12.
Despite the less-than-ideal goals-against numbers, the Devils have tightened their game defensively in terms of limiting odd-man rushes and rebound chances at the crease.
“Early in the year, we had that commitment on the offensive side of the red line but we didn’t have it on the defensive side,” Devils coach John Hynes said. “Now, we have it on the defensive side. If we can put both of them together, we’re going to be a better team.”
Kinkaid was making his first start since a 6-2 loss to the visiting Capitals on Dec. 29, though he had relieved Cory Schneider, who had started the last six games, after Schneider allowed three goals on five shots in a 4-2 loss to the visiting Maple Leafs on Jan. 6.
Schneider made 32 saves in Thursday night’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Oilers.
“Probably after the Washington game, we had some systematic things we had to do,” Hynes said.
“The players have done a nice job of understanding in the defensive zone the net-front box out details. The key is we have to maintain that commitment and bring more on the offensive side.”
The Devils certainly combined their offensive and defensive efforts in the first period, outshooting the Flames, 14-7, including taking six of the game’s first seven shots on net, killing off two power plays while allowing a combined two shots and taking a 2-0 lead on an even-strength goal from Palmieri and Hall’s power play goal.
Hall, coming off what he described as a “stressful” six-day stretch in which he had to play his former Oilers’ teammates twice as the Devils lost both games in overtime, was a force in the offensive zone with his passing and physical play.
And, at 18:31, he made it 2-0 with a rising shot from the left circle over Johnson’s left shoulder. Palmieri had the primary assist after giving the Devils a 1-0 lead at 6:22, beating Johnson to the short side from the left off a rush.
But the Flames wrested some of the momentum from the Devils in the second half of the second period, scoring that period’s only goal at 14:04 as Sean Monahan was left unchecked at the crease to deposit the rebound of Dougie Hamilton’s wrist shot to cut the Devils’ lead to 2-1.
The Devils had their chances to increase that one-goal lead, with Johnson twice stopping P.A. Parenteau at the crease in the first minute of the third period and then stopping Miles Wood’s breakaway backhander at 15:00.
Then, the Devils couldn’t add a second power-play goal after rookie center Blake Coleman, playing his second game since being called up from Albany (AHL), was tripped by Dougie Hamilton at 15:25.
The Devils had failed to maintain a 2-1 third-period lead in their overtime loss to the Oilers.
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