BUFFALO, N.Y. - After falling in a shootout a day before, the Devils rebounded and beat the Sabres 5-3 on Sunday. They finish the two-game series with three out of four possible points. The Devils fourth line of Miles Wood, Michael McLeod, and Nathan Bastian had a big night, scoring four out of the five goals for the Devils Sunday.
"Real good win for us, fourth line played great, lot of energy," said Devils Head Coach Lindy Ruff following the win. "Back-to-back afternoon games, you don't know where your energy is going to come from but they gave us one heck of a game. I thought all the way around, four lines, six defensemen and Comrie made some great saves for us to help us win a hockey game."
New Jersey heads to Pittsburgh to play the Penguins for a two-game series. The first game is Tuesday and you can watch on MSG+ and listen on the Devils Hockey Network, including right here at NewJerseyDevils.com. Puck drop is 7:08 p.m. ET.
In addition to the goals, Janne Kuokkanen had an assist, making it his second straight game with a point. Ty Smith added another assist, his sixth of the season. Jesper Bratt had his first point of the season with an assist and Damon Severson, Pavel Zacha, P.K. Subban and Ryan Murray also had helpers Sunday.
Devils goaltender Eric Comrie had his first start of the season and stopped 30 of the 33 shots he faced.
"He was awesome, made some huge saves for us," said McLeod on Comrie's performance. "He showed up in the big moments. He was great tonight and that was a huge win."
"I actually said in the room today, this is a fun thing to be a part of," said Comrie following the win. "The guys go out there every single day, we're a young team...and we went out there and just we had a lot of fun."
Unlike Saturday's game, the Devils had a strong offensive start to Sunday's match up. It only took 20 seconds for the Devils to get on the board. P.K. Subban passed up to Michael McLeod, who, on the breakaway, scored to make it 1-0. Murray received the secondary assist on the goal. Following the goal, New Jersey continued their offensive pressure with a quicker start than Saturday's game against Buffalo.
The Devils had their first special teams action of the game when Janne Kuokkanen was called for high-sticking halfway through the period. Comrie had back-to-back saves against Buffalo's Taylor Hall and Jack Eichel to keep the Sabres from scoring. New Jersey killed off the penalty, which kept the league's ninth best power-play from tying up the game.
New Jersey had their first power play of the game four minutes later with 5:45 left in the period. The Devils were unable to score with the man-advantage but saw some strong possession in the final seconds of the power play and for about twenty seconds after.
Then with 16 seconds left in the period, Andreas Johnsson scored to give the Devils a 2-0 lead heading into the first intermission. Johnsson's goal was his second with the franchise and the second straight game where he has lit the lamp for New Jersey. Jesper Bratt had the primary assist on the goal as he notched his first point of the season. Ty Smith had his sixth assist and eight point of the season.
Buffalo came out strong in the second period, putting pressure on New Jersey and Eric Comrie in his first game for the Devils this season.
Dmitry Kulikov sent to the box just 2 minutes in for hooking, putting the Sabres back on the power play. Comrie had a huge save early in the penalty to keep Buffalo from scoring. Yegor Sharangovich had a close opportunity shorthanded in the final seconds of the penalty but was unable to score. The Devils penalty kill came up big against the Sabres power play, especially Comrie. Comrie had multiple huge saves during the two minutes.
The Devils saw some other offensive chances throughout including when Pavel Zacha and Michael McLeod each shot wide of the net. Then with just under six minutes left in the period, Buffalo scored to make it a 2-1 game. Curtis Lazar tipped off Rasmus Ristolainen's shot to get past Comrie.
About a minute later, the Devils penalty kill went back to work as Ty Smith was called for a penalty. 16 seconds later, Rasmus Dahlin tied the game with a power play goal. Ristolainen screened Comrie down low to help his teammate's shot from the point go past the Devils goaltender.
New Jersey saw pressure in the final minutes of the game as Buffalo's offense continued to work following their two late second-period goals.
Miles Wood, with .06 seconds left in the period, scored to give the Devils a 3-2 lead heading into the second intermission. The Sabres lost control of the puck in the neutral zone, Wood controlled the puck, drove to net, shot, and then scored on his rebound. The goal was Wood's fourth of the season. Janne Kuokkanen was credited with an assist, his second straight game with a point.
As they did in the second period, Buffalo came out quick in the third period in attempts to tie the game once again. However, Comrie came up huge with back-to-back saves against Victor Olofsson and Taylor Hall to keep the Devils 3-2 lead.
Just a minute and ten seconds into the third period, the Devils power play went to work. The Devils only had a minute on the power play as Johnsson was sent to the box for a face-off violation and both teams went to 4v4 play. The Devils had a big shot by P.K. Subban after Hughes, Kulikov and Subban put pressure on the Sabres defense.
The Sabres killed off their penalty and then went on the power play for 51 seconds. With less than half a minute left in the power play, Buffalo scored to tie the game once again. Rasmus Ristolainen scored after he stuck with a puck right on the doorstep and hammered it past Comrie on his own rebound.
Kuokkanen broke up a Buffalo possession and pushed the puck up out of the zone. Not long after, Jesper Bratt would do the same and get the Devils back on offense. With 12 minutes left in regulation, Hughes battled behind the net for a puck and drew a penalty to send the Devils back on the power play. The Devils struggled for the first minute of the power play, however found some opportunities in the final seconds of the man-advantage. It wasn't enough as the penalty was killed off by the home team.
Michael McLeod would find the back of the net for the second time in the game, to take back the Devils lead once again. Miles Wood fed McLeod who fired one on net and it tricked past Buffalo's Hutton. McLeod's second goal gave the Devils a 4-2 lead in the third period, and was McLeod's first multi-goal NHL game.
Even with a goal lead, the Devils continued to push against the Sabres as they tried for another. Damon Severson hit the post for his third straight game, and came up short to increase the Devils lead. The final four minutes of the game saw an increased level of intensity as both teams pushed to be the next to score. An intense two minutes of play ended with Pavel Zacha shooting high and the play was whistled dead.
With an empty net, Miles Wood scored his second of the night with 7.4 seconds left in the game for the fifth and final goal of the game for the Devils.
The young Devils continued to battle back through their weekend series and for Miles Wood, it's encouraging to see.
"It certainly shows that we have a lot of fight," said Wood. "It's an extremely young team and the fact that we kept on fighting throughout the game and we never got down on ourselves, I think it just shows the type of group that we have. It's a young group but it's a fiery group too."
New Jersey will look to improve their special teams performance following the weekend series against the Sabres. In Sunday's game the Devils failed to score on any of their three power plays and allowed Buffalo to score on two of their four man-advantages.
"We need a lot more out of special teams and we've had a lot of misfortune when it comes to killing," said Ruff following the win. "As we continue to alter power play units with bodies coming in bodies going out, there's a little struggle. At the same time we've lost Travis Zajac and Kyle Palmieri, [they] are both two of our top four penalty killers."
"For the first eight or so games we've been getting a lot of the chipping, the holding, the stuff like that," said Wood. "If we can play five on five hockey I truly think that we're a hard team to beat. And that's just what we have to do here."
"It's just one game at a time mentality. I think we took care of the win tonight, we have an off-day tomorrow, and then we'll get ready to go against Pittsburgh on the next day," said Comrie.
The Devils continue their road trip as they head to Pittsburgh to face the Penguins on Tuesday and Thursday this week.