The Devils knew when they traded J.D. Dudek and a third-round draft pick in 2019 to the Oilers at the deadline that they were getting a player in Patrick Maroon who could go to the front of the net and score goals. Nobody could have known that when Maroon tallied his first goal for New Jersey, he would do it twice.
That's just how much the Devils were scoring on Tuesday night against the Montreal Canadiens, as they rampaged to a 6-4 victory. Officially, Maroon only had one of the goals, but there were two times that he was credited with his inaugural Devils marker, both times playing the role that the Devils brought him in to do - one that isn't necessarily as simple as it seems.
"It can be thankless when guys are zipping it around a little bit, but you do your job and you make it a little bit harder on a goaltender," said Brian Boyle, who has been tasked with providing sizeable net-front presence often in his career. "Sometimes, he'll make the save, but the rebound isn't where he wants to put it. You keep plays alive, and you've got to do some grunt work down low. When you come to a new team, you just kind of have to ask where your outs are. When I have it, or if I win a battle and don't have time to look, where are my outs? Around the net, it's instincts, and he's really good around the net. He's got great hands, and you don't really have to coach him on that or tell him. He knows what to do."
On a power play late in the first period, Taylor Hall carried the puck into the Montreal zone, skated to the half-wall, and flicked a pass back to Sami Vatanen at the blue line. Vatanen then worked the puck over to Kyle Palmieri at the top of the left circle, where the winger fired a shot that Travis Zajac deflected past Canadiens goalie Charlie Lindgren. While Maroon was the only Devils player who did not touch the puck during that sequence, he was at the front of the net, and got the initial credit for the goal, announced over the PA at The Rock.
Zajac's deflection did go through the screen-setting Maroon's legs, bouncing into the net off Lindgren to give the appearance that Maroon had gotten a touch on it. But after further review, a scoring change was issued at the first intermission to appropriately credit Zajac with the goal.
"I thought it might have hit me, but that's part of the game," Maroon said. "That's why the guys are up top. They see it, and that's why they change it. I'm just glad our power play was really good, and I thought Trav was really good tonight. I'm really happy for him."
When Maroon scored for real, there was no doubt that he was the one who put the puck in the net. It was on another power play, 11:36 into the second period, when Maroon again parked his 6-3, 225-pound frame in front of the blue paint. This time, Hall shot from the right circle, and as Lindgren slid to his left, Montreal defenseman Karl Alzner made a partial block, not stopping the puck, but instead sending it bouncing to where Maroon was set up. Maroon nearly overskated the puck, but had his stick in great position to sweep it into the yawning cage.
Video: MTL@NJD: Maroon nets his first goal as a Devil
"That's my job," Maroon said. "My job is to go to the net and get the ugly goals, create screens for the defensemen and the wingers on the side. My job is to be a big man in front of the net. So, I'm glad we got to contribute tonight."
It was nice for Maroon not only to contribute, but to contribute to a Devils victory, snapping a three-game skid to pick up two valuable points in a tight playoff race with 15 games remaining. As much as New Jersey is built for speed, the addition of Maroon to add his brand of offense is one that gives the Devils a different dimension for the stretch run.
"Patrick's done a good job in really every game," Devils coach John Hynes said. "He's been a menace below the tops of circles in the offensive zone, 5-on-5 and on the power play. I think, when you see him on the power play, his ability to recover pucks off of shots on the end wall, he makes the right play to relieve the pressure, which is a big thing. Even on Vatanen's goal the other night, he was a big reason we got that goal. Then, you see, he's got good hands, he has good sense around the net. He's definitely upgraded our team in that area, and we knew when we got him that those were going to be his strengths. It's nice to see him playing to his strengths, and then get rewarded."