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Devils shut out Coyotes in fourth straight win

by Mike G. Morreale

NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils goaltender Cory Schneider believes that once a player in his position is in a rhythm and feeling well about his game that fatigue rarely enters the mind.

That's important because Schneider, who might very well be playing the best hockey of his career, will undoubtedly play a major role in the 21 remaining regular-season games if the Devils are going to continue their pursuit of a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Schneider made 38 saves to record his first shutout in three months in a 3-0 victory against the Arizona Coyotes at Prudential Center on Monday.

"It's that time of the year; the time of the year when you may as well [play it out]," Schneider said. "If I'm feeling good then keep putting me out there. I'm fine with that. I like where my game is at and my body feels pretty good so if we're going to make a push here then I'm up for the challenge and will be ready for whenever they need me."

Scott Gomez scored a goal to move into fifth place on the Devils all-time list with 473 points and Mike Cammalleri scored twice, including an empty-net goal with 1:48 left. The win was the fourth straight for the Devils (25-26-9), who moved within eight points of the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.

Coyotes coach Dave Tippett pulled goaltender Mike Smith with 2:08 remaining for the extra attacker, but Cammalleri scored his second of the game 20 seconds later to seal the win.

"I thought we deserved a better fate early on in the first couple of periods," Tippett said. "There were some things we wanted to stress in the game that I thought our players did well but we made a couple of mistakes and their players capitalized. We couldn't capitalize on any of the chances we created."

Schneider was called upon to make 14 saves in each of the first two periods. His best two saves came at 12:36 of the second when he denied a shot from the point by Antoine Vermette through traffic and the rebound by Lucas Lessio from the slot.

"Right now I'm just playing more frequently and, being the guy, a lot of the distractions seem to go away," Schneider said. "A lot of things you might worry about that are out of your control you don't worry about any more because you have the confidence in your coach that you will be in the next night even if it is a tough one, so I think having that security is one less thing to worry about."

Schneider made his 51st start of the season on Monday. He turned away 10 shots in the third to notch his first shutout since a 29-save, 2-0 victory against the Edmonton Oilers on Nov. 21. It was Schneider's third shutout this season and the 15th of his career. He's also 4-1-1 (including three shutouts) in six career games against the Coyotes.

"If he's not considered top three in the League there's something wrong and it's been fun to watch," Gomez said. "When you have a goalie like that we take it for granted how good he really is. You know he's going to take you to the end; he's done it all year."

The four-game win streak is the longest for the Devils in two years; the Devils won five in a row from Feb. 3-10, 2013. New Jersey, which has outscored the opposition 11-4 over the past four games, will play the fifth of a six-game homestand against the Calgary Flames on Wednesday.

The Coyotes (20-33-7), who have lost six straight, will play the second of a four-game Eastern Conference road trip against the New York Islanders on Tuesday.

"You have to capitalize on chances, you have to score goals to win this game and you can't expect your goaltender to be perfect every night," Tippett said. "You're not going to win a lot of hockey games [taking that approach]."

Cammalleri gave the Devils a 2-0 lead off a breakaway 1:41 into the third to give the Devils a 2-0 lead. After taking a bank pass from Jordin Tootoo, Cammalleri skated down the middle of the ice with Coyotes defenseman Connor Murphy in hot pursuit. Cammalleri went forehand-to-backhand and tucked the puck over Smith's glove inside the right post.

Smith made 25 saves.

Gomez, signed as a free agent by the Devils on Dec. 1, scored his fifth goal of the season off a backhand at the right post 12:33 into the game to move into fifth place on the Devils all-time scoring list. He now trails Scott Niedermayer (476 points) by three points for fourth place.

He was asked if moving into fifth place was something significant.

"It means I helped us get the two points tonight," Gomez said. "I talked to Bobby [Holik] earlier and he still has me in overall career points (747-736) so he still can stick it to me. The biggest thing is we got the win and that's all that matters. That other stuff is something that you guys can talk about it; I'm just worried about wins and getting to the playoffs."

Devils co-coach Lou Lamoriello knows that any slim chance his team has at qualifying for the playoffs will ultimately rest on Schneider's shoulder. Will he be asked to play most games down the stretch?

"It depends on the games he plays," Lamoriello said. "I think the way we've done this is to keep him fresh and strong. He's like everyone else, you have feel good in order to stay on top of your game."

Schneider likes what he sees from the team.

"I think we're getting contributions from a lot of places," he said. "Defensemen are joining the offense, and it seems like every night a different line may be scoring or creating pressure. I think there are a lot of moving parts that are in sync right now. Even when we're having a bad stretch, it's not killing us. We're getting through those and rebounding well."


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