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game recap

Devils hit season high for goals in win vs. Wild

Henrique, Smith-Pelly, Sislo each score twice; Kennedy has three assists

by Mike G. Morreale @MikeMorrealeNHL / Staff Writer

NEWARK, N.J. -- Right wing Devante Smith-Pelly believes he's found the perfect match and filled an offensive role so desperately needed down the stretch as a member of the New Jersey Devils. 

Smith-Pelly had two goals and an assist in a 7-4 win against the Minnesota Wild at Prudential Center on Thursday. 

Adam Henrique and Mike Sislo scored two goals apiece, Reid Boucher scored once and Tyler Kennedy had three assists for New Jersey. 

Smith-Pelly, who has six goals and nine points in seven games since being acquired in a trade with the Montreal Canadiens for forward Stefan Matteau on Feb. 29, also set a career-high with 21 points this season. 

Video: MIN@NJD: Smith-Pelly jams one in for early lead

"So far, I think I fit like a glove [with the Devils]," Smith-Pelly said. "I'm just getting in on the forecheck and creating havoc, going in front of the net and parking myself right there, at edge of the crease. That's something I knew I definitely had to do, especially on that line. 

"Am I surprised? I've always been confident in my ability but I didn't think I'd be scoring almost every game." 

Keith Kinkaid made 28 saves. New Jersey (34-30-7), which scored the most goals in a game this season, ended a three-game losing streak on home ice. 

The Devils are holding out hope of still qualifying for the playoffs. They are six points behind the Detroit Red Wings for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference with 11 games remaining. 

Video: MIN@NJD: Henrique tips puck in to increase lead

"Crazier things have happened," Smith-Pelly said. "Teams go into slumps, and if a team hasn't gone on a slump yet this would be the time to do it. We just need to worry about ourselves and keep playing like we did [Thursday]. We'll see what happens." 

Nino Niederreiter, Jared Spurgeon, Justin Fontaine and Mikko Koivu scored for the Wild, and goaltenders Devan Dubnyk and Darcy Kuemper combined for 18 saves. Dubnyk allowed three goals on eight shots in 17:04 of action. Kuemper allowed four goals on 17 shots in two-plus periods of relief. 

The loss by the Wild put on hold their chance to pass the idle Colorado Avalanche for the second wild card into the playoffs from the Western Conference. Minnesota remains one point behind Colorado; each team has 11 regular-season games remaining. 

The Wild, who lost twice against the Devils this season, allowed the most goals in a game this season. Minnesota (32-28-11) is 1-3-1 in the past five games. 

Video: MIN@NJD: Sislo nets the first two goals of his career

"It's hard to say anything after a game like that," Wild center Erik Haula said. "It wasn't anything at all what we wanted. I thought we got better in the end but it wasn't even close to what we want to bring." 

The Devils wasted little time in building an early lead in the first as Smith-Pelly and Sislo scored in a span of 51 seconds in the opening 1:34 for a 2-0 lead. 

Smith-Pelly got to a rebound at the left post and scored off his backhand at :43. Sislo, who was recalled from Albany of the American Hockey League on March 8, scored his first NHL goal in his 32nd game off a backhand in the slot at 1:34. The goal was the result of great pressure by Sergey Kalinin on the forecheck in the right corner, enabling Sislo to get loose down the middle of the ice. 

"I don't think it was them, it was more us," Wild coach John Torchetti said. "We didn't win the battles along the wall on that first goal and, on the second goal, we couldn't take a hit to get a puck out. That's what the game comes down to. We need more commitment in those areas; a total team concept." 

Video: MIN@NJD: Kinkaid makes a strong stop on Fontaine

Niederreiter scored a power-play goal off a deflection from the slot. Mikael Granlund took the initial shot from the slot that hit Niederreiter at 14:45. 

The Devils took a 3-1 lead at 17:15 when Boucher scored his first goal in nine games off a rebound. 

It was then that Torchetti had seen enough, replacing Dubnyk with Kuemper. Smith-Pelly extended the lead to 4-1 2:57 into the second when he took a pass from Kennedy in the slot and scored on the first shot against Kuemper. 

"I think it's just three guys who play relatively similar," Smith-Pelly said of his linemates. "All of us aren't afraid to get into the dirty areas or afraid to get in on the forecheck." 

Video: MIN@NJD: Smith-Pelly's patience pays off

Spurgeon cut the lead to 4-2 on the power play, taking a backdoor pass from Koivu and scoring from the left circle at 9:42. 

Henrique and Sislo then scored in a span of 38 seconds to give New Jersey a 6-2 lead. Henrique took a great pass from Joseph Blandisi and tipped a shot past Kuemper from the slot at 12:06. Sislo then scored the second of his career off a shot from the left circle that beat Kuemper to the long side just under the crossbar at 12:44. 

"[Smith-Pelly] has come in and played great," Henrique said. "He gets to the right areas; those goal-scoring areas and we're finding some good chemistry. We're going to play right to the end. There's no quit in this team and, obviously, there's still a shot for the playoffs." 

Fontaine scored 4:41 into the third and the Wild made it 6-3, but Henrique answered right back at 7:52 when he took a pass from Smith-Pelly down the slot and redirected a shot past Kuemper for his 25th of the season. 

Koivu scored off an attempt at the right post that deflected off the arm of Kinkaid and trickled over the line at 15:55 to make it 7-4.

The Wild next return home to play against the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday. The Devils begin a home-and-home at the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday.

Video: Recap: MIN 4, NJD 7

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