West coast road trips have not been kind to the New Jersey Devils in the history of the franchise. However, after a 2-0-1 swing through Western Canada and a rejuvenated Cory Schneider, all of a sudden the Devils are feeling pretty good about themselves.
The Devils, who started on a 9-3-3 tear to start the year, found themselves mired in a month and a half long slump that had the team drop down to an unsightly 16-18-8 and looking at long odds to end a five year playoff drought.
The road trip didn’t start out well for the Devils as they were delayed five hours on the tarmac of Newark airport, waiting for their flight to leave for Edmonton and then saw themselves blow another third period lead to the Oilers before succumbing in overtime for the second time in four days.
However, after a win in Calgary over the Flames, the Devils came to the Rogers Arena hoping to take another two off the Vancouver Canucks and pull within five points of the final playoff spot in the East. New Jersey also has a game in hand after the Flyers dropped a 5-0 decision to the Washington Capitals.
This contest wasn’t exactly pleasing to the eye with both teams playing low event hockey. The Canucks would end up taking the lead on Loui Eriksson’s 10th of the season as he starts to feel more comfortable in Canada. That lead would hold until Kyle Quincey put the Devils on the board after his shot was deflected by Markus Granlund and past a helpless Jacob Markstrom.
New Jersey thought they had this game wrapped up in regulation, but had Blake Coleman’s first NHL goal wiped out on a blown offside call by the linesman that was corrected via Willie Desjardins’ coaches challenge. After looking at the replay, it was ruled that Taylor Hall’s foot was offside before the goal was scored.
The Canucks almost took the win in regulation after Karl Stollery and Alex Edler were sent to the box for coincidental minors within the final two minutes. Bo Horvat found a streaking Eriksson who was in all alone on Schneider who was able to get just enough of Eriksson’s point blank effort and push the game to overtime.
In the overtime frame, Hall almost cost the Devils with a turn over, but a heroic back check attempt by Travis Zajac, bailed out Hall, who took the puck the other way and was able to beat Markstrom in between the legs.
It is no coincidence that the Devils have found themselves again after Schneider had a couple days off to reset in back to back games against the Washington Capitals. Since then, Schneider has allowed 11 goals in his last seven starts. Throw out a poor start against the Toronto Maple Leafs in which Schneider allowed three goals before being pulled quickly, the Devils goaltender has allowed just eight goals in six starts.
If Schneider can stay hot the rest of the way, the Devils may just reverse course and look to be buyers at the deadline. That climb will continue on Tuesday evening against the Minnesota Wild in the Devils fourth and final game of their read trip.