For a hockey team that should be in rebuild mode, the Devils have had refreshing success against the best team in the NHL’s East Division.
Kyle Palmieri scored his first two goals of the season, including the second shortened count of his career to help New Jersey Thursday to Boston, 3-2, at TD Garden.
The Devils (6-3-2) are now enjoying their first win streak of three games in nearly a year as a result of sharing the Bruins (10-3-2) their third regulated defeat of the season. The Islanders were the only team to prevent Boston from scoring a point in 2021.
Coupled with Tuesday’s triumph over the Rangers, New Jersey couldn’t have asked for a better start to the eight games in 13 days after a two-week COVID layoff.
“We have new legs, I think,” Palmieri told the MSG + 2 broadcast crew.
De Montvale joined the COVID protocol on Jan. 31, while the team was in Buffalo. He finished first in a series of Devils to be listed, which ultimately became their last game in a week and a half.
Still, despite the long layoff, they have shown very few signs of rust. Palmieri opened the score 1:34 in the second period after a backhand pass from Jack Hughes, then disrupted the Bruins’ first power play with his short goal nine minutes later.
Boston took advantage of the four-minute penalty that followed a high-sticking double minor off PK Subban when Jake DeBrusk cut the Devils’ lead in half about two minutes later.
But New Jersey showed more nifty moves when Pavel Zacha completed a give-and-go with Andreas Johnsson at 3:37 PM. That held up as the game winner after a last-minute Bruins goal in the third and a last-second save by Mackenzie Blackwood, who improved to 4-0-1 overall and 2-0-1 against Boston. .
Vatanen’s turn to return
Thursday also brought with it the return of defender Sami Vatanen, who spent the off-season in his native Finland, spending all the necessary quarantine and conditioning hurdles before the game.
“I am ready to go,” said Vatanen during his pre-game press conference. “I was able to skate back home to get ready for the season, and I skated a few times with the team.”
At the age of 29, Vatanen is the fifth oldest skater in a selection full of young talent. His last previous game was on Feb. 1, 2020 against Dallas, when Alain Nasreddine was an interim coach.
“I’ve heard nothing but great things about him,” said new Devils coach Lindy Ruff. “He’s just adding another solid piece to our rear lineup.”
“Sami is a good friend of mine,” said winger Miles Wood, “and it sure is great to have him back. It’s been a while since he last played, but I don’t think he’ll skip a beat. ‘
Taxi crew is struggling
Attackers Nick Merkley and Mikhail Maltsev each scored their first goal of the season against the Rangers.
Merkley, in his second season with New Jersey, recorded career heights in shifts (21), time on the ice (2:28 pm) and runs scored (two on a goal and one assists. Maltsev’s goal was an empty net and the first of his NHL career.
Both players were placed in the taxi squad on Wednesday. Within 24 hours, both were recalled to the Devils after defender Connor Carrick and goalkeeper Eric Comrie went away.
“There is a chance to see a lot of our young players, and we do,” said Ruff. Merkley, [Yegor] Sharangovich, Maltsev you are looking at [Michael] McLeod, [Nathan] Bastian, like all those players, we have some great young players who fit in, contribute and play a big role for us. “
Carrick approved the waivers and returned to the taxi crew. Comrie was claimed by Winnipeg, the team he spent his first four NHL seasons with.
Zajac almost back
Attacker Travis Zajac is out of the COVID protocol, but was not in Thursday’s line-up against Boston. He skated at the Devils facility in Newark as he prepared to return must play in two games to reach 1,000 for his career
“We’ll see where he arrives on the weekend,” said Ruff, referring to Saturday and Sunday’s set in New Jersey against Buffalo (home) and Washington (away). “Hopefully he gets one of the games, maybe he gets both.”
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