Hall’s two-goal period pushes Devils past Ducks
NEWARK, N.J. -- When the New Jersey Devils acquired Taylor Hall over the summer, they felt they landed a game-breaking goal-scorer, something that was needed after the team finished last in the NHL in offense last season.
The left winger was held off the score sheet in the Devils’ first two games this season -- both losses -- but he just about singlehandedly lifted his new team to victory Tuesday night.
Hall scored a pair of power-play goals in the second period as the Devils handled the undisciplined Anaheim Ducks 2-1 at Prudential Center.
The Devils traded defenseman Adam Larsson to land Hall, who had 26 goals a season ago, although he couldn’t make a difference in road losses to the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning to start the season. He finally found the back of the net against the Panthers and narrowly missed a hat trick on two opportunities in the third period.
“It was nice,” Devils coach John Hynes said after his team’s home opener. “Credit to Taylor -- even in the first couples games, he played real well and had some real quality chances and they didn’t go in for him. Tonight, he obviously got the goals, but just his game in general has been very good, so it’s nice to see him get rewarded for his effort.”
Defenseman Sami Vatanen put Anaheim ahead 1-0 midway through the first period with a power-play goal and was nearly a hero in the final minute. He made a diving play to prevent an empty-net goal and nearly tied the game at 2-2 just seconds later, but his attempt from near the net bounced wide.
Vatanen and goaltender John Gibson, who turned aside 26 shots, were the only bright spots for the Ducks, who took five straight penalties during the final 10 minutes of the second period, then committed a sixth during the third period. That parade to the penalty box opened the door for the Devils to rally to mount a comeback.
Hall’s first power-play goal was more about anticipation than pure skill, as he positioned himself for the rebound of a Michael Cammalleri shot and stashed the free puck past Gibson to make it 1-0 at 12:35 of the second period.
Four minutes later, Hall showed deft hand-eye coordination when he deflected a point shot from defenseman Damon Severson to put the Devils ahead 2-1.
”They weren’t just any goals,“ said Devils goaltender Cory Schneider, who stopped 23 shots and survived a penalty-shot attempt by center Chris Wagner late in the second period. ”They weren’t with a big lead or if we were behind by a lot; they were a game-tier and a game-winner.
“We all know he can make plays himself and shoot the puck, but I thought these were good goal-scorer’s goals. It shows his versatility and how many ways he can be effective.”
While the Devils (1-1-1) are showing steady improvement, the Ducks (0-3-1) hope they can follow the pattern they used to record 103 points a year ago. That team started slowly as well, going 1-7-2 in October, and it appears this one is digging itself another formidable hole.
”We shot ourselves in the foot, and that’s the result,“ Ducks center Ryan Kesler said. ”Bad timing on most of the penalties. You can’t take four minors (it was six) in a row and expect to win a game.
“I just think everybody has to look themselves in the mirror. I don’t think anybody was good enough tonight to win that hockey game. We’re close, but once again we’re not there. We’ve been through it before. We’re probably going to go through it again during the stretch of this year. We just need everybody collectively to look in the mirror. Be better. That’s all we’re asking, for everybody to be better.”
The Devils need to improve as well, as five goals through three games puts them on a pace for 136 goals, but so far Hall has been as advertised.
”The thing that’s been great about Taylor is he plays the game the right way,“ Hynes said. ”He competes in all areas. He’s hard on the puck. He checks when he doesn’t have it. He’s not timid in confrontations. He’s responsible in his defensive zone, and he brings energy to your team.
”The thing we’re most proud of him about right now isn’t that he scored two goals, it’s the work ethic and buy-in that he’s had since he’s gotten here has been fantastic.
“If he continues that, he’s going to continue to have some success.”
NOTES: Anaheim is still without the services of Hampus Lindholm, the team’s best defenseman. Lindholm is a restricted free agent and remains without a contract. ... Ducks D Simon Despres (upper body) and LW Nate Thompson (Achilles) did not play. ... Anaheim scratched RW Jared Boll and D Korbinian Holzer. ... New Jersey LW Reid Boucher made his season debut. ... Devils D Jon Merrill (finger), C Sergey Kalinin (illness) and LW Luke Gazdic (foot) did not play. ... New Jersey D Steve Santini, LW Miles Wood and C Blake Speers were scratches.