Schneider leads Devils to close win over Panthers
NEWARK, N.J. — Cory Schneider turned in an outstanding 32-save performance Saturday night as the New Jersey Devils snapped a four-game losing streak with a 2-1 victory over the Florida Panthers at the Prudential Center.
“It’s a game I think we had to have just to get out of this funk and to win at home,” said Schneider, who closed out his stellar night with 17 saves in the third period.
Schneider made his best stops of the night while the Devils killed off all four Panthers’ power-play opportunities, including a lunging pad save on a Jonathan Huberdeau rebound in the first period and a pair of early third-period pieces of thievery on Jamie McGinn.
He also made a clutch save early in the second period on Vincent Trochek’s short-handed attempt off a 2-on-1 rush and held off a furious Florida push in the final seconds of the third period.
“He’s played great for us all year,” Devils alternate captain Kyle Palmieri said of Schneider. “He’s been our best player night in and night out. He gives us a chance to win every night.”
A fortunate bounce gave the Devils (10-4-2) an early 1-0 lead Saturday. Defenseman Damon Severson’s slap shot deflected off Panthers defenseman Keith Yandle and past goaltender James Reimer at 5:59 of the first period.
Severson’s second goal of the season was part of a strong all-around night for the young defenseman, who was a healthy scratch just two games ago.
Palmieri doubled New Jersey’s lead with his fourth goal at 4:58 of the second period. It was a 5-on-3 power-play goal, the Devils’ first in six games. It also marked the 12th time in 16 games this season that the Panthers surrendered at least one power-play goal.
“It’s pretty ironic that we worked on the 5-on-3 a little bit this morning,” Palmieri said. “We had some basic things we wanted to set up and accomplish and one of them was to get pucks to the net, so I was shooting to just try and hit the net.”
The Panthers (5-9-2) cut New Jersey’s lead to 2-1 on Nick Bjugstad’s third goal of the season and first in 13 games 7:20 into the second period. Schneider made an outstanding diving save on Bjugstad’s original shot, but the Florida center banked his rebound shot off a Devils skate and into the net.
Bjugstad was aggressive and around the puck all night long. He led all skaters with five shots on goal. Teammates Mike Matheson and Huberdeau had four apiece for the Panthers, who have lost six of their last seven games.
“I thought we had our chances, but we just couldn’t find the back of the net,” said Bjugstad. “You have to find ways to score in these types of games. We knew (Schneider) would be good in net, but we just have to find ways to score against him.”
Late in the second period, there was a particularly exciting back-and-forth sequence of near misses. Brian Boyle of the Devils hit the post at one end of the rink and Radim Vrbata’s wraparound attempt at the other end was denied by Devils defenseman Andy Greene, who slid through the crease to bail out Schneider.
“That was big,” said Schneider. “Maybe he could have had a second career as a goalie had he been smarter. I’d like to not get caught out of position, but it happens, and he bailed me out there big time.”
In between those scoring chances, New Jersey defenseman Steven Santini deposited Florida’s Aleksander Barkov over the boards and into the Panthers bench with a hard, clean check, bringing the sold-out crowd to its feet. Barkov was unhurt, logged more than 23 minutes of ice time in the game and played a big role in Florida’s dominating third-period effort in which the Panthers outshot the Devils 17-4.
“I’m happy with our effort and execution, and I thought we deserved better,” said Panthers coach Bob Boughner. “I thought Schneider was the difference tonight. I’m not disappointed in how we played, just disappointed in not getting the two points.”
NOTES: The Devils wore camouflage warm-up jerseys before the game in honor of US military members for Veterans Day, and Devils goalies Cory Schneider and Keith Kinkaid wore USA military-themed masks. ... The healthy scratches for the Devils were C Pavel Zacha, D Dalton Prout and D Ben Lovejoy. ... Panthers C Derek MacKenzie suffered an unspecified injury during a collision with Devils C Blake Coleman at 8:56 of the first period. MacKenzie did not return to the game. ... The Panthers scratched C Jared McCann (lower body), D Alex Petrovic and G Antti Niemi.