Saturday, February 08, 2014
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Rookie's first goal lifts Devils past Oilers in OT

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[February 08, 2014]  NEWARK, N.J.  After 30 NHL games without a goal, rookie defenseman Jon Merrill had long since given up on scoring his first in some sort of fantasy scenario.

"You always dream about that kind of stuff when you're a little kid," Merrill said, "but I think after 20 games went by and I hadn't scored, those dreams kind of went away a little bit."

They came true Friday night. Merrill scored his first career goal with 2:26 remaining in overtime to give the New Jersey Devils a 2-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers in front of an announced sellout crowd at the Prudential Center.

The play began along the right-wing boards as Devils center Adam Henrique and Oilers defenseman Martin Marincin became entangled. Oilers left winger Taylor Hall skated to the boards to offer help, which allowed an uncovered Merrill to take a pass from right winger Michael Ryder and rip a shot past Oilers goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov.

Edmonton coach Dallas Eakins and Hall thought Henrique could have been called for a penalty before the winning goal.

"Hey, listen, you always see it one way from the bench and I thought it should've been a call," Eakins said. "When it gets to overtime, I think the refs are a little more apt to let the guys play."


Hall said, "I think that's a guaranteed penalty maybe in regulation. In overtime, maybe it's a different circumstance. You can never really tell what the referee sees. But I thought it was a hook. I went over to help and it ends up in the back of our net."

The Devils had lost four of their previous five games, including the last two in overtime after squandering third-period leads in the final two minutes of each game. They sit in sixth place in the log-jammed Metropolitan Division, three points behind the third place Philadelphia Flyers.

"It's big, especially with some tough losses here of late in the last minute," Henrique said of the victory. "I think we had a little bit more pressure in overtime than (the past two games). It's just a huge goal by Jonny."

The Oilers and Devils exchanged goals 29 seconds apart midway through the first period.

Center Andrei Loktionov scored his first goal in 16 games to put the Devils ahead 1-0 at 11:01. Right winger Jaromir Jagr drew four Oilers to him near the blue line and moved the puck across to defenseman Bryce Salvador, who found Loktionov near the right faceoff circle for his fourth goal of the season.


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Before the goal could be announced in the arena, Hall's 20th goal of the season pulled the Oilers into a 1-1 tie. He finished a 2-on-1 rush after a perfect pass from right winger Nail Yakupov, who has points in three straight games.

It was the only shot that would get past Devils goaltender Cory Schneider, who made 19 saves in his season-high fifth straight start. Devils coach Peter DeBoer said afterward that Schneider would start Saturday night in Washington against the Capitals.

DeBoer used two words to describe Schneider's effort against the Oilers: "Excellent; outstanding."

"He was great again," Henrique said. "He made big saves at key times for us. The last few, it's tough, you feel for him, because he played such a great game and he gave up two late. It's certainly never his fault. We just got to get some more support for him. But he's been awesome every time he goes in."

The Oilers head into the Olympic break 5-1-1 in their past seven games. They are out of the playoff race in the Western Conference, but they know it is important to play well down the stretch with an eye toward next season.

"I think everyone is playing a (touch) harder," Hall said. "We're winning more battles than we were earlier in the year and playing with a little more intensity. It's a fun way to play. Tonight wasn't the result we'd like, but as far as the way we're playing, I think we have to continue it after the break.

"I think we'll win a lot more games than we'll lose if we play that way."


NOTES: Oilers D Justin Schultz played in his 100th career NHL game. ... The Oilers gave G Ben Scrivens a break after he played Thursday against the New York Rangers. In three road games this season against the Rangers and Devils, Scrivens stopped 98 of 99 shots. ... Devils D Anton Volchenkov (lower body) missed his second straight game. ... Devils C Andrei Loktionov played just 1:24 in the third period and had an ice pack on a hand in the locker room after the game. Coach Peter DeBoer, however, said Loktionov was not injured.

[ 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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