Goaltender Cory Schneider made 30 saves as the Devils survived a
late push from the Washington Capitals to win 2-1 on Friday night at
the Prudential Center. The victory propelled the Devils to within
one point of the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.
The loss was the seventh straight for the Capitals and fifth
consecutive setback in regulation.
Schneider was under siege over the final 40 minutes, but stopped 23
of 24 shots to move the Devils to 5-1-2 over their past eight games.
"He's been awesome for a while," said center Adam Henrique, whose
power-play goal early in the second period proved to be the winner.
"He made huge saves for us at key times and kept us in it when they
were taking the play to us. He made big saves. It's another huge
game from him."
Schneider improved to 4-0-2 in his past six games and has been the
starter in six of the Devils' past eight games. He struggled to find
consistent playing time earlier in the season with incumbent starter
and future Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur in his way, but that has
Devils coach Peter DeBoer said he would announce his starter for
Sunday's outdoor game against the New York Rangers after practice at
Yankee Stadium on Saturday.
"As a goalie, you want to get in that rhythm," Schneider said. "You
kind of come into every game feeling like you can pick up where you
left off in that last game a couple days ago. It's good to get in
that rhythm and gain that confidence. We'll see what happens coming
up, but I'm feeling good."
The Devils took a 1-0 lead at 4:57 of the first period on their
first shot on goal of the game. Right winger Stephen Gionta led a
2-on-1 charge and elected to shoot, beating Capitals goaltender
Michal Neuvirth to the stick side for his third goal of the season.
Henrique's 14th goal of the season at 1:45 of the second period made
it 2-0. With the Devils on the power play, he finished a nifty
passing play with right winger Jaromir Jagr and center Travis Zajac
for what turned out to be a much-needed insurance goal.
The Devils have five power-play goals on 11 chances over their past
"I knew once Jags got there, I just tried to back off and give
myself a little bit of room," Henrique said. "It was just a great
play by him. Merry Christmas."
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Neuvirth was fantastic throughout the rest of the game,
keeping the Capitals within striking distance. He made several
difficult saves, including a stop on defenseman Mark Fayne at
the near post.
It gave time for left winger Jason Chimera to score his 10th
goal of the season at the 10:10 mark of the third period. He
redirected a shot by defenseman John Erskine that squeezed
through the pads of Schneider to cut the lead to 2-1.
It was too little, too late for the Capitals, who carried the
play over the final two periods but could not dig out of the
early hole. They are now four points back of the final wild-card
spot in the East and sit in seventh place in the eight-team
"I think we have to work that much harder," Capitals defenseman
Mike Green said. "I think when things aren't going your way,
when you put in the extra effort, momentum starts to go."
The Devils will turn their attention to what isn't just a
spectacle game at a baseball stadium, but a big game against
their rivals. They sit two points back of the Rangers for third
place in what has developed into a very competitive division.
"Now it's time to think about tomorrow and Sunday and enjoy it a
little bit," Schneider said. "But again, it's a very important
game for us on Sunday."
NOTES: Capitals RW Alex Ovechkin (lower body) missed his second
consecutive game. He tested his injury during the morning skate
but had to come off the ice after a brief time. Coach Adam Oates
said he hopes Ovechkin can return Saturday against the Montreal
Canadiens, but that may not happen. ... Capitals C Mikhail
Grabovski (lower body) left in the second period and did not
return. ... Devils RW Jaromir Jagr had two assists for 1,033 in
his career. He is tied with Mario Lemieux for 10th place on the
NHL career list. ... Devils RW Joe Whitney made his NHL debut
and wore No. 9. He is the third Devils player (Mike Sislo,
Mattias Tedenby) with that uniform number this season.
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