NEWARK, N.J. — The New Jersey Devils remain hopeful of making a charge to the playoffs. Thank Cory Schneider for that faith.
Schneider made 33 saves and the Devils beat NHL-leading Nashville 3-1 on March 3, sending the Predators to their season-worst fourth straight loss.
Adam Larsson and Eric Gelinas scored first-period goals in front of a sparse crowd on a snowy night. Mike Cammalleri was awarded a goal with 1:14 remaining in the game when he was hauled down on a breakaway toward an empty net.
“I think Cory’s the answer,” Cammalleri said. “We know he’s going to be solid every night. We know what we’re going to get. I can’t say enough about the way he plays and how much he means to this team.”
The Devils improved to 6-1-1 in their last eight games. They pulled within seven points of Boston, holder of the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.
General Manager/Co-coach Lou Lamoriello insisted the Devils still had playoff aspirations, even after he dealt away veteran stars Jaromir Jagr and Marek Zidlicky.
“We’ve got the same mentality we’ve had right through this process,” Lamoriello said. “Every game is like a playoff game. We take one game at a time, not thinking beyond that. That’s the attitude in that room. That’s the attitude of the coaches.”
It’s easier to keep those good vibrations happening when your goalie is playing as well as Schneider. “What more can you ask for from our goaltender?” Lamoriello said.
Schneider is 5-1-1 in his last seven starts, including a pair of shutouts.
“I think it’s all about confidence,” Schneider said. “When you struggle, you don’t have confidence. Right now, I’m going to work hard to keep mine. I am playing very confident right now, but I don’t want to have a bad one. I have to stay on top of my game.”
Meanwhile, the Predators are trying to rekindle their game.
Mike Fisher had the lone goal for Nashville (41-17-7), which entered the night with a league-leading 89 points. This is the Predators’ worst skid since last March. Backup goalie Carter Hutton made 21 saves for Nashville, which lost at the New York Rangers on March 2.
The Devils jumped to a 2-0 lead only 3:57 in on goals by defensemen Larsson and Gelinas.
Larsson, the trailer on a rush, took a pass from Patrik Elias and snapped a shot from the high slot past Hutton at 58 seconds. It was the ninth straight game Nashville surrendered the first goal.
“I thought the key to the game was the first period and getting behind again,” Fisher said. “We have to play catch-up every night. The first period is killing us. There’s no excuse for it. We have to be better than that.”
The Predators’ deficit doubled when Gelinas scored a power-play goal with a blue line drive as Devils forward Steve Bernier screened Hutton.
New Jersey built the two-goal lead on three shots.
Predators coach Peter Laviolette called timeout after the second goal to settle his team while Hutton skated over the bench for a brief talk with No. 1 goalie Pekka Rinne.
Hutton didn’t allow another goal.
The Predators’ only good scoring chance in the first came in the closing seconds as Schneider stopped a close-in try by Eric Nystrom. Nystrom sustained a lower-body injury in the second period and didn’t return.
Whatever Laviolette said at intermission worked as the Predators dominated the second period.
Fisher made it 2-1 early, netting a rebound as Nashville swarmed the New Jersey crease. It was second goal in three games for Fisher since his wife, country music star Carrie Underwood, gave birth to the couple’s son on Friday.
Nashville took 12 of the first 14 shots in the second and held a 21-6 edge in the frame. But Schneider stood firm.
Cammalleri was credited with the insurance goal when he was hooked down while breaking in after Hutton had been pulled for an extra skater. He was awarded his team-leading 24th goal, which extended Cammalleri’s point streak to seven games (six goals, three assists).
And it extended the Predators losing streak.
“We keep shooting ourselves in the foot,” Nashville captain Shea Weber said. “It’s up to us to figure it all out. There are no excuses. We played well in the second period. Well, why couldn’t we do that in the first period?”
Source: The National Herald