Before the 2015 portion of the 2015-16 NHL season began, a lot of pundits believed the New Jersey Devils would be “tanking” for the chance at drafting Auston Matthews. Instead, the Devils find themselves rolling into 2016 as a playoff contender. As of this writing, the Devils are 19-14-5 (43 points) and lay claim to the first Wild Card spot.
There were many memorable moments and games in 2015, below are the top five.
5.) New Jersey Devils 4 Pittsburgh Penguins 0
This Nov. 14 tilt was a delightful sight for Devils coach John Hynes and general manager Ray Shero. Cory Schneider made 21 stops and earned his first shutout of the season. Also born was the “Wild Thing,” as former Pens forward Bobby Farnham lit the lamp. Lee Stempniak, David Schlemko and Mike Cammalleri registered goals as well.
4.) New Jersey Devils 3 Montreal Canadiens 2
Coming off a 3-2 shootout victory against the Habs at “The Rock,” New Jersey traveled to Montreal and knocked off the then Atlantic Division leaders again, on Nov. 28. Trailing 2-0 midway through the third, Patrik Elias netted his first goal of the season. Then, with 21.8 ticks left, Kyle Palmieri hammered home the equalizer. In the extra session, after a pretty feed from Adam Henrique, John Moore buried his own rebound for the winner.
3.) New Jersey Devils 3 Detroit Red Wings 2
In this Dec. 11 bout, the relentless, cardiac Devils gave their fans more fulfilling free hockey. Down 2-0 entering the third, Damon Severson one from the point, for his first marker of the season. Knotting the contest with the extra attacker, was Sergey Kalinin, tipping home a Palmieri drive. Speaking of “Palms,” that man from Montvale, took a beautiful saucer pass from Stempniak and buried a backhanded winner in the extra frame.
2.) New Jersey Devils 4 Chicago Blackhawks 2
While the Devils would win at Chicago nearly a week later, this Nov. 6 tilt raised some eyebrows. Yes, the Blackhawks were a bit nicked up but the Devils made a statement in an unconventional way. The first frame saw New Jersey jump out to a 3-0 advantage, with tallies from Stempniak, Palmieri and Travis Zajac. A Cammalleri goal in the second, made it a 4-0 margin. This one also saw a rare scrap between Henrique and Jonathan Toews. It was the Devils first victory against the defending Stanley Cup champs since 2012.
1.) New Jersey Devils 2 New York Rangers 1
Another overtime victory and a springboard of sorts for the Devils. While the Devils had rallied back in their previous contest, a shootout loss against the San Jose Sharks, they were still without a victory as they headed across the Hudson River. While the New York Mets and New York Jets were soaking up the headlines, who knew the Devils were about to write the first chapter of their storybook first half, on Sunday Oct. 18? Trailing 1-0 in the second stanza, relentless “Rico” charged the net and stuffed home the early equalizer. The goal came off a late first period fight between Palmieri and Kevin Klein, proving the Devils wouldn’t back down. In overtime it was Stempniak driving home a two-on-one, one-timer from Henrique, providing the Devils with their first victory of the season.
Michael Gwizdala covers the New York Islanders for The Hockey Writers. Michael is also an Associate Producer at WNYT NewsChannel 13. Additionally, Michael was once a Media Relations intern for the AHL Albany River Rats. Michael is a graduate of The College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY.