Former New Jersey Devils center Scott Gomez is back with the team that drafted him 27th overall in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft. Invited back to the Devils on an unsigned tryout basis by General Manager Lou Lamoriello, Gomez is looking to resurrect a career that rapidly went downhill after he bolted from the Devils to the rival New York Rangers on July 1, 2007. The 34 year-old scored 116 goals and added 334 assists for 450 points in 548 regular season games with New Jersey from the 1999-2000 season through 2006-2007. In 97 postseason games, he scored 21 goals and picked up 44 assists for 65 points.
While Gomez still must impress Lamoriello and the rest of the Devils staff in order to get a contract for the 2014-15 season, Gomez did leave a positive mark in Devils history by contributing to two Stanley Cup titles and an additional Eastern Conference championship. He also had many more memorable moments with Jersey’s Team along the way. Here are Scott Gomez’s top ten moments with the New Jersey Devils:
1) December 26, 1999: Hat Trick at Madison Square Garden
In his first 34 NHL games, Gomez had just five goals to go along with 26 assists. He had also gone 15 straight games without a goal. Then just three days after his 20th birthday in his first game at the “World’s Most Famous Arena,” Gomez lit the lamp three times against goaltender Mike Richter including a breakaway goal in the second period for his first career hat trick. He became the second Devils rookie to have a hat trick, the other coming on Halloween in 1984 against the Pittsburgh Penguins by Ulf Hiemer.
In an ironic bit of foreshadowing, he acknowledged there was “something about this place” after the 3-3 tie game and that his night was “kind of magical.” He also told his father that “when you skate at the Garden, you’ve made the big time.”
2) April 13, 2000: First Postseason Game, First Postseason Game-Winning Goal.
The Devils fell in the first round in two straight postseasons entering 2000. With home ice advantage against the Florida Panthers they were determined to snap the streak. Gomez, skating on a line with Sergei Brylin and Claude Lemieux in Game 1, did his part. With his team leading 3-2 in the second period, Gomez wristed the puck towards the net that found its way past goaltender Mike Vernon. It would prove to be a critical goal when the Panthers struck again to make it a one-goal game later in the period. The Devils stood tall from that point on and won 4-3. They eventually swept the series four games to none.
3) 2000: A Stanley Cup and a Calder Trophy
Gomez finished his rookie season with 19 goals and 51 assists for 70 points after playing in all 82 games. He led all rookies in points and won the Calder Trophy for Rookie of the Year. His assists and points totals are still a rookie record in Devils history. He was also named to the 2000 North America All-Star Team along with teammates Scott Stevens and Martin Brodeur.
Then he played in all 23 postseason games for the Devils and scored four goals, two of which were game-winning goals, with six assists. His best series was the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Toronto Maple Leafs when he scored two goals with three helpers. His two-assist performance in Game 5 at the Air Canada Center helped the Devils to a 4-3 win and a 3-2 lead in the series. Two rounds later, it all culminated with a Stanley Cup championship.
Scott Gomez drops a beautiful pass to Vladimir Malakhov in Game 5 against the Toronto Maple Leafs:
4) June 2, 2001: First Stanley Cup Finals Goal
After a 63 point sophomore season in the NHL mostly playing alongside Alexander Mogilny, Gomez had an even better postseason statistically than the year prior when he scored five goals with nine assists in 25 playoff games. No postseason goal was as important for him than his tally in Game 4 of the 2001 Stanley Cup Finals. With the Colorado Avalanche leading the game and the series 2-1, an innocent New Jersey dump-in proved costly. Goaltender Patrick Roy couldn’t handle the puck behind the net and Devils forward Jay Pandolfo charged in to chip it to the front of the vacated net where Gomez buried the puck to tie the score. Petr Sykora, another drafted Devil that would return on a tryout basis years after his exit from New Jersey, scored later in the period to give the Devils a 3-2 lead. The Devils won the game but eventually fell in seven games to Colorado.
Scott Gomez scores his first goal in the Stanley Cup Finals:
5) March 30, 2003: Ties Devils Single-Game Record for Most Assists
In a 6-0 New Jersey victory over the New York Islanders at the Meadowlands, the play-making center had an assist on five goals. Gomez’s five assists tied a Devils single-game record but even his night was overshadowed. The Devils all-time points’ leader, Patrik Elias, had four goals and added an assist in the game while Brodeur stopped all 19 shots for the shutout.
6) April 30, 2003: Helping New Jersey Get to Within One Win of the 2003 Eastern Conference Finals
The Devils led the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-1 in the series heading into Game 4 at the St. Pete Times Forum. After a Lightning turnover just under five minutes into the opening period, Gomez skated in alone on Nikolai Khabibulin and scored to give New Jersey the early lead.
Scott Gomez scores to give the Devils a 1-0 lead in Game 4:
Tampa Bay responded tie the game but before the first period was over Gomez and line mate Elias teamed up to put the Devils back ahead. Elias forced defenseman Dan Boyle to turn the puck over in the Lightning zone and Gomez followed up to gain control of the puck. A quick pass to and then a lightning quick shot by Elias gave New Jersey a 2-1 lead. They won 3-1 and took the series 4-1.
7) Five Points in the 2003 Stanley Cup Finals and Another Stanley Cup
The Devils won all four games on home ice and defeated the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in the 2003 Stanley Cup Finals to win their third Stanley Cup. Gomez had an assist in Game 1 and then added another goal with an assist in Game 2. Gomez lit the lamp in a Game 3 loss and assisted on a goal by Elias in Game 5, a huge 6-3 victory to get the Devils to within one win of the Cup. Two games later in the winner-take-all Game 7 back at the Meadowlands, the Devils got that win.
8) February 17, 2004-March, 15 2004: 26 Points in 15 Games
Gomez finished the 2003-04 season with 14 goals and a league-high 56 assists for 70 points, his highest point total since his rookie season. The best stretch of his season came during the second half when he put up 26 points in 15 games.
On February 21, Gomez had the second five-point performance in his career when he scored twice with three assists at Madison Square Garden, a 7-3 Devils win. Six games later, he did it again. After being held scoreless in two straight games, the only games in which he was held without a point during the run, he had a hand in every goal. He finished the night with a goal and four assists on the road in a 5-2 victory over the Panthers. He would never have a night with more than four points again. In fact, all five games in which he had four or more points came while he was a member of the Devils.
9) A Season to Remember in 2005-06
After playing in the ECHL with the Alaska Aces during the 2004-05 lockout, Gomez had a career year in 2005-06. Playing alongside Brian Gionta and Elias (for the second half) he scored 33 goals, the most in his career, and had 51 assists. Many of his assists came on goals by Gionta and in the process his teammate scored a total of 48, a Devils single-season record. Gomez’s 84 points were also a career-high.
In the playoffs, Gomez finished with nine points in nine games including six points in a first round sweep of the Rangers, the first time the Devils defeated their arch-nemesis in a postseason series. Perhaps the biggest contribution he made, however, was being the recipient of a botched hit by Rangers forward Jaromir Jagr. Jagr dislocated his shoulder and was a non-factor the rest of the series.
10) Scott Gomez Scores the Final NHL Goal at the Continental Airlines Arena
The 2006-07 season was the last season the Devils called the Meadowlands home. The following season they would move to the Prudential Center in Newark, sans Gomez.
After New Jersey defeated the Lightning in the first round, they fell in five games to the Ottawa Senators. Gomez had 14 points in 11 games during the 2007 postseason but one of his two goals in Game 5 against the Senators proved to be a historic goal in Devils history. With 40 seconds remaining in the third period and New Jersey trailing 3-1, Gomez skated to the slot and buried a goal past goaltender Ray Emery. It was not only the final Devils goal of the season and the final goal scored by Gomez with New Jersey but it was, most importantly, the final NHL goal scored at the Continental Airlines Arena.
Scott Gomez scores the final NHL goal at the Devils original New Jersey home, the Continental Airlines Arena:
Gomez had many memorable moments with the Devils during his seven seasons skating in the Garden State. Which moment was your favorite and is there any memorable moment of your own that you want to share?