By John Schweibacher
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The New Jersey Devils on Sunday lost their first game following their five-day NHL “bye week,” but then bounced back with a win to stay in the hunt for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Devils beat the Avalanche, 3-2, Tuesday night in Newark. The win was New Jersey’s fourth in six games (4-1-1), but just the second in its last 10 games (2-6-2) on home ice. The Devils had lost their previous six contests against Colorado (0-3-3) and had won just once against the Avs in their previous 10 meetings (1-6-3).
Kyle Palmieri’s late second-period goal proved to be the game-winner for the Devils in the victory over Colorado. Palmieri has scored eight times since the calendar turned to 2017 — and 15 times overall this season.
Travis Zajac assisted on Andy Greene’s power-play goal in the second period, the 270th of his career to move into a tie for ninth place with Bobby Holik on the club’s all-time list:
• Patrik Elias, 617
• Scott Niedermayer, 364
• Scott Gomez, 361
• John MacLean, 354
• Scott Stevens, 337
• Kirk Muller, 335
• Bruce Driver, 310
• Aaron Broten, 283
• Bobby Holik, 270
• Travis Zajac, 270
Avalanche goalie Jeremy Smith took the loss, stopping 37 shots in his NHL debut at age 27 after seven seasons in the minor leagues.
According to the player game finder on Hockey-Reference.com, the last goalie older than Smith to make his NHL debut against the Devils was Wayne Cowley, who at age 29 appeared in his first and only NHL game for Edmonton at New Jersey on Dec. 11, 1993.
Cowley relieved Bill Ranford who had allowed two goals in the first 2:35 of the first period. Cowley was charged with the loss after giving up three more goals in the eventual 5-2 Devils win at the Meadowlands. Martin Brodeur got the win that night, the 10th of his career.
The Devils lost to the Sharks, 4-1, Sunday afternoon at the Prudential Center. New Jersey is now 0-3-2 against San Jose at home since a 2-1 win on Feb. 11, 2011. The Devils had gone 10-4-1 in their first 15 games against the Sharks in New Jersey after San Jose joined the NHL for the 1991-92 season.
Brent Burns scored two goals for San Jose in the win and has scored 51 goals over the last two seasons (27 in 2015–16 and 24 this season).
The Elias Sports Bureau notes that Burns’ total is 18 more than any other NHL defenseman. (Shea Weber is second with 33) and he is the first NHL defenseman to score more than 50 goals over a two-season span since Kevin Hatcher tallied 51 goals for the Capitals in 1991–92 (17 goals) and 1992–93 (34 goals) combined.
Scott Stevens’ 30 combined goals in 1992-93 and 1993-94 are the most by a Devils defenseman in club history. Barry Beck holds the franchise record with a combined 36 goals for the Colorado Rockies in 1977-78 and 1978-79.
Burns’ two-goal game was the second by a defenseman against New Jersey this season. Oliver Ekman-Larsson scored twice for Arizona in a 5-3 Devils’ victory on Oct. 25.
Glen Wesley was the last defenseman to record a hat trick against New Jersey, scoring three times in a 5-4 Bruins win on Dec. 15, 1993, at the Meadowlands.
Plus: Big Shots. New Jersey outshot Colorado 40-30 in Tuesday night’s win. It was the third time this season that New Jersey registered at least 40 shots in a game. They are now 3-0-0 in those games.
Minus: Bye Week Blahs. The Devils’ loss in their first game after their five-day break continued a trend among NHL clubs who are now a combined 3-8-1 coming out of the “bye week.”