By John Schweibacher
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For the first time since 2008-09, the New Jersey Devils have started a season with four wins in their first five games.
The Devils improved to 4-1-0 by beating the Rangers, 3-2, Saturday night at Madison Square Garden in the first meeting of the season between the cross-river rivals.
Will Butcher assisted on two goals for the Devils in the win and now has eight assists in his first five career games with the Devils.
Since the NHL expanded in 1967-68, the only other defenseman to register at least eight points in their first five career games was Phil Housley, who had two goals and six assists in his first four games for the Buffalo Sabres in October 1982.
Butcher’s eight assists are also the most by any rookie defenseman in his first five NHL games since 1967-68, topping the previous high of seven by Ryan Whitney of the Pittsburgh Penguins in November 2005.
Keith Kinkaid made his first start of the season and stopped 29 of 31 shots for his first career win against the Rangers.
Kinkaid, who had faced New York just once before in relief in 2015, became the first New Jersey goalie to defeat the Blueshirts in his first career start against them since Chris Terreri, who made 20 saves in a 6-4 Devils victory on March 29, 1990.
On Friday night at the Prudential Center, the Devils lost their first game of the season, 5-2 to the Capitals.
Nicklas Backstrom had one goal and three assists in the win for Washington. It was Backstrom’s third career game with four or more points against New Jersey.
Since the 1987-88 season, the only other Capitals player with more than one four-point game versus the Devils is Geoff Courtnall, who had two.
Courtnall had two goals and two assists in a 9-6 Washington win on Jan. 16, 1990, and four assists in an 8-5 Caps win on Oct. 15, 1988. Both games took place at the Capital Center.
Kyle Palmieri scored his first goal of the season and the 100th of his NHL career in the loss to Washington.
Here are the highest career goal totals among current New Jersey Devils (through Oct. 14):
• Drew Stafford, 184
• Taylor Hall, 132
• Adam Henrique, 120
• Marcus Johansson, 102
• Kyle Palmieri, 100
On Wednesday night in Toronto, the Devils improved to 3-0 on the season with a 6-3 win against the Maple Leafs. The three wins in their first three games matched New Jersey’s win total from Feb. 19 through the end of last season on April 9.
Cory Schneider matched his career high with 47 saves in the win, the most in a regulation game by a Devils goalie in club history.
Martin Brodeur made 51 saves in a 1-0 shootout win against the Rangers on Jan. 12, 2010, and Chico Resch also stopped 51 shots in a 6-5 overtime loss at St. Louis on March 10, 1984.
Miles Wood and Pavel Zacha each scored their first two goals of the season in the win over the Maple Leafs.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Wood (age 22) and Zacha (20) became the first pair of Devils players 22 years old or younger to each score at least two goals in the same game since Oct. 30, 1997, when Patrik Elias (21), Petr Sykora (20) and Denis Pederson (22) each scored twice in an 8–1 victory over the Canucks in New Jersey.
Brian Gibbons scored a short-handed goal for the Devils in their win over Toronto. It came with New Jersey two men short at the time — the first 3-on-5 short-handed goal in the regular season in Devils franchise history.
Scott Niedermayer scored a 3-on-5 short-handed goal against Florida in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals on April 16, 2000, in a 2-1 New Jersey win at the Meadowlands.
Plus: Coming Up Short. The Devils scored short-handed goals in each of their first three games of the season, one game shy of the club record four in a row set in January 2012.
Minus: Falling Short. New Jersey has allowed six power-play goals in their first five games, tied for the second most given up in the NHL this season.