BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Following the Devils’ pregame skate Tuesday, forward Taylor Hall wasn’t sure what to expect upon returning to the lineup after missing three games with a sore right thumb.
Nothing appeared to be bothering New Jersey’s top offensive threat come the third period, when Hall fired in a shot from the left circle for the decisive goal in a 3-1 win over Buffalo. Sabres goalie Robin Lehner actually got a piece of the shot with his glove, but the puck still had enough momentum to trickle behind him.
“Sometimes you get in the game and adrenaline takes over and you find a way to feel good,” Hall said afterward. “Not to make myself sound like a warrior, but you play through stuff, and a lot of the guys in this room are.”
The Devils have plenty to feel better about in coming out of the NHL All-Star break by snapping a four-game skid that included two shutout losses.
Kyle Palmieri scored an empty-net goal and added an assist, and Miles Wood also scored in a game the Devils never trailed. Backup goalie Keith Kinkaid stopped 27 shots in his first game since missing three with a groin injury. He started in place of Cory Schneider, who missed his fourth game since also hurting his groin.
This was the type of fresh start veteran defenseman Andy Greene hoped the Devils would get after a four-day break, and following a difficult stretch in which they went 2-7-3.
“It’s a mental reset and that was important for us,” Greene said. “This is only one game, but hopefully this is the start of a good run here.”
The Sabres, by comparison, reverted to their past troubles by continuing their home woes while failing to build off the momentum of sweeping a three-game swing through Western Canada.
Jake McCabe scored a power-play goal, and the Eastern Conference’s last-place team opened a five-game homestand with a loss that dropped the Sabres to 6-13-2 in Buffalo. That doesn’t include a 3-2 overtime loss to the New York Rangers in the Winter Classic at Citi Field, which was considered a Sabres “home” game.
“It’s tough. We want to bring that hockey that we showed that we can play out west to this arena,” McCabe said of a road trip in which the Sabres outscored their opponents by a combined 11-1. “We need to bring that for our fans and for this city. And tonight’s unacceptable.”
McCabe’s goal cut the Devils’ lead to 2-1 with 5:02 remaining. The Sabres were unable to capitalize on their fourth and final power-play opportunity when Devils rookie Nico Hischier was penalized for cross-checking with 2:45 remaining.
Kinkaid made a key save during a scramble in front with 1:30 left. He reached out with his left arm to turn aside Ryan O’Reilly’s chance from in close.
Wood opened the scoring 5:49 into the second period by bursting up the left wing and then cutting through the crease to backhand the puck into the open right side.
Lehner, who finished with 25 saves, set a career best with his shutout streak that ended at 145 minutes and 15 seconds, topping his previous best by more than 19 minutes. He had stopped a combined 63 shots in a 5-0 win over Edmonton and a 4-0 victory over Vancouver last week.
Wood’s goal also ended the shutout streak shared by Lehner and backup Chad Johnson at 199:19 — a little under 27 minutes short of the franchise record.
NOTES: Before the game, the Sabres held a moment of silence in tribute to USA Hockey executive Jim Johannson, who died unexpectedly on Jan. 21. General manager Jason Botterill, U.S.-born coach Phil Housley and forward Jack Eichel spoke fondly of Johannson in a video broadcast on the scoreboard. Housley referred to Johannson as “the classiest guy you’d ever want to meet.” … Devils coach John Hynes said Schneider is scheduled to begin skating on his own in the next day or so. … In discussing the Devils’ skid earlier in the day, Hall provided an amusing quote that didn’t exactly add up by saying: “Hockey’s a funny game. It goes in 10-game segments. We started off 9-2 and then in our last 11, I think we’re 2-9-2. So what team are we?”
Devils: Host the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday.
Sabres: Host the Florida Panthers on Thursday.
(© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)