Mike Cammalleri had endured a ten-game goal-less drought entering Sunday’s matchup with the Carolina Hurricanes. But as anyone who knows the Canes can attest to, when a player has the opportunity to score his first goal of the season, playing the Canes is too often just what the doctor ordered.
Cammalleri’s first three goals of the season, two of which came 3:25 apart in the second period, powered the New Jersey Devils to a 4-1 win over the Hurricanes in front of 8,650 at PNC Arena on Hockey Fights Cancer night, the Devils’ first road win of the season.
The Canes, who returned home early Sunday morning from the previous night’s game in Nashville, never really answered the bell to start the game. The Devils outshot the Canes 10-5 in a scoreless first period, and Eddie Lack stood tall on a pair of late-period saves to keep it that way.
Four and a half minutes into the second period, Cammalleri took advantage of a defensive zone breakdown to break his scoreless string and put the Devils on top. Ryan Murphy and Noah Hanifin were both defending Travis Zajac in the near circle, and Murphy lost Cammalleri who snuck up behind him.
Zajac’s pass eluded both Hurricanes defenders, and Cammalleri didn’t miss the yawning cage on a Steven Stamkos-style one-timer from his knees at the bottom of the far circle.
Just before the halfway point of the second period, Cammalleri struck again to double the Devils’ lead. Jacob Josefson danced around Ron Hainsey through the neutral zone and fed Cammalleri at the blue line, who pushed the puck ahead of the blue line just before Taylor Hall would have put the play offside.
From there, Cammalleri and Hall played a brief 2-on-1 and the Devils’ alternate captain fired a perfect shot just under Lack’s arm. Cammalleri’s two goals were the only two shots on target for the Devils in the second period, who were outshot 14-2 in the frame.
The Canes’ power play, so hot to start the season, has now gone four straight games without a goal, dating to the team’s home opener. Assistant coach Rod Brind’Amour had tough words for his team’s power play in a mid-period interview with the Canes’ Mike Maniscalco.
8:30 into the third period, Cammalleri finished off his sixth career hat trick, taking a drop pass from Beau Bennett and firing through a Murphy screen past Lack, who was late to react and may have lost sight of the puck.
In his career against Carolina with the Kings, Canadiens, Flames and Devils, Cammalleri now has 10 goals and 18 points in 21 games, and his hat trick was the first for the Devils in nearly two years, since a Jaromir Jagr three-goal performance against the Flyers in January 2015.
Devils goaltender Keith Kinkaid, now 4-1 in five career games against the Hurricanes, did the rest, including waiting out Andrej Nestrasil on a one-on-one a minute after Cammalleri’s third goal. Kinkaid’s performance pushes his career save percentage over .950 against Carolina in his career.
The only mark against Kinkaid, who earned his first win of the season, was a Nestrasil goal off a lively bounce from the end boards with 7:00 left. Kinkaid was a hair slow to react, and Nestrasil elevated the puck, bouncing it off the top of Kinkaid’s pad and into the net for his first goal of the season.
A late-period slashing penalty to Ben Lovejoy gave the Canes a 6-on-4 advantage for the final 1:52 of the game, but they were unable to convert. Andy Greene iced the game with 54.4 seconds remaining into the vacated net.
The Canes played most of the final period without Justin Faulk, who suffered an undisclosed injury early in the third and did not return to the game. After a day off tomorrow, these two teams will meet again on Tuesday at Prudential Center in New Jersey, where the Devils are 4-0-1 to start the season.
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