Lee Stempniak, Kyle Palmieri, and Travis Zajac all scored in the first period to build a lead for the New Jersey Devils they would never relinquish in a 4-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks Friday night at the Prudential Center.
Zajac's eventual game winning goal handed the Hawks their fifth straight road loss as the Hawks fall to 1-5 on the road this year. It also gave the Devils their first win over the Hawks since the 2011-2012 season.
One would have expected a better response from the Hawks after blowing a three goal lead Wednesday night but they largely continued to sleepwalk letting the Devils get the early jump.
The scoring started with a bad pass from Niklas Hjalmarsson being picked off Stempniak as he wristed in a shot to make it 1-0. Hjalmarsson was on the ice for every New Jersey goal, and he was a minus -4 on the night. Later the Hawks had trouble exiting the zone, and Zajac won a face-off that allowed Palmieri to fire a wrister through traffic putting the Devils up 2-0.
Less than 30 seconds later, after Zajac muscled his way through several Hawks and got his own rebound to give the Devils a 3-0 lead, Jonathan Toews decided to take matters into his own hands, starting a fight with Devils center Adam Henrique to attempt to spark the Hawks. Nonetheless it didn't work.
After allowing nine goals in his last four periods, Scott Darling came on in relief of Corey Crawford to start the second, and things didn't go much better.
A little over halfway through the period, the Hawks lost track of Mike Cammalleri as Palmieri fired a perfect pass to him to slot it into the net and make it 4-0.
Patrick Kane would add a late second period goal through a screen, his ninth of the year, and extending his point streak to nine games to make it 4-1. The Hawks would try a fruitless comeback attempt as Andrew Shaw also drew a late penalty in the period, but it was too little too late.
Another thing to watch is a potential injury to Artem Anisimov as he left the game a little before halfway into the 2nd and didn't return, and Coach Joel Quenneville hit the line blender with Shaw centering Teuvo Teravainen and Kane. Quenneville described Anisimov as "day-to-day" but it is something to monitor.
The Hawks would pull Darling with a little over six minutes to go in the game, to try and create some offense, and it paid off with rookie Tanner Kero's first NHL goal to make it 4-2 with under two minutes to go, but the Hawks couldn't muster up anymore offense and eventually fell.
With the loss, the Hawks' road struggles continue as they haven't won a game away from the United Center since early October. They now head back to the United Center Sunday night to face an Edmonton Oilers squad without Connor McDavid.
ONE, TWO, TREE THOUGHTS
Defensive woes continue
The Hawks continued to have a lot of trouble clearing their own zone Friday night, and it wasn't just the young guys we all pile on. Niklas Hjalmarsson was uncharacteristically sloppy and lackadaisical and there was a general lack of awareness on turnovers from everyone that could have led to even more Devils' goals. The Devils were expected to play their classic neutral zone trap to an extent as always and the Hawks play in their own zone played directly into their hands.
Following his less than ideal performance against the Blues, Crawford looked to rebound Friday night, and just couldn't get it going. The defense of course did him no favors early on but it's clear Crow may need some rest or time to clear his head for a game or two. Scott Darling coming on in relief of Crawford early in the 2nd was very reminiscent of last year's playoff series against Nashville as a message to spark the Hawks, although this was obviously a much less meaningful situation. Much like Crawford's play early in that Nashville series wasn't necessarily all his fault given how the defense played in front of him, it hasn't been all his fault either in allowing nine goals in his last four periods played. The Hawks will have to be better in front of Crawford going forward and Crawford himself just needs some rest after a sparkling start.
Young Hogs starting to produce
Following Marko Dano's first Blackhawks goal on Wednesday, fellow rookie Tanner Kero tallied the first of his career Friday. Dano was Chicago's top touted prize from this year's Saad trade and Kero is a guy that worked his way up after lighting it up in Rockford together. With the Hawks bottom six scoring issues, it would be nice if these two can continue to grow and produce. If these guys can develop some kind of consistency and chemistry at the NHL level like they did in the AHL, the depth of the Hawks will really to begin to shine through.