NEWARK, N.J. — For the second time just over two weeks, the New Jersey Devils play host to the Florida Panthers on Monday night at the Prudential Center.
The Devils (14-5-4) posted a 2-1 victory over the Panthers (8-12-2) on Nov. 11, the seventh win in their last nine games on home ice against Florida since the 2012-13 season. That victory also started New Jersey’s current 5-1-3 run over the past nine games.
Most recently, the Devils skated to consecutive one-goal victories, edging the Vancouver Canucks 3-2 at the Prudential Center on Friday before beating the Red Wings 4-3 in overtime at Detroit on Saturday. The Devils have yet to lose in regulation in 13 one-goal games already this season, winning nine and dropping four in overtime or a shootout.
“That’s the goal, always, to find a way to win those games,” Devils rookie center Nico Hischier said of the team’s success in tight games. “It’s been huge for us that we won (Friday and Saturday). We’ve just got to keep it going. That’s our goal every game, to find a way.”
Hischier scored his fourth goal of the season Saturday, one of eight Devils to record at least one point in the win. The top overall pick in the 2017 NHL draft is fifth among all rookies with 17 points, one behind teammate Will Butcher, who has five points in his past five games.
Taylor Hall, the Devils’ leading scorer with 26 points in 23 games, also scored Saturday as part of a two-point performance. He enters play Monday with five points in his last two contests.
New Jersey’s Brian Boyle has goals in the past two games, and Brian Gibbons scored in overtime Saturday, his team-high 11th goal and third in the past five games.
“I think it starts with hard work and being as consistent as I can each game and each practice, not take any time off and keep it rolling,” Gibbons told NorthJersey.com of his early-season success after entering this year with only five goals in 66 NHL games.
While the Devils are rolling, the Panthers are trying to avoid the Eastern Conference basement.
Florida is only two points out of last place in the East under first-year coach Bob Boughner. The Panthers lost 4-1 at home Saturday to the Chicago Blackhawks, continuing a recent trend of offensive futility. Although they peppered Corey Crawford with 38 shots, the Panthers managed only one goal. They have scored just 12 goals in the past seven games.
Less than an hour after the most recent frustrating defeat, two of the Panthers’ top scorers — Vincent Trocheck and Aleksander Barkov — returned to the ice to work on one-timers and other shots while their teammates showered, dressed and left the empty arena.
“They’re two important guys on our team and they’re frustrated, the puck’s not going in the net, so they put a little extra work in,” Boughner said after practice Sunday. “I have no problems with that. It’s a good thing. When you go through a time like that, where the offense has dried up, you try different things. It’s good that the guys are taking it upon themselves.”
Trocheck, who leads the Panthers with nine goals, has just one in his past seven games. Barkov, who is third on the team with 21 points and tied for first with 15 assists, has two points in the past five games. Jonathan Huberdeau’s assist Saturday was his first point in five games. And talented Russian import Evgenii Dadonov has one goal in 11 games.
“I think we know we have the ability to be a really good team,” Trocheck told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “It’s just putting it all together right now. The fact that it’s there, pieces to the puzzle are there, we’re just not putting it together, that’s what makes it frustrating.”