Devils look to extend home win streak vs. Blackhawks

NEWARK, N.J. — The New Jersey Devils are halfway through their longest homestand of the season and so far it is going very well.

The Devils are 3-0 on their six-game homestand and aim to get another win Saturday night when they host the Chicago Blackhawks.

New Jersey is 4-0-1 in its last five games and 20-9-5 overall after posting the worst record in the Eastern Conference last season.

The Devils did not get their 20th win until Jan. 21 last season and this is the first time they reached 20 victories before the end of December since finishing with 102 points and reaching the Stanley Cup Final in 2012.

The Devils have set a season high by getting points in five straight games after a thrilling 4-3 shootout victory over the rival New York Rangers on Thursday. New Jersey set a season high with 48 shots on goal against Henrik Lundqvist while twice coming back from one-goal deficits.

“We believe in what we’re doing,” Devils center Brian Boyle said. “It’s good to know when the pressure gets ramped up or you know the other team is going to be at its best in a rivalry game like this where you could call it a playoff-type atmosphere, it’s the little things, the details that make a huge difference.”

Boyle made a significant difference in Thursday’s game by netting the equalizer with a nifty backhander on the power play in the third period and the game-winning goal in the fourth round of the shootout.

The veteran center has nine goals in 24 games since missing the first month recovering from leukemia. During New Jersey’s five-game run, Boyle has eight points (four goals, four assists) and since his return, the Devils are 12-7-5.

“It’s amazing to have him back,” New Jersey right winger Kyle Palmieri said. “In big moments, he steps up.”

Palmieri also stepped up Thursday, getting the secondary assist on Boyle’s goal and another assist in his second game back from missing nearly a month with a foot injury.

The Devils have scored at least three goals in 20 games so far after doing so 29 times last season.

New Jersey’s highest-scoring game this season occurred last month in Chicago when Miles Wood had a hat trick and four points in a 7-5 win on Nov. 12.

Since blowing a 4-2 first-period lead to the Devils, the Blackhawks (17-12-5) are 9-4-3 in their last 16 games.

Like the Devils, the Blackhawks gained points in five straight games but saw their five-game winning streak stopped with Thursday’s 4-0 loss in Dallas. The Blackhawks scored 18 goals in their longest winning streak of the season but managed just 22 shots on goal after producing 76 shots in wins over Winnipeg on Dec. 14 and Minnesota Sunday.

“e were a step slow all over the ice,” Chicago left winger Brandon Saad said. “You could say they played well, but I think a lot has to do with our preparation. We didn’t seem ready to play tonight, and it showed.”

The Blackhawks matched their second-lowest shots on goal total all season and were shut out for the second time. Chicago also gave up three goals in the second period and is being outscored 32-25 in the middle period this season.

“I mean again we only have ourselves to blame there,” Chicago captain Jonathan Toews said. “That effort was unlike the efforts we have seen the last five or six games. It was not consistent the way we have been lately. So we have to get back to the things we were doing well before.”

The Blackhawks are hoping Thursday’s showing was an aberration and not the start of another losing streak like the five-game skid (0-3-2) that preceded the winning streak.

Thursday’s loss meant Patrick Kane remained one shy of 300 goals. Only Bobby Hull (604), Stan Mikita (541), Steve Larmer (406) and Denis Savard (377) scored more.

It also was Corey Crawford’s first regulation loss in more than a month. Before taking the loss Thursday, he was 5-0 with a 1.37 goals-against average since returning from injured reserve.

Chicago is 9-4-1 in the last 14 games with the Devils since March 27, 2009, after going winless in the previous 12 meetings from March 27, 1999, to March 17, 2009.