In seven games with the Devils, Smith-Pelly has six goals and three assists. He had six goals and six assists in 46 games with the Canadiens.
“I said when I first came I am pretty confident in my ability,” Smith-Pelly said. “Obviously. I wasn’t thinking a goal per game. Right now, it’s going better than I thought.”
This game went a lot better than anyone on the Devils might have thought. Coming off a 7-1 loss to Anaheim on Monday, New Jersey got goals from Smith-Pelly and Sislo in the opening 1:34 and never trailed in preventing Minnesota from taking over the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Henrique said Smith-Pelly has fit right in on his line.
“He gets to the right areas, goal-scoring areas,” said Henrique, whose 25 goals matches his career high. “We’re finding some good chemistry. He plays hard. He plays well. Hopefully we can keep that rolling right to the end.”
The win was the Devils’ third in four games and left them six points behind Detroit for the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference with 11 games to play.
“There is no quit in this team,” Henrique said. “Obviously there is still a shot. We’ll just keep finding ways to keep putting points up.”
Nino Niederreiter, Jared Spurgeon, Justin Fontaine and Mikko Koivu scored for the Wild, who squandered a chance to move ahead of Colorado into the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference with a too-little, too-late effort in losing their second straight.
Colorado has a one-point lead over Minnesota, and both have 11 games to play.
“They just got a couple early on us and took the wind out of our sails,” Wild defenceman Ryan Suter said. “It just seemed like we weren’t ourselves tonight. We were getting beat to loose pucks, pucks were bouncing on us. It wasn’t the type of game we needed to be successful.”
This one was never in doubt. Smith-Pelly and Sislo scored in the opening 1:34 and New Jersey hit the net three times on their first eight shots against Devan Dubnyk, sending him to the bench late in the opening period.
“It’s a tough way to start a game down 2-0,” Wild defenceman Ryan Suter said.
Backup Darcy Kuemper didn’t fare much better in the Wild’s worse defensive effort of the season. He gave up a goal on the first shot he faced, an uncontested shot in close by Smith-Pelly early in the second for a 4-1 lead.
New Jersey, which only took 25 shots, dominated the Wild in close with five of the first six goals being tallied either in the crease or on the edge of it. The exception was Sislo’s second NHL goal, which came from the top of the right circle for a 6-2 lead in the second period.
That goal capped another outburst with Henrique and Sislo, who missed practice on Wednesday because of an illness, scoring 38 seconds apart.
Smith-Pelly, who has six goals and three assists in seven games since being acquired from Montreal, and Sislo, who had not scored in his first 32 NHL games, tallied 51 seconds apart to stake New Jersey to a 2-0 lead.
It was the fastest two goals to start a game for New Jersey since Randy McKay and Brian Rolston scored in the opening 1:13 against Philadelphia in 1998.
Niederreiter got his 17th of the season on a power play at 14:15, but Boucher pushed the margin to 3-1 three minutes later when Dubnyk could not control a point shot and Boucher shoved it into the net after Kennedy slid the puck across the crease.
Minnesota never got close again.
NOTES: The Devils’ previous high was six goals against Ottawa on Jan. 21. … Dubnyk was 5-1-1 with a 2.10 goals-against average in his last seven games. … Suter broke the Wild single-season record for assists by a defenceman, picking up his 38th on Spurgeon’s goal. … Devils D Andy Greene played in his 300th consecutive game. … Minnesota has power-play goals on the road in 14 of 15 games. … New Jersey is now 3-5, wearing its red, white and green retro jerseys. … The Devils finished their season against the Western Conference with a 16-11-1 record. They were 2-0 against Minnesota. … It was Kennedy’s first three-point game since 2011.