Cory Schneider hadn’t won a regular-season hockey game since Dec. 27, 2017.
Not 2018. Oh, no.
A 21-game winless streak (0-17-4) and a year and a bit of frustration thanks to injury. Nobody had a bigger monkey on their back.
And when he was inserted into a 4-1 deficit to the Minnesota Wild on Friday night, he wasn’t expected to end that drought either. His job was merely to relieve Keith Kinkaid, who was chased after allowing four goals on 17 shots in the second period.
But the Devils, who came into the game as the worst team in the NHL, Schneider’s appearance seemed to rally the team. Will Butcher snagged a late goal in the second frame to pull the Devils to 4-2. From there, the Devils rattled off two more in the third, including a game-tying goal by Ben Lovejoy with 2:45 remaining in the game to force overtime.
The Wild simply fell apart and Schneider’s 15 saves made sure New Jersey had a chance.
Nico Hischier supplied the overtime winner off a gaffe from Devan Dubnyk, who’s misplay of the puck summed up the second half of the game for the Wild — and utter embarrassment.
“Everyone else was probably more excited than I was,” Schneider said in a post-game interview on MSG+. “For me, it’s just nice to get a win and get two points. It’s been a long time, obviously. It’s just one, but it’s nice to get it.”
Schneider said 2018 was “just a bad year” and he was really looking forward to 2019.
“I’m my harshest critic. I’m hard on myself and I expect a lot from myself,” Schneider said. For whatever reason, it just wasn’t working. I’ve never gone through anything like that in my career, my life, to be honest.
“It seemed like no matter what I did, nothing was really going my way or working for me. I always want to play well for this franchise. For the owners and management who put a lot of faith in me and a lot of expectations on me, which is what I accept. It’s been a while, but hopefully, we can get back to try to play hockey, win games and get my career back on track here.”
So much for Bruce Boudreau’s promise of playoff hockey this season. A 4-1 lead should be an automatic win.
The Wild have been in free-fall mode for a while now, with just three wins in their past 10 games.
The loss of Mikko Koivu was deflating — devastating, really — but the team has failed to even attempt to rally around it. Look no further than Friday’s game for proof of that
Given the race for the final wildcard spots in the Western Conference, if the Wild don’t figure it out, they’re going to fall out of the playoff picture in short order.
For now, they own the final playoff berth.
Bonus content — just listen to the call on Hischier’s goal:
Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck