NEWARK, N.J. — So much was made of this being first game between New Jersey and Anaheim since the late November trade that sent Sami Vatanen to the Devils for the popular Adam Henrique that most people forgot about Stefan Noesen.
The Devils claimed Noesen on waivers from the Ducks in January, and this also was the fourth-line right wing's first game against his old team.
Guess who stole the show?
Noesen scored on a rebound with 4:07 to play and added an empty-net goal as surprising Devils rallied from a two-goal deficit to beat the Ducks 5-3 on Monday night.
"That was the icing on the cake and the cherry on top," Noesen said of his fourth and fifth goals of the season.
Noesen had talked to former teammates Chris Wagner, Brandon Montour and Nick Ritchie on Sunday and then got ready for the game. All he cared about was the Devils won. He didn't even mind that Henrique and Vatanen got all the attention.
"It's a good feeling to beat your old team," he said, adding he liked that no one knew the game was also special to him. "I try to fly under the radar as much as possible."
Myles Wood had two goals, Jesper Bratt also scored and Brian Boyle added three assists as the Devils continued their worst-to-first run by moving into first place in the Metropolitan Division. Cory Schneider had 21 saves and was helped by a goalpost on a shot by Rickard Rakell during a power play before Neosen scored the go-ahead goal.
Henrique had a wonderful return, scoring a spectacular goal and adding an assist as the Ducks had their point-scoring streak snapped at seven games (3-0-4). Ryan Getzlaf and Jakob Silfverberg also scored for Anaheim. Ryan Miller had 29 saves in losing for the first time in regulation (3-1-4) this season.
"I think we stopped skating and then we stopped sharing the puck," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. "I thought we had opportunities to move the puck effectively in the second period and we didn't."
The Devils made Henrique feel welcome, putting a short tribute on the video scoreboard to celebrate his six plus seasons in New Jersey.
"Nervous, anxious, excited," Henrique said. "A little bit of everything came into it tonight. It was probably one of the longest games I've played, personally. I'm still disappointed to leave the points on the board."
Noesen put in his own rebound for his fourth goal of the season. His empty-net tally came after Schneider stopped Henrique in front after the Ducks pulled Miller.
The Devils twice rallied from two-goal deficits, tying the game 3-all on a wrist shot by Bratt at 5:49 of the third period.
Trailing 3-1 late in the second period, Wood scored on a shot from the right circle that Miller seemed to miss.
Henrique had given Anaheim a 3-1 lead 11:21 into the period with a spectacular goal just seconds after a Ducks penalty ended. He took a pass from Josh Manson, skated into centre ice and then flipped the puck over Vatanen into the Devils' zone. He beat the defenceman to the puck and then beat Schneider with a slick backhander into the top of the net.
"Adam made a great play," Schneider said. "I haven't seen that one before, maybe he was saving it just for this opportunity."
Getzlaf and Silfverberg had staked the Ducks to a 2-0 first-period lead.
Henrique made an outstanding breakoff pass from in front of his net on Silfverberg's ninth goal from in front.
Wood got the Devils back in the game, deflecting Vatanen's power-play shot past Miller at 8:11
NOTES: Ducks F Joseph Blandisi, who was sent to Anaheim along with Henrique, was a healthy scratch. ... The Ducks had killed off 16 straight penalties over the last six games before Wood scored. ... Joey Anderson, the Minnesota-Duluth forward who was the Devils' third-round draft pick in 2016, was named the captain of the U.S. National Junior Team for next year's world championship in Buffalo, New York. ...New Jersey is 2-0 on its current six-game homestand. .... The Ducks are 1-1-1 halfway through their six game road trip
Ducks: Cross the Hudson River to face the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night.
Devils: Host the Rangers on Thursday night.