(AP) — The snow was falling steadily outside, the crowd inside the Prudential Center was small and the offensively challenged New Jersey Devils were hosting the high-flying St. Louis Blues.
The Devils rewarded the several thousand fans who braved the storm with a stunning 7-1 rout.
Mark Fayne and Ryan Carter scored 24 seconds apart early in the first period to spark the victory.
"With the atmosphere in the rink, we knew it would be tough to get a lot of momentum," Fayne said. "We tried to come out with as much as we could, and we were lucky to get three in the first."
Jaromir Jagr, Ryane Clowe, Adam Henrique, Damien Brunner and Eric Gelinas added goals and the Devils celebrated a return to the snow-bound Prudential Center after losing three of four on the road. The seven goals were a season high for both teams — it was the biggest outburst by the Devils and the most surrendered by the Blues.
Cory Schneider, 3-0-2 in his last five appearances, made 26 saves.
Alexander Steen scored for the Blues, who sported two impressive marks coming in: they were 14-2-1 against Eastern Conference foes and 15-5-3 on the road.
None of that mattered as the Devils stunned the Blues with goals by Fayne and Carter only 2:51 in.
"We had a good start, we jumped on them right away," Jagr said. "I think they were a little bit surprised. We were lucky, no question about it. The power play helped. It was a day when everything worked for us."
And nothing clicked for the Blues.
"We were poor right across the board," coach Ken Hitchcock said. "Poor with our discipline. Our top players took poor penalties. Poor in every aspect of our game. We're going to have to regroup. This is on everybody, on me, the players. A total team loss."
Fayne got it started with a high floater from the right point that eluded Brian Elliot at 2:27. It was the New Jersey defenseman's first goal in 25 games.
Carter followed 24 seconds later with a backhanded rebound.
Steen settled things momentarily for St. Louis with his career-high 25th goal to cut the Devils' lead to 2-1 at 8:47.
Jagr put New Jersey back up by two at 10:27 with his 697th career tally. The pass from Reid Boucher bounced off Jagr's left skate and was affirmed by a video review.
Elliott was yanked about two minutes later, having surrendered three goals on nine shots, and Jaroslav Halak came on in relief.
The first period ended with New Jersey up 3-1 thanks to a 13-6 shot advantage.
The Devils tacked on a pair of power-play tallies in the second, by Clowe at 1:03 and Henrique at 15:42, to expand the lead to 5-1.
Schneider, who had a relatively easy night, came up with perhaps his best stop midway through the middle period, denying David Backes when he was all alone in the slot.
In the third, Brunner added the Devils' third power-play tally at 1:18. Brunner was activated before the game from the injured reserve list after missing 14 games with a right knee injury.
He didn't miss a beat, stepping right back in with the goal and two assists.
"I felt really good in practice," Brunner said. "I had the legs underneath me. Sometimes the game rhythm is different. I can still be a little bit faster, and the hands are a little bit rusty. I think it was a solid three periods to get back on it and I hope to progress from here on."
Gelinas scored on a fluke, making it 7-1. He fired a shot from the red line that hit a Blues defender and bounced past Halak.
It was that kind of night for the Blues.
"I wish I had a great explanation for you," Backes said. "It was an unacceptable start that was a combination of our lack of willing to go into the hard areas and win those battles and they were willing to do those things all game long."
NOTES: The Devils cleared roster space for Brunner by placing RW Cam Janssen on waivers. Janssen was assigned to Albany (AHL). ... The Blues remain in the New York area for games against the Rangers on Thursday and the Islanders on Saturday. ... Blues RW Vladimir Tarasenko missed a second straight game with the flu. ... The Devils invited fans in the top levels to "come on down" to the lower bowl to fill the available empty seats during a break in the first-period action. Fans also were offered a pair of tickets for an upcoming game. ... Henrique missed the third period with an undisclosed injury.
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