The Devils made their second trip to the Little Caesars Arena in Detroit and it was not a happy one. The Devils fell 4-3 at the Red Wings to fall to 0-2 on this seven game road trip. They are still looking for their first road win of the year.
Some injury news to begin with as Stefan Noesen was out with an upper body injury and Joey Anderson was in in his place. With Noesen out, Miles Wood, Travis Zajac and Marcus Johansson would constitute the second line. Jesper Bratt is still out, but according to Erika Wachter of MSG+, he is making the trip with the team and worked out on his own yesterday before joining the full team practice.
And speaking of injuries, Detroit dressed 11 forwards and seven defensemen for the game due to depletion in their forward corps.
According to the NHL.com scoresheet, Eddie Lack and Egor Yakovlev were the healthy scratches, which brings us to the men who would be tending the goal cages tonight. Cory Schneider made his first start of the year for New Jersey exactly six months to the day of his surgery, which occurred on May 1. Cory stopped 27 of the 30 Red Wing shots he faced. Detroit ended the game with 31 shots due to an empty net goal later on. Schneider would go on to be named the game’s third star.
For the Wings, the veteran Jimmy Howard made the start and stopped 25 of the Devils 28 total shots. Howard was the game’s first star in what was a bit of a goalie duel early on.
The game began auspiciously for the Devils as Pavel Zacha, who seems snake-bitten to say the least, hit a post very early on. But it was the Red Wings who got on the board first on the power play. Ben Lovejoy was called for holding the stick at 7:20 against Wade Megan and on the ensuing power play, Martin Frk fired a one-timer off a pass from Mike Green to make it 1-0 at 7:54. Dylan Larkin had the secondary assist.
Both teams would finish the night 2-for-5 on the power play. The Devils had eight shots on the man advantage while Detroit had five shots on the power play. The Wings also added two shorthanded shots, scoring on one of them as we will see.
And 1-0 is how it would stay until the second period. It was then that Blake Coleman tied things up at 14:12. It came when Mirco Mueller chipped the puck into the Detroit zone and Johansson and Zajac won the board battles that led to the puck winding behind the Wings’ net on Zajac’s stick. He centered it to Coleman, who was camped out in the slot and he took the pass, hesitated, and fired beating Howard glove side to tie the game up. Zajac had the primary assist while Johansson netted the secondary.
This was the longest the Devils had gone this season without scoring a goal (they did not score in the first period for only the second time this season – the other was the game against San Jose).
Mirco Mueller and Luke Glendening got into a scrap at the 19:14 mark of the second, which would indirectly lead to some damage later, as Mueller is one of the team’s better penalty killers. But it was nice to see Mueller standing up for himself and taking it to Glendening.
It would remain tied until an outburst of scoring in the third. That began when Sami Vatanen scored to give the Devils a 2-1 lead on the power play. Larkin had gone off for interference at 1:40 and New Jersey was on the man advantage. Here, Taylor Hall broke into the Detroit zone and dished to Nico Hischier just inside the blue line. Hischier played catch with Zajac along the far half wall before finding Vatanen at the top of the near faceoff circle. He set and shot through a Miles Wood screen to make it 2-1 Devils. Hischier and Zajac had the assists on the goal that came at 3:20 of the third.
From there, it was almost all Detroit. It began with Vatanen taking an interference call against Larkin at 3:30. The Wings were up a man and did not miss the opportunity when Michael Rasmussen scored at 4:59 from Gustav Nyquist and Dennis Cholowski. That tied the game at two. This is where Mueller was missed as he and Vatanen are key penalty killers and the Devils had some players out there, like Will Butcher, who do not usually kill penalties.
That goal was bad, but the backbreaker was yet to come. At 12:36, Detroit’s Niklas Kronwall took a holding penalty when he hauled down Kyle Palmieri on a breakaway. But it was the Red Wings who were the beneficiaries. At 12:50, Glendening intercepted a Devils pass up high in the offensive zone. He broke out with Justin Abdelkader on a 2-on-1 and Abdelkader put in the rebound to make it 3-2 Detroit. It was the Red Wings’ third shorty of the year, but would not be their last.
With the Devils down by one, Schneider was pulled with just about two minutes left in the game. On a scramble in front of the Detroit net, Jonathan Ericsson was called for cross checking Johansson to put the Devils on a 6-on-4 man advantage with the goalie pulled. Unfortunately, they lost the offensive zone draw to Larkin and Trevor Daley was able to bank the puck down and into the Devils’ net. It was a shorthanded empty net goal and the Red Wings’ second shorty of the evening. That is the price you pay when you pull the goalie on a power play. The other team can shoot the puck indiscriminately at the net with no fear of icing it.
The Devils would score on that power play when Johansson found the back of the net with four seconds left. Hall had the primary assist and Hischier the secondary, which extends Hall’s point scoring streak to nine games. Detroit would challenge for goalie interference, but the replay showed that Nico was cross checked by Kronwall into Howard, which meant that the call on the ice stood as a good goal. That power play goal made it 4-3 Detroit but it was merely window dressing.
The Devils actually finished the final four seconds on a penalty kill, as they took a bench minor for abusive language.
Statistically, the Devils won only 41-percent of the game’s faceoffs and were outhit by Detroit, 25-20. They did manage more blocked shots, 17-11. It was an exciting game at times, but also sloppy as evidenced by the 12 giveaways both teams logged on the night.
Individually, Butcher logged the most ice time with 22:15 (5:38 on the power play and 37 seconds on the PK) while Hall led all forwards with 21:52 (5:59 on the PP, four seconds on the PK). Hall also had the most Devils shots with four while JS Dea, Coleman, Palmieri, Wood, Butcher and Ben Lovejoy each logged two hits to co-lead there. Andy Greene led in blocked shots with six and Hall had the lone Devils takeaway on the evening.
Next up, maybe some home cooking will help the Devils out. They travel back to the metro area to face the Islanders in Brooklyn on Saturday. They will be able to work out in their own facilities and sleep in their own beds. Maybe this will turn things around on their road trip? We will find out Saturday at 7 PM.