The Devils pretty much threw everything but the kitchen sink at Thomas Greiss, but the Islanders netminder had an answer for everything. The Devils suffered what was possibly their most frustrating loss in a series of them tonight to New York, 3-0 at Barclays Center.
The day began with news of a huge shakeup to the Devils lineup as Pavel Zacha and Kevin Rooney were sent down to Binghamton with the Devils calling up Kurtis Gabriel and Brett Seney. Seney was the big one here, as he was making his NHL debut. Coach John Hynes said that Seney and Gabriel made “good impressions” at camp and “were difficult cuts for us” and thus were called up in place of the struggling Zacha and Stefan Noesen, who was placed on injured reserve earlier today with an upper body injury. Seney would play on a line with Blake Coleman and Drew Stafford, who was activated off of IR today as well.
Seney, who wore number 43 for the Devils, was actually the final draft pick made by Lou Lamoriello for the Devils organization according to Leo Scaglione, Jr., who works on the beat for the Binghamton Devils and was interviewed by MSG+’s Erika Wachter tonight. Now we would see how he would play with Lou in the building, now with the Islanders.
For his part, Zacha was being sent down as a “wake up call” to boost his confidence. He would get to play in all situations for Binghamton from 5-on-5 to 3-on-3, shootouts, power play and penalty kill. He did register an assist on a goal against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms tonight.
The Isles have been a bit of a surprise story this young season, as they came into the game 7-4-1 with 15 points and a four-game winning streak. New York had recently beaten the Penguins back-to-back in a home-and-home series, taking all four points from them. They would finish the night atop the Metropolitan Division, passing those same Penguins.
The Devils had lost five of their last six and would end the night at NHL .500 with a 5-5-1 record.
Scratched for the Devils tonight were Joey Anderson, Eddie Lack and Egor Yakovlev. In goal, Long Island-native Keith Kinkaid got the nod and played mostly great all night. He stopped 30 of the Islanders’ 32 shots on him. New York would end the night with 33 shots as they would add an empty net goal.
Kinkaid may have played well, but Greiss was simply brilliant tonight. He stopped all 35 of the Devils’ shots in taking home first star honors in the game. Among his highlights, he stopped Kyle Palmieri and Taylor Hall on a Devils 2-on-0 midway through the second period by poke checking the puck away from Hall and then stopping the followup shot.
The power play was something that gave the Devils fits. They went 0-for-4 with the man advantage with seven shots but just could not solve Greiss or the Isles’ newly improved team defense courtesy new coach/Stanley Cup champion Barry Trotz. New York would end the night 1-for-4 on the power play with seven shots as well. Greiss also stopped two Devils shorthanded shots.
Jordan Eberle began the scoring at 7:43 of the first period when he put home a rebound given up by Kinkaid off an Anders Lee shot. Josh Bailey had the secondary assist on that goal, which would hold up for the majority of the night. That goal came on the power play while Jean-Sebastien Dea was in the box for hooking.
From there, we settled in for a goaltender’s duel.
In the third frame, the Devils put pressure on the offensive zone for almost the whole period, with Greiss standing tall and frustrating New Jersey. Brock Nelson put the game just a little bit more out of the Devils’ reach at the 15:06 mark of third when he scored on a 2-on-1. Sami Vatanen may have inadvertently redirected the shot in with his stick trying to make a defensive play. That made it 2-0 Islanders and Bailey had the lone assist.
New Jersey would pull Kinkaid with about 2:15 left in the game, struggling in vain to get the equalizers. At 18:12, the Isles took delay of game bench minor that would put the Devils on the 6-on-4 power play (with Kinkaid pulled) to end the game. Unfortunately for the Devils, that gave New York the ability to shoot at the open net with impunity with no fear of icing the puck. Eventually, Scott Mayfield scored unassisted at 19:46 to make it 3-0.
But the last seconds were not without their close calls for the Devils. Hall made a nice save to avoid an empty netter earlier on that led to the Devils breaking up ice and Kyle Palmieri nearly scoring by batting the puck out of the air and into an open net. His shot sailed over the crossbar and the Devils simply could not tie things up. The game ended with the Mayfield empty netter.
The Devils have now been outscored 31-17 during this losing streak after taking the shut out loss tonight. Statistically, New Jersey played well, winning 55-percent of the game’s faceoffs and outshooting the Isles. However, they were outhit 21-20 and New York had more blocked shots (20-13).
Individually, Nico Hischier led all skaters in ice time with 20:52 (4:14 on the power play and 1:16 on the penalty kill). Vatanen led the defensemen with 20:31 (2:34 on the power play and 1:29 on the PK). Hischier and Miles Wood tied for the shots on goal lead with four apiece. Coleman had a whopping six hits to lead there and Andy Greene led in blocked shots with four. Hischier, Travis Zajac, Coleman, Palmieri and Mirco Mueller each had a takeaway.
Next up, the tests get harder as the Devils travel to Pittsburgh on Monday to face the Penguins at 7 PM. They will then complete their first set of back-to-backs, traveling to Ottawa on Tuesday.
On another, more positive note, this morning was the “Running with the Devils” 5K charity race and walk at the Essex County Recreation Park in West Orange, New Jersey. I participated in the walk and can say that it was a fun day for all involved that helped raise money for a good cause (RWJBarnabas Health facilities).
Seeing the turnout (which including both runners and walkers, was even more than last year) was great considering the weather in North Jersey this morning was not ideal to say the least. Overall, it was a fun day with plenty of money going to good hospitals and the Devils put on a first-class event.