The Devils came into Buffalo for their first road game of the 2017-18 season after knocking off the Avalanche 4-1 for their first win on Saturday. That was in front of a raucous home crowd sellout. This would be in front of a hostile Sabres crowd in a 3 PM Columbus Day matinee.
And the Devils were ready. Some injury news as Kyle Palmieri and Drew Stafford are each day-to-day with lower body injuries, but did make the road trip, so they could be back as soon as Wednesday in Toronto. Dalton Prout was a healthy scratch and Ben Lovejoy and Miles Wood both slotted back in as New Jersey went with eleven forwards and seven defensemen for the afternoon. Nico Hischier got the military jacket after the Colorado game, being named as a player who came to the aid of his teammates. This is a new tradition in the Devils’ locker room, borne out of their trip to West Point during training camp.
Getting to the highlights, as there were a lot of them in a 6-2 Devils win, Sefan Noesen scored the first goal of the game at the 6:28 mark of the first period when Noesen threw the puck in front of the net. In the scramble that ensued, Brian Gibbons chipped the puck back in front from the side of the goal mouth and it deflected in off of Noesen’s face shield, giving him credit for the goal. Off that unusual play, Noesen had his first of the year while the Devils had the 1-0 lead.
Gibbons would play a role in the second goal of the game too, one which would see the Devils go into the first break leading 2-0. On that one, Hischier skated behind the Sabres’ net, reversing course on Buffalo defenseman Marco Scandella. He threw the puck back in front where Gibbons shoveled it home for the 2-0 lead. Marcus Johansson had the secondary assist, his first of three points on the night. That one came at the 18:56 mark of the first period. The assist was Nico’s first career NHL point and it was a crucial one. Congratulations to him.
The second period began with Evander Kane scoring his first of two on the day for Buffalo on the power play at 5:02, sole assist to Rasmus Ristolainen. Kane had a good game for the Sabres, as he seemed to be the only beating heart that they had all afternoon. The Devils lead was cut in half, 2-1.
That goal was scored while the Devils were serving a bench minor for a faceoff violation. During that penalty, which was wiped out when Kane scored, Steven Santini took a slashing penalty on the goal, which would put the Devils right back on the penalty kill.
But the Devils would respond shorthanded, at 5:23 of the period when Jesper Bratt scored. It was set up when Adam Henrique burst into the Buffalo zone with Bratt on a two-on-one. Henrique dished to Bratt, who calmly took the puck on his forehand and slid it to his backhand, beating goaltender Chad Johnson to make it 3-1 Devils. Mirco Mueller had the secondary assist on that goal. That would open the flood gates for New Jersey. Buffalo gave up four shorthanded goals all last season. This was their fourth given up in three games this year alone.
At 7:49 of the second, Johansson would make it 4-1 when the Devils won a faceoff deep in their zone. The puck was chipped ahead and Taylor Hall, who was a disruptive force on the forecheck all afternoon, stole the puck in the Buffalo zone and made a backhanded pass to Johansson, who would calmly knock it by Johnson on his backhand. It was an impressive goal and showed how tenacious Hall can be.
Bratt would strike with his second goal of the game to make it 5-1 at 12:19 when Andy Greene would keep the puck in the Buffalo zone and pass cross-ice to Hall. Hall wound up like he was going to shoot, but saw Bratt streaking in through the slot. He passed to Bratt, who redirected it by Johnson. The Devils were rolling.
Johansson, a known Sabre-killer when he was with Washington, would finish up the Devils’ offensive onslaught at 18:56 of the second when he and Bratt broke in on a two-on-one. Bratt threaded the needle under Nathan Beaulieu’s stick and Johansson buried it to make it 6-1. That was Johansson’s second goal of the game and both he and Bratt’s third points of the night.
The third period saw Chad Johnson replaced in the Buffalo net by Robin Lehner. Johnson made 16 saves on 22 shots while Lehner was a perfect 9-for-9. The Devils had a total of 31 shots on goal. Cory Schneider made 23 saves on 25 Sabres’ shots.
That last goal came off the stick of Evander Kane, his second of the game, at 17:03 of the third period from Jason Pominville. That made the final 6-2. Kane would end up with the most shots on goal of any player in the game with seven. Gibbons (five) and Coleman (four) led New Jersey in shots on goal.
With Kane’s first goal, Buffalo went 1-for-4 on the power play while the Devils – whose power play was clicking versus Colorado on Saturday – went 0-for-4.
One other event of note in the game was the scrap between Beaulieu and Miles Wood in the second period (at 12:07). Wood was chomping at the bit to get back in the lineup and it showed.
So, with their first road win out of the way, the Devils continue their road trip in Toronto on Wednesday to take on the Maple Leafs. The Leafs are a young, fast, dynamic team and will pose a real test to the Devils. We will find out Wednesday if New Jersey has what it takes to skate with one of the more elite teams in the Eastern Conference.