Back on October 30, the Devils traveled down to Tampa Bay to take on the Lightning. They fell in that game 8-3 in a game that started out for New Jersey but ended in a complete disaster. That was not the case tonight, as the disaster happened early in the first period and the Devils ended up falling 5-2 to the Bolts.
The Devils would try to get a little bit of a shake up in the roster by slotting Stefan Noesen and Egor Yakovlev in at forward and defense, respectively. Sitting in their place was forward J-S Dea and defenseman Mirco Mueller along with Drew Stafford. In other roster news, Steven Santini, it has been announced, will join up with the Devils at the Panthers tomorrow. He was on a long-term injured reserve conditioning stint in Binghamton. He should be available for the big league Devils tomorrow.
In addition to Santini coming back, there was one other milestone being celebrated tonight. Nico Hischier was playing in his 100th NHL regular season game. He played all 82 games last season and that is how he was able to reach that milestone so quickly. He mentioned to Erika Wachter of MSG+ before the game that in Europe they do not play as many games as in the NHL and that this was an achievement that he was very proud of.
In goal, both netminders saw a lot of rubber. Cory Schneider – looking for his first win since April 16 (a playoff win versus the Lightning) – made the start for New Jersey. He made 30 saves on 35 shots. For the Lightning, they are missing Andrei Vasilevskiy, who is on IR with a broken foot. In his place, Tampa threw out Louie Domingue. Domingue stopped 33 of 35 shots faced as well.
For Schneider, the first period was a rough one to be sure as he let in four goals, one of which was a direct result of a mistake made by him. But he played the other 40 minutes very well and was only beaten by a tough one that we will get into in the second period.
The first goal of the game was the goal that Cory would probably most like to have back. After some miscommunication behind the net, where he settled the puck down and it was stolen by a forechecking Mathieu Joseph. He gave it to Alex Killorn right in front of the net, who deposited it to make it 1-0 Tampa at 3:19 of the first period.
The second goal of the game saw one streak end and another continue. It began when Brian Boyle was called for cross-checking Nikita Kucherov at 6:15. Ken Daneyko on MSG+ was not happy with this call, citing how Kucherov had left his feet for a hit on Miles Wood a minute or so earlier which was not called. He felt that Boyle was just playing physical and it was a weak call. But, the call was made and New Jersey needed to kill the penalty off, which has not been a problem for them as they were on a streak of killing off 14 straight opponent’s power plays. But that would end when Brayden Point scored at 7:21 off of a nice feed from Kucherov. Victor Hedman had the secondary assist. That assist for Kucherov extended his point scoring streak to six consecutive games. It was now 2-0 Bolts.
As for the special teams, the Devils were 0-for-2 on the power play with four shots. Tampa went 1-for-3 with four shots on the man advantage plus a shorthanded shot.
The Lightning train kept rolling at 9:15 of the first when Tyler Johnson took a good pass from Point out of the corner following a nice outlet pass by Kucherov. Johnson beat Cory over his shoulder to make it 3-0 Lightning and the rout seemed to be on.
But the Devils would answer right back only 24 seconds later at 9:39 when Stefan Noesen scored from Brett Seney. It happened when Seney’s rebound was tucked behind Domingue by Noesen going to the front of the net. Boyle had been cutting across the crease prior to the goal and Tampa coach Jon Cooper decided to use his coach’s challenge as he thought that Boyle had interfered with Domingue before the goal went in, bumping him and not allowing him to get set to stop Noesen’s shot. The replay showed that that was not the case and the call on the ice stood as a good goal. The Devils had cut the Tampa lead to 3-1.
Cedric Paquette of the Lightning would restore the three goal, however, at the 11:25 mark of the first. He scored from Ryan Callahan and Dan Girardi to make it 4-1 and the Devils were back in a hole.
They would seem to be in an even bigger hole late in the first when Taylor Hall was hit in the face by a puck, but he would return before the period was out.
Cory Schneider would be scored on again in the second period, but it was by no means any fault of his own and was another he would surely like to have back. Sami Vatanen was in front of the net trying to clear a loose puck, as he had Brayden Point bearing down on him. As he spun to clear the puck towards the corner, he inadvertently shot it at Schneider before he was fully set and it went in. Point got credit for the goal unassisted at 8:30 of the second. It was now 5-1 Bolts.
The Devils would get one more in the third period to make the score a little bit more respectable. Jesper Bratt had that one, unassisted at 5:21 of the final frame. It came off of a partial 2-on-1 with Wood where Bratt elected to shoot, slapping one by Domingue to make it 5-2. That goal was Bratt’s first of the year, as he had missed a good majority of the beginning of the season with the broken jaw.
And that was it. The Devils won just under half of the game’s faceoffs, with 49-percent of them. They also outhit the Lightning 23 to 17 and had one more block at 11 to Tampa’s 10. Tampa had one more giveaway at five to the Devils’ four.
Individually, Andy Greene led the Devils in ice time with 22:17 (which includes 4:25 on the PK). With Hall missing a bit of the first period, Blake Coleman led the forwards with 19:02 of time on ice (including 4:13 of shorthanded time). Hall did, however, manage to lead the team in shots on goal with five while Noesen – who had sat largely in part due to the coaching staff wanting him to “play more to his identity” – led in hits with four. Blocked shots were led by Hall as well with three and Hall, Travis Zajac, Coleman, Pavel Zacha and Wood each had a takeaway to lead the team collectively with one.
Next up, the Devils will have to forget about this one as they travel across the state of Florida to Sunrise to take on the Panthers tomorrow night. That game is at 7 PM on Monday and, of course, we will have coverage right here for you.