Miles Wood Shines as Devils Drop Close One in Winnipeg

The Devils called Miles Wood up from Albany of the AHL yesterday and were not really sure if he was going to play on the team’s current road trip. As it would go down, Beau Bennett would be injured in a freak accident at practice on Monday (a lacerated leg) and Wood would be inserted into the lineup. What the Devils got was a dynamo who helped create scoring opportunities the whole night.

Unfortunately for Wood, his first game back with the NHL club would come in Winnipeg against the Jets. Winnipeg is a good home team (7-4-0 coming into tonight) and a physical team that can score.

The Devils were also eyeing the return of Taylor Hall. Although he would not play tonight, he is skating, has traveled with the team on this road trip, and may be in the lineup for Chicago on Thursday. If he does play in Chicago, he would only have missed about three weeks, which is nothing short of amazing. He said that he was not playing through pain or taking pain killers to skate. He noted that he would not be back “if (he) were a football or soccer player” because he can skate with no contact to build up strength in his knee.

The Jets were getting back a player from injury as well. Bryan Little made his return tonight after having been injured back on October 13 (opening night for Winnipeg). This game would also mark the Devils’ first look at Patrik Laine. The 18-year-old second overall pick in last year’s draft would play a role in the events of the night and is an offensive threat whenever he is on the ice.

In Devils’ lineup news, the team was back to twelve forwards and six defensemen. Yohann Auvitu sat for New Jersey, as did Reid Boucher, while Jon Merrill was back in.  As mentioned before, Wood was getting his break to crack the lineup. He primarily skated on a line with Jacob Josefson and Devante Smith-Pelly.

The Jets, like the Devils, have been playing mostly on the road throughout the month of November. They also played three back-to-backs in the month. But against the Devils, Winnipeg was 6-1-2 in their last nine meetings.

In goal for the Devils was Cory Schneider. He made 26 saves on 29 Winnipeg shots. Winnipeg threw Connor Hellebuyck between the pipes. He was working on a team record home shutout streak that would eventually end tonight at 174:55. Having been playing that well, the Devils would have a rough road ahead of them, he ended up making 23 saves on 25 Devils shots. The Devils have been outshot in their last six games.

The game began with a scary moment, as Marko Dano of the Jets took a high-stick to his eye from Kyle Quincey. The Devils were fortunate as the penalty was not called, but hopefully Dano is okay after a scary play.

The Devils would dodge a bullet as Dustin Byfuglien’s crazy angle shot at an empty net sailed harmlessly through the goal crease in the middle of the first period. Following that, the Devils’ Travis Zajac hit the post on a shot. This was the story of the night for both teams, as rubber was meeting iron left and right.

The Devils’ first power play of the game came at 9:40 when the Jets’ Drew Stafford went off for tripping Damon Severson. The Devils, frankly, looked terrible on this advantage. They were hemmed in their zone by Winnipeg and could not get anything going. In total, the Devils went 0-for-4 on the power play while Winnipeg went 0-for-5 (including a 5-on-3 in the second period).

The Jets got on the board first at 11:20 of the second period when Mark Scheifele connected on his 13th from Byfuglien and Nikolaj Ehlers. Blake Wheeler would then double their lead when he scored at 13:21 from Andrew Copp and Jacob Trouba. Just like that, the Jets had a 2-0 lead.

The Devils had a great chance to cut things in half at the 14:33 mark of the second period. After Sergey Kalinin had drawn a penalty on a breakaway chance (poking the puck free – he was alone in on Hellebuyck, who made the save) a similar play happened with Miles Wood. This time, though, the referee called for a penalty shot on the play, as Wood had good control of the puck when he was hauled down by Josh Morrissey.

Wood would make a good move to his backhand and was going to try to lift the puck over Hellebuyck’s outstretched pad on the penalty shot, but lost control of the puck. After the game, he would say that the condition of the ice caused the puck to bobble on his stick and he was not able to get control.

Going into the third period, the Devils would have 43 seconds of power play time, while Byfuglien was sitting for interference against Zajac. Nothing would come of that either, as the Devil power play has continued to stall on the road for whatever reason.

Things would finally pay off for Miles Wood in the third frame. At 2:52, Adam Henrique shoveled the puck deep into the Jets’ zone. It bounced off of the end boards and Wood recovered. He took a shot from an odd angle, nearly at the goal line, and was able to slip it past Hellebuyck, ending the Winnipeg goaltender’s home shutout streak and cutting the Jets lead in half, 2-1. This goal was Wood’s first NHL marker.

But it took a little less than two minutes for wonder rookie Laine to score his 13th from Scheifele and Ben Chiarot. The Jets had regained a two goal lead, 3-1. Laine beat Cory high stick side with a wrist shot once he gained some room on the rush.

At 7:58, Nick Lappin helped the Devils whittle away at that lead when Damon Severson stripped a Jet of the puck in the neutral zone and took a slap shot just inside the Winnipeg blue line. The rebound came right to the stick of Lappin, who put it in under Hellebuyck to make the game 3-2, Jets.

The Devils would pull Schneider with about two minutes left in the game, but were not able to get anything going.

Time simply ran out for New Jersey as they fell 3-2.

Next stop on the Devils’ road show is Chicago on Thursday. They will have a tough test ahead of them as they take on the surging and always hard to play Blackhawks. But they could have Taylor Hall back by then, which would make a world of difference for the road weary Devils.