Nico Wins it in OT as Devils Top Wild

Back in December, the Devils came from three goals down to topple the Vegas Golden Knights in overtime. That night, Cory Schneider started and was pulled in favor of Keith Kinkaid, giving Kinkaid the W then. Fast forward two months and the script was flipped. The Devils still came from three goals down to win it in OT, but tonight in St. Paul, Minnesota, the goalie who came on in relief was Cory Schneider. When Nico Hischier’s (who coincidentally had the game winner that night against the Golden Knights) shot crossed the Wild goal line at the 3:19 of the OT period, Cory ended a winless drought that goes back to December of 2017. The Devils won 5-4.

Some roster moves to begin with. First, Miles Wood came off of injured reserve and played tonight. Blake Coleman was placed on IR with his injury, retroactive to February 10. Nick Lappin and Steven Santini were healthy scratches and Kurtis Gabriel and Eric Gryba slotted back in. Also, although he was okay after the hit he took last night in Chicago, Brett Seney was a game-time decision and did not play tonight.

In goal, Devan Dubnyk started for Minnesota and made 23 saves on 28 Devils shots for a .821 save percentage. The Devils countered with Keith Kinkaid. He stopped 13 of 17 faced for a .765 save percentage, getting chased following the fourth Wild goal in the second period. Schneider came on in relief and stopped all 15 shots he saw for a 1.000 save percentage. He was challenged and he did not break in getting his first win since December 27, 2017.

On special teams, the Devils were 1-for-4 on the power play with just three shots. Minnesota was 1-for-2 with just a single shot that they scored on on the power play.

It was a special night for Joey Anderson, as he was returning to Minnesota for the first time as an NHLer. He is a native of Roseville, Minnesota and went to college at the University of Minnesota-Duluth (where he won an NCAA national championship). His family and friends were in attendance at the Xcel Energy Center.

The Wild had only won one game in February – the game at Prudential Center last weekend. The Devils were looking for revenge six days later in St. Paul.

The Devils were put behind the eight ball early on with Brad Hunt scoring on the power play at 6:07 of the first period. Damon Severson was called for cross checking Jason Zucker (who would be a thorn in the Devils’ side all night) to set up the man advantage. Ryan Suter passed from the point down low to Hunt, who cut in front of the Devils net and beat Kinkaid with a nice move to make it 1-0. Hunt is a seventh defenseman who plays on the Wild power play as a forward. Mikael Granlund had the secondary assist on the goal.

Just 3:41 later, some miscommunication behind the net between Kinkaid and the Devils’ defense led directly to a Minnesota goal. Kinkaid went behind the net to move the puck and hesitated, allowing Joel Eriksson Ek, the Wild forechecker, to come in, steal the puck and bury it on a wraparound. The goal was unassisted and made it 2-0 Minnesota.

The Devils finally got on the board just 26 seconds into the second frame when Marcus Johansson scored unassisted. The puck kind of bounced to Johansson just inside the Minnesota blue line. Johansson spun around and, with the puck on edge, shot it. He beat Dubnyk to cut the Wild lead in half to 2-1.

But just a few minutes later, at 2:33, Nick Seeler would give the Wild back a two goal lead. Nick Seeler shot through a screen from the top of the far faceoff circle and the puck redirected off of Gabriel in front as he tried to block the shot. Hunt and Kyle Rau had the assists and it was 3-1.

Following this goal, midway through the second, Gryba was struck by a puck on the chin, tipped up by Eric Staal inadvertently. Gryba went off for stitches, but would return.

Minnesota would take the three goal lead at the 7:19 mark of the second period when Suter and Jared Spurgeon moved the puck nicely up ice, giving it to Granlund who was able to snipe it up and over Kinkaid’s glove and just under the crossbar. Minnesota now had a 4-1 lead and Kinkaid was out. Cory came in and things were about to change. The Wild would not score again.

The comeback was stalled, however, when a Travis Zajac goal was called back for being played with a high stick. Severson took a shot from the point with 8:55 remaining in the second and Zajac tipped it by Dubnyk. The call on the ice was a good goal, however, Toronto got their look and saw that Zajac had tipped the puck with his stick above the crossbar, the marker for a high stick. The call was then reversed to no goal and the score remained 4-1.

But Will Butcher would get that elusive goal at the 18:10 mark of the second. A Jesper Bratt shot was redirected to Butcher by NIco Hischier. Butcher was all alone in the slot and took the loose puck, scoring to make it 4-2 before the second break.

The third period began with Kyle Palmieri scoring on the power play at 8:16. Spurgeon was off for high sticking Palmieri seven seconds earlier and Bratt won the offensive zone faceoff, tying up his man and Johansson jumped on the loose puck. He got it to the far side of the rink to Palmieri. Palmieri took the puck and wristed it by Dubnyk to make it 4-3.

The Devils were a little more dominating in the third period, as Minnesota took almost half the period to get their first shot on goal.

Then, the unlikely. At 17:16, Kenny Agostino goes cross ice in the Wild zone to Ben Lovejoy. Lovejoy then proceeded to fire the puck through Dubnyk’s five-hole, looking like a real goal scorer in the process. Pavel Zacha had the assist on the goal that now had things all tied up at four.

When regulation ended, we were off to overtime. The Wild just dominated the puck in the extra session, with the Devils barely getting a touch at any point. But at 3:19, Palmieri took a shot from an odd angle that forced Dubnyk to make a save and not be able to control the rebound, which Hischier then promptly buried to give the Devils their first win of the road trip and Cory his first win in more than a calendar year.

Nico, with his third OT goal of the year, was named the game’s first star, while Johansson was the second with a goal and an assist. Hunt was the third star.

Statistically, the Devils were out shot 32-28 and out hit 28-16. Minnesota also blocked more shots at 17 to 14. The Devils did win 55-percent of the game’s faceoffs and had less giveaways at eight to Minnesota’s ten.

Damon Severson led all Devils skaters in TOI with 26:20 (including 4:55 on the PP – he did not see any shorthanded time). Johansson led the forwards with 23:59 (4:30 on the PP). Shots were led by Hischier and Palmieri who had four each, hits by Agostino, Wood, Bratt, Johansson and Severson with two each, blocks by Hischier, Zajac, Andy Greene, Butcher and Severson with two each and takeaways by Hischier, Agostino, Pavel Zacha, Johansson and Mirco Mueller with one apiece.

Next up, the Devils return home to play the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday in a 6 PM game. We will have coverage of that for you here. Enjoy your weekend and feel free to leave a comment in the section below if you wish.

Devils Defeated in Vegas, 3-2

The Devils rolled in to Sin City feeling good following their shootout win in Arizona. Unfortunately, they let a two goal lead slip away and fell to the Vegas Golden Knights, 3-2 at T-Mobile Arena.

The Golden Knights have been one of the hottest teams in the NHL for the last month or so following a slow start. They had won five in a row coming into this game. But the Devils were on a bit of a warm streak of their own, having gone 6-4-1 since their comeback overtime win over these same Knights back on December 14 in Newark.

But if the Devils were going to win tonight, they would have to do so without Mackenzie Blackwood. The rookie goaltender missed the game with a lower body injury. Cam Johnson was recalled from Binghamton to back up Keith Kinkaid. In a cool move, the Devils signed Jeremy Brodeur, Marty’s son, to a PTO and he will be the backup in Binghamton for the time being as the Devils have obviously had some goalie injury problems with Cory Schneider, Eddie Lack and now Blackwood all suffering injuries right now.

In addition to Blackwood, Mirco Mueller and John Quenneville were the other scratches.

Keith Kinkaid got the start in goal, as he was scheduled to do and made 25 saves on 28 Vegas shots. Facing him was Malcolm Subban (PK’s brother) who made 36 stops on 38 Devils shots. Subban was named the game’s third star as he made a good showing in giving workhorse Marc-Andre Fleury a rare night off. This was also Subban’s first home start as a Golden Knight. Max Pacioretty was the first star and Alex Tuch the second as the media went with a Golden Knights sweep of the three stars.

It was the exact half way point of the season for the Devils, game number 41 and the Devils got off to a good start in this one. Nico Hischier put the Devils up on the board first, scoring from Jesper Bratt and Ben Lovejoy 5:06 into the contest. It ended up being a nice individual effort by Nico, although it was not fully intended as such. Hischier tried to make a pass to Damon Severson as the two were breaking in on a partial 2-on-1. The pass was batted down by the Knights’ defender and came back to Nico’s stick. He shot and beat Subban to make it 1-0 Devils, the second straight game that Hischier had scored the opener for New Jersey.

Vegas had a chance to make it 1-1 when a scramble in front of the Devils net led to the puck going in after the net was dislodged. Toronto reviewed it, but there was intent to blow the whistle by the referee, which was good enough to help the call on the ice of no goal stand up.

The Devils would double down on their lead at the 9:37 mark of the first when Ben Lovejoy scored from Pavel Zacha and Drew Stafford. It was a rare goal from the defenseman (his first of the year and first since March of 2017) but a nice one. It happened when Lovejoy took a pass in front of the Vegas net on his backhand. He waited and pulled Subban out of position before going to his forehand and beating the goalie from an odd angle. The Devils now had the 2-0 lead.

But that would only last until the 12:30 mark of the first when Zacha tried to make an ill-advised pass across the Devils’ zone and it was knocked down by Ryan Reaves. He skated in on Kinkaid and the shot trickled by the New Jersey netminder. It now was 2-1 Devils.

The Golden Knights got a little bit of puck luck when Brayden McNabb tied it 11:17 into the second period. The goal was initially waved off on the ice saying that Ryan Carpenter interfered with Kinkaid, preventing him from making the save. Vegas used their coach’s challenge on this and the replays showed that there was only minor contact between Carpenter and Kinkaid’s blocker and the call on the ice was overturned. It was a good goal and the game was now tied up at two. Cody Eakin and Carpenter had the assists on the goal.

The game winner for Vegas would come 4:31 later when, on a delayed penalty against the Devils, Max Pacioretty tipped a Shea Theodore shot by Kinkaid to make it 3-2. Alex Tuch had the other assist.

Flash forward to the third period when the Devils would pull Kinkaid while on the power play (Reaves was off for tripping) and had the 6-on-4 for a few seconds. They did not score, but caught a break when Reaves came out of the penalty box and tried to shoot for the empty net. His shot went down the rink and over the glass without being tipped. That was a delay of game penalty and Reaves was right back in the box. The Devils were back on the power play and with Kinkaid pulled again, ended the game on a 6-on-4. But they were unable to score and 3-2 was our final.

On special teams, the Devils penalty kill continued to dominate, keeping Vegas 0-for-2 with the man advantage with four shots. The Devils did not get a power play until the third period (the Reaves tripping call) and also went 0-for-2 with six shots on goal.

The Devils out shot the Knights by ten, 38-28, including out shooting them 20-6 in the third period. The Devils also won 43-percent of the game’s faceoffs, out hit the Knights by one, 30 to 29. Both teams had 17 blocked shots and Vegas has more giveaways, 8-2.

Individually, Andy Greene edged out birthday boy Will Butcher (20:42) and Damon Severson (20:23) for the most TOI among skaters with 20:55 (including 2:54 on the PK). Travis Zajac led all forwards with 19:15 (2:33 on the PP and 2:32 shorthanded). Kyle Palmieri led in shots on goal with seven, Blake Coleman led in hits with six, Brian Boyle led in blocked shots with four and Palmieri and Lovejoy led in takeaways with two apiece.

Next up, the Devils shuffle off to Buffalo on Tuesday as the Devils are back in the Eastern time zone to take on the Sabres. We will have that game for you right here and, as always, if you have any comments, please do not hesitate to voice your opinion in the comment section below.

Schneider Recalled From Conditioning Stint, Will Get a Start on Road Trip

According to Mike G. Morreale of NHL.com, Cory Schneider is officially on his way back. The Devils goalie has been recalled from his conditioning assignment in Binghamton of the AHL and will get a start on the Devils upcoming road trip. He practiced today with the New Jersey Devils and will back up Keith Kinkaid in Tampa Bay when the Devils take on Lightning tomorrow night.

Cory told Morreale that “It’s more excitement and eagerness than nervousness. To compete again at this level, it’s fun. The way it ended last year in the (Stanley Cup) Playoffs, you have that feeling in your mind and that’s the level you want to get to again.”

Schneider is, of course recovering from his May 1 surgery “to repair torn cartilage in his left hip.” Morreale said that it was initially thought Schneider would “need five months to recover; Nov. 1 will mark six months.” Morreale also noted that his last game came in the first round game five loss to the Lightning at Amalie Arena that eliminated the Devils from the playoffs.

Morreale said that during his American League assignment down in Binghamton, he went 1-1-1 and had a 2.67 goals against average and a .897 save percentage over three games.

Kinkaid has started all eight of the Devils games this season and is 5-2-1 to go with his 2.12 goals against and a .925 save percentage. Head coach John Hynes told Morreale that “It was the first time in a while [Schneider] has had his own net in an NHL practice and it was 55 minutes of good work. I think it’s important we take it day by day with the goalies. Kinkaid will play Tuesday, but we do have a back-to-back situation coming up )Nov. 5-6 against the Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators). Cory for sure will get in, but I can’t guarantee which game that will be.”

Morreale said that Cory “missed 16 games last season with a groin/hip injury sustained during a 3-2 loss to the Boston Bruins on Jan. 23.” His stats last season read a 17-16-6 record with a 2.93 goals against average (his highest in his five years with the Devils according to Morreale) and a .907 save percentage, his lowest in those same five years.

Goaltender Eddie Lack has been optioned back to Binghamton to make room for Schneider on the NHL roster.

In other Devils injury news via Morreale, he was told by Hynes that Ben Lovejoy and Jesper Bratt will make the road trip. Lovejoy is questionable against Tampa and Bratt is still “expected to be out two more weeks.” In addition, Drew Stafford could join the team “at some point during the trip” and Marcus Johansson will be back in the lineup Tuesday after missing Saturday’s game due to illness.

Devils Make Some Roster Moves; Tootoo Retires

The Devils made a few changes to their roster today that will affect things for now and down the line. The following moves were announced via the Devils’ social media accounts.

Firstly, they activated goalie Cory Schneider off of injured reserve. He will get into a game tomorrow for the Binghamton Devils on a rehab assignment. The Bing Devils play the Cleveland Monsters tomorrow night in Binghamton.

Another Devil on his way to Binghamton is John Quenneville. Quenneville was a healthy scratch for yesterday’s New Jersey Devils game against Colorado. He has been assigned to the AHL club. In his place, center Kevin Rooney has been recalled and will meet the New Jersey club in Philadelphia for tomorrow’s tilt against the Flyers.

One other bit of news today was that former Devil Jordin Tootoo has announced his retirement via a post on his personal Twitter account. Tootoo played 723 NHL games – 134 of those for the Devils from 2014-15 to 2015-16. With the Devils, the right wing scored 14 goals and ten assists for 24 of his 161 NHL points. He also racked up 174 of his 1,010 penalty minutes with New Jersey. Tootoo scored 65 NHL goals, including six power play goals and 96 assists.

The 35-year-old born in Churchill, Manitoba played 13 NHL seasons for the Devils, Predators, Red Wings and Blackhawks, the majority with Nashville. He famously battled addiction in the early part of his career, overcoming it to get clean (his autobiography All the Way is a great read and tells of his journey in a brutally honest way). He has stated on social media that he wishes to give back to the Indigenous community. Tootoo was, of course, the first player from Nunavut to play in the NHL.

The Edmonton Oilers will be honoring him before their game tomorrow against the Predators. Although Tootoo never played for the Oilers organization, it speaks volumes about the respect he has that they are honoring him “for his great contribution to indigenous hockey & youth across (Canada)” (in the words of the team’s Twitter account). Good luck in retirement to a good man who enjoyed an inspirational career.

In final Devils news, Travis Zajac and Ben Lovejoy will not travel with the team to Philly. Both are suffering from what the team is calling lower body injuries. They will be reevaluated later on in the week, but will not be available for Saturday’s game.

Preseason: Devils Win Exhibition Finale Over SC Bern in OT

The Devils took their preseason road show to Europe today, heading over to Bern, Switzerland to take on local Swiss National League team SC Bern in the exhibition final. Starting Saturday, the games count for real. But until then, the Devils got the 3-2 overtime victory and head into the regular season with some confidence.

The game was played at PostFinance Arena in Bern, the Swiss capital, as part of the 2018 NHL Global Series Challenge. It was a great atmosphere as the fans were singing and chanting, waving flags and really into the game. It had a very European soccer flavor to it and it was a neat change of pace from the more staid North American crowds.

But with a European arena comes an international ice surface. A NHL rink is 200 feet long by 85 feet wide. An international rink is 200 feet long by 100 feet wide. That extra room is good for players like Taylor Hall to show off their speed, but can be an adjustment for NHL players used to a smaller ice surface.

One other quirk is that each team was allowed to dress 22 players. The Devils went with 13 forwards, seven defensemen and two goalies. This is the amount of players allowed to dress in the European game and that rule was used today likely due to the bigger ice surface.

One of the players dressed for New Jersey was Jean-Sebastien Dea. Dea was making his Devils debut after being claimed off of waivers on Friday from Pittsburgh.

Pregame festivities included a jersey exchange, as Devils President Hugh Weber accepted a SC Bern jersey on behalf of the team while Swiss-native Nico Hischier, who did play for SC Bern before coming to North America, presented Devils jersey to Bern management. Former Swiss NHLer Mark Streit dropped the puck for the ceremonial faceoff which was taken by the Devils’ other Swiss native, defenseman Mirco Mueller. During the player intros, the Swiss fans gave Hall a big reaction and, of course, Nico got a huge reaction as the fans recognized one of their own.

Despite being on the international ice sheet, the game was contested under NHL rules with and NHL referee and linesman. The other ref was Swiss and the other linesman was Swedish.

SC Bern are already five games into the Swiss National League’s regular season. They are 5-1 in that competition and were ready for the Devils tonight. It was a tight game where quality scoring chances were at a premium. SC Bern is a powerhouse of Swiss hockey and it showed in their game today.

This was the first NHL contested game to be played in Bern in exactly ten years, as on October 1, 2008, the Rangers took on Russian team Metallurg in this city.

The Devils struck first when Andy Greene scored his second goal in as many games, taking a nice pass from Miles Wood. Greene was all alone in front with time and roofed it over SC Bern goaltender Leonardo Genoni. It was 1-0 Devils and would be that way going into the second period.

SC Bern would tie things very early in the second when Simon Moser scored on a rebound after Keith Kinkaid made a nice initial save. This occurred off of a turnover in the Devils’ zone. Earlier in the first period, Kinkaid was forced to make a huge save off of a Devils turnover in their own end as well. That one ended in a scramble and then the net coming off of its moorings. Marcus Johansson helped on that one, keeping the puck out of the New Jersey net after having to make like a goalie.

The Devils would regain the lead later in the second when Pavel Zacha would feed Ben Lovejoy in the slot and he fired home a one-timer that beat Genoni. That made it 2-1 Devils and raise your hand if you had Andy Greene and Ben Lovejoy as the Devils’ goal scorers for this game.

The teams kind of settled into a bit of momentum trading from here on out. Genoni made a nice stop early in the third period in a goalmouth scramble. But SC Bern would challenge and then finally tie things up later in the third frame. This one came courtesy of Connecticut native Mark Arcobello. He snapped one by Kinkaid following a 2-on-1 at the other end that was stopped by Genoni. That goal came with under three minutes left in the game.

When the final horn sounded, we were headed for three-on-three OT. Remember, this game was being played with NHL rules plus the extra open ice should have made for a lot of open skating and chances.

And all of that did come. The Devils finally put the game away with 1:03 to go in the OT period. Hall took a pass from Sami Vatanen in the Devils’ zone, skated up the ice and danced around the Bern defender. He then snapped one by Genoni and that put the 2018 preseason to bed with a 3-2 Devils victory.

Postgame featured handshakes between the teams, as well as both teams saluting the SC Bern fans. This completed the great atmosphere in the arena and put a cap on a great day of hockey.

Next up, the Devils will have an off day in Switzerland tomorrow, followed by traveling to Sweden on Wednesday for their season opener in Gothenburg against the Edmonton Oilers. In Sweden, points will be on the line and the Devils will be down to their final opening day roster. That game takes place on Saturday, October 6 at 1:30 PM New Jersey time. We will, of course, have coverage of that right here on the blog. We will also have coverage of episode two of the NHL Network series “Behind the Glass” tonight as well.

Round One, Game Three: Now We Have a Series! Devils Defeat Lightning 5-2

Cory Schneider was back in net for the Devils. He turned aside 34 of 36 Tampa Bay Lightning shots. Photo: Ed Mulholland/USA TODAY Sports

Playoff hockey is back, ladies and gentlemen! In the Devils’ first playoff game at The Rock since June 9, 2012 (game five of the Stanley Cup Final versus the Kings), they scraped and clawed back into the series with a 5-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Devils were back in New Jersey with a new look to their lineup. For one thing, Marcus Johansson was in, playing in his first game since the January 23 game at Boston when Brad Marchand cheap-shotted him as he was cutting to the net. That hit cost him the rest of the regular season and two playoff games, but number 90 was in the lineup tonight. He was playing in his first playoff game with the Devils, his first since he was with Washington last season. Johansson played on a line with Pavel Zacha and Patrick Maroon.

Joining him as changes to the lineup were Drew Stafford (playing on a line with Miles Wood and Brian Boyle), slotting back in up front as the Devils went back to 12 forwards and six defensemen, and Cory Schnedier. Cory was starting his first playoff game as a New Jersey Devil. We know all about the drought – he had not won a game since December 27, 2017 versus Detroit – and that this was his first playoff start since a May 7, 2013 loss to San Jose as a Vancouver Canuck.

But he played a fantastic game tonight. He would nearly have to leave the game just before the Devils took the lead later in the third period after he stretched his leg out to make a save and then had a Tampa player bump into his outstretched left leg. With his history of hip and groin injuries, the Prudential Center held its collective breath. But he would fight through the pain and continue on. He ended up making 34 saves on 36 Tampa shots.

Going for Tampa was Andrei Vasilevskiy again. He stopped 36 of 39 Devils shots. The Devils added two empty net goals and so finished the game with 41 total shots on goal.

The Devils had a crowded press box with newly-signed Joey Anderson, Christoph Bertschy, Jesper Bratt, Brian Gibbons, Michael Grabner, Jimmy Hayes, Michael Kapla, Eddie Lack, Nick Lappin, Michael McLeod, Mirco Mueller, Blake Pietila, Kevin Rooney, Steven Santini and Brian Strait all scratched. Binghamton did not qualify for the AHL Calder Cup Playoffs, for what it’s worth.

The game was tight through the first period, with no score going into the first intermission. What we did have was a penalty to the Devils’ Andy Greene that was called slashing officially, but what looked more like a cross check to Yanni Gourde at 19:44. In any case, the Lightning would have the majority of their power play time on fresh ice in the second period.

Their lethal power play wasted no time, scoring 42 seconds into the second frame when Alex Killorn was all alone in the slot, took a pass from Nikita Kucherov and scored his fourth of the series. Steven Stamkos had the secondary assist. The penalty kill continued to be a point of contention for the Devils, as Tampa was 2-for-5 with eight shots on goal on the man advantage. The Devils went 1-for-7 with 13 shots on net. In a game when the Devils knew they had to stay out of the penalty box, it was Tampa who still capitalized when they did get chances.

The Lightning had the 1-0 lead, but the Devils tied things up at the 12:24 mark of the second when who else, but Taylor Hall notched one unassisted. Hall skated the puck low to high and dished to Kyle Palmieri. Palmieri fired on net and the rebound came to Hall in the slot. He unleashed a shot and found the back of the net to tie things up at one. Initially, Boyle and Palmieri were given assists on the goal but the scoring was changed and it was called unassisted at 12:24.

Either way, it was great for Hall, who hit the crossbar on a partial breakaway late in the first period after beating Vasilevskiy cleanly. Bryce Salavdor of MSG joked that there was a dent in the crossbar due to how hard Hall had shot the puck there. Also, a Devils goal had been waved off midway through the second period when Blake Coleman’s shot crossed the goal line after the Tampa net came off of its moorings. Toronto reviewed the shorthanded chance, but the call on the ice stood: no goal.

Prudential Center errupted following Hall’s goal, but things were about to get a whole lot better.

But first, Tampa would take another lead. This came when Stamkos notched his first of the playoffs just 38 seconds into the third period from Kucherov and Killorn on the power play. Cory got a piece of the shot, but could not hold on to it. It was 2-1 Tampa.

Once again, the Devils had taken a penalty late in a period and paid for it early in the next. It was 2-1 Lightning, but things were about to turn up for the Devils.

It began with Will Butcher on the power play. It began at the 2:39 mark of the third when Tampa’s Cedric Paquette went off for tripping Butcher. Then, at 3:39, the Lightning took a bench minor for too many men on the ice. The Devils had about a minute or so of 5-on-3 power play time. And Butcher responded. At the 4:03 mark, he would score from Hall and Palmieri to tie things up at two.

Palmieri guided the puck back to Butcher at the point. Butcher gave to Hall at the near half wall. He gave back to Butcher, teeing him up to snipe one top shelf by Vasilevskiy. The game was now 2-2 as the Devils scored on the power play. They would not convert on the ensuing 5-on-4, but the damage was done.

And the Devils were not done. New Jersey took a 3-2 lead when Stefan Noesen scored his first of the playoffs at 12:55 from Hall and Greene. It started with Greene giving to Hall in the Devils’ zone following a delayed offside on Tampa Bay. Hall then weaved his way up ice and, once he broke into the Lightning zone, fed Noesen, who fired a one-timer by Vasilevskiy to give the Devils their first lead of the series.

Hall said during the post game that he knew Noesen had a great shot and was just looking to set him up.

Tampa would pull Vasilevskiy wtih about 1:20 left int the game and the Devils would pot two empty netters. The first came at 19:02 when Coleman scored shorthanded and unassisted to make it 4-2 (the Devils were in the middle of a huge kill and Tampa had a 6-on-4 advantage with the goaltender pulled). Ben Lovejoy then scored unassisted at 20 seconds later to make it 5-2, your final.

The game ended with Tampa on the power play as things got a bit chippy late. Tempers began to flare when Nico Hischier was speared by Victor Hedman in the groin and no call was made. This followed Coleman receiving a high hit from Mikhail Sergachev that was called. This was after the Noesen goal and the bad feelings contiued to the final whistle. In the end, Paquette (Tampa), Boyle (New Jersey), Chris Kunitz (Tampa), John Moore (New Jersey), Braydon Coburn (Tampa), Drew Stafford (New Jersey), Cory Conacher (Tampa), Damon Severson (New Jersey), Mikhail Sergachev (Tampa) and Miles Wood (New Jersey) were all assessed misconduct penalties at 19:37. The Devils’ Boyle also was called for holding, which is why the Lightning ended the game on the PP.

But that was enough. The Devils came away with the 5-2 victory and cut the series lead to 2-1 in favor of Tampa. For what it’s worth, the last time the Devils came back from a 2-0 series deficit was 1994 against the Boston Bruins in the second round.

In the end, Travis Zajac led all Devils skaters in ice time with 24:23 (7:48 of power play time and 5:02 on the PK). Sami Vatanen led all d-men in TOI with 22:42 total. Hall and Coleman tied in shots on goal with six, Coleman also led in hits with five. Zacha had two blocked shots to lead the Devils in that category and takeaways were led by Coleman with two. Coleman really imprinted himself on this game and made his mark.

Team-wise, the Devils out shot Tampa 41-36, won 55-percent of the game’s faceoffs, were out hit 34-33 and had one more blocked shot, 9-8. The three stars of the game were: Taylor Hall (first), Cory Schneider (second) and Stefan Noesen (third).

Next up, Wednesday and game four at The Rock. The Devils will look to pull even in that one and make this into a full-on series.

Note: if you enjoyed this post, please feel free to follow us on Twitter @LGDevilsNet, sign up here for new post alerts, email us at LetsGoDevilsNet@gmail.com or simply leave a comment below. Thanks!

Devils Hang on to Defeat High-Powered Bolts

While it snows here in New Jersey, the Devils traveled to warm, sunny Florida to take on the NHL-best Tampa Bay Lightning in their only trip to Tampa this season. The Devils were able to hang on for a 4-3 victory that was as big a win as they have had all season.

The Devils sort of have the Bolts’ number this year, beating them in their other meeting, way back on October 17 in Newark, in a shootout. In the time since, the Lightning have had their way with the rest of the league, currently leading in the President’s Trophy race for the best overall record in the NHL. But this was the Devils’, or more specifically, Eddie Lack’s, night.

The Devils goaltender turned away a career high 48 shots as the Lightning blasted 51 on his net. Lack got the start primarily because the Devils play in Carolina tomorrow afternoon at 5 PM, a 22 hour turnaround between tonight and tomorrow. With that little time between games, you do not want to go with Keith Kinkaid for both. He also notched his first win as a Devil and first overall since November 13, when he was with Calgary. Lack would be named the game’s first star.

Opposing him was Tampa’s Andrei Vasilevskiy. He stopped 24 of 28 Devils shots. Less of a workload and the Devils were able to break through with goals when they needed to.

Some roster news for the Devils as John Quenneville has been placed on injured reserve retroactive to February 10. He is out with the knee injury. The Devils called up Blake Pietila from Binghamton, but he did not play as a healthy scratch. Brian Boyle remained a scratch with his shoulder injury. He may return to the lineup as soon as tomorrow’s game in Raleigh. Mirco Mueller was the other healthy scratch.

The Devils needed to stay out of the penalty box against a high powered offense like Tampa has, but were not successful on that front. Coach John Hynes said repeatedly in his postgame press conference that they did not stay disciplined, saying that he “was disappointed in their penalty discipline.” Tampa ended up 2-for-6 on the power play, getting a whopping 15 power play shots through to Lack. The Devils were 0-for-3 with four shots on goal. The Devils did a good job on the penalty kill, blocking shots and getting sticks in lanes. When that failed, Lack was phenomenal and helped the Devils cause as much as he could.

Chris O'Meara/Associated Press
Ben Lovejoy scored the opening goal of the game for New Jersey. Photo: Chris O’Meara/Associated Press

The Devils got on the board first, at 2:59 of the first period when Ben Lovejoy scored unassisted. It came when Lovejoy took a Lightning clearing attempt along the half wall and threw it on net. The puck squibbed by Vasilevskiy to make it 1-0 Devils. Lovejoy told Deb Placey during a first intermission interview that the players have been instructed to just get the puck on net when they were along the wall like that and he did so. He had a little bit of luck on his side however, as the puck had eyes and found its way into the back of the net.

Another former Pittsburgh Penguin would tie the game up for Tampa. Chris Kunitz, like Lovejoy he played for years with the Pens, winning three Stanley Cups there, took a perfect backhanded pass from Ryan Callahan at 12:41 and fired a nice shot that beat Lack to make it 1-1. That is where we would be come the first intermission. A good start for the Devils as they got out of the first period tied with a very good team.

But that good team would be given too many chances to score as the Devils beat a path to the penalty box. Early in the second, Sami Vatanen was called for holding Brayden Point. The Bolts would score with just seven seconds left on the power play. Point scored on a rebound as he crashed the net at 2:47 to put Tampa up 2-1. Yanni Gourde and Mikhail Sergachev had the assists.

The Devils, however, would not be deterred. Just 26 seconds after the Point goal, Nico Hischier would score to tie things up at two. It happened when Vatanen got the puck out of the Devils’ zone and to Taylor Hall. Hall made a nice move around a Tampa defender, jumping up with Hischier on a two-on-one. Hischier elected to shoot (something the coaches have been asking him to do more of) on the ensuing odd man rush, and beat Vasilevskiy stick side to tie the game up. Vatanen and Hall had the assists, extending Hall’s consecutive points streak to 17 games total and ten officially – the NHL counting the games that he missed with an injury in between the first seven game streak and this new streak against him.

Nico’s goal was also set up by a nice defensive play by Will Butcher, as he stood the Lightning up at the Devils blue line as they broke in on a two-on-one to give the Devils possession of the puck in the first place.

At 4:54, the Devils would again find themselves in penalty trouble. Miles Wood hit a vulnerable Vladislav Namestnikov and got a boarding call out of it. Andrej Sustr took exception and the two started jostling, leading to matching roughing calls for Wood and Sustr. With the initial boarding call, though, New Jersey was going on the PK.

But things would work out for them. At 6:27, Pavel Zacha put in a shorthanded goal from Vatanen and Lovejoy to give the Devils the 3-2 lead. It happened when the Devils caught Tampa in a bad line change after circling the puck back to center to buy time. Vatanen hit Zacha with a nice pass through the neutral zone and he and Blake Coleman broke in on a two-on-one. Zacha took the shot himself, beating Vasilevskiy to the stick side to regain the lead for the Devils.

The Devils killed off the rest of the penalty and things seemed to really be going their way. An “oh boy” moment occurred when Hall seemed to score midway through the second period. The red light came on briefly but the goal was immediately waved off by the on-ice officials. Replay did show that the shot bounced off of Tampa’s Anton Stralman and off the far post, never crossing the goal line. It was the correct call, even if a little bit disappointing for Devils fans.

The Devils got out of the second with the lead and things were beginning to point in the direction that they could actually pull this off. Things looked even more like that when Wood scored just 1:24 into the third frame. That one came when Vasilevskiy made two great saves, the second a nice reaction save on Travis Zajac in front. The puck was directed to the near corner, where Stefan Noesen won a puck battle to gain control. He centered to Wood in the slot. Wood beat Vasilevskiy as the goalie was moving side-to-side to square up to his shot. That made it 4-2 Devils and seemed to ice the game for New Jersey.

But against a team like the Bolts, that is never true. Especially when the Devils are taking as many penalties as they did in this game. With Kyle Palmieri in the box for tripping, it only took 12 seconds for the Lightning power play to notch one. Steven Stamkos (who drew the penalty) scored from Victor Hedman and Nikita Kucherov 5:15 into the third period. That would set up a dramatic finish.

With Tampa down by one, coach Jon Cooper would pull Vasilevskiy with just under two minutes left in the game. With the Bolts with the extra skater, it was a shooting gallery on Lack. But he came through, making the big saves when he was most needed and preserving the Devils’ 4-3 win.

Stats-wise, Vatanen led in ice time with 25:25. Wood led in shots on goal by a wide margin with six, doubling up Zajac and Noesen, who had the second most with three each. Noesen did lead in hits with three while Andy Greene led in blocked shots with four. Hischier was the leader in takeaways with three while the Devils won 53-percent of their faceoffs, a feat without Boyle – one of their strongest faceoff guys.

Eddie Lack played the game of his career for the Devils, making 48 saves. Photo: Chris O’Meara/Associated Press

So don’t look now, but the Devils have won three in a row and are creating some breathing room for themselves in the wildcard race. Next up they have a big showdown with the Hurricanes again tomorrow with the puck drop at 5 PM. Carolina has lost two straight (the Devils game and then the following night against the Islanders). Hopefully the Devils can keep up the momentum and this early start will play into their hands.

As always, if you enjoyed this post, please follow us on Twitter @LGDevilsNet, email us (the email can be found in the “About” section on the main page), or simply leave a comment below. All photos in this article credited to Chris O’Meara/Associated Press.

Ben Lovejoy to Help in CTE Research

A little bit late on this topic, but in the Friday edition of the sports section of the Asbury Park Press, a column by Devils beat writer Andrew Gross ran regarding Ben Lovejoy. Lovejoy became the first active NHL player to pledge to donate his brain, upon his passing, to the Concussion Legacy Foundation, a Boston-based research group. The Concussion Legacy Foundation does research into Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a disease brought on by years of concussions and other brain trauma suffered by athletes and people in other professions, such as the military.

He joins former NHLers Craig Adams (who played with Lovejoy on the Pittsburgh Penguins), Keith Primeau, Shawn McEachern, Bob Sweeney and Ted Drury who have done likewise. Primeau was the first to do so, in 2008.

Gross quoted Lovejoy as saying “I have had incredibly high-profile superstar teammates [Sidney Crosby] struggle with concussions and I’ve had minor league role players struggle with concussions. I think it’s something that affects everyone in our sport.”

Lovejoy, 33-years-old, has played ten years in the NHL for Pittsburgh, Anaheim and the Devils and “considers himself lucky” to “have had very little brain trauma” in his career. But “science” he said was what got him to go ahead with pledging his brain to the Concussion Legacy Foundation. The Foundation is, according to Gross, a “recruiting arm of partnership with Boston University and the Veteran’s Administration to create a brain bank” and “more than 2,500 former athletes and military veterans have pledged to donate their brain to the foundation since 2008.” Gross notes that Lovejoy is “one of the more than 1,000 who have done so in 2017.”

The Concussion Legacy Foundation’s co-founder and CEO, Chris Nowinski has a very interesting and unique background. A graduate of Harvard University, he wrestled professionally for a time with WWE before concussions put an end to his career there. He went on to help found the Concussion Legacy Foundation and shares one major thing in common with Lovejoy: both are Ivy League educated. Lovejoy attended Dartmouth and, as Devils coach John Hynes was quoted in the article as saying, “Ben is a bright guy. I think he’s got a vision for the future and the fact that he made that decision is not a surprise.”

Lovejoy stated that while he saw that many NFL players were donating their brains to research, no current NHL player had yet to do so. He said that while he will direct players who have questions or want to learn more to Nowinski, he will not try to recruit them. He stated that this is a personal choice and something that “is a sensitive issue.” Lovejoy will, however “work to raise awareness for CTE research and support the foundation.”

It is also a timely issue for the Devils. Marcus Johansson just got back into the lineup after missing a month due to a concussion suffered back on November 1 when the Devils were in Vancouver. He missed a total of 13 games according to Gross.

Hockey is a rough sport and any research that can be done as to the affects of it on the human body will greatly serve future generations of players and the quality of life for players of this and past generations that will or have retired. Kudos to Ben Lovejoy for the step he is taking in trying to improve that future.

Devils Come Away With Point in Calgary

Tonight was a wild one, that much is certain. The Devils fell in Calgary to the Flames, 5-4 in a shootout. But it took a lot of twists and turns to get to that final.

Let’s start with some injury notes. Steven Santini was out with an upper body tweak. His sitting out was merely precautionary. Marcus Johansson was also still out with a concussion. Ben Lovejoy would slot back in on defense while Stefan Noesen came back in up front. New Jersey went back to 12 forwards and six defensemen for this game after having the extra d-man on the bench for Edmonton. The Devils had followed up their first two losses of the season with victories, tonight netted them a point, but not the full two.

It was Hockey Fights Cancer Night at the Saddledome as well as a homecoming for Taylor Hall, who was born and spent the early part of his youth in Calgary. And it was Hall who would pot the first goal of the game. It came at just 1:34 of the first period when Nico Hischier streaked up the wing and took a shot on Flames goaltender Mike Smith. The rebound came right to a trailing Hall and he did not miss, putting it behind Smith. Just like that it was 1-0 Devils.

The Devils held that lead until the 11:07 mark when Michael Frolik scored shorthanded for Calgary. The Flames were killing off a Brett Kulak holding call when Frolik got his second of the season from Mikael Backlund. That would tie the game at one and from there, the craziness set in.

Devils goalie Keith Kinkaid, making his first start in nine days had to fight off a Flames penalty shot when Stefan Noesen hauled down Michael Ferland at 13:15 of the first period. Ferland did not convert and it remained 1-1. Kinkaid came up big all night, including late in the first period when he stopped Sam Bennett coming out of the penalty box after serving a minor penalty. He was sprung on a breakway and Kinkaid made the big save there. He also stopped Mark Jankowski in close with seconds remaining in the period.

The second period began with the Devils retaking the lead when Hischier took a shot coming up the wing and the rebound popped out to Ben Lovejoy. In almost a carbon copy of the game’s first goal, Lovejoy deposited his first goal since December 6, 2016 to make it 2-1 Devils. That goal came at 1:56 of the second and Jimmy Hayes had the secondary assist.

Calgary would net the next two, first when Michael Stone got his first of the year from Kris Versteeg and Frolik at 11:11 to tie things up at two. The goal found twine through traffic in front of Kinkaid. Sean Monahan gave the Flames the 3-2 lead when he scored from Ferland and Johnny Gaudreau at 12:27. That seemed like it would deflate the Devils, but just ten seconds after the Monahan goal, Brian Gibbons scored his seventh of the year unassisted to tie it up at three. That came when Gibbons cut off the puck as Smith was winding it around the boards. He shot from a sharp angle, almost from the goal line and beat Smith, tying the game once again.

Despite that gaffe, Smith was good too. He stopped the Devils on a 3-on-2 late in the second period, stoning Hall. and made a great reaction save early in the third period on Nico Hischier off a shot by Lovejoy.

The third period saw more action as Ferland scored 6:54 into the final frame to make it 4-3 Calgary. He got assists from Gaudreau and Monahan. The Devils seemed dead to rights then, but would again come back when Andy Greene scored his first goal since February 14, 2017 at 11:11 of the third period. That one came when Jesper Bratt fired a puck that came to Greene along the far half wall. Greene fired from that spot and beat Smith to tie things up at four. Lovejoy had the secondary assist on that goal, giving him two points on the night.

Then, more craziness as, at the 13:54 mark of the third period, Matt Bartkowski held Miles Wood on a breakway, which resulted in the game’s second penalty shot. Wood would shoot wide on the penalty shot, and we moved on in the game towards overtime.

And in that OT session, both teams played it very cautiously, opting for puck possession instead of the big play to get the win. We ended with the score still tied up at four. It was time for a shootout.

Taylor Hall led off for New Jersey and Smith stopped him. Sean Monahan scored on his first chance for Calgary. Jesper Bratt was stopped by Smith and then Kris Versteeg was stopped by Kinkaid. Drew Stafford needed to score for New Jersey to keep things going and he did. But Calgary’s Matthew Tkachuk scored to end the game, giving the Flames the 5-4 win in a shootout.

As mentioned, both goalies had monster games: Kinkaid made 30 saves on 34 shots (one of Calgary’s shots came on the power play – they were 0-for-3 on the man advantage – one also came shorthanded) while Smith was 26-for-30 (the Devils had four power play shots and one shorthanded shot – the Devils were 0-for-2 on the power play).

Greene led all Devils skaters in time on ice with 23:56, while Hall led the forwards with 22:32. Hischier led all Devils with five shots on goal and was named the game’s second star with his two assists.

Next up, the Devils look to get back in the win column back at home when they take on the St. Louis Blues at Prudential Center on Tuesday. We will see you then.

Devils Pick Up Hard Fought Win over Vancouver

For the New Jersey Devils, the road traveled has been a tough one, but they have seemed to be tougher than the road. They have given up at least three goals in the last nine games they have played, but have gotten a point in all except the game in Winnipeg against the Jets.

They have done the majority of that as the visitors. Now, they return home to the Prudential Center for one game before heading back on the road on Thursday. That game was against the tough, but struggling Vancouver Canucks (yet another Western Conference opponent). They have also not won a game by more than one goal since November 12. How would they fare tonight against the Canucks?

Beau Bennett was back in the lineup, he was out with a puncture wound to the leg suffered from Kyle Palmieri’s skate at practice. He said that he was lucky, as it could have been his Achilles and he would have missed a lot more time than just a few games. With Bennett back, the Devils needed to make some room on the roster, so John Quenneville was sent back down to Albany. I am sure we will be seeing a lot more from Quenneville in the near future.

Also back in for New Jersey was Sergey Kalinin. He had been ill for the last two games. Out for the Devils were Jacob Josefson and Jon Merrill (both healthy scratches) and Pavel Zacha (facial laceration suffered against Nashville). Sitting for Vancouver was Alex Biega and Joseph Labate.

Between the pipes saw Jacob Markstrom starting for the Canucks, making 19 saves on 22 Devils shots. For the Devils, Cory Schneider got the nod against his former team. He made 22 saves on 24 Canucks shots.

The Devils got on the board first just 3:42 into the first. It happened when Taylor Hall grabbed a puck out of a goal mouth scramble, waited and fired, beating Markstrom over the shoulder, glove side. Kyle Quincey had the primary assist while PA Parenteau picked up the secondary.

From there, things got kind of ugly for both teams.

First, Damon Severson and Brendan Gaunce dropped the mitts, with Severson getting the victory on a takedown.

Then, Travis Zajac is checked from behind went face first into the boards. It was speculated by Ken Daneyko of MSG that his face shield might have cut his face, but no matter what, he was bloodied. He left the ice briefly but would return with a full shield on.

The referees missed the hit from behind on Zajac, but did not miss the penalties in the ensuing melee. Out of that, Michael Chaput (who put the hit on Zajac) got a fighting major and John Moore got a fighting major plus the instigator and the Devils were issued a bench misconduct after coach John Hynes got into an argument with the officials. Bennet served the bench penalty. All of this occurred at the 19:28 mark of the first period.

So with one of their best players off the ice with his face bloody, the Devils would now be down 5-on-3 with Vancouver coming out with the power play. The Devils did what they could, the Canucks power play is only ranked 22nd in the NHL, but ultimately, with just 19 seconds left on the 5-on-3, Daniel Sedin one-timed a pass from Brandon Sutter by Cory. Troy Stecher had the other assist on his goal. The Devils had killed off 19 straight power plays prior to this.

Another, scarier, moment happened in the middle of the second. Philip Larsen, the Danish defenseman coming to the Canucks from the KHL, took a big check from Taylor Hall behind the Vancouver net. He had his head down, but may have hit his head on the ice as he fell. He was stretchered out and taken to the hospital. According to Devils’ play-by-play man Steve Cangialosi via the Vancouver medical staff, he was awake and responsive and had full movement on the way to the hospital, so that was encouraging.

With that, it became a very chippy, emotional game – especially for one against a Western team that they only see twice a year.

No penalty was called on that play, as Hall’s hit was legal. However, Vancouver was whistled a few minutes later, at 5:55 when Erik Gudbranson went off for roughing Sergey Kalinin. Also on that play, Alexandre Burrows of Vancouver went off with matching roughing minors with Devante Smith-Pelly.

The Devils were now up a man and Kyle Palmieri would make the most of it. There was excellent puck movement, as five guys touched the puck on the way to Palmieri firing it from the near faceoff dot. He beat Markstrom to give the Devils the 2-1 lead. Hall had the primary assist while Severson had the secondary one. That goal came at 7:08.

On the night, the Devils were 1-for-2 on the power play, as they continue to click. The Canucks were 1-for-3 in the same situation.

The Devils would go up 3-1 at 11:09 when Ben Lovejoy scored his first goal as a Devil and his first goal since March of 2016 (when he was with the Penguins). It occurred when Quincey pinched in to keep the puck in the offensive zone. Zajac then passed across the point to Lovejoy, who fired on net. His slap shot found twine cleanly and the Devils had the two goal lead.

But the Devils have not played the most overtime games in the NHL this year for nothing. Vancouver would make things interesting when Henrik Sedin scored from his brother, Daniel, and Luca Sbisa at 3:58 of the third. Sedin had shot from an odd angle right after Markstrom had made a big save on Taylor Hall at the other end of the rink. The Devils were now up 3-2.

In the middle of the third period, it seemed that the ice was tilted in the Canucks’ direction. But the Devils weathered the storm. Markstrom was pulled with about 1:30 left in the game. But there would be no OT tonight. The Devils kept Vancouver from scoring and New Jersey came away with the two points.

The Devils remain unbeaten in regulation at home and, at 8-0-2, are off to their best start at home in franchise history. The Devils have still not won a game by more than one goal since mid-November, but this two game mini win streak sets them up to be in a good position for their next challenge.

On Thursday, they head up to the Bell Centre to take on the team with the best overall record in the league and a team that is extremely tough to play at home themselves: the Montreal Canadiens.

The Devils will be in for a tough one as they head up north to take on the Habs. But this team has shown a lot in the last few games, so getting one up on the President’s Trophy leaders should be no sweat to them, surely. We will find out on Thursday.