Devils Drop One to Bruins

The Devils’ homestand continued tonight with a 5-1 loss to another Stanley Cup contender, the Boston Bruins. New Jersey drops the three game season series to Boston, two games to one.

One bit of housekeeping to get to first. According to Craig Seiden on Twitter (@CraigSeiden), Joey Anderson had an assist added to Kenny Agostino’s goal on Tuesday night against Washington. So that goal was not unassisted.

Roster-wise, Kyle Palmieri left the Capitals game in the first period with an apparent upper body injury. He would not play tonight. Will Butcher was also out tonight with an illness. However, making his return from injured reserve was Pavel Zacha, who had been out with a concussion for the last 16 games. Nick Lappin was reassigned to Binghamton of the AHL and defenseman Josh Jacobs was recalled from Binghamton to replace Butcher on the roster tonight. This was his NHL debut and he wore number 40.

Another player making his debut in his home state was Long Branch, New Jersey-native Connor Clifton of the Bruins. The Boston d-man wore number 75.

And Clifton’s team would be playoff bound if the B’s won tonight in regulation and the Canadiens lost in any fashion to the Islanders in their game. The Bruins held their end of the bargain, but unfortunately for them, Montreal beat the Isles 4-0, so it was a no go for that.

In goal, the Devils were back to Cory Schneider. He stopped 22 of 26 Boston shots for an .846 save percentage on the night. Opposing him was Bruins workhorse Tuukka Rask. He stopped 21 of 22 Devils shots for a .955 save percentage. Rask would go on to be named the game’s third star.

On special teams, Boston was 0-for-3 on the power play with four shots while the Devils were 0-for-1 with two shots. The Devils also had a shorthanded shot to go along with things. The Devils actually kind of got away with a play in the second period when a Steven Santini cross checking penalty was finishing up. Santini came out of the penalty box and immediately played the puck. If any part of his second foot was still on the floor of the penalty box, this would have been a penalty. The officials got together and linesman Darren Gibbs later told Devils iceside reporter Bryce Salvador that they felt that there was no penalty due to Santini’s second foot being in the air at the time he touched the puck. Good break for the Devils there.

The first goal of the game did not occur until the 18:34 mark of the first period when Patrice Bergeron scored from David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand. On the play, Andy Greene’s stick broke and Bergeron was all alone on the side of the Devils’ net after a missed assignment by Damon Severson. Pastrnak made a nice pass to Bergeron and he potted it for the first goal of night. It was 1-0 Bruins.

That line of Pastrnak, Marchand and Bergeron would give the Devils fits all night. In fact, Bergeron was named the game’s second star while Pastrnak was the first star of the night. They would factor into the second goal of the night when the Bruins won a faceoff deep in the New Jersey zone at 12:58. Bergeron won the faceoff to Marchand who feathered a nice pass to Pastrnak set up in front of the net. That made it 2-0 Boston.

The Devils finally got on the board a little less than two minutes later at 14:51 when Drew Stafford scored. Pavel Zacha sold a shot at the top of the far faceoff circle and then made a perfect pass to Stafford at the near faceoff dot. Rask was down and Stafford tapped it in to give the Devils a goal, cutting the B’s lead in half to 2-1 and ending Rask’s shutout streak that he had going at 101:49.

But that was it for the Devils’ offense on the night.

Danton Heinen scored 29 seconds into the third frame from Sean Kuraly off of a two-on-one. That made it 3-1 Bruins and largely broke the Devils’ collective backs.

Cory was pulled with about two minutes remaining in the game and Boston took advantage with Bergeron scoring into the empty net. Marchand and David Krejci had the assists on that one. That goal came at 18:42 of the third and made it 4-1 Boston to ice the game.

But the Bruins were not done. At the 19:38 mark of the third, David Backes, cutting by Schneider’s crease, redirected a Noel Acciari shot by the Devils netminder to give us our final of 5-1.

The Devils ended the night being out shot 27-22 and losing in the faceoff circle with Boston winning 53-percent of the game’s draws. New Jersey did have more hits at 26 to the Bruins’ 14 and more blocked shots at 15 to Boston’s seven. However in giveaways, the Devils had nine while the Bruins had only one.

Individually, Severson led all skaters in ice time with 23:29 (53 seconds on the power play and 4:44 on the penalty kill) while Joey Anderson led the forwards with 18:11 (2:29 on the PK). Shots on goal were led by Eric Tangradi, Michael McLeod, Blake Pietila and Santini who all had three. Hits were led by Agostino and McLeod with five each. Blocked shots were led by Greene with five as he hones in on the Devils single season record for that stat. Takeaways were led by Anderson with two.

Next up, the Devils’ homestand continues as they take on the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday at 1 PM. I will be attending this game live and, as such, my report will be up a little bit later. In the meantime, please feel free to leave a comment. They are always appreciated.

Devils Get First Shootout Win of Season, Down Arizona 3-2

The Devils said that they wanted to try to take at least six of a possible eight points on this road trip. They dropped two in Dallas and were looking to rectify that in Arizona. And they would, winning 3-2 in a shootout to knock off the Coyotes in Glendale.

It was the battle of the penalty kills, as the Coyotes are the number one ranked PK in the NHL and the Devils number two. And sure enough, neither team was able to gain much traction on the power play. The Devils went 0-for-3 with a single shot (they did have three shorthanded shots, however). The Devils kept Arizona 0-for-5 on the PP with six shots on goal. The Coyotes had a 5-on-3 to kill off early in the game and then a four minute high sticking double minor on Brian Boyle late in the game so that skewed things a little bit.

The Devils went with their same lineup as the last few games with the lone exception of Blake Pietila slotting in up front. John Quenneville (who was just named an AHL All-Star along with Mackenzie Blackwood) slotted out at forward. Defensemen Mirco Mueller and Egor Yakovlev were the other healthy scratches.

In goal, the Devils announced that Blackwood would get the nod tonight, making his fifth straight start and Keith Kinkaid would start on Sunday in Vegas. A monkey wrench in those plans, however, saw Blackwood go down with a lower body injury early in the game. He ended up playing 15:59, stopping all eight shots he saw. Kinkaid then came on in relief and stopped 15 of the 17 shots fired at him. For the Yotes, Darcy Kuemper turned aside 33 of the 35 Devils shots he saw.

Some milestones for the night saw Jesper Bratt playing in his 100th NHL game, Drew Stafford in his 800th NHL game and it was also Nico Hischier’s 20th birthday. Stafford and Hischier would play crucial roles in this game.

Hischier’s would be scoring the opening goal of the game and it was a weird one. Kyle Palmieri stripped the Arizona skater of the puck in the neutral zone and went in on a 2-on-1 with Hischier. Nico took the puck and fired on net, only for Arizona’s Clayton Keller to crash into the net, dislodging it from its moorings just as the puck was crossing the goal line. The play was reviewed by Toronto with the officials getting together to watch on their tablet. Amazingly a goal was awarded to the Devils as the puck “would have entered the net had it not been deliberately knocked off its moorings.” By the rule, the referee can award a goal at his discretion and it was. The goal came at 1:05 into the game and Palmieri had the lone assist. The birthday boy had scored and the Devils were ahead.

But then came the injury to Blackwood and a relatively cold Kinkaid entered the game. At 16:44 of the first, Pavel Zacha made a costly turnover into the slot, giving the puck up to Conor Garland who scored unassisted, beating Kinkaid to make it 1-1.

The Devils nearly took another lead early in the second period when Pietila seemingly had scored. But upon review, the puck crossed the line after the referee had blown his whistle and play was dead. One break had gone the Devils’ way, but this one would not. It was still 1-1.

The Coyotes would take the lead at the 9:05 mark of the second when Christian Fischer skated in on a 2-on-1 and elected to shoot. He beat Kinkaid between the arm and the body as it trickled through for a 2-1 lead for Arizona. The goal was unassisted. The Devils were now behind the eight-ball if they wanted to salvage something from this game.

Enter Blake Coleman. A good Devils forecheck led to Travis Zajac being able to make a nifty backhand pass to Coleman who stuffed the puck five hole on Kuemper to tie it up at two. Miles Wood had the other assist on the goal.

And from there, the two teams settled in. New Jersey had a Hischier shorthanded breakaway on the four minute double minor PK late in the third and a Zacha shorthanded chance on a Steven Santini delay of game penalty a few minutes later.

This would lead to overtime and two critical plays one early for the Devils and one late for the Coyotes. The early one was Jesper Bratt clearing a sure Arizona goal as he swept it from the goal line after it got by Kinkaid. Kuemper then made three remarkable saves for the Coyotes, including two in succession on Zajac later on in the OT period. The buzzer went on OT and we were on to a shootout.

New Jersey had yet to win a shootout this season, but that was about to change. Arizona went first and Alex Galchenyuk missed the net. Kyle Palmieri scored on his chance to finish out the first round. Kinkaid then made a crucial save on Nick Cousins and Drew Stafford got the game winner in the second round to end it for the Devils.

They had fought back and gotten the two points in the desert. The Devils out shot the Coyotes 35 to 25 and won 54-percent of the game’s draws. The Yotes out hit the Devils 39 to 27, but the Devils had more blocked shots at 17-11 and less giveaways at 12 to Arizona’s 13.

Individually, Andy Greene led in minutes with 24:17 (including 7:17 on the penalty kill) and Zajac led the forwards with 20:40 (2:51 on the power play and 3:15 shorthanded). Coleman led in shots on goal with a career high eight while fellow Texan Stefan Noesen led the hit parade with four. Blocked shots were led by Sami Vatanen with four and Zajac, Coleman and Palmieri each had a takeaway to lead in that category.

Next up, the Devils travel to Vegas to take on the Golden Knights while remaining in the desert. That game is on Sunday at 4 PM eastern and we, of course, will have coverage for you right here.

Devils Battle, But Lose to Stars 5-4

The Devils battled back from two two-goal deficits only to give up a goal late and fall to the Stars 5-4 in Dallas. The Devils were looking for a fourth straight win for the first time since the beginning of the season, but were denied thanks to two goals each from Miro Heiskanen and Tyler Seguin.

It has been an eventful week so far in Dallas, one that began with their CEO publicly and profanely calling out the Stars’ two best players, Seguin and Jamie Benn, and ending with the announcement that the city would host the 2020 Winter Classic at the Cotton Bowl.

In Devils news, Taylor Hall was placed on injured reserve retroactive to December 23 as per Amanda Stein on Twitter. Because it is retroactive to December 23, Hall can be brought back at any time, he did not, however, make the trip with the team to Dallas. Blake Pietila and Egor Yakovlev were recalled from Binghamton of the AHL. They were both healthy scratches joining Mirco Mueller.

Hall was also named the Devils’ representative to the 2019 NHL All-Star Game at San Jose later this month. Kyle Palmieri was also named a potential injury replacement as per Steve Cangialosi on Twitter. Congratulations to both of them on this well earned honor.

Between the pipes, the Devils went back to Mackenzie Blackwood for their first game of 2019. Blackwood was under siege most of the night from Dallas, stopping 35 of 40 shots on him. Facing him was Ben Bishop, someone who the Devils have had some trouble with of late. He stopped 30 of the 34 shots thrown his way.

Kyle Palmieri scored the Devils’ first goal of the new year just 3:41 into the first, his 20th of the season and also his 100th in a New Jersey Devils uniform. It came after Travis Zajac was able to hold the blue line for the Devils, get the puck to Andy Greene, who made a nifty pass to Palmieri. Palmieri then tipped the pass into the Dallas net to make it 1-0. Unfortunately for the Devils, they would lose Greene to injury later in the game.

At the 12:31 mark, Benn responded for the Stars as he scored off a pass from Alexander Radulov, who had gone wide around the net while shielding the puck and passing to Benn in the slot. Benn scored and ended Blackwood’s shutout streak at 135:26, tying the game at one. Benn, too, would be lost for the game for Dallas after taking a hit from Miles Wood in the second period. John Klingberg had the secondary assist on his goal.

That hit came at 2:05 of the second when Wood would draw a five minute major for interference against Benn. The teams would play 4-on-4 as Esa Lindell and Stefan Noesen were off for roughing and John Klingberg of the Stars was called for cross checking. Once those three minor penalties ended, Dallas would be on a three minute power play (the Wood call).

At the 3:21 mark of the second period, while 4-on-4, Miro Heiskanen used a head fake and a deke to skate around Blackwood to make it 2-1 Stars. He got assists from Tyler Pitlick and Roman Polak.

By 6:38, the minors had expired and the Wood power play kicked in. With Dallas up 5-on-4, Tyler Seguin sniped one by Blackwood from Radulov and Klingberg. That goal made it 3-1 Stars.

On the power play for the night, the Devils ended up 1-for-4 with nine shots. Dallas was 1-for-3 with six shots as well as two shorthanded shots.

The Devils were down by two but the comeback was on once Jesper Bratt grabbed a loose puck off the rebound of a Nico Hischier breakaway at 11:08 of the second. The puck was on end and Bratt was able to shoot it by Bishop to cut the lead to 3-2 Stars.

But the Stars would grab back the two goal lead when Seguin scored his second of the game at 12:24 from Radulov and Valeri Nichushkin. Seguin was able to roof a pass from Radulov by Blackwood to make it 4-2 Dallas.

The Devils looked down and out, but this recent three game winning streak has really energized the team and has them more confident than ever and it showed. Drew Stafford made it 4-3 when he broke in on a 2-on-1 with Brett Seney and went to a backhand-forehand move to beat Bishop. Will Butcher had the secondary assist on the goal that made it 4-3 at 17:21.

And amazingly, the Devils would tie things before the end of the second period. It came when the Devils were on the power play due to Heiskanen going off for a holding call against Bratt at 18:09. With the Devils on the man advantage, Brian Boyle redirected a Butcher shot from the point to tie the game at four. Zajac had the other assist and the game was knotted going into the second intermission.

But the game winner would come just 6:27 into the third period when Heiskanen scored his ninth of the year and second of the game from Roope Hintz to give us our final of 5-4. That goal came on just as a delayed penalty was about to be called on the Devils.

New Jersey would pull Blackwood with about 1:30 remaining in regulation but were stopped again and again by the Stars. The final horn sounded and the Stars had won, with Heiskanen being named the first star, Seguin the second and Radulov, who had three assists, the third.

Final team stats saw the Devils outshot 40 to 34 (at one point, the Devils went 22:46 without a shot on goal in this game), the Devils win 46-percent of the game’s faceoffs, the Devils out hit the Stars 31-23, and out block Dallas, 17-14. Dallas had more giveaways at 13 to the Devils’ 11.

individually, Sami Vatanen led all skaters with 23:17 of ice time (including 2:12 of PP time and 27 seconds of PK time) while Zajac led the forwards with 21:08 (4:12 of PP/1:49 of PK). Zajac and Boyle co-led in shots with five apiece, Blake Coleman, back in his old stomping grounds, led in hits with seven. Zajac led in blocked shots with five and Nico Hischier led in takeaways with two.

Next up, the Devils will travel to the desert to take on the Arizona Coyotes in the two team’s first meeting of the year. That game is at 9 PM eastern and we will have all of the coverage for you right here.

Devils Fall to Sharks in California Finale

Coach John Hynes felt that a good trip for the Devils on their three game West Coast swing would be accruing between four and six points. They fell one short of that goal by gaining only three. New Jersey fell last night to the Sharks in San Jose, 5-2.

The Devils had scored 11 goals on 70 shots combined in the games in Los Angeles and Anaheim. Tonight they just did not have it. They only mustered two goals on just 24 shots on net. They Devils had beaten San Jose 3-2 at Prudential Center back on October 14, but that seems a season ago now.

The only two changes to the roster tonight, on the second half of a back-to-back, were Drew Stafford slotting in at forward for Stefan Noesen and Keith Kinkaid starting between the pipes in place of Cory Schneider. Former Shark Mirco Mueller and Steven Santini were the other New Jersey scratches.

Kinkaid made 29 saves on 34 Sharks shots. Going for San Jose was Martin Jones who stopped 22 of the aforementioned 24 Devils shots.

For the Devils, the change of putting Stafford in the lineup paid immediate dividends. He scored the game’s first goal at the 12:05 mark of the first period. Damon Severson and Andy Greene had the assists. The goal came when Stafford rushed the puck up the right wing boards. He shot from a tight angle and the puck squibbed between the post and Jones’ left arm. It was Stafford’s first goal of the season and it made it 1-0 Devils.

But once again, the Devils jumped out to an early lead only to squander it a few minutes later. This time Timo Meier scored his first of two on the night at 15:51 of the first to tie it up at one. This was a tough one as Sami Vatanen gave the puck away at the Sharks’ blue line, having his pocket picked by Tomas Hertl and Meier scored off of the rush.

Joe Pavelski would give the Sharks their first lead of the evening a little less than three minutes later at 18:03. Brenden Dillon shot from the point and Pavelski shoveled the rebound by Kinkaid to make it 2-1 San Jose. Erik Karlsson had the secondary assist on the goal and the Sharks would not look back.

The second period started positively for the Devils when Kinkaid stopped an odd man rush by the Sharks, but at the 7:19 mark, Radim Simek found the back of the net for his first NHL goal. He took a shot from the point that had eyes and beat Kinkaid cleanly on his short side. Lukas Radil and Brent Burns had the assists on the goal that would make Simek the game’s third star (Pavelski was the second and Timo Meier with his two goals was the first).

The Devils seemed to be back in things when Andy Greene scored from Kyle Palmieri and Nico Hischier at 8:59 of the second to cut the San Jose lead to one at 3-2. It occurred when Palmieri made a nice power move towards the net off the rush. He muscled the puck back to a trailing Greene who put the pass by Jones to score his first of the season, his first goal in 66 games as a matter of fact.

But one goal was as close as the Devils would get in this game. At 14:52 of the second, Meier scored his second of the game from Joonas Donskoi. A Devils power play had just ended and Meier was given a lot of time and space on a 2-on-2, which according to MSG+ analyst Ken Daneyko, was played more like a 2-on-1 by the Devils. This goal once again doubled the Sharks lead to 4-2.

The game was put away by San Jose when, at 14:14, the Devils were assessed a rough delay of game penalty and the Sharks wasted no time on the power play. Hertl scored from former New Jersey Rockets youth player and Brooklyn native, Kevin Labanc and Pavelski. Labanc took a shot from the point and Kinkaid made the initial save, but Hertl was able to put the rebound past the diving goalie to make it 5-2. On the power play, the Sharks went 1-for-2 with a total of two shots. The Devils were 0-for-2 with two shots as well.

New Jersey finished the game winning a paltry 37-percent of the game’s faceoffs and were outshot by ten (34 to 24). The Devils narrowly out hit the Sharks 14-13, had more blocked shots at 14 to 10 and less giveaways at 10 to San Jose’s 13.

Individually, time on ice was led by Will Butcher, playing 22:40 (including 2:04 on the power play). The red hot Kyle Palmieri – he had two goals in each of the first two games in California – led all forwards with 17:29 of ice time (including 1:37 on power play and six seconds while the team was down a man). Shots on goal were led by Marcus Johansson with five, hits were led by Blake Coleman with three, blocked shots were led by Brian Boyle and Miles Wood with two each and takeaways were led by Damon Severson with three.

And with that, the Devils will return home to the East Coast and have a few days to get their house in order before the Vegas Golden Knights come calling on Friday at 7 PM. I will be attending this game at The Rock, so my write up on it will be a little bit late, but I will try to get it up on the site as soon as possible.

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 Sign Stafford; Bratt Out For Season Opener

The Devils have come to terms with right winger Drew Stafford today. He will receive a one-year, one-way contract worth $810,000. He had been in training camp on a professional tryout (PTO) agreement.

The 32-year-old Milwaukee, Wisconsin native fired home eight goals and had seven assists (15 points) for the Devils last season over 59 games with the club. He also played in two playoff games against Tampa Bay.

He was drafted 13th overall in the first round of the 2004 Draft by the Sabres. He played parts of nine seasons in Buffalo before being traded to Winnipeg in 2015. He was actually dealt to the Jets along with Tyler Myers, Joel Armia and Brendan Lemieux (Claude’s son) for Evander Kane, Zach Bogosian and Jason Kasdorf. He was then traded at the 2017 trading deadline to Boston. He signed as a free agent with the Devils in August of 2017.

So Drew Stafford will be back in the fold come opening night for the Devils but Jesper Bratt will not.

According to an article on the Devils’ official site written by Amanda Stein, Bratt will miss the opener in his home country of Sweden due to a fractured jaw. He suffered the fracture on Thursday during practice in what Stein called a “freak accident.”

Stein quoted John Hynes as saying “He has a fracture, and no surgery is needed so that’s good news. He should be able to continue his physical activity over the course of (rehab) and he’ll be back ready to go when the time comes.”

According to Stein, Bratt will be placed on injured reserve and “his expected recovery time set at two to three weeks.”

Stein also said that Stafford was used “as an extra forward in practice on Friday” meaning he may or may not play in the opener on Saturday.

The Devils held an open practice at the Scandinavium today (Friday) as the Swedish fans were able to watch the Devils get set to take on the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday.

Stafford Back With Devils on a PTO Agreement for Training Camp

Drew Stafford will be back for next season with the Devils. But only if he makes it out of training camp. The 32-year-old right winger today agreed to a professional try out (PTO) with the Devils and has been invited to training camp.

Stafford did not exactly set the world on fire last season with the Devils. He had eight goals and seven assists (15 points) over 59 games in 2017-18. He played in two games of the Devils’ five game loss to Tampa Bay in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in the playoffs as well.

According to the press release on the matter, the Devils initially signed him to a one-year, one-way contract on August 25, 2017. He was a free agent following this past season.

He has played in a total of 784 games at the NHL level with the Sabres, Jets, Bruins and Devils. The press release notes his career totals as 191 goals and 224 assists for 415 points to go along with 397 penalty minutes.

While some fans might not be happy with this, feeling that Stafford is done as an NHL player, you never know what you are going to get with a PTO. He could conceivably have something left in the tank and last year could have been an aberration. But you take a flyer on someone and if he makes the team, that means he showed management something. Otherwise, he does not make the team and likely retires. We will find out when training camp kicks off next week.

Devils Come Back, Beat Flyers in Shootout

Taylor Hall had two goals versus the Flyers. His second came after missing 16 minutes of the second period. Photo: SI.com

The Devils needed this, no doubt about it. They came into Philadelphia on a four game winless streak, were victimized (again) by a rough call in the Boston game (the second Bruins’ goal – late in the first period – that may or may not have crossed the goal line) and were taking on a hot divisional opponent. The Flyers were winners of four straight and 20 of their last 30.

But the Devils, who did play well against the Bruins on Sunday, had some fight in them and were able to come back from being down a couple of times, including by two goals twice, to snatch a victory from the jaws of defeat in a shootout, winning 5-4.

Some injury news for the Devils. First, Cory Schneider has been placed on injured reserve retroactive to January 23 with a groin/hip issue. He will resume skating next week, but will not be available for this stretch of games. Brian Boyle (shoulder) and John Quenneville (knee) are also out. Nick Lappin was called up from Binghamton as a result of the injuries. Mirco Mueller was the healthy scratch for New Jersey while John Moore slotted back in on defense.

The Flyers were without their starting goalie as Brian Elliott had surgery on an injured core muscle and will miss a few weeks. The goaltending woes continue for Philadelphia. Michal Neuvirth got the start for them, making 32 saves on 36 shots and grabbing one of two shots in the shootout.

The Devils went back to Keith Kinkaid after the debacle in Columbus last weekend. He would stop 31 of 35 and get all three Flyers attempts in the shootout. He played well, coming up big at key times in the third period and overtime.

One other item of note for the Devils was that the NHL awarded Taylor Hall an assist on the lone Devil goal from Saturday in Columbus. That meant that his point streak was intact, putting him at 14 games coming into tonight. He would extend that further.

The Devils got behind the eight-ball early once again in a Keith Kinkaid start when Travis Konecny scored from Claude Giroux and Shayne Gostisbehere at 1:54 into the game. The goal was scored on a partial breakaway following a nice tape-to-tape backhand pass from Giroux. It would remain 1-0 Flyers for more than twenty minutes, as the score held up into the intermission and then the Devils would get on the board 4:06 into the second.

Taylor Hall had hit the post twice in the first period and things did not seem to be going his way tonight. This was soon to change.

The goal came when Sami Vatanen hit Hall with a pass through the neutral zone. Hall sped into the Philly zone and skated behind the goal line. He fired a shot that bounced in off of Neuvirth’s backside and in. There was initially no referee signal on the play, and they would review it, but Toronto said that the goal was good and it was 1-1. Hall was hit hard by Radko Gudas behind the net after the goal went in. Hall mentioned in the postgame that the hit was clean, Gudas was just finishing his check and as he (Hall) fell back, his head it the boards and Hall lost his helmet.

Hall would leave the game for 16 minutes in the second period, going off for concussion protocol. Once he was deemed OK, he would return for the third period to play a huge role.

In the meantime, the Flyers would score the next two goals to take their first two goal lead of the night. Scott Laughton scored at 4:49 of the second to make it 2-1. He got assists from Michael Raffl and Andrew MacDonald. Gudas would score at 10:36 from Valtteri Filppula and Dale Weise to make it 3-1.

Following the third Philadelphia goal, a scary moment as Miles Wood took a slash to the foot and seemed to be injured. He was not and continued on.

The Devils would start chopping away at the Flyer lead beginning at 13:17 of the second when John Moore scored just after a power play had expired to make it 3-2. It came when Travis Zajac skated the puck from down low along the near boards. He gave to Moore at the near point as he was coming up. Moore fired a slap shot that found its way into the net with Lappin providing a screen in front.

Following that goal, Giroux would put the Flyers back up on top by two. His power play goal at 15:59 from Jakub Voracek and Gostisbehere would make it 4-2. Zajac was serving a cross checking penalty to setup the power play. Overall, The Flyers were 1-for-5 on the man advantage with four shots while the Devils were 0-for-3 with three shots.

The Devils would cut the lead to one before the end of the period when Nico Hischier scored at 16:09 of the second. It came when Nico grabbed a Philly turnover in the neutral zone and broke in with Jesper Bratt on a 2-on-1. They played give-and-go and Nico finished by beating Neuvirth over the glove side to make it 4-3, Flyers. It was a beautiful goal and had the Devils feeling good about themselves heading into the final minutes of the period.

Then a setback. As has become requisite for a Devils game: controversy. Travis Zajac was hit with a Flyer high stick and was bleeding from the mouth. That would usually net a high sticking minor at least, a double minor because there was blood. Instead, both referees somehow missed the play and no call was made. Never before, it seems, has a team been this affected by bad officiating as the 2017-18 New Jersey Devils.

But the Devils pushed on. They had numerous chances to tie things up throughout the third period but could not execute. Keith Kinkaid was pulled with about 1:30 left in the game for the extra attacker and it would pay off.

At the 18:39 mark of the third, Hall would net his second of the game, making his grand comeback, to tie things up at four and force an overtime period. It developed when Zajac won a faceoff deep in the Philly zone. He won it to Will Butcher, who went low with it and gave to Hall behind the goal line. Hall centered to Hischier, who shot. Neuvirth made the save, but left the rebound just to his right and Hall jumped on it, firing it home to tie the game with 1:21 left in the game.

It was a nice play, Hall’s team-leading 23rd goal of the year. The Devils were able to weather a final onslaught from Philly to go to OT, gaining at least a point in a game that seemed at times to be all but lost. Once in the extra session, the Flyers pushed the play, keeping control of the puck and not giving the Devils much possession time. That is where Kinkaid came in, as he stoned the Flyers on a few plays, closing the door and forcing a shootout once time expired in the OT.

Jordan Weal went first for the Flyers and was stopped by Kinkaid. Kyle Palmieri missed for the Devils to complete the first round. In the second round, Konecny was stopped by Kinkaid and Drew Stafford scored for the Devils. This made Voracek’s try on Kinkaid crucial to keep the game going for Philadelphia. Kinkaid stopped him and the Devils came away with the two points. It was New Jersey’s 28th win of the year, equaling their output from last season.

Drew Stafford had the GWG in the shootout. Photo: NewJerseyDevils.com

Stat wise, Hall led in shots by a large margin with seven, despite missing most of the second period, which proves his impact as a player for the Devils. Vatanen led in time on ice with 27:53, Moore led in hits with three, Andy Greene led the pace in blocks with five and Zajac had the most takeaways with three. The Devils won 48-percent of faceoffs.

Next up, the Devils return home on Thursday for another key divisional matchup, this time with the suddenly-surging Carolina Hurricanes. The Devils have yet to see the Canes this season and will be looking to take another two points in a big Metro Division showdown.

 

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Hischier the Hero as Devils Outlast Flyers

Philadelphia has a Super Bowl coming up on Sunday, but tonight the Flyers traveled up the New Jersey Turnpike to renew their rivalry with the Devils. And the Devils were able to outlast – more like survive – the Flyers tonight as they won the game 4-3.

It was Pride Night at Prudential Center, part of the NHL’s You Can Play initiative, which strives to make the sport inclusive to people of all ethnicities, orientations and creeds. Proceeds from sales of special rainbow Devils logo t-shirts went to local LGBTQ organizations in the Newark area.

The Devils were coming off a 3-1 win in Buffalo which got them out of their pre-All-Star funk. The Flyers were playing the second half of a back-to-back, they were in Washington last night and lost 5-3 after jumping out to a 2-0 lead. They gave up five straight goals in that game as they took the loss to the Capitals.

In Devils injury news, Cory Schneider skated on his own and Marcus Johansson is working out off ice. There was no update on Brian Gibbons pre-game. New Jersey went largely with the same lineup they iced in Buffalo, going with eleven forwards and seven defensemen. Jimmy Hayes and Steven Santini were the healthy scratches.

In goal, Keith Kinkaid (who equaled his win total from last year with the win in Buffalo) made his second straight start for the Devils. He made 22 saves on 25 Flyer shots. For Philadelphia, Alex Lyon was making his first NHL start tonight. He came on in relief against Washington last night, but this was his first start. He made 18 saves on 22 shots against.

The first period was a wild one to be certain, as the fists flew and four power play goals were scored between the two teams. It started 3:42 into the period when Kyle Palmieri (who was celebrating a birthday) scored to make it 1-0. It came when Nolan Patrick was called for hooking Nico Hischier and went off. The Devils had put a new wrinkle into their power play attack, as the MSG announcers kept talking about in Tuesday’s game in Buffalo. They did not get to show it there, as they did get a power play opportunity, but they did tonight. The play developed when the puck was wound around the boards in the Flyers’ zone to Taylor Hall at the far half wall. He made a nifty little pass to Pavel Zacha inside the far faceoff circle. Zacha then fed Palmieri at the far faceoff dot. He fired and beat Lyon to give the Devils the early lead.

The Devils got into some penalty trouble. First, at 5:31, Mirco Mueller was called for interfering with Jordan Weal. While the Devils were on the penalty kill, Travis Zajac was called for cross checking at 6:31 to put the Flyers up 5-on-3. Claude Giroux scored on that power play to tie the game up at one. That goal came at 6:47 off assists to Jakub Voracek and Wayne Simmonds.

Then came the shenanigans. First, Radko Gudas laid a big hit on Palmieri and was called for interference. Palmieri was slow to get up and replays showed that while Gudas did not seem to want to make a dirty hit on him, he did leave his feet while colliding with Palmieri. Gudas went off for his infraction. Meanwhile, a scrap broke out between Damon Severson and Brandon Manning which resulted in five minute fighting majors for them while Voracek and Hall got into it resulting in roughing calls on them. When it was all said and done, the Devils would be on the power play due to the Gudas interference call. All of those penalties came at 12:47 of the first period.

On that power play, New Jersey converted when Drew Stafford scored at 13:49. It came when Sami Vatanen faked a shot at the blue line and went point-to-point with John Moore. Moore shot and Stafford was there to redirect the puck into the Philly net. The Devils had retaken the lead at 2-1.

But the Devils were still seething about the Gudas hit on Palmieri. It was part of a bigger picture with the Brad Marchand hit on Johansson in Boston and other liberties that have been taken with the Devils’ star players lately. Travis Zajac decided to take matters into his own hands.

He went one-on-one with Gudas and thoroughly beat him, winning the fight but taking the instigator penalty along with it. The Flyers were on another power play at 14:48. It was Zajac’s first fight since March 23, 2017 when he fought future teammate Brian Boyle.

It did not take Philly long to connect on their power play as Simmonds scored at 15:46 from Voracek and Shayne Gostisbehere. The game was tied again, this time at two.

All told, the power play totals for the game saw the Flyers go 2-for-3 with six shots while the Devils were 2-for-4 with four shots. The Devils had come into the game 0-for-11 on the power play in their last four games, so hopefully this will get them jumpstarted in that department.

Following the crazy first period, there would be only one other penalty called the rest of the game: a Travis Konecny tripping call against Philadelphia in the second period.

But that was not it for the goal scoring. The Flyers took their first lead of the night when Gostisbehere scored on a shot that went in off of Damon Severson’s skate at 7:01 of the second from Valtteri Filppula and Taylor Leier to make the score 3-2.

But Severson would redeem himself as the Devils began the comeback in the third period. At 11:00 of the final frame, The Devils won a puck battle along the boards in the far corner. The puck squirted out to Zacha, who fed Severson in the slot. Severson did not miss and just like that, the Devils had tied things at three.

But they were not done yet. Knowing they did not want to go to overtime and give up a point to a Metropolitan Division rival, the Devils needed the win. Enter Nico Hischier. At 18:33, Ben Lovejoy moved the puck up to Blake Coleman. He skated into the Flyers’ zone and cut wide before finding Nico crashing the net. Hischier got a stick on the puck just enough to redirect it through Lyon’s five hole as Hischier was falling. It was a highlight reel goal but also a crucial one. The Devils were up 4-3 with about 2:30 left.

The Flyers would pull Lyon with about a minute to go in the game, but it was to no avail. The Devils held on and avoided losing their first three games of the year to the Flyers since 1983-84 – coincidentally the last time the Flyers have swept a season series with the Devils.

It was a big win for New Jersey. They kept pace in the division, as the Rangers also lost to the Maple Leafs and the Hurricanes defeated the Canadiens in games featuring other Metro teams. They also did not give up a point to Philly, who were only two points behind them coming into the night.

Stats-wise for the Devils, Andy Greene led in ice time with 20:22, a few seconds more than Hall, who led the forwards with 20:17 (he was being double shifted late in the game). Shots on goal was a four-way tie with Hall, Boyle, Stafford and Zacha all having three. Boyle also led in hits with four and Miles Wood led in blocks with two. Boyle also led in takeaways with two. The Devils won 46-percent of the game’s faceoffs.

Next up for the Devils, Saturday at home against the Penguins. The Pens have been surging up the Metro Division standings and will also be playing the second half of a back-to-back on Saturday (they have Washington on home ice on Friday). This will be a good chance for the Devils to continue their momentum and pick up some points in the Metro Division race.

Devils Prevail in OT, Finally Beat Washington

The Devils wanted to give the Washington Capitals “a game.” The team felt that they had not played the Caps well at all in their twin 5-2 losses in two games against them this season and for the most part, they were right. Tonight, the Devils conceded a point to the Metropolitan Division leaders, but took the full two by defeating the Capitals 4-3 in overtime. Washington is definitely one of the elite teams in the NHL and the Devils wanted to show that they could skate with them.

The Capitals had had some travel problems getting into Newark. They had just come off of their bye week and could not get into New Jersey in time for a practice yesterday, due to weather problems in DC. They just got in a morning skate earlier today.

Some roster moves for the Devils first, as the lineup remained largely the same as the one that defeated the Islanders Tuesday night in Brooklyn. Some good news for the Devils on the injury front as Mirco Mueller is back and was sent to Binghamton of the AHL on a “conditioning assignment.” Blake Coleman and Jimmy Hayes were the healthy scratches along with Steven Santini, who had been optioned to Binghamton to make room for backup goalie Ken Appleby. But Cory Schneider was back – although he did not play tonight – and, thus, so was Santini.

Cory did not start tonight, not because he was still sick, he is better, but because he had lost five pounds in one-and-a-half days and has not skated. So Keith Kinkaid made a back-to-back start coming off of his win in New York Tuesday. It was a relatively light night for him as he made 16 saves on just 19 shots total against. Going against him was Braden Holtby, one of the elite goaltenders in the NHL right now to be sure. He made 28 saves on 32 shots against. Kinkaid was the last Devils goalie to defeat Washington with a 2-1 shootout win last season.

One of the main themes of the night was the special teams. In their two other games against the Devils this season, the Caps were 4-for-7 on the power play total. Tonight the Devils certainly gave the Capitals the chances, but limited them to 0-for-5 on the night with just five shots. The Devils were 0-for-3 with three shots on goal. It was dicey, but the penalty killing unit really came through for New Jersey.

The Devils took the early lead 8:01 into the first period when alley-ooped a pass to Drew Stafford behind the Washington defense. Stafford skated in on Holtby, went backhand and beat him with Devante Smith-Pelly backchecking hard all over him. Just like that, the Devils had the 1-0 lead.

However, it would only take about four minutes and nine seconds for the Caps to respond. Brett Connolly scored at 12:10 from TJ Oshie and Brooks Orpik to tie the game up.

The next goal came within a milestone game. Andy Greene was playing in his 750th NHL game (and coming off of his first NHL fight in his 749th game) and would put the Devils up by one just 3:33 into the second period. It came when Taylor Hall gained the Capitals’ zone before stopping and putting the puck on Nico Hischier’s stick in front of the Caps’ net. Hischier had the presence of mind to simply tap it over to Greene, cutting in back door and Greene put it between Holtby’s left arm and the goal post to make it 2-1 Devils.

New Jersey got a lift when Brian Boyle came to the aid of Brian Gibbons. Gibbons had absorbed a hard hit from Capitals’ tough guy Tom Wilson. Boyle dropped the gloves with Wilson and the two had a spirited bout. Unfortunately, Boyle took the instigator penalty along with five for fighting plus a ten minute misconduct. The Devils would be killing off the instigator penalty and be without the services of Boyle for ten minutes. Wilson only got a five minute major for fighting.

The Devils would kill that penalty off and tack on an insurance goal at the 10:55 mark of the second when Miles Wood used his speed to create a goal. It happened when Hischier won a defensive zone draw back to Sami Vatanen. Vatanen looped the puck up ice to Wood, who snuck in behind the Washington defense on a breakaway. His shot trickled through Holtby’s five hole to put the Devils up 3-1.

The Washington comeback began quickly, however. Dmitry Orlov scored less than a minute after the Wood goal. He got assists from Alex Chiasson and Jay Beagle. That would make it 3-2, New Jersey.

Then the other shoe would drop. It would take until the 16:12 mark of the third period, but Connolly scored his second of the game from Evgeny Kuznetsov and Wilson to tie things up at three. The Capitals had spent a lot of offensive time in the Devils’ zone at that point and the ice certainly looked tilted in their favor.

Time would expire in regulation and, although the Devils had gained at least a point against Washington for the first time this year, there was still a bit of a let down throughout the Prudential Center. But all it would take was 34 seconds of overtime to end things.

Vatanen chipped the puck free to Hall, who slipped past Kuznetsov and was off to the races. He beat Holtby glove side on the breakaway and the Devils had gotten the 4-3 win. Hall notched his team-leading 17th goal of the year on that play and the Devils got two points against the Capitals for the first time this year. Hall was also named the game’s first star, Connolly the second and Wood the third.

Stat-wise, Greene led in time on ice with 23:39 while Hall and Wood tied for the shots lead with four each. Ben Lovejoy led in hits with six and in blocks with three. The Devils won 58-percent of the game’s faceoffs.

So the Devils pick up a point on the Caps, but Washington still leads the Metro Division by four points with 60, but the Devils closed the gap a little bit by getting points 55 and 56.

Next up, the Devils take on the Flyers in Philadelphia on Saturday afternoon. This will be the second meeting between the Turnpike rivals this month. The Flyers have been coming on strong in the Metro. How will the Devils fare in this 1 PM matinee? We will find out Saturday afternoon.