Zibanejad Notches Hat Trick as Devils Fall to Rangers

With the bitter cold hockey weather hitting the Northeast this week, it was fitting that two bitter rivals finally began their 2018-19 season series. It took almost five months, but Devils-Rangers was finally here. This was the latest point in a season, according to Steve Cagialosi, that the Hudson River Rivals have met not including a lockout year. But unfortunately for the Devils faithful, a win was not in the cards. The Rangers defeated the Devils 4-3 thanks to a Mika Zibanejad hat trick.

In roster and injury news, goaltender Cam Johnson was sent back to AHL Binghamton and Mackenzie Blackwood was called back up to the big club. He would not get the start as Keith Kinkaid got the nod instead. In addition, Sami Vatanen was placed on Injured Reserve due to a concussion following the hit from Derrick Brassard in the Pittsburgh game. Eric Gryba was called up from Binghamton to take his place on the roster but was a healthy scratch. Kurtis Gabriel was also a scratch. In Vatanen’s place, Egor Yakovlev got the nod to slot in on the blue line for the first time since December 10. In addition to that, Taylor Hall was still not in the lineup. He has now not played in 39 days (since December 23) and it does not seem like he will be ready for Saturday’s game at Montreal as per reports by the MSG+ crew.

Getting back to the Brassard hit on Vatanen, there was no supplemental discipline handed out by the NHL and most agreed that the game misconduct given by the referee on the ice was enough. The hit was just not dirty enough to warrant an extra suspension or anything like that.

In goal, Kinkaid was back for the Devils, stopping 21 of the 25 shots he saw for an .840 save percentage on the night. The Rangers threw out their venerable backstop Henrik Lundqvist who turned aside 19 of 22 Devils shots for an .864 save percentage.

Both teams were 2-for-4 on the power play for the night. The Devils had nine shots while New York had four on the power play. The Rangers also had two shorthanded shots as well. Special teams would, obviously, play a huge role in this game and both teams looked pretty good on the man advantage.

The Devils were in their heritage green, white and red uniforms and looking for their first win in those jerseys this year. Things looked promising early on too. Nico Hischier buried a loose puck in front of Lundqvist that gave the Devils the 1-0 lead just 5:10 into the game. That goal came on the power play while Marc Staal was off for holding.

The Devils doubled their lead a little more than ten minutes later. At 14:58, New York’s Jesper Fast was called for tripping Damon Severson. At 16:18, Marcus Johansson made it 2-0 Devils when he made a beautiful play, diving for a puck that hit the post behind Lundqvist and pool cueing it into the net. The Devils had the 2-0 lead early on and seemed to be cruising.

But then the Mika Zibanejad show began. At 19:53, Johansson took an interference penalty and the Rangers were on the power play. With just two seconds to the first intermission, Kevin Hayes won the offensive zone faceoff back to Zibanejad and he unleashed a bomb on Kinkaid that beat him clean to cut the Devil lead in half at 2-1. Zibanejad would be named the game’s first star while Mats Zuccarello of the Rangers was the second star and Nico Hischier was the third.

In the second period, at 16:36, Zibanejad struck again on the power play. Blake Coleman – one of the Devils best penalty killers – was off for hooking and New York was on the man advantage. Zuccarello made a nice tape-to-tape pass to him at the bottom of the far faceoff circle. He snapped a shot off and the game was tied up at two apiece. Hayes had the secondary assist on this one. This came minutes after Kinkaid made a nice save on Hayes, who had deked two Devils skaters out of their skates and endured Neal Pionk hitting the post behind him.

The game would go back-and-forth in the early stages of the third period. Chris Kreider scored at 4:43 when his shot beat Kinkaid between his left arm and the post. Zuccarello and Zibanejad had the assists on this goal. Zibanejad had factored into every Ranger goal so far on the night.

New York had taken the lead for the first time, but it did not last long. Fifty-three seconds later, Yakovlev was able to find the back of the net when Johansson flushed out the puck on the forecheck and Yakovlev jumped up into the play, firing the puck by Lundqvist to tie it at three.

The game was now in the balance and the Rangers went back to MIka Zibanejad to finish off the Devils. New Jersey could not clear the defensive zone and Zuccarello was able to backhand a pass to Zibanejad in the slot. He skated right in and beat Kinkaid for the game winner and the hat trick. Pavel Buchnevich had the other assist on the goal.

Kinkaid was pulled with 1:22 remaining and the Devils had two offensive zone faceoffs but were unable to finish and time simply ran out on the Devils. New York won 4-3.

It was a good game played by both teams, although the Rangers tended to dominate the zone time for most of the game, it seemed. Overall, the backbreaker was probably the late goal scored in the first period as that seemed to be a turning point.

The Rangers out shot the Devils 25-22 while the Devils won 52-percent of the faceoffs and the Devils out hit the Rangers, 11-9.The Devils blocked more shots than the Rangers at 11-9 and had more giveaways at 8-1.

There were some key called penalties, including a Miles Wood goaltender interference call at 13:11 of the second period where Wood was seemingly pushed into Lundqvist that probably should not have been called and a dangerous Pavel Zacha cross-checking/boarding call on a Ranger that probably should have been called late in the game. But the officiating was, overall, good.

Individually, Damon Severson led all Devils skaters with 25:55 of ice time (4:17 on the power play and 2:31 shorthanded). Travis Zajac led the forwards with 21:04 of TOI (2:45 of PP time and 1:47 of PK time). Severson also led the Devils in shots on goal with four. Hits were led by Blake Coleman with four, blocks by Hischier with two and takeaways by Zajac, Zacha and Mirco Mueller with two each.

Next up for the Devils, it is a Saturday afternoon showdown up in Montreal with the Canadiens. That game is at 2 PM at Bell Centre and we will have coverage for you right here. In the meantime, please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comment section.

Devils Fall to Lightning, 5-1

The Devils have finished up their season series with the Tampa Bay Lightning and to that, I say good riddance. The Devils ended the 2018-19 season 0 and 3 against Tampa, losing last night 5-1 at Prudential Center.

The Devils slotted Will Butcher back into the lineup on defense. Steven Santini remained the defenseman to be out. Drew Stafford and Jesper Bratt were the healthy scratches up front while Stefan Noesen drew back in.

The goaltending matchup saw Keith Kinkaid start for the Devils, making 16 saves on 20 shots faced. He was pulled before the start of the third period in favor of Cory Schneider, who continues to suffer some struggles. He let in the first shot he saw from Tampa, making five saves on six shots. The Lightning finished the game with a total of 26 shots. Opposing them was Louis Domingue, who would go on to be named the game’s third star. He stopped 26 of 27 shots from the Devils.

New Jersey got behind the eight ball early, conceding a goal 13:31 into the first period to Nikita Kucherov off assists to Brayden Point and Ryan McDonagh. That made it 1-0 and the Lightning train just rolled on from there.

Point scored a little over six minutes later at 19:34 from Kucherov and Victor Hedman on the power play. This was set up when Egor Yakovlev took a slashing penalty at 18:49. On the power play Tampa was 2-for-3 on the night with three shots. The Devils were a very sluggish 0-for-4 on the man advantage with seven shots. They also had one shorthanded shot.

The second period was another rough one for the Devils. Tyler Johnson scored 8:20 in from McDonagh and Kucherov. It was now 3-0 and the Devils seemed to be reeling.

But they would get one back to cut the Bolts’ lead to just two when Yakovlev scored at 11:26 from Sami Vatanen and Noesen. It came when Noesen won the faceoff deep in the offensive zone directly to Vatanen. He quickly found a seam for Yakovlev backdoor and Yakovlev snapped a shot by the right-catching Domingue’s glove hand. That made it 3-1 and was also the 27-year-old rookie’s first NHL goal. He played a few years in the KHL before coming over to North America, but has now notched a goal in the NHL.

Unfortunately for the Devils, as the Yakovlev goal was being announced to the crowd, Tampa’s Yanni Gourde was making it 4-1 at 12:39. He got assists from Steven Stamkos and Ondrej Palat.

Late in the second period, at 19:52, Blake Coleman was called for slashing Erik Cernak. That penalty would have almost 1:50 of carry over time to the third period, on fresh ice. Also, the Devils decided to switch goalies going into the third with Schneider coming in. All of this was a bit of a recipe for disaster for the Devils.

And sure enough, just 20 seconds into the third frame, Stamkos scored from Point and Kucherov on the power play to make it 5-1. Point would go on to be named the game’s second star with a goal and two assists. Kucherov was the first star with a goal and three assists.

And that was it. While Tampa essentially played keep away from the Devils the rest of the game, they quickly rolled to two more points while New Jersey suffered just their second regulation loss on home ice this season.

In terms of the overall game, the Devils won 49-percent of the game’s faceoffs, out hit the Bolts 23-19, had one more blocked shot then them at eight to seven and had less giveaways at four for the Devils to Tampa’s eight.

The Devils looked to Damon Severson to be a minutes eater, as he logged 19:24 of ice time to lead all New Jersey skaters (including 3:37 on the power play and 14 seconds on the penalty kill). Travis Zajac led the forwards with 19:07 (4:05 on the PP, 2:35 on the PK). Marcus Johansson led the team in shots on goal with four while hits were led by Noesen with four as well. Blocked shots were co-led by Taylor Hall and Yakovlev who each had two and takeaways were led by Hall, Kyle Palmieri, Noesen and Andy Greene who all had one.

Next up, the Devils get out of Dodge and head for California. They will face the Los Angeles Kings in LA on Thursday to begin a three game road trip against the California teams. That game is at 10:30 PM Eastern on Thursday night/Friday morning and we will have that for you right here.

Egor Yakovlev Inked to ELC

The Devils today announced that they have come to terms on a one-year entry level contract for defenseman Egor Yakovlev.

Yakovlev (which the press release mentions is “also listed in Russian as ‘Iakovlev'”) is a little bit older at 26-years-old and has played from 2012 to 2018 in the Kontinental Hockey League. The press release mentions that he spent three seasons with SKA St. Petersburg and three with Yaroslavl Lokomotiv.

Last season with SKA St. Petersburg, the Magnitogorsk, Russia native notched five goals and four assists along with 14 penalty minutes in 35 games. His best career year, according to the press release, was 2016-17 when he set a personal best in assists with 15, points with 21 and plus/minus with a plus-30. SKA won the Gagarin Cup (the KHL’s championship) that season as well.

His KHL totals, according to the press release, saw the 6-foot, 190-pounder record 68 points (26 goals and 42 assists). He also had 210 penalty minutes and a plus-29 rating. His Gagarin Cup Playoff totals read ten points (two goals and eight assists) in 67 games. He also had 34 penalty minutes in the postseason.

The press release also notes his international accomplishments. He won a gold medal at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang with the Olympic Athletes from Russia team. He registered a single point (an assist) in five games.

The lefty-shooting d-man has also been to three World Championships with Team Russia (inlcuding this year when they did not medal). The 2014 team he was on won a gold medal and the 2015 team won a silver medal.

Although he is an older player, he does have some good experience, especially with the championship he won in 2017. The thing you always have to worry about is how the Russian imports will adjust to the NHL and the smaller rink. Obviously with a player like Sergei Kalinin, it did not work out. But it is only a one-year ELC, so it is not like there is a huge committment being made to him here.