Devils Fight Back But Lose to Leafs, 4-2

The Devils have had a hard time of it this year with the Toronto Maple Leafs. After two blow outs earlier this season, they will be glad to put the Leafs in their rearview mirror as of last night. They lost 4-2 at Prudential Center.

It was 80s Night at The Rock, as the team was wearing its heritage white, green and red jerseys and the music and in-arena graphics were all throwbacks to the 1980s. The jumbotron was even done up to resemble the center-hung scoreboard at the Meadowlands in a nice touch.

The Devils still have some missing pieces, but they are getting better. Mackenzie Blackwood and Marcus Johansson skated this morning and the team is still without Taylor Hall. But without Hall and Johansson, the Leafs just have too much firepower to deal with. Mirco Mueller, Stefan Noesen and Egor Yakovlev were the healthy scratches for the Devils tonight.

Without Blackwood, Cam Johnson once again backed up Keith Kinkaid, who got the nod between the pipes for the Devils. Kinkaid stopped 39 of an avalanche of 42 shots on goal. The Maple Leafs finished with 43 shots thanks to an empty net goal late in the game by Mitch Marner. Facing him was Michael Hutchinson who made 27 saves on 29 Devils shots.

The Devils were basically assaulted all night by John Tavares. The former Islander scored two goals and added an assist on the empty netter for three points in the game. He was named the game’s first star. Blake Coleman would be the second and Toronto’s Zach Hyman the third.

The Devils power play remained anemic while the penalty killers knocked off their only challenge of the night. The Devils were 0-for-2 on the PP with five shots while Toronto was 0-for-1 with one shot. The Leafs also had four shorthanded shots, which just shows how dangerous their offense is in any given situation.

Ron Hainsey got the goal scoring started off 4:30 into the game. He took a bank pass off of the boards by Hyman and one-timed it by Kinkaid. Connor Brown had the secondary assist on the goal that gave the Leafs the 1-0 lead.

A little less than three minutes later, at 7:21 of the first period, Tavares struck for the first time of two when he scored from Jake Gardiner. That made it 2-0 Leafs. Tavares hit the Devils one final time when he scored with six seconds remaining in the first from Morgan Rielly and Marner on what was just a tic-tac-toe surgical play to make it 3-0. Things looked really bleak for the Devils heading into the second period.

One highlight of the first for New Jersey was Kinkaid coming out of his goal cage and cutting off a Leafs breakaway. His adventure led to him falling down and nearly giving up a goal in an empty net, but the Devils recovered and no harm, no foul on that I guess.

The Devils made a game of it in the second period. It began at the 16:07 mark when Blake Coleman backhanded his own rebound in after Miles Wood went point-to-point with Andy Greene and Greene fired a shot on Hutchinson. Coleman tipped the initial shot on goal and then leapt on the rebound to make it 3-1 Toronto.

And the Devils kept on coming. Twenty-six seconds after Coleman’s goal, Brian Boyle found the back of the net when Blake Pietila led him in on the rush and dropped the puck for him just inside the Leafs’ blue line. Boyle wristed a shot by Hutchinson to make it 3-2 and the Devils, in a flurry of action, were right back in the game.

It would remain that way until with a minute remaining in regulation, the Devils pulled Kinkaid and Marner scored his empty netter (although Kyle Palmieri made a valiant back checking effort). That goal came with 22 seconds left in the game and Marner got an assist from Tavares.

It was just one of those games for the Devils. They did not get blown out, but they were beaten early and often and just could not recover. Most of that was the John Tavares show, as he just victimized the Devils. In the end, Toronto finished with 43 shots to the Devils’ 29. The Devils won 53-percent of the game’s faceoffs and out hit the Leafs 15 to 9. They also edged Toronto in blocked shots 9-8. But the Leafs had less giveaways at three to the Devils’ nine.

Damon Severson led the Devils in ice time with 22:22 (2:01 on the power play and eight seconds on the PK) while Travis Zajac led the forwards with 19:52 (2:19 on the PP and 1:05 on the PK). Shots on goal were co-led by Palmieri and Wood with four each, hits were led by Steven Santini with three, blocks by Sami Vatanen with three and takeaways by Boyle, Zajac, Coleman, Pietila, Greene and Severson with one each.

Next up, Saturday as the Devils take on the rival Flyers in Newark. That is a 1 PM puck drop and we will have the coverage here for you. In the meantime if you have any comments, please feel free to leave a comment below. It is always appreciated.

Devils Demolished by Leafs, 7-2

The gap between the Devils and some of the elite teams in the Eastern Conference has never been more apparent than the games between them and Tampa Bay and against Toronto. Tonight they fell 7-2 to the Maple Leafs at the Prudential Center.

The Devils had one subtraction from their lineup and two additions. The team put goaltender Cory Schneider on injured reserve with an abdominal strain. In his place, Mackenzie Blackwood was recalled from AHL Binghamton. He would see action tonight following a potential injury to Keith Kinkaid that bears keeping an eye on. The other addition was Taylor Hall returning to the lineup tonight after missing two games with a lower body injury.

Toronto was coming in with two faces the Devils did not see in their trip there on November 9. Auston Matthews was injured when New Jersey visited the Leafs last and William Nylander was still holding out as a restricted free agent. Matthews is now healthy and Nylander signed a contract on December 1. They would both be in the lineup tonight for Toronto. Lucky Devils.

For the Devils, with Hall slotting back in up front, Drew Stafford was back as a healthy scratch joining d-men Steven Santini and Egor Yakovlev.

In goal, the Danish goalie Frederik Andersen went for the Maple Leafs, making 27 saves on 29 shots against. For the Devils, Keith Kinkaid started and played the first two periods, making 16 saves on 21 shots. He collided with Ben Lovejoy midway through the second and, though he made the save on the play, seemed a bit shaken up. That might not have been the reason he gave the net up to Blackwood, but it could have contributed. Blackwood, as mentioned, came on in the third period, making his NHL debut. He stopped eight of the ten shots he faced, including his first NHL save: a save on a breakaway by Zach Hyman. Not a bad start. He also became the first Devils goalie since Martin Brodeur to wear the number 29 in a game.

The Devils fell behind early, at 6:01 when John Tavares scored from Nazem Kadri and Matthews. Nico Hischier opted not to shoot on a 2-on-1 just prior to the play and had the pass broken up by the Leafs. Toronto then went down the ice with a 3-on-1 when Tavares scored. It was 1-0 Toronto.

The lead would double to 2-0 1:57 later when Matthews scored a controversial goal unassisted. He pushed Damon Severson into Kinkaid and, when Kinkaid was unable to hold on to a puck, Matthews was right there on the doorstep, all alone to sweep it in. Severson had tried to clear the puck from the crease with his hand, but only served to give it directly to Matthews. The Devils used their coach’s challenge, alleging goalie interference. The call on the ice of good goal stood. The explanation was that because Severson could play the puck, incidental contact with the goalie was allowed and it was a good goal.

One thing that Ken Daneyko brought up on the MSG+ broadcast was that Matthews pushing Severson in the first place could have been interference on Severson since he did not have the puck. But that went uncalled and the goal stood, it was now 2-0 Leafs.

The ageless Patrick Marleau would make it 3-0 at 13:38 when he scored from Kadri (who ended the game with three assists and was named the game’s third star) and Travis Dermott. The Devils could not clear the puck from the zone and Kadri centered the puck to Marleau. His initial shot was saved by Kinkaid but Marleau put the rebound by to triple their lead.

The Devils would get on the board late in the first period when Sami Vatanen scored from Brian Boyle to make it 3-1 at 18:44. Vatanen let a shot go from the point that just cleanly beat Andersen under the crossbar and down. It was a cannon of a shot and seemed to give the Devils some hope as the game was following a similar pattern to Friday’s comeback versus the Golden Knights.

The pattern looked to followed even closer when Mitch Marner scored just 1:45 into the second period. He scored when Tavares hit the crossbar and the rebound came right to him. The disappointing thing about this goal is that the Devils had spent the first 1:30 or so of the second period applying pressure in the Toronto zone but could not score. This goal put the Devils down by three again at 4-1.

With that assist, Tavares had his second point of the night, a goal and that assist. He was named the game’s second star. Auston Matthews, also with a goal and an assist, was the game’s first star.

Morgan Rielly made it 5-1 with 0.8 seconds remaining in the period when he scored on a nice shot from the point that beat Kinkaid clean. Kadri and Connor Brown had the assists on that goal. The blowout was on.

The Devils would gain a bit of retribution when Nico Hischier scored at the 14:47 mark of the third. Hall won a puck battle behind the Leafs’ net, came out from behind and whipped a pass to Nico. Hischier did not miss on this one, burying it to make the score 5-2. Kyle Palmieri had the secondary assist. There was little celebration on the Devils side of things, however.

Tyler Ennis would add two goals to cap things off for the Leafs, scoring at 16:28 from Brown and Par Lindholm and at 18:30 from Jake Gardiner and Brown to make it 6-2 and then 7-2, which was our final. Those were the first two goals let up by Blackwood in his NHL career.

So for the Devils, it was not a good night to say the least. On special teams, both teams were 0-for-3 on the power play as the Devils did not register a shot with the extra skater. The Leafs had one shot on the power play and one shorthanded. New Jersey actually finished the game on the power play as Toronto was called for delay of game with just about a minute to go in the game.

Statistically, the Maple Leafs out shot the Devils 31-29 while the Devils won 53-percent of the game’s faceoffs. The Devils also out hit Toronto 14-6. The Leafs had more blocked shots (nine to the Devils’ six) and the Devils had twice as many giveaways at 12 to the Leafs’ six.

Individually, Vatanen led all Devils skaters with 22:13 TOI (including 2:42 of power play time and 1:32 of PK time). Travis Zajac led all forwards with 19:05 of time on ice (2:12 on the PP/ 3:23 killing penalties). Shots on goal were led by Miles Wood with five, hits were led by Blake Coleman with four, blocked shots by Severson with two and takeaways by Hall with two.

Next up, the Devils will travel to Ohio on Thursday to take on the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Devils have now lost ten of their last 12 games and will look to right the ship in Columbus. That will be a tough hill to climb as the Jackets are one of the better teams in the Metropolitan Division. Puck drop for that game is 7 PM and we will have coverage for you right here.

Devils Routed in Hall of Fame Game by Maple Leafs

This was not pretty. The Devils traveled up to Toronto to take part in the Hall of Fame Game during the Hockey Hall of Fame induction weekend and got obliterated, 6-1.

Martin Brodeur is the headliner for the Hockey Hall of Fame’s Class of 2018 and, as such, there was a huge ceremony before the 21st annual Hall of Fame Game, which the Leafs host each year around this time. Monday is the actual induction ceremony, but there is also a legends of hockey game that ex-players like Scott Stevens, Ken Daneyko and Brodeur himself will be participating in on Sunday. All of this makes up the festivities that accompany the induction ceremony. Today, Marty got his Hall of Fame ring and his plaque was unveiled as he and the other new inductees met with the media.

The current Devils as a team enjoyed a private tour of the Hall of Fame and dinner in the Great Hall. A special treat for players who normally are in and out of Toronto and do not get the time to take in the sights.

The ceremony beforehand was very well done. Past members of the Hall of Fame were introduced followed by this year’s inductees like Gary Bettman, Martin St. Louis and Brodeur introduced last. Afterwards, there was a little ceremony for Remembrance Day (or Veterans Day here in the States) with Canadian military veterans of World War II introduced and a moment of silence before the national anthems.

Then it was time for the game to start and things did not go as planned for the New Jersey Devils. We will get to that in a moment, but first some lineup changes. Jesper Bratt made his long awaited season debut after suffering a broken jaw in Sweden earlier this preseason. Stefan Noesen also returned to the lineup following injury. Bratt was a minus-3 with three shots on goal, two hits and a blocked shot in 12:57 of total ice time (1:25 on the power play and nine seconds on the penalty kill).

The healthy scratches for the Devils were Jean-Sebastien Dea, Drew Stafford and Egor Yakovlev.

In goal, Keith Kinkaid went for New Jersey, making 26 saves on 32 Toronto shots. He was brilliant in the first period as the Maple Leafs just kept pressuring the Devils and Kinkaid bailed them out time and again. But things went off the rails in the second and third periods.

For the Leafs, Frederik Andersen started and he was great all game. He stopped 38 of the Devils’ 39 shots. The big Danish goalie was quick with the leather all night, robbing Taylor Hall a few times, including midway through the third when Nico Hischier made a nice pass to Hall, who collected it through his legs and was stopped in tight.

On the power play, New Jersey went 0-for-3 with five shots while Toronto was 0-for-4 with four shots. The Devils added in two shorthanded shots while the Leafs had none.

The teams were wearing special Hall of Fame Game patches on their uniforms as things were ready to get started.

As mentioned, the Maple Leafs had a ton of early chances that Kinkaid was able to stop. But it was the big offseason signing for Toronto that came through. John Tavares took a tic-tac-toe pass from Ron Hainsey and Morgan Rielly to pot his ninth of the year and make it 1-0 at 12:24 of the first period. Things seemed in control for the Devils only down by one going into the first break, but they were about to spiral into some crazy territory with the coming of the second.

Just 1:52 into the second, Nazem Kadri scored a quick shot off of a turnover in the Devils’ zone that made it 2-0. Patrick Marleau had the lone assist on the goal, the 600th assist of his NHL career.

Connor Brown made it 3-0 when he scored at 5:07 from Par Lindholm and Hainsey. This goal resulted from just good puck movement by the Leafs.

Travis Zajac scored what, at the time, seemed to get New Jersey back into things at 7:23 of the second when he scored from Blake Coleman. That made it 3-1 and the Devils were seemingly clawing back into the game. Nobody at that time could have foreseen that this would be the Devils’ only goal. It came when Coleman won a puck battle in the near corner and into the front of the net. Zajac was there to clean up what Daneyko called simply a “hard working goal.”

But that is where the Devils would leave it as Toronto would just continue to pile it on. They picked right back up at the 15:44 mark of the second when Andreas Johnsson scored after the puck deflected off of two Devils sticks in front and he was able to put it right in. Jake Gardiner and Lindholm had the assists here. That made it 4-1 and was Johnsson’s first of the season.

Rielly would make it 5-1 not too long later at 17:27 when he scored a weird one. A Devils clear was blocked at their blue line and Kadri kept it in the zone. Rielly then lobbed it in from long distance and it beat Kinkaid, who was screened on the play as well.

Tyler Ennis would add one more unassisted in the third period at 12:01 when he just maneuvered around the Devils defense and Kinkaid to put it home and make it 6-1.

The Leafs nearly had the extra point as Kadri again kept the puck in the zone with 6:04 to go in the third. He lobbed one in on Kinkaid and Marleau redirected it in. However, during a league review, it was decided that Marleau played the puck with a high stick and there was no goal. The score reverted to a mere 6 to 1.

And that was our final. The Devils outshot the Leafs (39-32), outhit the Leafs (39-23) and had less giveaways (22 for Toronto to the Devils’ nine) but won 60-percent of the game’s faceoffs and generally pushed the play all night.

Individually, Sami Vatanen led the team in ice time with 20:37 (1:53 on the PP/1:18 on the PK). Taylor Hall led all forwards with 17:51 (2:39 on the PP and 41 seconds on the PK) TOI. Hall also led in shots on goal with five while Ben Lovejoy led in hits with six. Andy Greene led in blocks with four and takeaways were led by Greene and Coleman with two apiece.

Next up, on Sunday, the Devils travel to Winnipeg to finish out this road trip from hell against the Jets at 7 PM. Since the end of the game in Pittsburgh on Monday night, the Devils have been outscored 13-4 and now find themselves one game under NHL .500. But there is no real need to panic. The team (and its fans) just need to take it one game at a time (as cliche as that is) and climb back into things and turn the year around. Every team and season have their ups and downs. Hopefully the Devils are just getting their downs out of the way early in the season.

Clowe Named Head Coach of ECHL’s Growlers

Not sure how this slipped under my radar, but I wanted to get this in on the site. Back on June 20, the Newfoundland Growlers, an expansion team in the ECHL that will serve as an affiliate of the Toronto Maple Leafs, annouced Ryane Clowe as their first head coach.

Clowe is a Newfoundland native and spent the last two seasons coaching with the Devils on John Hynes’ staff. He retired from NHL competition back in 2016 following battles with concussions.

He was looking to get deeper into coaching and this is a great opportunity for him as a head coach. The Maple Leafs said in a press release on June 20 that he would be attending “the Maple Leafs development camp next week as well as training camp with the Maple Leafs and Marlies in September.”

Both Clowe and new Leafs GM Kyle Dubas thanked Devils GM Ray Shero and Hynes as well as the Devils organization for allowing Clowe to pursue this opportunity with the Growlers, who will play out of St. John’s, Newfoundland. Clowe was grateful for the Devils giving him an opportunity to get his feet wet as a coach in the NHL.

Clowe’s connection to the area (he “was recently inducted into the Newfoundland and Labrador Hockey Hall of Fame” according to the press release) and the aptitude that he has shown for coaching in his short time behind the bench for the Devils made him a natural fit as he begins his climb up the ladder to try to land a National Hockey League coaching gig.

Clowe, 35, is the second assistant coach to move on from the Devils in about a month. Assistant Geoff Ward joined Bill Peters’ staff in Calgary back in May.

Congratulations to Ryane Clowe as he begins this next chapter of his professional career.

Lamoriello Will Not Return as GM of Leafs

A little off the Devils track here, but some news out today that the Toronto Maple Leafs will not bring back Lou Lamoriello as General Manager for next season.

Lou, who won the Stanley Cup three times with the Devils (1995, 2000 and 2003) while serving as New Jersey’s GM for 28 years, held the position in Toronto for three seasons. In that time, the Leafs won the 2016 Draft Lottery, going on to pick Auston Matthews first overall in the subsequent Draft.

With Matthews, they would make the playoffs in both 2017 and 2018, losing in the first round in 2017 to the Washington Capitals (and a series ending goal by Marcus Johansson) and this year to the Boston Bruins.

The NHL.com press release mentioned that this season, the Leafs finished third in the Atlantic Division with a team-record 49 wins (106 points).

Team President and Alternate Governor (and former Devils player who was drafted by Lamoriello), Brendan Shanahan said: “I would like to take this opportunity to thank Lou for his tireless work over the last three years as general manager. His leadership in helping establish a cultural foundation, as well as his invaluable mentorship to everyone in this organization, has been instrumental in our development.”

Lamoriello, who is now 75-years-old, singed a contract with the Maple Leafs three years ago that would see him serve as GM for three years and then “transition to senior adviser (sic) for the following four years.” according to Shanahan via the press release. Shanahan will begin looking for the team’s next GM immediately.

How this pertains to the Devils directly is more, now that Lamoriello is serving in an advisory role with the Leafs, will he be available to come back to Prudential Center and be honored in some way? That may be via a banner in the rafters, or more likely, in the Ring of Honor.

The Devils held off on inducting anyone into the Ring of Honor last season so as not to take away from Patrik Elias’ jersey retirement. Next season, they will be ripe to induct a new name and Lou just may fit that bill.

The fact that he is no longer in as prominent a role with the Maple Leafs might make that easier.

Time will tell on how the Devils honor Lou, or even if another team lures him away from Toronto. One thing is certain though, the man who was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2009 has cemented his legacy by not only essentially building the Devils from scratch into one of the premier franchises in hockey, but also in helping resurrect one of the flagship franchises of the NHL in the Leafs.

We’re In! Devils Clinch Playoff Spot With Win Over Leafs

The New Jersey Devils have qualified for the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Photo: Elsa/Getty Images

They were not supposed to even be in this position. Win and they are in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since they lost in the Final in 2012.

Well, hold on to your hats. The New Jersey Devils have crashed the party! They do not know where they will be starting the playoffs, who they will be playing or anything like that yet. But right now, none of that matters.

Taylor Hall got a huge monkey off of his back by finally getting to play in the postseason, they were in a playoff position all year and held on to it through the thick and the thin. A team that was supposed to be in a rebuild got a shot in the arm by winning the lottery last season and picking Nico Hischier first overall. Now they are playoff bound. A little ahead of schedule? Maybe. But it does not really matter.

New Jersey is back where it belongs, battling for Lord Stanley!

To the game against Toronto tonight. It was the Devils’ final home game of the season, a win would, of course, negate whatever Florida and Boston did tonight. The only other game that could affect seeding was Pittsburgh-Columbus. If that game did not end up as a three-point game (which it would), the Devils would leapfrog one of those two to move up to as far as third place in the Metro Division. The Jackets won that game in overtime, so it was a three-point game.

Also, Philly defeated Carolina, so there was no effect on the standings there. Florida is still technically alive since the Flyers have not clinched a spot just yet.

The healthy scratches were once again Jesper Bratt, Jimmy Hayes, Marcus Johansson (who may end up getting some playing time at Washington on Saturday according to Deb Placey of MSG+ – I would assume to get him ready for the playoffs), Damon Severson and Drew Stafford. The lineup, including line combos and defense pairings, were largely the same as Tuesday’s Ranger game.

Keith Kinkaid made another start for the Devils and once again played fantastic. The NHL’s hottest goalie made 31 saves on a total of 35 Toronto shots. He made some big stops at opportune times, including off of Devils turnovers late in the first period and midway through the second. For the Maple Leafs, Frederik Andersen went, making 37 saves on 39 shots.

The Leafs have the second ranked power play in the NHL and it showed. The Devils tempted fate by taking a tripping call by Hischier at 6:44 of the first. William Nylander converted on that one, scoring his 20th of the season from Patrick Marleau and Auston Matthews at 6:56. It only took them a few seconds to take a 1-0 lead.

Overall, the Leafs were 1-for-2 on the man advantage with a single shot – which they converted on. New Jersey was 0-for-2 with two shots.

The second period was where the Devils grabbed the scoreboard and did not let go. It began at 7:55 when Pavel Zacha scored from Patrick Maroon to tie things. Zacha stripped the Leafs puckcarrier in the neutral zone and he and Maroon broke in to the Toronto zone. Zacha gave to Maroon and drove towards the net as Maroon skated up the near boards. Maroon passed back as Zacha went to the net. Zacha shot stick side just under the crossbar. Andersen might have gotten a piece of it with the knob of his stick, but it still found twine to make things 1-1.

Midway through the second, Michael Grabner made a nice individual play to steal the puck and jump past the Toronto defenders for a partial breakaway. He would not score, but it was a nice play.

The breakthrough came at 17:02 of the second period when Miles Wood scored the game winner from Maroon. Maroon took the puck at the Leafs’ blueline and drove along the far boards and behind the Toronto goal line. He protected the puck hard and made a quick pass to Wood as he was coming out from the other side of the net. Wood was set up in front of the Leafs’ net and he shoveled it five hole through Andersen to score what would be the game winner, making it 2-1 Devils.

As Placey noted just before the start of the third period, this was the most important 20 minutes of the Devils season so far.

And they responded. With some back-to-back action and some offensive pushes from the Maple Leafs, the Devils weathered the storm. They held on. Through a near scrap between the Devils’ Mueller and the Leafs’ James van Riemsdykm, they held on.

When Toronto pulled Andersen with about two minutes left, the Devils held on.

Through some icings and, finally, to the Leafs’ Mitch Marner being called for a trip with 19:29 left in the game to put Toronto on the penalty kill to end it.

When the final horn sounded, the Devils had weathered it all and were playoff-bound.

Statistically, the Devils outshot the Leafs 39-32, won 47-percent of the game’s faceoffs, were out hit by the Leafs 17-14 and had more blocks with 12 to the Leafs’ nine.

Individually, Andy Greene led in ice time with 24:38 (31 seconds on the power play, 1:18 on the PK) edging out Sami Vatanen who had 24:12 of ice time. Shots on goal saw Wood lead the team with five. Greene led in hits with three and blocks with four as he had a really good game. The Devils’ high in takeaways was two with Blake Coleman, Grabner and Will Butcher each registering there.

Many people have already made the connection that this 2018 Devils team strongly resembles the team from 30 years ago in 1988. We will see if they have what it takes to complete some upsets and get as far as that team did. Until then, we have the final game of the season on Saturday against the Washington Capitals. Seeding will still be at stake for most of the teams in the Eastern Conference. We will get it all sorted out then.

Until Saturday, congratulations to the New Jersey Devils on getting back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Enjoy this for now!

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Devils Lose Heartbreaker in Toronto

Following Sunday’s come-from-behind 7-5 victory in Chicago, you would think that the Devils, a fast, offensive team and the Toronto Maple Leafs, another fast, offensive team, would be poised for a bonanza of goals. After all, the last time these two teams met, the score was 6-3.

The funny thing about hockey is that it never quite works out the way you would think.

New Jersey and Toronto, two of the most prolific goal scoring teams in the league, played to a scoreless tie before the Leafs won, 1-0 with just 2.2 seconds remaining in overtime. There were a lot of twists and turns along the way, so let’s get to it.

Some roster news for both team, first. For the Devils, Michael McLeod was cleared to play, returning off of IR after his preseason injury, and was sent back to his OHL team, the Mississauga Steelheads for a bit more seasoning. Travis Zajac was also cleared to come back and was in the lineup tonight. The original timeline for his return was four to six months after his offseason pectoral injury, but internally, the Devils and Zajac had a timeline of about three to four months and he met that, returning much sooner than expected. Mirco Mueller would almost immediately take his place on IR, having successful surgery on his broken collarbone, suffered in Chicago on Sunday. He will be out for 10 to 12 weeks.

One guy who was missing who the Devils were glad not to see was Auston Matthews. The Leafs’ young superstar has missed the last four with a sore back, but New Jersey would not be shedding any tears not having to go up against him in their second and final visit to Canada’s largest city this year. They will not see the Leafs again until April, when the teams meet in Newark.

Because of the injury to Mueller, Ben Lovejoy moved back inot the lineup on defense. Jimmy Hayes and Pavel Zacha were the healthy scratches up front, while Dalton Prout sat on D.

It was also Brian Boyle’s return to Toronto, where he played late last season into the playoffs before joining the Devils as a free agent this past summer. He was obviously not in the lineup on the Devils’ first trip to Leafs Nation this year.

Having Zajac back in the lineup takes a lot of defensive pressure off of guys like Kyle Palmieri and Taylor Hall. Zajac is one of the best 200-foot forwards in the game and the longest serving Devil on the team played primarily on a line with Drew Stafford and Jesper Bratt, although things were mixed and matched throughout the night as John Hynes looked for the best fit for the veteran. He had practiced with a few different line combos when he did return to the team earlier this week. Zajac said that coming back to a team that is winning is hard to do, since there are higher expectations and you do not want to mess with the chemistry of the team.

As this was a scoreless tie for the whole of regulation, the game could be described as a goaltender’s duel. Cory Schneider, who had not started since last Saturday against Florida, made 24 stops on 25 shots faced. He was named the game’s third star. The Leafs had not played at all since Saturday (at Boston), so their starter, Frederik Andersen, was fresh too. He was equal to all 42 shots the Devils threw his way on his way to earning first star honors. (Toronto’s William Nylander, who scored the game-winner, the only goal of the game, was the game’s second star.)

Stats do not tell the whole story though, as Cory was brilliant for almost the entire night. He made a few nice saves in the first period, including one in close on James van Riemsdyk (a rebound of a shot that he also made a brilliant save on). He would almost make a series of carbon copy saves on Tyler Bozak and van Riemsdyk late in the second period. He also stopped Bozak in the third period when Bozak got free and broke in deep in the Devils’ zone.

After three periods of scoreless hockey, the game went to overtime. It was the first scoreless OT game this season in the NHL. The Devils seemed to be in the driver’s seat. After all, they had weathered the third period storm (the Leafs have outscored their opponents 28-19 in the third frame this season), they seemed to be firing at will on Andersen (although they had nothing to show for it) and they were 6-0-0 this season against Atlantic Division teams so far. Everything seemed to be pointing in the direction of a New Jersey win.

Things were looking even better for the Devils when Jake Gardiner was called for interference against Nico Hischier just 42 seconds into the extra frame. The Devils had an OT power play and seemed poised to win it. But Andersen kept the Maple Leafs in the game and they eventually killed off the man advantage. Although the Devils played very well on the power play tonight, they would finish up going 0-for-3 with a whopping nine shots on goal with the man advantage. Toronto was 0-for-2 with five shots.

The Devils would exit Air Canada Centre with one point, but could not pick up the full two. Nylander would score with just 2.2 seconds left on the clock in OT, from Nazem Kadri and Morgan Rielly to give the Leafs the full two. Nylander’s shot was redirected in off of Kyle Palmieri’s leg, changing directions on Schneider and winning the game for Toronto.

But the Devils did play a very good game. Andy Greene led the game in TOI with 24:01. Palmieri and Hall were the leaders in shots on goal with seven each and Steven Santini once again led in hits with three. WIth Zajac and Boyle (two of the team’s better faceoff men) now in the lineup, the Devils also cut into the opponents’ faceoff percentage, winning 45-percent of the draws in the game. Boyle personally won 42-percent of his faceoffs while Zajac won 40-percent of his.

Next up, the Devils head west to Winnipeg on Saturday to take on the Jets at 3 PM east coast time. Hopefully the Devils can get back on the winning track against a Winnipeg Jets team that has been very good of late and currently stand in second place in the Central Division.

Devils Double Up Toronto, 6-3 to Move Record to 3-0-0

The Devils rolled into Air Canada Centre in Toronto to take on a high-octane offensive Maple Leafs team that had the weapons to annihilate the Devils in a track meet. It was their first night game following two afternoon matinees and Leafs’ coach Mike Babcock thought that with two young, speedy teams, this one should be a good one.

In the end, though, it was the Devils who came away with the 6-3 win and the Devils who showed the offensive onslaught in the face of spending a lot of time in the penalty box. The Devils came into the game having scored ten goals on the year while the Maple Leafs had 19. For Toronto, that was their most goals to start a year (through three games) since 1917 when they were known as the Toronto Arenas.

But the Devils were riding high thanks to players like Jesper Bratt who, with five points in his first two games, set a team record. Other New Jersey Devils history would be made tonight, more on that later.

Injury-wise, Kyle Palmieri was back in the lineup, he did not want to miss what broadcaster Deb Placey was saying felt like a big game feel in October. Drew Stafford is still day-to-day with a lower body injury, he hopes to be able to go for Washington on Friday. Ben Lovejoy and Dalton Prout were the healthy scratches for New Jersey.

To the highlights, as there were a lot of them in a 6-3 game. New Jersey-native James van Riemsdyk gave the Maple Leafs the early 1-0 lead at the 8:33 mark of the first period while on the power play. Brian Gibbons had gone off for slashing at 7:24. Mitch Marner and Morgan Rielly had the assists on van Riemsdyk’s third of the season.

But just as the public address announcer was letting the crowd know about that one, Miles Wood would tie things up. At 9:07, Jimmy Hayes kept the puck in the Leafs’ zone, off a strong forecheck from Wood, and rolled it around to Will Butcher. Butcher slid it across to Steven Santini who fired a puck on net that was tipped in by Wood to tie things at one.

Wood followed that up by giving the Devils the lead just a minute and a half or so later. That one came when Adam Henrique chipped one up towards Wood and it was mishandled by Leafs’ defenseman Calle Rosen. Wood grabbed the puck and beat Toronto goaltender Frederik Andersen on the ensuing breakaway. It was 2-1 Devils. Will Butcher had the secondary assist on the play, giving him two points already on the night. Wood would go on to be named the game’s second star of the night by the media.

At the 11:30 mark of the first, Stefan Noesen took offense to a hit by a Leaf on his teammate and went after Matt Martin. They fought and Noesen would end up with the extra instigator penalty plus a misconduct. The Devils killed off the ensuing Toronto power play.

Dominic Moore of the Maple Leafs tied things up at 13:33 of the first to make it 2-2 going into the first break. He got assists from Nikita Zaitsev and Ron Hainsey.

The second period was when the Devils really got rolling. First, at 8:15. van Riemsdyk was called for slashing and the Devils got a look at a power play. With the extra attacker, Pavel Zacha connected for his first goal of the season at the 9:58 mark. It happened when Marcus Johansson sent the puck to the far point and Jesper Bratt fumbled it, but made a nice play to keep it in the zone and the play alive. Bratt skated deep and played catch with Johansson, who returned him the puck and then played tic-tac-toe to Zacha in the slot. Zahca buried a nice pass from Bratt and it was 3-2 Devils on the power play goal.

History would be made as the Devils made it a 4-2 score. It began at the 14:44 mark when John Moore was nabbed for a cross check against Tyler Bozak at the same time Zacha went off for hooking Rielly. The Devils had a full two minute 5-on-3 power play to kill off, but Brian Gibbons would see to that. Just ten seconds into the penalty kill, Adam Henrique won a faceoff deep in the Devils’ zone. Andy Greene went to clear it and banged it off the boards to Henrique. Henrique charged in with Gibbons on a 2-on-2 Gibbons shot home Henrique’s rebound to give the Devils a 4-2 lead on a very rare 5-on-3 shorthanded goal. How rare? The NHL began to keep this stat in 1987-88 and the Devils had never done this in the regular season. MSG Network statisticians would confirm that it had never happened in the team’s history in the regular season (since 1982-83) until tonight.

The Devils had actually turned the trick once before: in the 2000 playoffs, Scott Niedermayer scored a shorty while killing a 5-on-3 against the Florida Panthers. But this was the first time it happened in the team’s regular season history. The Devils would also kill off the rest of the 5-on-3 power play.

Going into the third period with the lead, the Devils would look to add to it. They did when, at 3:35, Blake Coleman struck unassisted. It happened when Coleman intercepted a Leafs clearing attempt off of a faceoff win deep in their zone. Coleman then shot from the top of the slot, beating Andersen under the left pad using Noesen as a screen. The Devils now had the 5-2 lead. Although the goal was officially unassisted, Gibbons did a good job pressuring the Leafs, forcing them into the interception and leading to the goal.

It was 5-2, but again the Devils went to the penalty box. This time Will Butcher was called for high-sticking at 12:22 and Santini went off at 12:59 for delay of game. The Devils had another 5-on-3 to kill, but would not be as lucky this time. Auston Matthews made them pay at 13:34 with assists to William Nylander and Patrick Marleau. That cut the lead to 5-3. On the night, Toronto was 2-for-8 on the power play. The Devils were 1-for-5.

But the Devils had one more in them to put the game out of reach. Pavel Zacha, the game’s first star, at 17:21 of the third, won a faceoff deep in the Toronto zone back to John Moore. Moore snapped one that Zacha tipped by Andersen to put the icing on the cake, 6-3.

And that was it. Cory Schneider played a fantastic game, keeping the Devils in it as he stopped 47 of 50 Toronto shots. The Leafs had a lot of power play time, leading to that gaudy shot total, but Cory kept the puck out of the net and was named the game’s third star of the night. Andersen made 25 saves on 31 Devils’ shots.

Next up, Friday the 13th. The Devils return home to take on the Washington Capitals in yet another test for a team that is 3-0-0 for the first time since three seasons ago (Pete DeBoer’s final year in New Jersey). We will find out then if the team is up for the challenge of Alex Ovechkin’s crew.

Devils Fall Despite Two Goals from Moore

After a big win against the Rangers on Tuesday, the Devils traveled north of the border for the final time this season to Toronto to take on the Maple Leafs. The Leafs are where the Devils want to get with their young guns propelling them towards the playoffs for the first time in ages. With a lot of the Devils’ youth coming from the Toronto area, this should have been a game that they were up for.

Unfortunately for New Jersey, the Maple Leafs spent the majority of the game in possession of the puck and the Devils played a pretty sloppy second period and the Leafs came away with a 4-2 victory. This was the Devils’ one and only trip to Toronto this year as the other two meetings between these teams came earlier in the year in Newark.

In roster moves, Nick Lappin and Steven Santini were healthy scratches for the Devils. Blake Pietila and Dalton Prout slotted back in for New Jersey. Michael Cammalleri (week-to-week), Jacob Josefson (day-to-day) and Devante Smith-Pelly (day-to-day) all remain out injured. For Toronto, Eric Fehr, Martin Marincin, Ben Smith and Nikita Soshnikov all sat. Roman Polak had a recent disciplinary hearing and likely has been suspended, so he was not in the lineup tonight for the Leafs.

The goalie matchup saw the Devils go to Keith Kinkaid for the first time since March 16-17, when he had back-to-back starts. He made 26 saves on 29 Leafs shots for a .897 save percentage. The Maple Leafs had an empty net goal, so had a total of 30 shots on the night. The Leafs also went to their backup, playing back-to-back games, as coach Mike Babcock turned to Curtis McElhinney. He stopped 30 of 32 Devils shots for a .938 save percentage on the night.

The Devils opened the scoring as John Moore scored his first of two on the night just 2:59 into the first period. It came when Moore skated from the Devils’ zone and moved to his forehand, shooting and handcuffing McElhinney glove side. The puck slipped in and the Devils had a 1-0 lead. Although it was not a power play goal, a delayed penalty was being called on Toronto and Kinkaid had left the net. Kyle Palmieri had the secondary assist on this goal while Damon Severson had the primary.

The Leafs would tie things up on the power play at the 5:46 mark. Jon Merrill had gone off for interference and, with the ensuing man advantage, Josh Leivo took a shot that Kinkaid made the initial save on, but when he tried to cover the puck with his glove, it got away from him and went into the net. William Nylander and Auston Matthews had the assists on that goal. The game was tied up at one.

Toronto took the lead late in the period at the 18:17 mark when Nylander scored his 21st of the year from Matthews and Nikita Zaitsev. On the play, Devils defenseman Ben Lovejoy bumped a Maple Leaf player into Kinkaid, taking him out just as the puck entered the net, after it was shot. If the Devils had tried to challenge here, they most definitely would have lost it, as the player bumped Kinkaid after the shot had already been released.

A scary moment late in the first period came when the Leafs’ Alexey Marchenko blocked a Taylor Hall shot and went down in a heap. He would turn out to be all right and return for the second period.

In the second period, Toronto would take a 3-1 lead when New Jersey native James van Riemsdyk scored from Mitch Marner and Tyler Bozak. This goal came at the 2:04 mark. The second period was a bit of a disaster for New Jersey. They failed to apply any pressure, despite getting a lot of rebounds when they did have the puck. Otherwise, Toronto outplayed them and spent the majority of the time with puck possession.

Things would pick up for the Devils in the third period. It began at 7:14 when Matt Hunwick checked Kyle Palmieri with what would have been a legal hit – had Palmieri had the puck. Travis Zajac saw Palmieri go down, as Palmieri was caught by surprise on the hit, and jumped to his aid, going after Hunwick. He would end up fighting Brian Boyle and the two would go off for fighting. Zajac and Boyle also took roughing calls here, but it was the Devils who came out with the two man advantage. They were already on the power play for a holding call on Morgan Rielly at 6:49 and Hunwick was also sent off for interference.

With the 5-on-3 power play, Moore would strike again. It was actually 5-on-4 when Moore scored, since the Rielly penalty had expired already. It came at the 9:04 mark when Pavel Zacha held the line on a Maple Leafs clearing attempt. He passed across to Moore at the other point and Moore fired a wrist shot by McElhinney to make it 3-2 Leafs. Taylor Hall had the secondary assist on Moore’s Devils defensemen leading ninth goal of the season. Toronto used their coach’s challenge for goaltender interference on this goal, but replays showed the officials that Joe Blandisi bumped McElhinney after the puck had already crossed the goal line. The call on the ice stood as a good goal and the Leafs lost their timeout.

The Devils seemed to have things in their favor. Miles Wood drove in on McElhinney late and got a one-handed shot off on the goaltender before crashing into the endboards. He seemed shaken up and was clutching his left arm, but did not miss a shift, so he seemed okay.

New Jersey would pull Kinkaid with about one minute left in the game in an attempt to tie things up, but Connor Brown scored into the empty net, icing the game for Toronto with a 4-2 victory at 19:14. He got assists from Leo Komarov and Nazem Kadri.

So, as the Devils move closer to being officially mathematically eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs, we look ahead to the next game. The Devils will return home to play the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday. The Hurricanes are still on the fringe of the playoffs, but seem to be fading as well. We will see just what the Devils have left as this season limps to a finish.

Devils Honor Past; Fall to Leafs in Present

The New Jersey Devils tonight honored the man who brought the team to New Jersey and then proceeded to play a very strange game, falling 4-2 to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Devils’ night started with a special ceremony to induct original team owner, Dr. John J. McMullen, the man who bought the Colorado Rockies and brought them east, as the first member of their new Ring of Honor.

It was a nice ceremony, with a video package narrated by former Devils broadcaster Mike “Doc” Emrick, appearances by Dr. McMullen’s family as well as Devils alumni. Those alumni included “Mr. Devil” Ken Daneyko, Bruce Driver, current Maple Leafs president and former Devils’ player Brendan Shanahan, 1995 Conn Smythe Trophy winner Claude Lemieux, Glenn “Chico” Resch, Stephane Richer, John MacLean, Randy McKay and Sergei Starikov – one of the first Soviet hockey players to play in the NHL, who was signed by Dr. McMullen. Also present was former Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello, now GM of the Maple Leafs. After everyone was introduced, dignitaries from the City of Newark and the Devils, as well as Devils’ all-time leading scorer, Patrik Elias, dedicated a stretch of Lafayette Street near the Prudential Center as “Dr. John J. McMullen Way,” presenting a road sign to the late owner’s wife, Jacqueline and son, Peter.

After that, the in-arena dedication of a mural was unveiled in section 103 of the Prudential Center. This will serve as the actual “Ring of Honor” where McMullen’s name will live on. Following that, the Devils’ Kyle Palmieri and the Leafs’ James van Riemsdyk took the ceremonial faceoff. This was significant since both men grew up in, and played their youth hockey in, New Jersey: Palmieri in Montvale and van Riemsdyk in Middletown.

After all of the pomp and circumstance was over, there was still a game to be played. The Devils would wear their white uniforms, as those were originally their home unis and what they were wearing when they clinched their first Stanley Cup in 1995 against the Red Wings at Brendan Byrne Arena. They also wore a small red, white and green patch in honor of Dr. McMullen, combining the logo of the Colorado Rockies and the Devils in the original Devils’ colors.

And that game would be the first time in 350 that would be played without Andy Greene. The Devils captain is out with what the team is calling an “upper body injury.” He left the ice in the first period in Carolina on Tuesday, clutching at what seemed to be his eye, but it turned out that it may have been a wrist injury.

So due to that turn of events, Seth Helgeson was called up from Albany to fill in on the blue line. Also scratched for New Jersey were Jacob Josefson and Luke Gazdic. Sitting for Toronto were Frank Corrado and Josh Leivo.

The goaltending matchup saw Cory Schneider start for the Devils. He was starting his third straight game, but only faced five shots, giving up three goals (including a puck handling gaffe on the power play that led directly to a Maple Leaf goal) before being pulled in favor of Keith Kinkaid who stopped eight of nine shots. In net for Toronto was Frederik Andersen. The Devils assaulted him with 32 shots on goal, but he was equal to 30 of them in being named the game’s first star.

The Leafs came out flying in the first period, scoring three different ways. First, Nazem Kadri scored on the power play at 9:26 after Jon Merrill was whistled for boarding. Kadri’s goal was assisted by Tyler Bozak and van Riemsdyk.

At 11:28, Toronto’s Mitchell Marner was called for hooking and the Devils were on the power play. The puck would be played back into the Devils’ zone and, eventually, to Schneider. Cory fumbled the puck and the Leafs’ Connor Brown jumped on it, putting it behind Schneider unassisted at 13:17. The shorthanded goal was a rare miscue from Cory, who has been getting steadily better at handling the puck. It was now 2-0 Maple Leafs.

Just 1:23 later, Maple Leaf super rookie Auston Matthews scored his 21st of the season from Zack Hyman and Jake Gardiner. That was when Devils coach John Hynes had seen enough and pulled Cory in favor of Keith Kinkaid.

But Toronto was not done with their onslaught. The first shot Kinkaid faced, from Tyler Bozak at the 15:15 mark of the first period, found twine and it was 4-0 Maple Leafs. Van Riemsdyk and Kadri had the assists. That one was a power play goal, as Kyle Quincey was serving a roughing minor.

Any Devils fan in the stands or watching at home could only assume that it would only get better from there. And it did. The Devils had numerous scoring chances in the second and early in the third periods, but missed all of them. It did not help that they went 1-for-4 on the power play while Toronto converted on two of three power play chances.

The Devils finally found life late in the third period when Toronto’s Roman Polak was called for hooking Sergey Kalinin. With him in the box, Michael Cammalleri dished from the near corner to Adam Henrique at the right point. He fired and PA Parenteau gathered the rebound, was stopped and then buried his own rebound for his 12th goal of the year to make it 4-1, Toronto. That goal came at the 16:36 mark of the third.

At the 17:31 mark, Devante Smith-Pelly broke the Devils out of their zone, giving the puck to Miles Wood. Wood gave to Jon Merrill, who shot, missed the net, gathered his own rebound behind the Toronto net and scored on a wraparound to make it 4-2.

The Devils would pull Kinkaid, trying to finish the rally, but it was not to be. Time ran out and the Devils’ brief win streak was halted.

But it is a quick turnaround for the Devils, as they cannot dwell on this loss. Adam Larsson and the Edmonton Oilers come to town on Saturday night. It will be Taylor Hall’s first shot at his former teammates. Hall was very upset with the Oilers trading him last summer. Can revenge be a motivating factor in Saturday’s game? We will find out Saturday night.