Well, at least it’s over. That’s the silver lining for what was just a brutal stretch of games for the Devils that began with a loss to Tampa in sunny Florida and ended with one to Winnipeg in snowy Manitoba. The Devils fell tonight 5-2 to the Jets.
Coach John Hynes felt that it was time to change things up. Defenseman Egor Yakovlev, the 27-year-old rookie the Devils signed from SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL, who the team recalled from Binghamton back on October 22, made his NHL debut tonight. The 2018 Olympic gold medalist was paired with Damon Severson primarily and wore number 74. Mirco Mueller drew out for him and joined Jean-Sebastien Dea and Drew Stafford as healthy scratches. Steven Santini remains the only Devil on injured reserve, but he joined the team in Toronto and has been cleared for contact.
Hynes also felt it was time to shuffle the lines a bit. Moving up to center the top line with Kyle Palmieri and Taylor Hall was Travis Zajac while Nico Hischier dropped down to center the second line. Nico would be lost for the game in the second period with what the team is calling an upper body injury. We will see how much time he misses, if any.
Between the pipes, Cory Schneider got his third start of the season – still looking for that elusive first win of the 2018 calendar year. He ended up making 23 saves on 28 Winnipeg shots. For the Jets, Connor Hellebuyck, a Vezina Trophy candidate from last season, started. He made 34 stops on 36 Devils shots, his best possibly coming in the third period when he stopped Will Butcher who was all alone in the slot in front of him.
Things got off to a rough start as Winnipeg scored twice wtihin 29 seconds. At 3:02, Jack Roslovic scored from Dustin Byfuglien as Roslovic picked up a loose puck in the Devils’ zone and roofed one over Cory’s shoulder.
Mark Scheifele then scored his first of two in the game when he scored from Blake Wheeler and Nikolaj Ehlers at 3:31. As Bryce Salvador, filling in for Ken Daneyko on color commentary (Daneyko was back in Toronto playing in the Hockey Hall of Fame NHL alumni game), said, it was just a missed assignment that led to a tic-tac-toe play by the Jets. Just like that, it was 2-0 Winnipeg.
But the Devils had some fight. At 7:15, Brett Seney scored his first career NHL goal from Jesper Bratt and Damon Severson. That one came when Severson pushed the puck in deep to Bratt. Bratt came out from behind the Jets’ net and backhanded a pass to Seney in the slot. Seney then unleashed a one-timer that beat Hellebuyck to cut the Winnipeg lead in half to 2-1.
But the Devils would never got closer than one goal back. At the 2:58 mark of the second, Scheifele scored his second of the game from Jacob Trouba to make it a two goal lead again for the Jets, 3-1. This goal was just Scheifele scoring backdoor off a nice pass from Trouba.
The Devils were down two again, but would get back within one for the final time in this game. It came at 3:45 of the second period off the stick of Blake Coleman and Damon Severson had the lone assist on the goal. This developed when Severson corralled a loose puck in the Devils’ zone and banked a pass off the boards up to Coleman. Coleman skated into the Jets zone and beat Hellebuyck glove side to make it 3-2. But that would be it for the Devils’ scoring on the night.
A bit of craziness in the second came 5:00 in when Byfuglien hit Brian Boyle up high and Ben Lovejoy immediately came to Boyle’s aid, trying to go one-on-one with the much bigger Byfuglien. When the dust settled, the Devils, who were on the penalty kill, ended up 4-on-4. Boyle was given an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty (two minutes) as was Byfuglien, but Byfuglien was also given two minutes for charging Boyle. The Devils had a brief power play when the Stefan Noesen cross checking penalty, issued at 4:21, expired. Overall on the power play, the Devils were 0-for-3 with four shots while the Jets were 0-for-1 with a single shot.
The rest of the scoring occurred in the second period. Ehlers scored at 7:54 to give Winnipeg a 4-2 lead. Scheifele (his third point on the night) and Wheeler had the assists. This goal actually came on a delayed penalty on the Devils, so the Jets had the goalie pulled for the extra attacker – although this does not count as a power play goal, it does show what the Jets, with the number one-ranked power play in the NHL, can do in that situation.
A tough break for the Devils came midway through the second when a Bratt breakaway was whistled down on a phantom offsides call. The replay showed that the Devils were not actually offsides and that the linesman simply blew the play dead very early. A tough break in a series of them on this road trip.
Mathieu Perreault finished off the scoring to make it 5-2 Jets at the 12:47 mark of the second. He got assists from Kyle Connor and Bryan Little. Perreault scored from a slightly weird angle that just beat Schneider. And that was our final.
For the Devils, the stats do not look too good, but not that bad either. They won a paltry 39-percent of the game’s faceoffs and Winnipeg blocked more shots 25 to 11. But they did outhit the Jets, 23 to 20 and had less giveaways (17 for the Jets and just nine for New Jersey).
Individually, Sami Vatanen had the most ice time with 26:43 total (including 2:56 on the power play). Hall led the forwards with 20:34 of total ice time (including 2:27 on the power play). Vatanen had five shots on goal to lead in that category and also led in hits with five. Miles Wood led in blocked shots with three while Hall, Zajac, Palmieri, Noesen, Marcus Johansson, Butcher and Vatanen each had one takeaway to lead there.
Next up, the Devils finally return home to the friendly confines of Prudential Center for a Tuesday tilt with the Penguins. After going 1-6-0 on this road trip, some home cooking would seem extremely nice right about now.