The Devils rolled in to Sin City feeling good following their shootout win in Arizona. Unfortunately, they let a two goal lead slip away and fell to the Vegas Golden Knights, 3-2 at T-Mobile Arena.
The Golden Knights have been one of the hottest teams in the NHL for the last month or so following a slow start. They had won five in a row coming into this game. But the Devils were on a bit of a warm streak of their own, having gone 6-4-1 since their comeback overtime win over these same Knights back on December 14 in Newark.
But if the Devils were going to win tonight, they would have to do so without Mackenzie Blackwood. The rookie goaltender missed the game with a lower body injury. Cam Johnson was recalled from Binghamton to back up Keith Kinkaid. In a cool move, the Devils signed Jeremy Brodeur, Marty’s son, to a PTO and he will be the backup in Binghamton for the time being as the Devils have obviously had some goalie injury problems with Cory Schneider, Eddie Lack and now Blackwood all suffering injuries right now.
In addition to Blackwood, Mirco Mueller and John Quenneville were the other scratches.
Keith Kinkaid got the start in goal, as he was scheduled to do and made 25 saves on 28 Vegas shots. Facing him was Malcolm Subban (PK’s brother) who made 36 stops on 38 Devils shots. Subban was named the game’s third star as he made a good showing in giving workhorse Marc-Andre Fleury a rare night off. This was also Subban’s first home start as a Golden Knight. Max Pacioretty was the first star and Alex Tuch the second as the media went with a Golden Knights sweep of the three stars.
It was the exact half way point of the season for the Devils, game number 41 and the Devils got off to a good start in this one. Nico Hischier put the Devils up on the board first, scoring from Jesper Bratt and Ben Lovejoy 5:06 into the contest. It ended up being a nice individual effort by Nico, although it was not fully intended as such. Hischier tried to make a pass to Damon Severson as the two were breaking in on a partial 2-on-1. The pass was batted down by the Knights’ defender and came back to Nico’s stick. He shot and beat Subban to make it 1-0 Devils, the second straight game that Hischier had scored the opener for New Jersey.
Vegas had a chance to make it 1-1 when a scramble in front of the Devils net led to the puck going in after the net was dislodged. Toronto reviewed it, but there was intent to blow the whistle by the referee, which was good enough to help the call on the ice of no goal stand up.
The Devils would double down on their lead at the 9:37 mark of the first when Ben Lovejoy scored from Pavel Zacha and Drew Stafford. It was a rare goal from the defenseman (his first of the year and first since March of 2017) but a nice one. It happened when Lovejoy took a pass in front of the Vegas net on his backhand. He waited and pulled Subban out of position before going to his forehand and beating the goalie from an odd angle. The Devils now had the 2-0 lead.
But that would only last until the 12:30 mark of the first when Zacha tried to make an ill-advised pass across the Devils’ zone and it was knocked down by Ryan Reaves. He skated in on Kinkaid and the shot trickled by the New Jersey netminder. It now was 2-1 Devils.
The Golden Knights got a little bit of puck luck when Brayden McNabb tied it 11:17 into the second period. The goal was initially waved off on the ice saying that Ryan Carpenter interfered with Kinkaid, preventing him from making the save. Vegas used their coach’s challenge on this and the replays showed that there was only minor contact between Carpenter and Kinkaid’s blocker and the call on the ice was overturned. It was a good goal and the game was now tied up at two. Cody Eakin and Carpenter had the assists on the goal.
The game winner for Vegas would come 4:31 later when, on a delayed penalty against the Devils, Max Pacioretty tipped a Shea Theodore shot by Kinkaid to make it 3-2. Alex Tuch had the other assist.
Flash forward to the third period when the Devils would pull Kinkaid while on the power play (Reaves was off for tripping) and had the 6-on-4 for a few seconds. They did not score, but caught a break when Reaves came out of the penalty box and tried to shoot for the empty net. His shot went down the rink and over the glass without being tipped. That was a delay of game penalty and Reaves was right back in the box. The Devils were back on the power play and with Kinkaid pulled again, ended the game on a 6-on-4. But they were unable to score and 3-2 was our final.
On special teams, the Devils penalty kill continued to dominate, keeping Vegas 0-for-2 with the man advantage with four shots. The Devils did not get a power play until the third period (the Reaves tripping call) and also went 0-for-2 with six shots on goal.
The Devils out shot the Knights by ten, 38-28, including out shooting them 20-6 in the third period. The Devils also won 43-percent of the game’s faceoffs, out hit the Knights by one, 30 to 29. Both teams had 17 blocked shots and Vegas has more giveaways, 8-2.
Individually, Andy Greene edged out birthday boy Will Butcher (20:42) and Damon Severson (20:23) for the most TOI among skaters with 20:55 (including 2:54 on the PK). Travis Zajac led all forwards with 19:15 (2:33 on the PP and 2:32 shorthanded). Kyle Palmieri led in shots on goal with seven, Blake Coleman led in hits with six, Brian Boyle led in blocked shots with four and Palmieri and Lovejoy led in takeaways with two apiece.
Next up, the Devils shuffle off to Buffalo on Tuesday as the Devils are back in the Eastern time zone to take on the Sabres. We will have that game for you right here and, as always, if you have any comments, please do not hesitate to voice your opinion in the comment section below.