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.