Following the Devils’ loss to the Islanders on Long Island Thursday, they knew something had to change. They wanted a win heading into their week-long bye that starts tomorrow and ends on Monday, January 28 at Pittsburgh.
Unfortunately, they could not pick up that momentum as they fell to the Anaheim Ducks 3-2 at Prudential Center today.
The big news coming out of yesterday’s practice was veteran Drew Stafford calling a players-only meeting on the ice following the hard workout they were put through by the coaching staff. The Devils had a season-low 17 shots versus the Isles and wanted to get out some frustrations amongst the players. It has been a frustrating season for all involved and the players just needed to work some stuff out.
In other news, Taylor Hall will indeed miss the 2019 All-Star festivities in San Jose and Kyle Palmieri has been chosen to take his place as the Devils’ lone representative. Palmieri, for his part, said that, while he is excited and grateful for the opportunity, he would give it all back to have a healthy Taylor Hall in the Devils’ lineup. But Palmieri definitely deserves this honor and congratulations to him. We will see him in San Jose on the 26th and 27th.
Injuries have been a big part of the year and they continue to plague the Devils’ season. Miles Wood has been placed on injured reserve retroactive to January 14 due to his lower body injury. Ben Lovejoy missed today’s game with the upper body injury that kept him out of the Islander game as well. He was scratched from the lineup. In addition, Blake Pietila was sent back down to AHL Binghamton.
With all of those roster moves, the Devils recalled Kurtis Gabriel and Nathan Bastian from Binghamton to fill up the spots vacated. Gabriel was a healthy scratch today along with Egor Yakovelv. Bastian, however, would see playing time, making his NHL debut wearing number 42. He would even get into his first NHL fight, battling Josh Manson in the second period.
Mackenzie Blackwood was back in net for the Devils, as he stopped 11 of 14 shots against for a .786 save percentage. For Anaheim, their All-Star, John Gibson started and made 29 stops on 31 shots for a .935 save percentage. The Devils held the Ducks shots down under 20, including out shooting them 14-3 in the second period, but still could not score enough of their own to prevail.
Marcus Johansson, who went on to be named the game’s third star, got the scoring going 6:50 into the game. He took a pass from Jesper Bratt in the Ducks’ zone and skated to the front of the net all alone, backhanding it upstairs to beat Gibson and make it 1-0 Devils. Will Butcher had the secondary assist on this early goal.
But the Ducks wasted no time in getting that one back. Daniel Sprong buried a Nick Ritchie rebound over Blackwood’s glove to tie things. Adam Henrique had the secondary assist and got the puck to the net in the fist place. The goal came at 9:10. The Devils challenged for offsides, saying that Henrique was the man to head into the zone before the puck, but after the review, the call on the ice stood: it was a good goal. Because the Devils lost the challenge for offsides, they took a delay of game bench minor that put Anaheim on the power play.
And 1:28 into that man advantage, Troy Terry took a pass from Hampus Lindholm at the top of the far faceoff circle. He fired and scored his first National Hockey League goal, the second player to do it against the Devils in two games. Sprong had the other assist on this one, which put the Ducks up 2-1. Terry, you may remember, was the shootout specialist from Team USA at the 2017 World Junior Championship, seemingly scoring every time he touched the puck in that situation.
Special teams struggled for the Devils today. They went 0-for-4 with seven shots on the power play and had three shorthanded shots. Anaheim was 1-for-2, scoring on their only power play shot. They also had one shorthanded shot on Blackwood.
Brian Boyle was shaken up in the first period when he was hit awkwardly by Manson.
There was no scoring in the second period, although the Devils had lots of chances. But in the third period, newly acquired Derek Grant scored for the Ducks 5:11 into the frame. The Devils had dominated the first five minutes of the period in terms of possession, but once Anaheim took control, Terry got the puck to Grant at the near faceoff dot in the Devils’ zone and he snapped one by Blackwood just under the crossbar. It was now 3-1 Ducks.
But hold on, with Blackwood pulled for the extra attacker and 56 seconds to go in regulation, Butcher found a nice seam to get the puck to Bratt at the near faceoff dot. Much like the Grant goal, Bratt snapped a wrist shot by Gibson’s glove to make it 3-2 Anaheim.
But that was it. The Devils had that late surge but could not do any more. A few timely defensive plays by the Ducks let time run out and the Devils fell, 3-2.
New Jersey out shot the Ducks 31-14. The Devils won 49-percent of the game’s faceoffs, the teams were dead even in hits with 19 each, the Ducks blocked more shots at 11 to the Devils’ nine. The Devils also had more giveaways at four to Anaheim’s one.
Sami Vatanen led the Devils defensemen in ice time against his former team, going 23:39 (including 2:54 of power play time and 1:57 on the penalty kill) while Travis Zajac led all skaters with 23:51 (4:36 on the PP and 1:47 on the PK). Shots were led by Damon Severson and Vatanen, who both had five apiece. Hits were led by the All-Star Kyle Palmieri with six. Blocked shots were led by Andy Greene with two, as he also leads all NHL players in blocked shots this season so far. Blake Coleman led in takeaways with two.
Next up for the Devils, their much needed bye week. They will be off until a week from Monday when they travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Penguins. In the meantime, the 2019 NHL All-Star Skills Weekend will take place on the 26th and 27th. We will have coverage of that for you, to see how Palmieri does.
Please do not hesitate to share your thoughts in the comments section below as they are always appreciated.