Devils Fall in Music City

For PK Subban, tonight was a homecoming of sorts. He received the, now ubiquitous, tribute video on the videoboard during the first TV timeout of the game, acknowledging the crowd and their standing ovation. But, as he told Erika Wachter on the MSG pregame show, it would be all for nothing if the Devils lost. Unfortunately, they lost to remain winless in the last five, falling to the Nashville Predators 6-4 at Bridgestone Arena.

Nico Hischier remained out as he is battling an illness still. The update on Sami Vatanen is that he played after taking a puck to the face late in last night’s game versus Chicago. Colton White and John Hayden were the Devils’ healthy scratches.

In addition to Subban returning to Nashville, Wayne Simmonds was also returning to the Music City, although he did not spend as much time there as Subban did.

The Devils were on the backend of a back-to-back while the Preds had not played since last Tuesday, a 3-2 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning at home.

The Predators came out swinging in this one. Just 46 seconds into the game, Daniel Carr scored his first of the season when he tipped a Dan Hamhuis shot from the point by Devils starting goalie Louis Domingue.

Nashville would waste no time in doubling their lead either. At the 2:13 mark of the first, Dante Fabbro scored when Nick Bonino made a slick move around a Devils defender and then dished to Fabbro, who scored from the near faceoff circle. Craig Smith had the secondary assist.

But from there, the Devils made the comeback in a remarkable first four minutes of the game. Jesper Bratt scored at 2:45 when Vatanen, at the point, got it to Pavel Zacha at the halfwall. He passed to a trailing Bratt, who fired the pass by Nashville starting goaltender Pekka Rinne to cut the Preds’ lead in half at 2-1.

Then the full comeback at 3:59 when Blake Coleman worked along the wall, getting the puck to Nikita Gusev. He passed to Travis Zajac on the doorstep. Rinne read the play wrong and was actually falling backwards as Zajac put the puck under him and in to tie the game at two apiece.

Four goals in just under four minutes, the first time it has happened involving the Devils since February 9, 1993 against the Red Wings according to MSG.

The second period saw the Predators build up another two goal lead beginning at the 5:52 mark when Yakov Trenin scored his first NHL goal. Rocco Grimaldi had beaten the Devils in on the forecheck and grabbed the puck, he got it to Trenin, who shot. The shot would have actually gone wide of the net had it not hit a Devils’ skate in front and gone in. It was now 3-2 Nashville.

It became 4-2 at the 7:23 mark when Filip Forsberg scored. The Predators won a faceoff in the Devils’ zone and got the puck back to Roman Josi at the point. He shot and there was a scramble in front. Calle Jarnkrok touched it and Forsberg put it home with Jarnkrok getting the primary assist.

But the Devils would climb back into things again beginning when Coleman drew a tripping penalty from Forsberg while on a partial breakaway at 12:15. On the ensuing power play, Kyle Palmieri would score. At 13:07, Vatanen got the puck from the point down to Taylor Hall at the near halfwall. He passed into the slot to Palmieri, who one-timed it by Rinne to make it 4-3

The Devils ended the night 1-for-4 on the power play on a positive note. They had four power play shots and one shorthanded shot. Nashville was 0-for-6 on the man advantage with four shots as well as a pair of shots down a man.

Early in the third period, Coleman blocked a shot and left the game injured, but did return and should be set to go on Tuesday in Dallas, his hometown.

The Predators would again go up by two at 5:47 of the third when Bonino scored. Bonino shot from a weird angle, from just above the goal line, beating Domingue top shelf. Fabbro and Mattias Ekholm had the assists on the goal that made it 5-3.

But the Devils just kept hanging in. At 11:09, Jack Hughes lost the puck to a Nashville defender, then took it back. He got it on net and Hall was right there to poke home the rebound. The Devils had climbed back in to make it 5-4.

But Nashville put the final nail in their coffin when Grimaldi scored at 12:44 of the third. Grimaldi poked it free from Subban at the Preds’ blue line and was off on a breakaway, He converted to make it 6-4.

The Devils would pull Domingue with about 2:45 left in regulation, but a too many men on the ice bench minor put the kibosh on the extra attacker.

The last four meetings between these two teams at Bridgestone Arena had gone to overtime, with the Devils winning three of the four. But not tonight. Nashville pulled out the 6-4 victory.

The Devils won only 46-percent of the game’s faceoffs, had 11 hits to the Preds’ nine. The teams were even in shots blocked with 13 each and giveaways with 11 each.

Damon Severson led all New Jersey skaters with 23:11 of ice time (including 3:22 shorthanded) while Zajac led the forwards with 19:05 (3:45 on the PK included).

Shots were led by Coleman with seven. Coleman also led in the hits category with three. Blocked shots saw Vatanen and Subban lead with three each. Zajac had three takeaways to lead in that column.

As mentioned, the Devils will be off to Dallas on Tuesday to take on the Stars. The Stars are a very good team and I would be extremely surprised if this is where the Devils’ winless streak comes to an end. But stranger things have happened and we will have coverage for you right here following the game, which has an 8:30 PM ET puckdrop.

Devils Lose Shootout to Blackhawks

The Chicago Blackhawks may not be what they used to be, but they still have the tools to be quite dangerous. They defeated the Devils 2-1 in a shootout tonight at Prudential Center.

The Devils had few roster changes prior to tonight’s game to get to first. Jack Hughes was back in the lineup after missing the last three due to a lower body injury. Defenseman Matt Tennyson, following the hit he took in the Vegas game, has been placed on injured reserve retroactive to December 3. Colton White was recalled from Binghamton to take his spot on the roster, although he did not play tonight (John Hayden was the other healthy scratch for New Jersey). Mirco Mueller slotted in for Tennyson. Connor Carrick was taken off of IR and was sent to Binghamton on a conditioning stint. Finally, Nico Hischier missed tonight’s game due to illness.

One roster move from the Blackhawks would have an effect on a Devil personally. Jesper Boqvist’s brother Adam plays for Chicago but was sent down to the AHL Rockford IceHogs and so, the first NHL meeting between the two was delayed. It would have been the third time a Devils player would have faced his brother this season following Jack and Quinn Hughes (Vancouver) and PK and Malcolm Subban (Vegas).

It was Star Wars Night at the Rock and the Devils were hoping the Force was with them as they headed into battle with Chicago.

Things started right for the Devils, with just the wrong bounces. The Devils had a nice scoring chance when the puck rolled along the goal line behind Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford, but did not go in.

A scrap in the first period got things going for the crowd and the Devils. Dennis Gilbert of the Hawks hit Hughes with a clean hit, but Wayne Simmonds took exception to it. It was coming along the boards and Hughes seemingly had his head down. Again, it was a clean hit, but it led to a spirited fight between Gilbert and Simmonds that saw Simmonds get the win with the takedown.

The Devils had some early power play chances – three of them to be exact – but did not connect until the third. At 12:30, Chicago’s Zack Smith took an elbowing penalty against Nikita Gusev. On the ensuing power play, Gusev played catch with Sami Vatanen from the far wall to the point. Vatanen, at the point, passed to Taylor Hall at the near half wall and he wristed one through a Pavel Zacha screen and by Crawford at 13:31 of the first. It was Hall’s first goal since November 23rd against the Red Wings. The Devils had the 1-0 lead that would last them into the second period.

But the Blackhawks would tie things up, also on the power play, at the 9:35 mark of the second. Vatanen had gone off for a hook on Patrick Kane and the Hawks went to work. Moving the puck around the perimeter, they got it to Kane at the near faceoff circle. He shot and the rebound came to Alex DeBrincat. He shot from a weird angle and put it into an empty net, as Devils goalie Mackenzie Blackwood could not get across his crease in time. Dylan Strome had the secondary assist on the goal that knotted things at one.

Following a scoreless third period, Chicago was off to their second straight overtime game, as they had beaten the Bruins last night in OT. The third was not completely eventless, as the Devils lost Sami Vatanen when he got hit in the face with a puck. There was no word in Alain Nasreddine’s postgame press conference about his status, but he did not return.

OT saw some back-and-forth hockey, but no goals – although a shot from the Hawks’ Erik Gustafsson missed the net by inches just as time was expiring.

Following that, we were headed to a shootout.

In the first round, Jonathan Toews went for Chicago, going forehand/backhand to beat Blackwood. Gusev went for the Devils and scored five hole with Crawford only getting a small piece of the puck.

The second round saw Kane up for the Blackhawks. He slowed down on his approach and beat Blackwood through the five hole. Boqvist finished out the round for New Jersey and he scored off the post and in.

From there, the goals dried up a little bit. In the third round, Chicago sent out DeBrincat and he was stopped by Blackwood Kyle Palmieri was up for the Devils and he was stopped by Crawford.

In fourth round, Blackwood made a stop on Dylan Strome and Hall’s shot was saved by Crawford.

It was down to the fifth round with the Devils having been unable to close things out. Kirby Dach went first for the Hawks and he went top shelf over Blackwood’s glove to put Chicago out in front. The game was down to Hughes as his goal would tie things up. Crawford stopped his attempt and the Blackhawks came away with the victory.

Over the night, Crawford was 29-for-30 for a .967 save percentage. Blackwood turned aside 28 of the 29 shots he faced for a .966 save percentage.

The Blackhawks’ power play was clicking at a fifty-percent rate tonight, as they went 1-for-2 with two shots. They also pumped two shorthanded shots in on Blackwood. The Devils went 1-for-4 with three shots on goal with the man advantage.

The Devils were back on top in the faceoff circle, winning 53-percent of the game’s draws. They had 18 hits to the Hawks’ 13. Both teams had the same amount of blocked shots at 20 apiece. Giveaways saw the Devils rack up 13 to Chicago’s eight.

Shots on goal were led by Hall with six, hits by Kevin Rooney and Simmonds with three each, blocks by Vatanen with five before he got hurt and takeaways by Blake Coleman with two.

Time on ice was led by Damon Severson with 26:49 (3:04 on the power play and 57 seconds shorthanded included). Vatanen was limited to 17:52 (3:22 on PP and 28 seconds on the PK) before leaving the game with an injury. Hall led the forwards with 22:28 (including 5:03 on the power play).

Next up, the Devils will travel to Nashville tomorrow night for a game with the Predators. It will be PK Subban’s first trip back to Nashville since being traded to the Devils. We will have that for you here following the 8 PM puck drop.