Devils Lose in Shootout to Hynes, Preds

The Devils played the Nashville Predators close in John Hynes’ return to Prudential Center, but ultimately, it was Hynes who had the last laugh when his team won in a shootout 6-5.

The game was broadcast on NBCSN, the Devils’ last such appearance this season, and the storyline for them going in was PK Subban’s second meeting with his former teammates. The return of John Hynes kind of fell into their lap when the Preds hired him a month or so after he was fired by the Devils. Hynes was facing his friend and former assistant Alain Nasreddine.

As for Subban, he had been dealing with an illness and was a game-time decision but did play. Connor Carrick remained the Devils’ lone scratch as the lineup stayed largely the same as against Ottawa on Monday night.

The Devils paid tribute to the late Kobe Bryant prior to the game. Bryant had some connections to the Devils. Wayne Simmonds shared a practice facility with him and the Lakers when Simmonds was playing for the Kings and got to know him a little, as mentioned by Matt Loughlin on Twitter, for one. PK Subban was also friends with Bryant. Also, Bryant’s Lakers defeated the then-New Jersey Nets in the 2002 NBA Finals to claim another championship for the storied Los Angeles franchise.

The goaltending matchup featured Mackenzie Blackwood for the Devils making 25 saves on 30 shots for Nashville. He finished the night with an .833 save percentage. He also stopped one of three Predators’ attempts in the shootout. Facing him was Pekka Rinne, who turned aside 27 of the 32 shots the Devils fired at him for an .844 save percentage. He stopped two of the three Devils shootout attempts.

The scoring began 42 seconds into the game, quite an indication of what was to come. Mattias Ekholm scored that one when he took a slap shot that redirected off of Blake Coleman’s stick and up and over Blackwood’s shoulder. Jarred Tinordi and Matt Duchene had the assists on the early goal that made it 1-0 Nashville.

It would take the Devils about four minutes to respond.

The goal came shorthanded and the sequence began when Colton Sissons of the Preds was called for a high stick on John Hayden at 2:53. The Devils were on the power play until a Damon Severson trip at 4:22 nullified the last 30 seconds or so. That up things at 4-on-4.

Just as the Sissons penalty expired, at 4:54, Nico Hischier won the puck in the far corner and passed out of the corner to Pavel Zacha camped near the front of the Predators’ net. Zacha than skated in on Rinne and beat him to tie the score at one apiece. It was the first of a three-point night for Zacha. Sami Vatanen had the secondary assist.

Before the first frame was up, however, Nashville would get that one back.

On this goal, which came at the 8:17 mark of the first, Kyle Turris took a shot on Blackwood with Filip Forsberg driving to the net. Forsberg put the rebound in to make it 2-1 Nashville. Viktor Arvidsson had the secondary assist.

That put the Preds up going into the first break. And in the second, it would take some time, but the Devils would really warm to the task.

It began at the 8:44 mark while on the power play. Nashville’s Ryan Johansen was called for a hook on Nikita Gusev to put the Devils on the man advantage. Then, a Zacha shot was redirected in off of Dante Fabbro’s stick and past Rinne to tie the game at two. Gusev had the lone assist on the goal, on his way to a two-point night.

And that second point came less than two minutes after Zacha’s goal. Duchene was assessed a high-sticking penalty on Gusev at the 9:59 mark and the Devils’ power play went to work again. At 10:26, both Nashville defenseman Dan Hamhuis and goalie Rinne were left without sticks. Gusev took advantage when he shot from a sharp angle from below the goal line that went in to an empty net. Zacha had the primary assist and Severson had the secondary. That assist for Severson was his 150th NHL point according to NBCSN’s in-game crawl.

But just as this game had gone so far, the Predators would tie it again, just a little more than two minutes later. At 12:48, Nick Bonino scored when he and Craig Smith and Rocco Grimaldi went in on a 3-on-2 into the Devils’ zone. A shot was blocked behind the Devils’ goal cage and it came off the backboards right to Bonino. He then beat Blackwood to make it 3-3.

However, before the second intermission, the Devils would retake the lead to make it 4-3. This one came at 17:24 when Will Butcher got the puck up ice to Jesper Bratt quickly. Bratt moved it to Kyle Palmieri, who broke in and shot. The puck again went behind the goal cage and Palmieri pounced on it. He passed to Bratt, who was crashing the Nashville net and scored to make it 4-3 Devils.

The second period prepared us for a crazy third that began when Nashville tied it 33 seconds in.

This one came off the rush when Duchene shot and his attempt deflected off of Devils defenseman Andy Greene and fluttered end-over-end by Blackwood to make it 4-4. Roman Josi and Johansen had the assists on the goal.

But again, in this game no lead was safe for long. At the 6:37 mark, Hayden scored when Kevin Rooney won a faceoff deep in the Nashville zone. Rooney cut in off the left wing and behind Rooney to grab the puck and fire it off of a Predators’ player’s stick. Again, the redirection beat Rinne to make it 5-4 Devils.

Forsberg would tie things up on the power play at the 9:57 mark of the third to send this one off to overtime. It was set up when Simmonds was sent off for hooking Sissons. On the ensuing power play, Forsberg kind of flubbed a pass then recovered and wristed one under the crossbar and by Blackwood to tie things at five each. Josi and Turris had the assists.

On the power play, the Devils went 2-for-3 with three shots. They also had the shorthanded goal off of two shorthanded shots. Nashville went 1-for-3 with two shots, plus a shot while down a man.

The Devils nearly lost things late in regulation when Greene lost the puck in his own zone with nine seconds to go. The puck was bouncing and Greene fell down trying to control it. He gave it up to a Predators player, but Blackwood made the save to bail him out.

And with that, we were off to overtime. New Jersey did not get their first shot of the OT period until about four full minutes were played. But they held on with three shots in the OT and when that could not decide things, it was to a shootout for the second straight game for the Devils.

In the first round, Forsberg scored and Gusev also scored, beating Rinne five-hole. In round two, Duchene went backhand and upstairs to beat Blackwood and Jack Hughes was stopped. In the third round, Blackwood stopped Johansen’s shot with a toe save and it was up to Palmieri. He was stopped by Rinne and the Devils could not repeat their magic from Ottawa three night ago as they lost, 6-5.

The Devils were beaten in the faceoff circle, winning only 46-percent of the game’s draws. Rooney led all Devils centers with a 67-percent average on faceoffs. The Devils outhit the Preds by ten, 27-17, but had less blocked shots at 15-13 and more giveaways at ten to Nashville’s two.

Individually, Zacha led the team in points on his way to being named the game’s first star. The Predators’ Duchene was second and Gusev the third.

Severson led all Devils skaters in total ice time with 24:04 (2:02 on the power play and 2:28 on the penalty kill) while Hischier led the forwards with 21:03 (2:19 on the power play and 23 seconds on the penalty kill).

Shots were led by Severson with six, hits by Coleman with eight, blocked shots by Greene and Butcher with three each and takeaways by Hischier with two.

This win by the Predators also made their general manager, David Poile, the winningest GM in NHL history, surpassing Glen Sather in the record books. Congratulations to him on this great achievement. (Even if it did have to come against the Devils.)

Next up, the Devils face the Dallas Stars at home on Saturday. This will be the 20th anniversary celebration of the 2000 Stanley Cup champions. I will be attending this game live, so my post on the game will be up a little bit later than usual. Until then, enjoy the rest of your week everyone!

Atlantic Wins 2020 AHL All-Star Game

The Atlantic Division won the 2020 All-Star game by defeating the Central Division in the final of the round-robin tournament at Toyota Arena in Ontario, California last night.

The tournament began with a matchup between Joey Anderson’s North Division and the Pacific. The Western Conference squad won this one in a shootout, 6-5.

The game, much like every other hockey all-star format, was played at three-on-three. Kale Clague of the Pacific got the scoring started when he beat goaltender Jonas Johansson 14 seconds in with assists to Glenn Gawdin and Martin Frk of the hometown Ontario Reign.

Brayden Burke put the Pacific up 2-0 when he scored at 1:09 from TJ Tynan and goalie Cal Petersen (also of the Reign). Brogan Rafferty got the North on the board when he scored with the primary assist to Anderson and Jeremy Bracco picking up the secondary at 1:25. Alex Barre-Boulet tied the game at 2:21 unassisted.

Chris Wideman and Tynan gave the Pacific back the lead at the end of the first “half,” but the Eastern Conference team came back to tie things in the second. With the Pacific scoring one more and the North three. When regulation ended, we were headed to the rare all-star game shootout.

Alex Formenton and Barre-Boulet were stopped by Pacific goalie and Edison, New Jersey native Anthony Stolarz and Tynan and Wideman each scored on their attempts for the Pacific to give them the win, 6-5. Stolarz had a great tourney, playing the puck multiple times and really getting into the offensive side of the game. You could tell that Martin Brodeur was his favorite NHL player growing up by how he showcased his talents in this game.

The second game featured the Atlantic versus the Central. This one saw Lucas Elevenes, Matthew Ford and Gerald Mayhew score for the Central to give them the win. Vinni Lettieri scored the Atlantic’s lone goal. The third goal for the Atlantic was scored when goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic was pulled for the Atlantic.

It is at this time in the broadcast when TSN did a feature on the AHL Hall of Fame. I would be remiss if I did not mention that former Devils head coach and Calder Cup winner with the Albany River Rats, Robbie Ftorek was enshrined this year with the class of 2020. Congratulations to him on this wonderful honor.

The next game featured the North Division versus the Central. This one is of most importance to Devils fans as Joey Anderson, of the Binghamton Devils, scored a hat trick in the 6-5 losing effort.

Sam Anas, Joel L’Esperance, Mayhew, Chris Terry, Jansen Harkins and Ford each scored a goal for the Central while Formenton and Jeremy Bracco scored the other two for the North.

Goalie Kasimir Kaskisuo played the entire ten-minute game for the North Division and made eight saves on 14 shots against.

In game four, the Atlantic took on the Pacific in a coast-to-coast battle. The Atlantic edged the Pacific 3-2 in a rare defensive battle in an all-star game.

In the first “half,” Wideman scored for the Pacific while Paul Carey tied it for the Atlantic. The Atlantic would add one more from Tynan while the Atlantic got two more from Sam Miletic and Matt Moulson in getting the victory.

Anderson was back in action for the next game between the Atlantic and the North. The Atlantic won this one 5-2. The fist “half” was all Atlantic as Lettieri, Joey Keane, Carey and Jack Studnicka each scored. In the second, Rafferty and Charles Hudon scored for the North and their goals sandwiched around a goal from Sebastian Aho of the Atlantic. Anderson picked up another point in this game, an assist on Rafferty’s goal.

The sixth game was a lot closer, featuring the Pacific beating the Central, 5-4 in a shootout.

The Pacific got two to begin the game from Brayden Burke and Kyle Capobianco. L’Esperance and Ford then tied it for the Central late in the first.

In the second, Tynan and Joachim Blichfeld scored for the Pacific in the first part of the “half” while Elvenes and Alexandre Carrier scored late to tie it up again and send it to a shootout.

In the shootout, Ford, Anas and Terry were all stopped for the Central while for the Pacific, Tyler Benson was stopped and Clague scored.

With that, the Atlantic (nine goals, 2-1 record) faced the Central (13 goals, 3-0 record) in the final. Lettieri scored to give the Atlantic the 1-0 lead and then Studnicka added two (with both primary assists to Lettieri and secondary assists to Jake Bean) to make it 3-0. Ford added one for the Central but it was too late.

The Atlantic won this game and the tournament, making them the 2020 AHL All-Star Game champions. According to the AHL, this is the first time the Atlantic has won the game in this format.

Vitek Vanecek of the Hershey Bears was named the MVP, who let in only two goals all night following his team’s victory.

And that does it for me. It has been a late night of hockey, but an exciting one. Good night everyone!