So, show of hands. Who expected them to beat the top team in the league? The Devils put forth a complete effort – one of their best of the year – and got timely goaltending from Louis Domingue in the nation’s capital to defeat the Caps 5-1.
This comes off of the heels of a horrible outing in Manhattan where the Devils were killed by the Rangers on Thursday.
First off, a scoring change from that game against the Rangers. On the second Devils goal that was reviewed and originally credited to Blake Coleman, that has been changed and given to Damon Severson. Also, Travis Zajac was awarded the secondary assist on the goal. The NHL announced the scoring change about an hour following the end of the game on Thursday.
Some injury news as Mackenzie Blackwood was out tonight with an upper body injury. Evan Cormier was recalled from AHL Binghamton to back up Domingue. Ben Street was also place on injured reserve retroactive to Thursday with an upper body injury. Jack Hughes remained out and did not make the trip to Washington. He is progressing according to MSG Network’s Erika Wachter. Mirco Mueller was also a healthy scratch with Connor Carrick slotting in on defense for the Devils. The Devils also got Jesper Bratt back from injury up front. He basically slotted in for Street and played on the top line with Nico Hischier and Kyle Palmieri.
As mentioned, Louis Domingue started for the Devils and he was brilliant tonight. He was looking for his first win since November 23 (at home against Detroit) and his first win in Washington since December 29, 2016. That was a streak that, according to MSG Network, encompassed five games.
And he got it, making 33 saves on 34 Capitals shots for a .971 save percentage. Opposing him was NHL All-Star Braden Holtby, who stopped 17 of 21 for an .810 save percentage on the night.
The Caps were in their throwback uniforms and the crowd was pumped, but the Devils killed that enthusiasm off early when Hischier scored 5:27 into the game. It came when Nico came rushing up the left-wing boards and made a power move to cut towards the Washington net. He then got a shot off that kind of fluttered through Holtby’s five-hole to make it 1-0 Devils. Will Butcher and Carrick had the assists.
The second period featured a flurry of goals from both teams, but began with Coleman hitting the post early in the period. Nikita Gusev did hit the back of the net 3:28 into the frame when he made it 2-0 Devils. It came right after a Devils power play ended and saw Butcher take a drop pass from Wayne Simmonds inside the Caps’ zone. Butcher then threw a quick wrister from the top of the far faceoff circle on net and Holtby made the save, but gave up a huge rebound that came right to Gusev at the near side of the net and he shoveled it into the wide-open net as Holtby tried to get across his crease to score.
At the 6:17 mark of the second, Miles Wood took a double minor for high-sticking, putting the Caps’ dangerous power play on for four minutes.
However, it started out nicely for the Devils when Andy Greene poked the puck up to Travis Zajac and he and Coleman were off on a 2-on-1. Zajac passed and Coleman went in with a forehand to backhand move on Holtby for the shorthanded goal at 6:48 to make it 3-0. It was Coleman’s 15th goal of the year.
The Devils used that momentum to kill off the first half of the double minor, but during the second half, the Caps got on the board. At 8:28, Domingue made a save on a Washington shot. He could not handle the rebound and there was a scramble around the cage. Jakub Vrana finally found the loose puck and put it in to make it 3-1 Devils. John Carlson and Nicklas Backstrom had the assists. This would be the only goal Washington would muster all night.
Later in the second, Hischier scored his second of the night when Jesper Bratt created space, drew the Washington defenders to him and dropped the puck to Palmieri. Palmieri made a nice cross-ice pass to Nico, who was all alone on the other side of the ice. He simply walked in and scored. Bratt created the play but did not get credit for an assist, as Palmieri had the lone one on the goal that made it 4-1 at the 12:11 mark.
In the third period, the Devils got into a little more penalty trouble when, at 9:48, Hischier took what was a pretty weak elbowing penalty on TJ Oshie. Then, at the 11:05 mark, PK Subban, while trying to clear the puck down the ice, threw it directly over the glass. This was a cut-and-dry delay of game penalty and the Devils would be down 5-on-3 for 43 seconds.
But they killed this off, keeping the second-highest scoring team in the NHL to 1-for-5 on the power play with six shots. New Jersey did not muster a single power play shot in going 0-for-1 on the man advantage. They did, however, get four shorthanded shots through to Holtby.
Washington pulled Holtby with a little over five minutes to go in regulation down by three and the Devils wasted no time. Wood scored into the empty net to give us our final of 5-1.
The Devils finished the game with 22 shots on goal with the empty netter to the Capitals’ 34. They also won 55-percent of the game’s faceoffs, with Nico winning 71-percent of his. They had 13 hits to the Caps’ 19, 18 blocked shots to Washington’s 14 and only nine turnovers to the Caps’ 13.
The Devils also gave the Capitals two straight regulation losses (they were beaten by Philly earlier this week) for only the second time this season. Washington is a true powerhouse and a bona fide Stanley Cup contender, so this was no small feat for the Devils.
Greene led all skaters in total ice time (22:08, including 5:11 on the penalty kill) while Coleman led the forwards with 18:56 (including 3:52 on the penalty kill). Nico’s two goals and Butcher’s two assists helped them lead in points with two apiece. Coleman led in shots by a large margin at eight. Hits were led by Butcher and Severson with three each. Blocks were led by Carrick with four. Takeaways by Simmonds and Gusev with two each.
Hischier was the game’s first star while Domingue was the second and Butcher the third.
Next up, the Devils face another strong test in the Tampa Bay Lightning, who have won ten straight games, seem to be back on a roll and will be visiting Prudential Center tomorrow at 7 PM. Do the Devils have another upset in them facing one of the NHL’s elite teams? We will find out tomorrow and, of course, we will have a write up for you following the game.