Devils Fall to Sabres, 5-3

The Devils tried for a fourth win over the Buffalo Sabres but came up short. They lost 5-3 at Prudential Center tonight.

It was Hockey Fights Cancer Night at Prudential Center as the Devils took part in the NHL-wide initiative. Camille See Wai (I believe I spelled he name correctly), a breast cancer survivor, sang the Star Spangled Banner pre-game and knocked it out of the park.

In addition, the Devils wore their lavender warmup jerseys that were then auctioned off to benefit Clara Maass Medical Center. The dasher board ads were also in lavender.

Some trade-centric news saw Kyle Palmieri sitting for the Devils for “precautionary reasons” and Taylor Hall out for the same reason for the Sabres.

Will Butcher and Aaron Dell were the Devils’ other scratches. On the injury front, Nico Hischier is back to skating on his own

In net, the Devils went with Scott Wedgewood, who stopped 12-of-15 at even strength, let in the only Sabres’ power play shot, stopped their only shorthanded shot, stopped 13-of-17 total and had a .765 save percentage.

For the Sabres, it was the Devils’ nemesis, Linus Ullmark, who has all of the wins for Buffalo in their series with the Devils. At even strength, he stopped 24-of-26, was 2-for-3 on power play shots, stopped the Devils’ lone shorthanded shot and was 27-for-30 total for a .900 save percentage.

For the Devils, the biggest news was the NHL debut of Tyce Thompson, fresh off of singing an entry level deal with New Jersey. The former Providence Friar made his debut against his brother Tage of Buffalo. Tyce got the now-traditional rookie treatment of taking his lone lap before warmups. Thompson wore number 12.

Thompson became the fourth active Devil to play against his brother. PK Subban, Jesper Boqvist, and Jack Hughes are the others.

And Thompson paid off right away. On his second shift, 69 seconds into his NHL career, at the 4:22 mark of the first period, Mikhail Maltsev chipped the puck up the boards to Thompson. Thompson shot and his rebound was put in by a trailing Damon Severson. It was 1-0 Devils early and Thompson became the first player since 1986 to record his first NHL point in 69 seconds or less.

But in a pattern that would repeat all night, the Sabres tied things at 9:56. The Sabres recovered a turnover at the Devils blue line. Casey Mittelstadt cut in with Rasmus Asplund on a partial 2-on-1. Mittelstadt dished to Asplund, who launched a one-timer by Wedgewood to tie things at one apiece.

The Sabres took their first lead of the night at 19:17 when Brandon Montour the Sabres won a faceoff in the Devils zone, getting it back to Tage Thompson at the point. He got it to Brandon Montour, who got it in the middle of the ice, shot and scored. Colin Miller had  the secondary assist. Yes, both Thompsons had assists on the night.

The Devils, however, would get that one right back when Jesper Bratt scored with less than one second to go in the first period. Ty Smith at the point passed to Pavel Zacha at the far faceoff circle, Zacha shot and it went off of Travis Zajac and to Bratt, who scored in front of the net to make it 2-2. That goal was also a power play goal, which snapped an 0-for-16 Devils power play futility streak.

The third period saw Zacha score 11:03 in to give the Devils their first lead of the night. It came when the Devils got the puck up ice quickly via Miles Wood. Wood stopped short just inside the Sabres’ zone and gave the puck up to Bratt. Bratt passed to Zahca at the side of the Sabres’ net. Ullmark made the initial save on the tip by Zacha, but Zacha stayed with it and shot the rebound in as he was falling down, scoring to make it 3-2 Devils.

But again, Buffalo stayed in it. At 15:19, Rasmus Dahlin cut down towards the net, made a nice inside-out move and beat Wedgewood to tie things at three. Riley Sheahan and Kyle Okposo had the assists.

In the third, Mittelstadt struck again at 10:20 to start to put Buffalo back on top. It came on the power play and saw Dahlin keep the puck in the Devils zone, got it to Mittelstadt and he wristed the puck by Wedgewood to give the Sabres the 4-3 lead.

A rough non-call for the Devils with less than three minutes to go saw Janne Kuokkanen taking as high stick and having blood drawn and no call being made on the play. The referees missed it, much like the other several times this has happened to the Devils this season.

Rasmus RIstolainen added an unassisted empty netter to make it 5-3 and give the Sabres the win. It was an impressive empty net goal, with Ristolainen shooting from his end of the ice and square into the Devils’ net. Wedgewood had been pulled with about 1:45 left in regulation.

The Devils outshot Buffalo 30-18. Buffalo won 54-percent of the game’s faceoffs. The Devils were 1-for-3 on the power play while the Sabres were 1-for-2. The Sabres outhit the Devils, 21-12. Buffalo edged New Jersey in blocked shots 7-6 and the Devils had one more turnover than the Sabres at six to Buffalo’s five.

Travis Zajac led the centers in faceoff win percentage at 54-percent. Smith led in time on ice with 21:43. Hughes led the forwards with 21:37. Smith led in power play time with 3:35.

Wood led in shots on goal with six. Hits were led by Zajac and Severson with two apiece. Blocks went to Severson and Subban with two each. Takeaways by Nick Merkley with two.

Next up, the Devils will head up to Buffalo to end the season series with the Sabres. That game is on Thursday with a 7 PM puck drop.

We’ll see you then and stay safe everyone!