Preseason: Devils Down Caps, 4-1

The Devils remained undefeated this preseason, defeating the Washington Capitals 4-1 in Newark tonight.

Let’s get to this.

First, some personnel updates. Ty Smith remains out with an undisclosed injury as he has not played in a preseason game this year and will remain out “for a number of days” according to Lindy Ruff and quoted in an article by Sam Kasan.

Jesper Bratt was sick with a non-COVID-related illness also per Kasan. He was in the lineup tonight versus Washington and did play.

Kasan also reported that the Devils have loaned Chase Stillman back to his Ontario Hockey League team, the Sudbury Wolves. Nate Schnarr has been loaned to the Utica Comets of the American Hockey League while Brian Flynn and Robbie Russo were placed on waivers, cleared and assigned to Utica. This happened Sunday.

In addition, the Devils claimed defenseman Mason Geertsen off of waivers from the New York Rangers on Sunday. A big blue liner at 6-feet, 4-inches and 227-pounds, he will add toughness and a gritty element to the Devils’ lineup as per Kasan. The 26-year-old Geertsen was slated to be assigned to the Hartford Wolf Pack of the AHL by the Rangers. He has played in 297 career AHL games with Hartford, the Colorado Eagles, San Antonio Rampage and Lake Erie Monsters.

He was originally drafted in the fourth-round – 93rd overall – by the Colorado Avalanche in 2013. He previously played in the Western Hockey League for the Edmonton Oil Kings and the Vancouver Giants.

With all of that out of the way, let’s talk about the business at hand.

In goal, the Devils started Mackenzie Blackwood. He played the first two periods and made 15 saves on 16 shots against for a .938 save percentage. This included making one save on two power play shots and getting all 14 he saw at even strength.

Scott Wedgewood came in for the Devils for the third period. He was equal to all five shots peppered on him – it was a relatively easy night for Devils goaltending. Wedgwood continued his shutout streak from the second two periods of the Islander game on Saturday.

The Caps finished with a total of 21 shots on goal.

For the Capitals, Vitek Vanecek played the whole game and saw 25 Devils shots. He turned aside 22 of them for a .880 save percentage. He let in two goals on four power play shots, got the lone shorthanded shot the Devils sent his way and saved 19-of-20 at even strength. Zach Fucale backed him up while Ilya Samsonov is sidelined with a lower body injury.

The Devils got on the board on the power play at the 19:00 mark of the first. Dawson Mercer streaked up the right side in the Capitals’ zone. Janne Kuokkanen hit him with a pass in the middle as he was cutting towards net. Mercer got the shot off and a trailing Alexander Holtz potted the loose puck to give the Devils the 1-0 lead.

Early in the second period, Michael McLeod made it 2-0 at the 2:39 mark. It saw McLeod drive towards the net and drop the puck for Kuokkanen trailing in the slot. Kuokkanen kind of flubbed his shot but was able to hit McLeod with a pass from his knees. McLeod snapped the puck by Vanecek to double up the Devils lead. Kevin Bahl had the secondary assist.

Washington would get on the board with less than a minute to go in the second (at the 19:18 mark) when, on the power play, Connor McMichael beat Bahl to the outside, taking a sharp angle shot which beat Blackwood to make it 2-1. Garrett Pilon (primary) and Hendrix Lapierre (secondary) had the assists.

That late goal made it 2-1 heading into the second intermission.

In the third, Pavel Zacha would make it 3-1 when the Devils were on the power play. Bratt worked along the near half wall to Dougie Hamilton (who was wearing an “A” tonight) at the point. Zacha was camped out at the top of the far faceoff circle and calling for the puck. Hamilton distributed to him and Zacha took the pass, hesitating with a little toe drag, freezing Vanecek and shooting back against the grain. He scored just under the crossbar as Zacha was showing a new aggressiveness in terms of shooting.

That goal came at eth 5:59 mark of the third.

Jimmy Vesey would add an empty net goal with ten seconds to go (Washington had pulled Vanecek with about two minutes left in regulation) from McLeod and Tomas Tatar to ice the game at 4-1.

The Devils ended the game 2-for-5 on a seemingly vastly improved power play. The Capitals were 1-for-3.

The Devils would end the game winning 60-percent of the game’s faceoffs. The Devils were edged in hits 17-16, had less blocked shots at 15 to five and had more giveaways as a team at eight to the Caps’ six.

Mercer led the Devils with two giveaways while Zacha led in shots with five. Ryan Graves and Vesey led in hits with three. Blocks were led by Mercer, Hamilton Graves, PK Subban and Christian Jaros who each had one. Zacha led in takeaways with two.

Kuokkanen (two assists) led in points for the Devils. Hamilton led in time on ice with 22:59 while Nico Hischier led the forwards with 19:23 of TOI. McLeod led in faceoff percentage with a 90-percent clip. Hischier and Zacha led in power play ice time with 4:42.

Next up, the Devils will travel across the Hudson River to Madison Square Garden to take on the Rangers on Wednesday. That game will be shown on MSG+ and we will have a postgame recap for you right here then. See you Wednesday!