The Devils’ California road trip continued with a game in Los Angeles tonight against the Kings. It was a little bit of a better effort for the Devils than the disaster in Anaheim on Tuesday, but New Jersey did suffer their first overtime loss of the year, falling 3-2 in the extra session to the Kings.
The big news of the game was Alexander Holtz making his NHL debut after being recalled from AHL Utica on Thursday. He got the now-traditional rookie treatment of a solo lap during the pregame warmups. He wore jersey number 10.
Holtz was called up to inject a little bit of offense for the Devils. He played primarily on the second line with Dawson Mercer centering Holtz at right wing and Pavel Zacha at the left wing.
Holtz finished the game with a shot on goal and a blocked shot in 15:25 of total ice time. He did get 2:55 of power play time in an effort for the Devils to get their power play moving. He did play on the first power play unit.
The Devils did need another body for the power play as they were without Dougie Hamilton for the night. Hamilton is dealing with a lower body injury and was a game-time decision by coach Lindy Ruff.
Slotting in for him was… Mason Geertsen?! Yes, Geertsen played defense tonight, paired with Ty Smith to start. However, Geertsen only played 8:07 while Smith ended up rotating with the other five d-men (he ended up playing almost 20 minutes).
You know your defense is thin when you have Mason Geertsen, of all people, dropping back to dress as a blueliner. Thankfully, Colton White is expected to be recalled from the Utica Comets and could join the team as soon as Saturday’s game against the San Jose Sharks.
But why was Geertsen forced to dress as a defenseman? According to Corey Masisak of The Athletic via Twitter, Christian Jaros was a scratch tonight because he may have been injured during the morning skate. Masisak said that he believes Jaros was hit in the hand with a puck during the morning skate as he witnessed Jaros have multiple conversations with the training staff and was favoring it.
Marian Studenic was the Devils’ other scratch along with Hamilton and Jaros.
The Devils did get Mackenzie Blackwood back on Tuesday as he was activated off of Injured Reserve. He played his first game of the season tonight, as he got the start in net (and nowhere else).
Blackwood stopped 26 of the 29 shots he saw, finishing with an .897 save percentage. He stopped LA’s one shorthanded shot, five of their six power play shots (they ended up 1-for-6 on the power play) and 20 of the Kings’ 22 even strength shots.
The Kings sent out Cal Petersen, who stopped 21 of the Devils’ 23 total shots for a .913 save percentage. He got the Devils’ two power play shots – the Devils were 0-for-4 on the power play – and 19 of their 21 even strength shots. Petersen is a right hand-catching goalie, so a bit of a rarity and, thus, a tall order for Devils shooters.
Blackwood largely had a good night. He stopped Anze Kopitar on a partial breakaway late in the first period on the power play for the Kings. Kopitar tried to slide the puck along the ice five-hole, but Blackwood was equal to the task along with New Jersey back checkers.
After a scoreless first period, we moved on to the second period.
Blackwood came up big midway through this frame as well. While the Devils were on the power play, PK Subban’s stick broke on an attempted slap shot from the point (a few sticks would fail him over the course of the night).
Alex Iafallo grabbed the flubbed puck and was off to the races in on Blackwood. Subban, without a stick, made a tremendous effort to back check – without taking a penalty – and he allowed Blackwood to make the save on the shot from Iafallo.
There would finally be a score with 1.2 seconds remaining in the first period.
Kopitar dug the puck out of the corner, sliding it to Dustin Brown behind the Devils net. Brown came out from behind the net and threw it towards the goal mouth. Adrian Kempe was camped out in front and got a stick on it and put it in behind Blackwood.
Kempe was all alone in front as Damon Severson, the defenseman who should have been covering him, did not tie up his stick. Kempe was free to receive the pass from Brown and put it home. It was 1-0 LA with no time left in the second.
So we were off to the third period, where the Devils would respond early.
Just 3:19 into the new frame, the Kings broke in on a 4-on-3 in the Devils’ zone. Nico Hischier stripped the Kings of the puck on a back pass to a trailer and Andreas Johnsson grabbed it and hit Jesper Bratt with a stretch pass.
Bratt got in behind the Kings’ defense – all alone in on Petersen. He made a nice move on the LA netminder one-on-one and scored, knotting the game at one.
Severson would have a rough third period as he ended up taking three minor penalties in a row. He was called for a trip against Trevor Moore while the Devils were on the power play at 7:06 of the third.
This negated a power play where Subban had laid a legal hit on Blake Lizotte as he was coming into the Devils zone. The Kings’ Brendan Lemieux took exception and charged across the ice, taking a run at Subban and drawing an interference call. The Devils showed great discipline to not take a penalty here, but Severson’s penalty wiped all of that out.
He took an interference call against Andreas Athanasiou at the 10:41 mark as well. Those two power plays were killed off by the Devils, however.
But, at the 16:14 mark, he again took a not-so-good penalty, this time a high sticking call agsint Kempe. The Devils would not be so lucky this time.
Of note was Blackwood coming up big again on the second Severson penalty (the interference call) where he stretched across the crease, from right-to-left and got his glove on a point-blank shot from Brown. It nearly bounced in off of Jonas Siegenthaler, but Blackwood was able to preserve it and keep it out of the net.
The Kings would break through on the Severson high-sticking penalty. It only took six seconds on the power play as LA got their goal at 16:20.
Off of a faceoff in the Devils’ end, Athanasiou won the draw back to Matt Roy at the point. Arthur Kaliyev was up high and nearly another point man. He took the puck from Roy just at the top of the near faceoff circle and turned, shooting with a quick release, wristing a shot by Blackwood to put the Kings back in front 2-1 late in the game.
The Devils would pull Blackwood with about 1:22 left in regulation. The Devils would catch a break as the Kings would ice the puck, not allowing them to get a change before a faceoff in their own zone. They could not get the personnel they wanted on the ice with less than a minute left.
Then, Mikey Anderson’s stick broke as the Devils were in possession of the puck. Phillip Danault gave the defenseman his stick, but the Kings were essentially down 6-on-4 for all intents and purposes.
And the Devils capitalized. With 24 seconds to go, Ryan Graves was able to get the puck to Zacha against the grain and, with the teams overloaded to the far side, Zacha had time and space to shoot from near the near faceoff circle. He scored to tie the game up at two. Bratt had the secondary assist to notch two points on the night.
And when the final buzzer sounded, the Devils had secured at least one point with another up for grabs in OT.
It was the Devils’ third OT game this season but would be their first loss in the actual OT period.
At the 42 second mark of the OT, Ty Smith got trapped behind the Devils net. He had an opportunity to bank the puck up the boards to get it to a teammate, but decided to try to do too much himself.
Danault would get the takeaway, going behind the net on a strong forecheck and creating the turnover. He centered it to Iafallo in front. Iafallo snapped it by Blackwood to give the Kings the two points off of a final score of 3-2.
The Devils were outshot 29-23 and won just 41-percent of the game’s faceoffs. Freddie Gauthier led Devils centers with a 60-percent personal winning clip. However, for the Kings, Danault won 78-percent of his faceoffs, leading the game and blowing Devils forwards out of the water in that category.
New Jersey took 12 penalty minutes total to LA’s eight. Severson, as covered, led the Devils in that category with six penalty minutes – all in the third period. The Devils were also outhit 30-26 and had fewer blocked shots at 17 to Los Angeles’ 14. The Devils did have one fewer turnover at four to LA’s five.
With Hamilton out, Graves stepped up as the big minutes eater for the Devils. He played 23:26 – including 5:02 on the penalty kill. Hischier led the forwards with 20:53 logged (including 2:55 on the power play and 2:34 shorthanded).
Bratt led the Devils in points with two (a goal and an assist). He also led in shots on goal with seven. Geertsen, newly minted defenseman, led in hits with four. Siegenthaler led in blocks with three. Ryan Graves led in giveaways with two while Jimmy Vesey was the leader in takeaways with two.
Next up, the Devils will try to fully right their ship when they travel up to Northern California to take on the Sharks Saturday. That game is also at 10:30 PM but will air on MSG+.
We will have that for you right here early Sunday morning in case you do not wish to stay up for it.
Also, do not forget to set your clocks back Sunday morning! Have a great night!