The Devils jumped out to an early one goal lead but let a bad second period where the Sabres scored five unanswered to hurt them and lead to a 5-1 loss at KeyBank Center.
Some roster moves to get to before we begin. John Quenneville was sent back to Binghamton yesterday and defenseman Egor Yakovlev was recalled. He was a healthy scratch tonight along with Mirco Mueller. Mackenzie Blackwood was also a scratch but he is still recovering from his lower body injury suffered earlier in the road trip. Cam Johnson was the backup again tonight as Blackwood “is progressing nicely” according to the team and MSG’s Erika Wachter.
Speaking of injury, Buffalo would be without Jack Eichel, who is also hurt. This would seem to favor the Devils, but the rest of the Sabres’ roster stepped up enough to fill that offensive void.
Between the pipes, Keith Kinkdaid went for the Devils. He was a career 3-0-0 against Buffalo in his career coming into tonight. He stopped 28 of the 33 shots the Sabres threw his way. For Buffalo, Carter Hutton started as he stopped 20 of the 21 shots the Devils fired in on him.
Special teams-wise, New Jersey continued its dominant penalty kill, but struggled on the power play once again. The Devils had their chances, going 0-for-4 with three shots (plus a shorthanded shot to go with things). The Sabres were kept 0-for-1 with two shots on the power play and two shorthanded shots, one of which they scored on.
Blake Coleman got the Devils up by one just 1:28 into the game. He scored from Miles Wood and Travis Zajac. It was a puck luck bounce as Wood just threw the puck to the net and it bounced in off of Coleman’s skate. The assist to Zajac moves him up the Devils’ all-time leading scoring list to fourth all-time, past Scott Gomez and behind only Patrik Elias, John MacLean and Kirk Muller.
A weird play with 13:38 to go in the first as Steven Santini blocked a shot at the side of the Devils’ net and the puck bounced to Nico Hischier, who was off to the races on a clear cut breakaway from the Devils’ blue line. The only problem was that for some reason the referee had blown the whistle to stop play. The best MSG analyst Ken Daneyko could come up with was that the official thought that the puck was in Kinkaid’s glove as he lost sight of it. Anyway, this was a tough break for the Devils and kept the score at 1-0.
The Devils kept that lead until 1:39 into the second period when Jeff Skinner scored his 29th of the season from Tage Thompson. Skinner scored off the rush to tie things, sniping one under the crossbar and down. That made it 1-1, but things were about to go downhill for the Devils very fast.
At the 4:14 mark, CJ Smith scored his first career NHL goal when his shot trickled by Kinkaid and Sami Vatanen tried to clear it from the goal line to no avail. The goal was reviewed and the call on the ice of good goal stood, it was 2-1 Sabres. Johan Larsson and Kyle Okposo had the assists on the goal.
At 10:42, Casey Mittelstadt chipped a second-chance effort over Kinkaid’s right pad to make it 3-1. Zach Bogosian and Rasmus Dahlin had the assists there.
At 16:00, Jake McCabe scored shorthanded while Skinner was in the box for slashing Brett Seney. He scored on a 2-on-1 as McCabe blocked a shot at the Sabres’ blue line then jumped up with Evan Rodrigues on the rush. Rodrigues sold a shot and passed to McCabe who buried it behind Kinkaid to make it 4-1. Vladimir Sobotka had the other assist on this goal.
The Sabres capped off this onslaught 1:45 later when Lawrence Pilut shot through traffic to beat Kinkaid, who was without a stick. This was Pilut’s first career NHL goal as well. Conor Sheary and Rasmus Ristolainen had the assists on that one. It was now 5-1 Sabres and that would be our final.
According to MSG’s Steve Cangiolosi, this was the first time since November of last season that the Devils gave up five in a single period. They did that last year at Winnipeg. Former-Sabre Drew Stafford seemingly scored on his former team with 12:52 to go in the third. The light never went on and his shot seemed to just tickle the twine under the crossbar, but Toronto had its look and said no goal. Upon replay, the puck apparently hit the crossbar and came out. It was just one of those nights for the Devils.
Buffalo got their lone power play when Stefan Noesen and Rodrigues got into it midway through the third. Noesen drew a double minor for roughing while Rodrigues only got two minutes. The Devils killed that off and remain good on the PK. Both Pilut and Wood got ten minute misconduct penalties late in the third.
Stats-wise, the Devils were outshot 33-21, won 46-percent of the draws in the game, were out hit 13-11. They did block more shots than Buffalo at 19 to the Sabres’ 11 and had less giveaways at three to the Sabres’ six.
Individually, Zajac led all Devils skaters with 20:51 of ice time (4:20 on the PP and 1:11 shorthanded). Vatanen led the defensemen with 20:32 (2:40 PP/1:44 PK). Shots on goal were led by Damon Severson with four, hits by Blake Pietila with three, blocks by Coleman with three and takeaways by Brett Seney with one.
So the Devils need to shake this game off and come out angry for their next game. They return home on Thursday to faceoff with the Toronto Maple Leafs at The Rock. The Leafs are one of the best in the league and hopefully the Devils will play with some urgency on Thursday. I will be attending this game so my post will be up a little bit later. If you would like to comment on this game, please feel free to leave your thoughts in the section below. They are always appreciated.