The New Jersey Devils, coming off of their emotional win over their arch rivals, were a team that seemed to be trending upwards. On paper, the Columbus Blue Jackets are not the New York Rangers.
Yet for some reason, the Devils have had a lot of trouble with the struggling Columbus team. They lost back on October 27, 3-1 and on November 25, 2-1 both games at Prudential Center. This was the first meeting of the two teams at Nationwide Arena in Columbus. For the Devils, it would not be pretty.
The Devils went into the game thinking that they might split the two games of the back-to-back between Cory Schneider and Keith Kinkaid. Coach John Hynes called a bit of an audible when he decided that he would probably give both games to Cory. Maybe. It was not set in stone, he said. But either way, Schneider was getting the start tonight.
Opposing him was the young Joonas Korpisalo, who has been filling in for the injured Sergei Bobrovsky, and filling in well. He made 25 saves on 26 shots, and would have been named one of the three stars of the game on any other night. Schneider made 8 saves on 11 shots. Keith Kinkaid would get playing time anyway, coming on in relief in the second. He made 10 saves on 13 shots faced.
New Jersey could leapfrog Pittsburgh into a playoff spot with a win tonight, with the Penguins taking a beating against Boston last night. But it was not to be.
The Blue Jackets came out flying, as Cory had to make some big saves early. Columbus would also miss a wide open net in the early moments. The Jackets were getting good reads on early Devils mistakes.
Nick Foligno would get the scoring going at 5:20 of the first when he fired a snap shot past Schneider, assist to Matt Calvert. It was a quick 1-0 Blue Jackets lead.
Soon after that goal, John Moore saved the Devils from going down 2-0 when he swept the puck from the goal line. Unfortunately, it was for nothing as minutes later, at 8:12, Foligno scored his second of the game from Calvert and William Karlsson. Just like that, Columbus was up 2-0.
Jordin Tootoo decided then that he was going to try to spark the Devils to wake them up. Just seconds after the second Foligno goal, he dropped the gloves with Gregory Campbell. There were no taped fists tonight and Tootoo got the better of the fight. Could this be what the Devils needed to get them going?
They would not respond. At 19:13, Brandon Saad scored off assists from Karlsson and Calvert. It was already Calvert’s third point of the night (all assists) and Karlsson’s second.
The Devils did not play well in the first period, though they had their chances. About half way through, Adam Henrique nailed the post from just outside the Blue Jackets’ blueline. That was just the kind of night it was for New Jersey.
The second period saw Kinkaid lead the Devils on the ice and the Devils almost immediately get on the board. At 1:38 of the period, Lee Stempniak skated the puck into the Jackets’ zone. He passed to Reid Boucher who one-touched it to a trailing Damon Severson. Severson fired on net and the puck bounced out to Travis Zajac who found Boucher on the other side of the goal mouth. He hammered it home to cut the Columbus lead to 3-1. But that was all she wrote for the Devils.
They would have some chances: on the power play early in the second, they hit the post. In fact on that power play (a boarding call against Brandon Dubinsky against Kyle Palmieri), they had some good looks but could simply not convert. It was the story of the night as the Devils went 0-for-4 on the power play on the night.
Joseph Blandisi had seemingly cut the Blue Jackets’ lead to 3-2 when he tapped the puck under Korpisalo’s glove. The goal was immediately waved off even though Korpisalo had not fully covered the puck. Toronto made the call to referee Chris Lee, asking him why the goal was waved off when the whistle was blown after the puck crossed the goal line. Steve Cangialosi, the Devils’ play-by-play man, thought that the intent was there to blow the whistle earlier than Lee did, so he waved it off. This play is not reviewable by a coach’s challenge, so the call on the ice stood. It was still 3-1 Jackets.
But it would not be for long. Foligno scored his third of the game to complete the hat trick at 13:32 of the second when he deflected a David Savard shot. The puck was actually banked in off of John Schlemko’s skate as he backed up. This was the first hat trick turned against the Devils since Derek Stepan of the Rangers did the deal early last season.
It was 4-1 Columbus until Blandisi took a hooking minor at 17:37 to put the Blue Jackets on the power play. Brandon Dubinsky, who drew the penalty, would score on the man advantage. The former Ranger got assists from Foligno and Ryan Murray. It was now 5-1 Columbus. Foligno, son of former Devils coach Mike Foligno, now had four points on the night.
Columbus would finish up the scoring in the third period, late when Rene Bourque beat Kinkaid unassisted at 18:59. The final score: 6-1 Blue Jackets.
It was not a good night for the Devils. But they do not have long to dwell on this loss. They get the Tampa Bay Lightning tomorrow night at Prudential Center. The good news for the Devils is that they have played better in the second half of back-to-backs so far this season. This will be their ninth set of back-to-backs of twelve on the season.
The other good news is that the Devils have matched up well with the defending Eastern Conference champions the past few years. This will be the first meeting of the season between Tampa and the Devils (the last team New Jersey has yet to face in 2015-16). Hopefully New Jersey can get back into the playoff race by using the embarrassment that they felt tonight in Columbus as motivation to beat a hot Lightning team in front of their home fans.