It’s Friday the 13th and the Devils were in action against the Washington Capitals at Prudential Center. Unfortunately, it would not be a lucky one for New Jersey, as the Devils fell by a score of 5-2 to be dealt their first loss of 2017-18.
The Devils’ sixteen goals for in their first three games was their highest total since the 1991-92 season, but the Caps have earned at least a point in their last eight meetings. It was a battle of special teams, where the Devils would really put their penalty kill to the test by taking a lot of extra penalties. Washington had been 40-percent on the power play and 90-percent on the penalty kill on the road coming into this game meaning that the Devils would need to on top of their special teams if they wanted to come out with the W in this one.
But it was not to be. As mentioned, the Devils spent way too much time in the penalty box and Alex Ovechkin and company had enough time to tee up.
That does not mean there were no positives to be taken from the game for New Jersey. Both Taylor Hall and Kyle Palmieri found the back of the net for their first goals of the season, getting two of the team’s more talented goal scorers on the scoresheet. As MSG’s Bryce Salvador pointed out, the Devils have gotten good secondary scoring from their bottom six forwards, which served them well when the big guys were having a little bit of trouble.
To the game highlights, as the contest kicked off with a weird incident. The Caps’ Nicklas Backstrom was hit in the head with a puck during pregame warmups. He was not wearing a helmet and was announced as a scratch in the arena before the game. However, he did end up playing and would make quite an impact, including being named the game’s first star.
For the Devils, Dalton Prout slotted back in while Mirco Mueller sat out along with Ben Lovejoy and the still-day-to-day with a lower body injury Drew Stafford.
In contrast to the Devils, who have gotten a lot of their scoring from their secondary sources, the Capitals have been relying mostly on the big guns, TJ Oshie and Ovechkin for their output. Ovechkin alone had two hat tricks in his first two games of the season. And that would change little in this game. Oshie scored the first goal of the game when he scored from Backstrom at 14:49 of the first period. It was now 1-0 Washington going into the first intermission.
Ovechkin would pot his ninth of the year in the second period at 8:01 on the power play. The goal was set up when Blake Coleman was called for closing his hand on the puck at 7:30. Ovechkin got assists on the goal from Backstrom and John Carlson. The Caps had doubled their lead to 2-0.
But at 15:41, the Devils would get on the board. Washington’s Brooks Orpik was sitting for interference and Taylor Hall would see to it that the Devils cut the lead in half. Will Butcher walked the blue line before passing to Kyle Palmieri at the far faceoff dot. Palmieri then went across the grain to Hall, who wristed a shot so hard that Salvador was saying he thought it would rip the net off of the goal cage! He did not want to miss as he had been putting some pressure on himself to get his first of the year. That cut the Caps’ lead to 2-1.
But before the period was over, with exactly one minute left in the second frame to be precise, Jakub Vrana redirected a shot from former Devil Devante Smith-Pelly to make it 3-1. Evgeny Kuznetsov had the secondary assist. That goal put the Capitals back up by two. This game was the first time in the young season that the Devils would be down by more than one goal.
Just 53 seconds into the third stanza, Kyle Palmieri would net his first of the season on a beauty of a play. It began when John Moore went D-to-D with Damon Severson, who launched a Hail Mary pass to Palmieri. Palmieri then went backhand on Caps goalie Braden Holtby and scored. The goal was Palmieri’s 100th career NHL goal, congrats to him on the milestone. The assist to Severson was his first point of the season. Palmieri would be named the game’s third star of the night as he had a goal and an assist for two points.
From there, though, the Devils’ discipline broke down and Washington would score their next two goals on the power play.
TJ Oshie scored his second of the game from Backstrom and Kuznetsov. That came at 5:26 of the third while Pavel Zacha was serving a double minor for high sticking Lars Eller. That same double minor yielded Backstrom’s goal from Ovechkin and Oshie, scored as Ovechkin shot the puck at Backstrom’s skate, using it to redirect the puck into the net. There was no kicking motion so the goal was a good one. Oshie would be named the game’s second star with two goals and an assist.
Blake Coleman had two fights on the night, his first coming when he unintentionally tripped up Dmitry Orlov, sending him flying awkwardly into the end boards in the Capitals’ zone. Andre Burakovsky would come to Orlov’s aid and he would get the instigator and a ten minute misconduct penalty with the fighting major. That came just 2:33 into the third period.
Coleman would fight again at the 12:31 mark when Tom Wilson took liberties on a hit on Andy Greene. Coleman came to Greene’s aid and fought the much bigger tough guy. Wilson was just getting back from a suspension in the preseason and one to start the season.
Goaltending-wise, Holtby, who was 12-3-0 all-time coming into the night against the Devils, made 21 saves on 23 Devils shots. Cory Schneider, making his fourth straight start for New Jersey, made 23 saves on 28 Capitals shots. Keith Kinkaid is expected to go tomorrow night in the second half of the back-to-back.
And speaking of that back-to-back, the Devils will be in Manhattan to take on the rival Rangers at Madison Square Garden tomorrow night. Coming off of a tough loss like this one, there is nothing like a little rivalry game to get the Devils’ heads back into things. Plus, with the games on consecutive nights, they do not have time to dwell on the mistakes that they made. We will see you back here tomorrow night for Devils-Rangers.