The Devils have played the Washington Capitals five times now this season and have been defeated by the Washington Capitals five times.
The Devils just cannot solve the elite Capitals. They play up to most good teams, but the Caps just kind of flummox them.
The lineup stayed the same from Tuesday in Pittsburgh with Will Butcher, Aaron Dell and Nikita Gusev were the scratches.
In net for the Devils was Mackenzie Blackwood. He was 18-for-22 for an .818 save percentage. He got all three Caps’ power play shots and was 15-for-19 at even strength.
For the Capitals, Vitek Vanecek was the man. He turned aside 21-of-24 for an .875 save percentage. He was 3-for-4 on the power play as the Devils went 1-for-3 with the man advantage (the Caps were 0-for-2) – but a word about the Devils and the power play in a second. Vanecek also got 18-of-20 at even strength.
Now about that power play (or lack of in this case). Twice the officials missed high-sticking calls. Once on Kyle Palmieri and once on Travis Zajac. The officials on both plays were looking directly at the play. I do not know what is happening here. Perhaps the refs are protesting Tim Peel’s firing?
Anyway, the Devils got on the board first when Nick Merkley scored 1:23. The goal was unassisted and came when Vanecek tried to poke check a puck away from Merkley and Merkley jumped on the misplayed puck and scored. That gave the Devils the early 1-0 lead.
But, in a pattern that would repeat itself all night, the Caps would respond. Dmitry Orlov scored at the 3:10 mark when Justin Schultz went D-to-D with Orlov. Orlove then fired a wrister from the top of the near faceoff circle that beat Blackwood to tie the score. Daniel Sprong had the secondary assist.
Just 6:20 into the second period, Miles Wood gave the Devils back the lead. Blackwood made a nice save at the other end to get the Devils going. Janne Kuokkanen banked the puck up to Wood on a change. Wood went down low and shot from a weird angle, banking it in off of Vanecek to give the Devils back the lead at 2-1, Damon Severson had the secondary assist.
But once again, 55 seconds later, Alex Ovechkin did what he did best to tie it up again. The Devils failed to clear the puck and John Carlson kept it in. He got it to Sprong, who set up Ovechkin in his office. Ovechkin scored and the game was 2-2.
Before the end of the second, Washington would take their first lead of the night. Evgeny Kuznetsov scored when Ovechkin shot and the rebound came to Kuznetsov. Kuznetsov went wide and shot from an odd angle, much like Wood’s goal to make it 3-2 Caps. The goal came at 11:47.
That took us to the second intermission. In the third, Jesper Bratt got New Jersey back in the game when he scored on the power play. Bratt took a pass from Pavel Zacha and went high to Ty Smith. Smith gave back to Bratt, who shot a one-timer from the top of thet near faceoff circle and scored. That made it 3-3 at the 11:04 mark of the third.
But the Caps were not done. Kuznetsov struck again when the puck was came to Schultz at the far boards. He shot and it redirected in off of Kuznetsov and then Severson and in. That gave us our final of 4-3 at 12:06 of the third.
The Devils pulled Blackwood with about 1:45 left in regulation and had some chances, but to no avail. The Caps had the game won.
The Devils had 24 shots to the Caps’ 22. Wood led in that category with four. The Devils also led in faceoff win percentage with Michael McLeod leading the centers with a 75-percentage. Washington led in hits with 26 to the Devils’ nine. Merkley and Kuokkanen led there with two hits. Blocked shots were led by the Capitals with 17 to the Devils’ 11. Wood and PK Subban led the Devils there with two each. The Devils had less giveaways at two to the Capitals’ eight. Jack Hughes had two takeaways to lead the Devils in that category.
Subban also led in ice time with 24:05. Travis Zajac led the forwards with 19:21. Merkley led in power play time with 2:49.
Next up, the Devils take on the Caps again tomorrow in DC again. Same Bat Time, same Bat Channel (I think). Puck drop for that one is 7 PM. We will have a recap here for you after the game.
Until then, stay safe everyone!