The Devils streak of bad luck continued tonight as they fell at home to the Nashville Predators, the second time they have been shut out in the their last two home games. Nashville won 3-0.
Injuries were the order of the day for New Jersey. Taylor Hall missed his third straight game with a hand injury, Marcus Johansson was placed on injured reserve due to the elbow he took to the head from Brad Marchand in the Boston game (a move that netted Marchand a five game suspension) and Cory Schneider was out with a groin injury. They joined Brian Gibbons and Keith Kinkaid, who are both on injured reserve – although Kinkaid skated on his own this morning.
There were a few scares in this game, including Damon Severson suffering a knee-on-knee hit from the Predators’ Austin Watson. No penalty was called and Severson would return for the third period.
The morning skate was run by assistant coach Geoff Ward earlier today as head coach John Hynes joined Devils GM Ray Shero and Predators coach Peter Laviolette and GM David Poile in Colorado to pay their respects to USA Hockey executive Jim Johannson, who tragically and unexpectedly passed away last week.
Back to injuries, Kevin Rooney was recalled from Binghamton to shore up the forward ranks with Hall and Johansson out. The goaltender situation was a unique one. For the first time since October 18, 1986 at Pittsburgh, the Devils dressed two goalies who had not started an NHL game yet in their careers. Back then it was Karl Friesen (who got the start) and Chris Terreri. In 2018 it was Mackenzie Blackwood backing up Ken Appleby. Appleby made 24 saves on 27 shots as his NHL shutout streak (remember he had come on in relief in the Philly and Boston games) ended at 93:18 when PK Subban scored at 9:48 of the second period from Mattias Ekholm and Ryan Johansen to make it 1-0 Preds.
For Appleby, this was a tall order, facing one of the top teams in the NHL in his first ever start. The Preds have gotten at least a point in their last seven, going 5-0-2. Facing him was Nashville’s Finnish stalwart Pekka Rinne. He stopped all 27 Devils shots he saw in getting the shut out.
The Devils had actually seemingly taken the lead in the first period when Will Butcher had potted one at 16:14. However, the goal was immediately waved off on the ice as Miles Wood was called for goaltender interference on the play as he crashed the net. That would continue a frustrating trend that saw the Devils hit some posts at times when they could have used a goal in the game and never solve Rinne.
Nashville’s other two goals came in the third period first from Ekholm (from Kevin Fiala and Viktor Arvidsson) at 5:36 on a goal that was double tipped by Appleby to make it 2-0. The one that broke the Devils’ back was from Arvidsson shorthanded from Subban off a two-on-one odd man rush. It came at 15:11.
On the power play, both teams ended the night 0-for-2. Both teams also finished with a lone shot on their power plays. The Predators also scored on their only shorthanded shot of the game.
Stats-wise, time on ice was led by Sami Vatanen with 24:10. Nico Hischier and Jimmy Hayes both led the Devils in shots on goal with four. Ben Lovejoy led in hits with four. Butcher and Hischier both led in blocks with two apiece.
Next up for the Devils, it is the much-needed All-Star break. Taylor Hall will not be representing the Devils in Tampa, as his hand injury has prevented that. In his place, representing the Devils will be Brian Boyle. Boyle was officially named today and the former Tampa Bay Lightning should get a good reaction from the Tampa fans and the NHL community in general.
Following the All-Star Game, the Devils will be on the road on Tuesday, January 30 against the Sabres up in Buffalo. In the meantime, good luck to Brian Boyle at the All-Star Game and here’s hoping the Devils can get back on track following the break.