The Devils traveled down to DC to take on the Stanley Cup champs and it did not go entirely as you would imagine. The largely depleted Devils, consisting of many young players from their AHL club, hung in there against the Capitals and played well. Unfortunately, they did not get the W as they were shut out 3-0.
Offensively, the Devils were overmatched. Caps’ goalie Braden Holtby was pretty good tonight and confounded the Devils all night. But on the defensive side of the puck, including at goaltender, the Devils were strong and kept the game close for most of the night.
The Devils got some reinforcements back in Kyle Palmieri and John Quenneville, who were both injured four games ago against Montreal. The bad news is that they lost Jesper Bratt and the way coach John Hynes was talking, it could be for the rest of the year. He is week-to-week and Hynes said that he does not see him playing a game again this season. As for tonight, Sami Vatanen remained out and Kevin Rooney was out tonight as a scratch.
The Devils were beginning a six-game long road trip that will take them up the East Coast and then to Western Canada and concludes in Denver. Tonight they gave Mackenzie Blackwood a shot on the first half of a back-to-back (New Jersey is at Madison Square Garden tomorrow to take on the Rangers). Blackwood stopped 33 of the 35 Washington shots that he faced for a .943 save percentage on the night. Facing him was one of the elite goalies in the NHL right now, Braden Holtby. Holtby was equal to all 25 of the Devils’ shots in getting the shutout and taking home the first star honors. Blackwood was named the third star of the night while Andre Burakovsky of the Capitals, who had the game winner for them, was the second star.
One developing story around the Devils is their lack of attack on the power play. They went 0-for-6 tonight with six shots on goal. They are now 0-for-24 over the last nine games on the PP according to Steve Cangialosi of MSG Networks. The Caps were 1-for-5 with nine shots on Blackwood. They also had two shorthanded shots to go with that.
One cool note is that the Devils top line tonight saw Travis Zajac centering two Jersey boys in Palmieri and Kenny Agostino.
The tone for the Devils’ night was set early. Stefan Noesen had a glorious chance right in front of the Washington net with tons of time. Holtby stopped both of his shots. Following that, at the 2:40 mark, Burakovsky scored his game winner on a 3-on-2 odd man rush with Michal Kempny and Travis Boyd. They went tic-tac-toe to Burakovsky backdoor and he scored. It was the Caps’ first shot of the game. The net actually became dislodged after the goal was scored as Blackwood knocked it off of its moorings.
Andy Greene, who had a fantastic game overall, would hit the post midway through the first period off of a flurry of Devils shots. Greene had a monster game defensively, helping to kill off a 5-on-3 Capitals power play in the middle part of the first frame.
Blackwood showed his stuff late in the second period when he got his right pad on an Alex Ovechkin shot point blank. Ovechkin got the puck off of a Devils defensive zone turnover and Blackwood absolutely robbed one of the game’s best players.
Washington scored their second goal at the 4:35 mark of the third period while on the power play. Agostino had gone off for tripping and John Carlson slap passed the puck to Nicklas Backstrom, who was hiding backdoor by the Devils’ net and he used his backhand to tip the puck by Blackwood and make it 2-0 Caps. Evgeny Kuznetsov had the secondary assist.
The Devils would be on the power play to finish the game when Washington’s TJ Oshie was called for tripping Connor Carrick at 18:18. New Jersey would pull Blackwood to get a 6-on-4 advantage but Lars Eller would strip the puck at the Capitals’ blue line and score unassisted into the empty net. That gave us our final of 3-0. It also gave the Caps an even strength goal, a power play goal and a shorthanded goal to notch their three in the game.
The Caps ended up out shooting the Devils 36 to 25. Both teams split the game’s faceoffs 50/50. The Devils out hit Washington 23-16. The Capitals had 20 blocked shots to the Devils’ 16 and Washington had 13 giveaways to New Jersey’s eight.
Individually, Damon Severson led all Devils’ skaters with 24:02 of ice time (including 7:55 on the PP and 4:31 on the PK). Travis Zajac led the forwards with 23:36 (7:23 on the power play and 3:35 shorthanded). Shots on goal were led by Blake Coleman with five, hits by Agostino with six, blocks by Blake Pietila and Greene who both had three and takeaways by Nick Lappin, Zajac, Michael McLeod, Quenneville, Pietila and Carrick who all had one.
Next up, it’s a quick turnaround as the Devils head back north to take on the Rangers in Manhattan tomorrow night at 7 PM. The Devils will try to end their five game winless streak against their fiercest rivals and we will have a write-up right here for you. Do not forget to leave a comment if you wish, as they are always appreciated.