The Devils were looking for revenge following a 5-2 loss yesterday on home ice to the Washington Capitals.
Unfortunately, that revenge never came. The Devils lost today by a closer score (3-2), but lost nonetheless.
In news passed on by Erika Wachter on the MSG pregame show, Nico Hischier is day-to-day following the PK Subban shot that deflected off of a Capital players’ stick and into his face shield. The shield went into his face and caused the bleeding. He did not play today.
Mikhail Maltsev drew in in his place and Pavel Zacha moved over to his natural center position to fill in as another center in Nico’s absence.
The Devils were 2-5-1 with five points at home coming into this game, not a good performance on home ice so far.
In order to stop some of that bleeding, they went back to Mackenzie Blackwood, making his seventh start in eight games. Blackwood stopped 20-of-23 for an .870 save percentage. He stopped both of Washington’s power play shots and was 18-for-21 at even strength.
Facing him was Ilya Samsonov, making his first start since January 17 due to a bout with COVID. He, according to Steve Cangialosi, was acutally playing in the RWJBarnabas Hockey House the other day as a member of the Hershey Bears, making a rehab start against the Binghamton Devils in the AHL.
He stopped 19-of-21 for a .905 save percentage, including stopping all three Devils power play shots and 16-of-18 at even strength.
The Devils ended the game being outshot 23-21 and were murdered in the faceoff circle, winning only 33-percent of the game’s draws. Both teams went 0-for-3 on the power play. New Jersey did outhit the Caps, 17-12, but had less blocked shots at Washington’s 12 to their six. They also had more giveaways at five to the Capitals’ three.
The Devils had not led at home in their last three home games, but that was going to change when Maltsev, inserted into the lineup due to Hischier’s absence, scored.
The goal came 6:45 into the game and happened when PK Subban made a bank pass up the boards to Maltsev up the wing. Maltsev gained the zone and wristed a shot by Samsonov, as the Devils caught the Caps in a change. Pavel Zacha had the secondary assist, increasing his point-scoring streak to ten game – the longest active now in the NHL.
The Caps would tie things up before the frame was up, however, when at 15:39. Washington won a faceoff deep in their own zone. Brenden Dillon got the puck up ice and Tom Wilson settled it down at center ice. He gave it to Jakub Vrana, who shot it on Blackwood, got behind the Devils’ defense and put his own rebound in to tie the game at one apiece. Blackwood did not control the rebound the way he would have liked and Vrana made him pay for it.
Nicklas Backstrom gave Washington their first lead of the evening 2:32 into the second period. It came when John Carlson created a Devils turnover in the Washington end. Vrana got it and sprung Backstrom and Wilson on a 2-on-1. Wilson gave a return pass to Backstrom, who scored making it 2-1 Caps.
The Devils, however, would answer right back.
At the 3:20 mark, Travis Zajac gave to Miles Wood in the Devils zone. Wood hit Yegor Sharangovich streaking up the ice. Sharangovich then burst in the Washington zone and snapped a shot by Samsonov to tie the game at two.
Zajac’s assist moved him past Scott Stevens and firmly into fifth place on the Devils’ franchise all-time assist leaders.
Following the goal, there was nice scrap between Dillon and Nate Bastian that was long-lasting and hard-hitting. It was a bout that had spent the whole game building up to and it delivered.
Washington would get their game-winner from Alex Ovechkin at the 13:37 mark of the second when the Devils’ Nikita Gusev was stopped by Samsonov. Nick Jensen quickly moved the puck up the ice and Ovechkin and Lars Eller were in on a 3-on-2 off man rush. Ovechkin scored to give the Caps the 3-2 lead that would be our final.
The third period saw a scary moment as a Zdeno Chara clearing attempt hit Miles Wood in the side of the head. Wood left and did not return (although this was very late in the game). We will see how his condition is as compares to Hischier’s.
After a final flurry that saw Carlson block a sure goal by Kyle Palmieri with his back to the shot (the puck hit him in the small of the back), the game was over and the Devils had fallen again.
Damon Severson led all players in ice time with 22:06. Palmieri led the forwards with 19:36.
Shots on goal were led by Jack Hughes and PK Subban with three apiece. Bastian led in hits with four as he was just a physical powerhouse out there today. Blocked shots were led by Will Butcher with two. Takeaways were led by Jesper Bratt and Hughes with three each.
Faceoff winning percentage was led by Hughes with a 38-percent winning clip.
Next up, the Devils homestand continues.
They will face the New York Islanders at Prudential Center on Tuesday with fans in attendance. It is only 10-percent of capacity but if it spurs the Devils on, hey that’s a win there!
Until then, stay safe everyone!