The Devils played the Pittsburgh Penguins exactly one week ago and Mackenzie Blackwood held down the fort in a 2-1 Devils edge.
Fast forward to tonight and the Devils were knocked off 4-1 in Pittsburgh with Blackwood getting pulled after letting in the fourth goal.
Roster-wise, the Devils moved Jesper Boqvist back in up front – he played on the fourth line with Jack Hughes and Wayne Simmonds. He slotted in for John Hayden. Matt Tennyson was the other healthy scratch with Sami Vatanen back in the lineup. The Devils also placed Kevin Rooney on injured reserve yesterday as he is now week-to-week with an upper body injury.
Pittsburgh, this season, has lost 86 man games to injury. This includes captain Sidney Crosby, who was out again tonight as he is recovering from core muscle surgery. The Pens also had a familiar face as a healthy scratch: former Devil Joseph Blandisi, who is now with the Pittsburgh organization.
The Devils dominated the early minutes of the game in terms of zone time and puck possession. This, however, did not result in a goal and, instead, the Penguins got on the board first. It came off of a New Jersey turnover deep in their own zone. Coming off of a defensive zone faceoff win, the Devils turned the puck over to Pittsburgh and Dominik Kahun took it in the far corner. He then walked in front, stickhandling by Devils’ d-man Mirco Mueller, who had gone down too early and was sliding by him. Kahun cut to the front of the net and backhanded the puck by Blackwood to make it 1-0 Penguins. Dominik Simon had the lone assist on the goal which came at the 7:51 mark of the first.
Late in the first period, however, the Pens’ Chad Ruhwedel was called for interference against Miles Wood and the Devils went on to the power play. Forty seconds of that power play time would continue into the second period and that is when the Devils took advantage to tie the game up.
Just 31 seconds in to the new frame, Kyle Palmieri wristed a shot from the point and the rebound came out to Nico Hischier in front. He passed to Taylor Hall, who was cutting in towards net and he scored his first goal since November 1. For Hall, it had been a nine-game goal drought and he put most of the blame on himself, saying he needed to play better. His power play goal came at an opportune time, as it knotted the game at one, getting the Devils back into things.
The Devils ended the night 1-for-4 on the power play with nine shots on Pens’ goalie Tristan Jarry. They also had a pair of shorthanded shots. The Penguins were held 0-for-3 on the power play with three total power play shots.
The beginning of the second also saw Damon Severson fight Patric Hornqvist at the 3:14 mark. Severson had laid a big hit on the Pens’ Jake Guentzel and Hornqvist took exception. The Penguins were already on the power play when the scrap happened, but Hornqvist took an extra two minutes for roughing along with the five for fighting and that evened things out at 4-on-4.
Guentzel may have taken the big hit earlier, but by the end of the period, he would have his revenge and the Penguins would have a 2-1 lead. Guentzel scored on a breakaway where he went forehand to backhand to beat Blackwood at 12:27. Evgeni Malkin, who seems to play even better when Crosby is out, had the primary assist while Bryan Rust had the secondary.
The Devils were now trailing heading into the third, but it was only 2-1 and they could come back from that, right?
No. Jared McCann scored 2:05 into the third when Will Butcher tried to get it up to Blake Coleman along the boards. Coleman could not clear the Devils’ zone and McCann grabbed the puck and shot, beating Blackwood under the crossbar. That made it 3-1.
It would only take 25 seconds for Pittsburgh to get their final one too. Zach Aston-Reese got it to John Marino at 2:30 and he blasted one through a screen that beat Blackwood five-hole. Sam Lafferty had the secondary assist.
It was after this goal that Louis Domingue made his Devils debut, becoming just the fourth right hand-catching goalie in Devils history. He stopped all five shots he saw while Blackwood turned aside 32 of the 36 he saw. Blackwood ended the night with an .889 save percentage. The Penguins finished the night with a total of 41 shots on goal. In goal for Pittsburgh, Jarry was equal to 36 of the 37 total shots he faced for a .973 save percentage.
Severson left the game late after being hit by a puck in the Devils’ zone. He did not return, but it was very late in the game when he got hurt.
The Devils won 54-percent of the game’s faceoffs. Hits were equal at 32 for each team. The Pens blocked 13 shots to the Devils’ nine and the Devils had more giveaways at 11 to the Penguins’ four.
PK Subban led all Devils skaters in ice time with 21:24 (including 2:34 on the power play and 2:04 killing penalties). Jack Hughes, who made some nifty plays during the night, including splitting two pairs of Pittsburgh defenders only to wipe out just as he got to the goal, crashing into Jarry, but getting the shot off, led the forwards with 19:00 (including 4:05 on the PP).
Sami Vatanen led in shots on goal with seven while hits were led by Coleman also with seven. Blocks were led by Subban with two and takeaways by Palmieri, who had the only one for the Devils.
Next up, the Devils return home to faceoff with the Detroit Red Wings at Prudential Center tomorrow night. This game will be the Devils’ Hockey Fights Cancer Night and I will be there live, so the recap will be up a little bit later than usual. We’ll see you tomorrow night as the Devils try to get back in the winning column.