The Los Angeles Kings had gone into Brooklyn and lost to the Islanders, then followed that up by dropping a game that they controlled in Manhattan – with 38 shots – that the Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist stole from them. They came into Newark a desperate group and it showed. They jumped all over the Devils early and never looked back, winning 3-1.
The Devils came into tonight just three points behind the Flyers for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs. They could have picked up a big two points tonight. Unfortunately for them, they did not get any points and now find themselves even with the Isles, who defeated Columbus tonight in a very tight Eastern playoff race.
The Kings came in on the bubble in the Western Conference playoff race. They boast leading scorer Jeff Carter. He is the only Kings scorer in double digits in goals (he actually doubles up Devils’ leading scorer PA Parenteau with 24 goals).
The Devils lineup was largely the same as it has been. Beau Bennett is still out with an injury short term as of now while Seth Helgeson and Devante Smith-Pelly were the healthy scratches for the night. Los Angeles scratched Nic Dowd, Tom Gilbert and Matt Greene.
One player who the Devils would be seeing tonight that they did not see when the teams clashed in LA in November is Anze Kopitar. The Kings’ captain would play a factor in tonight’s game even though his stats have been a bit down this year. They would not see Jonathan Quick in goal, since he has been injured since opening night. He might return for LA by March at the earliest.
The goaltending matchup instead featured Peter Budaj for the Kings, who would make 24 saves on 25 Devils shots. The Devils started Cory Schneider, who was feeling better after his illness kept him out the last two games. He would make 9 saves on 12 shots faced. Much as the Devils forced a change in the Flyers’ goaltending in their last game, Cory was chased in favor of Keith Kinkaid in the second period. He pitched a shutout, as he made 13 saves on all 13 shots he faced. The Kings had a total of 25 shots, the same as the Devils and much less than they fired at the Rangers yesterday.
The game got off to an auspicious start for the Devils. It began when Adam Henrique was hit in front of the LA bench by Drew Doughty. He fell awkwardly on his knee and would leave the game briefly, but return. Then, just 41 seconds into the contest, Kyle Quincey was called for holding against Jordan Nolan. The Kings were on the power play as soon as the game began and would convert. Kopitar scored at the 50 second mark from Carter and Doughty. The goal was his fifth of the season. It was 1-0 Kings. On the night, the Kings were 1-for-2 on the power play while New Jersey was 0-for-4.
Then, less than a minute later, at the 1:46 mark, Tanner Pearson converted on a broken zone clear by the Devils and scored. He got assists from Carter and Devin Setoguchi. Just like that, it was 2-0 Los Angeles.
The Devils were handed a fantastic opportunity when Trevor Lewis was called for boarding at 8:11 and then Kopitar went off for hooking at 8:27. They would have 1:44 of 5-on-3 power play time. But Budaj came up huge for the Kings and the Devils added a dinged crossbar and failed to score.
Los Angeles would get out of the first period with another goal at the 16:15 mark when Alec Martinez scored from Marian Gaborik and Nick Shore to make the score 3-0.
And that was about it, as Budaj and the Kings settled in. In the second period, there was some controversy as the Devils had seemingly scored when Nolan pushed the net off the moorings. The whistle blew before the puck crossed the line and referee Wes McCauley could have awarded a goal to the Devils if PA Parenteau was in the act of shooting when the net was pushed off (he was a split second behind). The Devils did get a power play out of it, as Nolan was called for delay of game, but nothing came of it for them.
A scary moment came when Setoguchi was hit by a puck in the ear mid-second period. He went off injured.
Late in the second, the Devils nearly gave up a fourth one when the puck came off of the end boards, hit Kinkaid’s skate, hit the post and sat in the blue paint of the crease. Michael Cammalleri was able to clear it, averting danger for New Jersey.
The Devils broke up the shutout bid at 7:19 of the third period when Miles Wood went digging in the near corner for the puck. He won the battle and Cammalleri took it, giving it to Quincey at the near point. He fired a hard shot and the puck tipped in off of the skate of Martinez, making it 3-1. The Devils had finally gotten one by Budaj, but would it be enough for their third comeback from a three goal deficit this season?
It would not, as Kinkaid was pulled at the 2:13 mark of the third, but the Devils could not maintain the zone. They had played a much better third period, but just could not finish the job.
So, with that, Taylor Hall’s six game point scoring streak came to an end and the Devils failed to gain ground in the standings. To add insult to injury, the victory was Kings’ coach Darryl Sutter’s 618th of his career. The man he passed up the all-time NHL coach’s wins ladder? Jacques Lemaire.
Next up the Devils faceoff with the Metropolitan Division-leading Washington Capitals at Prudential Center on Thursday in their last game before the All-Star break. They have to start stringing wins together or they will be in danger of falling out of the playoff race. The Caps are always tough to play, but we will find out what happens on Thursday.