Devils Fall in Matinee to Penguins, 3-1

The Devils were playing their last game at Prudential Center for quite a while. Following today’s game, the team will play their next six on the road. They did better on this five-game homestand than their last, finishing with a 2-1-1 record – much better than being swept.

Now, they will head out on the road, which includes the final game of their series against the Pittsburgh Penguins, which is now a rubber game.

The Pens won today in game two of the three-game set, 3-1.

Some updates on injuries. Firstly, Pavel Zacha was back in the lineup after being out the previous game. Nate Bastian is week-to-week with a lower body injury. Mackenzie Blackwood is being listed as having an upper body injury. He is close to a return, but there is no clear timeline for that.

Will Butcher, Bastian and Blackwood were the Devils’ scratches. Michael McLeod was slotted out of the lineup in favor of Nick Merkley.

Because of Blackwood’s injury, Scott Wedgewood was in net again for the Devils. He stopped 26-of-29 shots by the Penguins for an .897 save percentage. He let in the only power play shot he saw and was 26-for-29 at even strength.

Opposing him was Casey DeSmith. DeSmith stopped 24-of-25 for a .960 save percentage and stopped the Devils’ lone power play shot. He stopped 23-of-24 at even strength.

Both teams were in their Reverse Retro jerseys, with the Pens’ ones being white. Today is also the official halfway point of the Devils’ season.

The Devils scored their lone goal 7:19 into the game when Kyle Palmieri struck.

Jesper Bratt and Sami Vatanen broke into the Penguins zone on a rush. Palmieri was trailing and when Vatanen took a shot, Palmieri was right there to put the rebound in.

The Devils had an early 1-0 lead and Bratt is in the middle of the three-game assist streak.

It remained 1-0 Devils into the second period. The Penguins would tie things 4:59 into the new frame.

It happened when Zach Aston-Reese made a nice move around the Devils defense. He briefly lost the puck and it was settled down by Sam Lafferty. He left it sitting there and Aston-Reese shot it under Wedgewood to knot the game at one. Marcus Petterson had the secondary assist.

It stayed tied until the 6:35 mark of the second with the Pens on the power play. Sidney Crosby poked the puck off the wall to Jake Guentzel. Guentzel and Bryan Rust went in on a partial 2-on-1. Rust shot upstairs on Wedgewood to make it 2-1 Pittsburgh.

Things remained that way until 14:25 of the third when the Devils were unable to clear their zone. Crosby saved the puck at the blueline and threw it on net. It was redirected by Wedgewood by Guentzel to give the Pens the 3-1 lead. Rust had the secondary assist on the goal.

The Devils pulled Wedgewood with about 2:06 to go in regulation and it nearly immediately bore fruit.

At 1:54 the Devils had seemingly made it 3-2. However, the officials had also blown the whistle simultaneously. The play was reviewed to see if the puck had crossed the goal line prior to the whistle blowing. It was a quick decision and the call on the ice stood: no goal.

The referee was quick to blow the whistle when he lost sight of the puck. Unfortunately, it cost the Devils a potential comeback.

What also hurt them were the game stats. Pittsburgh outshot the Devils, 29-25, the Devils won 43-percent of the game’s faceoffs. Pittsburgh was 1-for-2 on the power play while the Devils were a whopping 0-for-4. The Pens had six hits to the Devils’ four, ten blocked shots to the Devils’ one. The Devils had 22 turnovers to the Penguins’ six.

Individually, PK Subban led in time on ice with 24:48 while Jack Hughes led the forwards with 19:41. Damon Severson, one of the quarterbacks of the Devils’ power play led in power play time with 4:39.

Shots on goal were led by Merkley with five. Hits were led by Andreas Johnsson, Mikhail Maltsev, Bratt and Ty Smith with one apiece. Blocks were by Subban with one and takeaways by Maltsev and Janne Kuokkanen with two each. Zacha led the centers in faceoff win percentage 69-percent.

Next up, the Devils will finish off their series with the Penguins tomorrow in Pittsburgh. That game is also a 1 PM start and we will have a recap up for you following the game.

Until then, stay safe everyone!

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