The Devils came into tonight’s game having dropped seven straight to the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Jackets swept last season’s series and are well on their way to doing so this year as well by defeating the Devils 5-1 at Nationwide Arena.
This game finished up the eighth back-to-back for the Devils in eight weeks and their tenth overall this season and, following last night’s loss to the Capitals, there were some changes.
John Hayden was back in the lineup for the first time since November 26 and Connor Carrick was back off of injury reserve for his first game since October 14. The Devils dressed seven defensemen along with 11 forwards. Kevin Rooney, Michael McLeod and Jesper Boqvist were the healthy scratches. New Jersey coach Alain Nasreddine felt that the D has been over taxed the last few games and having more options to rotate would give some players some more playing time, but also some rest in-game, as he told MSG’s Erika Wachter in the pregame.
Getting his first NHL start tonight was Gilles Senn, fresh off of making his first NHL appearance in last night’s game. He stopped 35 shots as Columbus fired 38 at him for a .921 save percentage. The Blue Jackets finished the game with 40 shots once empty netters were tallied. Opposing Senn in his first NHL assignment was Joonas Korpisalo. He stopped 21 of the 22 shots the Devils sent his way for a nightly save percentage of .955.
Another player making his NHL debut tonight was the Blue Jackets’ Ryan MacInnis, the son of longtime Flame and Blue Al MacInnis. Ryan is a forward unlike his defenseman father.
Another milestone as Travis Zajac was playing in his 957th career game (all for the Devils). He passed Scott Stevens on the Devils’ all-time games played list to move into sole possession of fourth place.
The Blue Jackets were winners of three straight coming into tonight and they would waste no time. Oliver Bjorkstrand scored just 26 seconds into the game. It occurred when defenseman Seth Jones pinched in to keep the puck in the Devils’ zone. He got it to Boone Jenner who moved the puck to Bjorkstrand in the middle of the ice and he shot, beating Senn to make it 1-0 Columbus. Steve Cangialosi of MSG Network mentioned that this is the seventh goal in just 14 games against the Devils for Bjorkstrand. But he was not done.
At the 8:06 mark, Bjorkstrand struck again. This time it came right after Senn had made a nice save on the Blue Jackets’ Dean Kukan in close. Pierre-Luc Dubois controlled and got it to Bjorkstrand at almost the same place he scored from the first time. He connected again to make it 2-0 Blue Jackets.
But the Devils would cut the lead to one before the period was up. It came at 4-on-4 following matching minors to Jenner for hooking and the Devils’ Jesper Bratt for embellishment. While playing at 4-on-4 last night, Washington scored twice. Tonight was a little bit better to the Devils. While at 4-on-4, Will Butcher scored at 15:28. It came when the Devils won the offensive zone faceoff. Sami Vatanen and Butcher played catch with the puck at the blue line and Butcher dropped down a little bit lower. He then sent it to Pavel Zacha at the far faceoff circle before Zacha sent it back and Butcher shot and beat Korpisalo to make it 2-1 Jackets. That was all the Devils could muster the rest of the night.
In the second period, Vladislav Gavrikov added to the Columbus lead when he scored at 13:13. The Devils had a lot of good O-zone time but could not capitalize. The Blue Jackets skated the puck out of their zone where Eric Robinson found a trailing Gavrikov. Gavrikov then snapped one by Senn to extend the Columbus lead to 3-1. Alexandre Texier had the other helper.
The Devils penalty kill was on point as they kept Columbus 0-for-5 with seven shots. This included a 5-on-3 for 39 seconds in the third period when Zajac was in the box for hooking at 4:42 and Kyle Palmieri took a double minor at 6:04 for tripping and unsportsmanlike conduct. The Devils also finished the game shorthanded when Miles Wood was called for a slash at 19:09.
As good as the Devils were on the penalty kill, they were not too good on the power play, going 0-for-3 with three shots. They did have three shorthanded shots, however, including a chance with time running out in the second when Blake Coleman crashed the net on a 2-on-1 with Zajac, but was stopped by Korpisalo. Coleman was also stopped shorthanded early in the third.
Senn was pulled with 2:58 remaining in regulation with the Devils on the power play when Kukan was called for tripping at 17:02 of the third. But it only took a faceoff win in the Jackets’ zone for Zach Werenski to score at 17:08 shorthanded into the empty net. Jones and Jenner had the assists on the goal that made it 4-1 Blue Jackets.
The Devils continued without Senn after that goal and Gustav Nyquist scored unassisted at 18:48 shorthanded and into the empty net to give us our final of 5-1.
Time on ice leaders for the Devils were: Damon Severson leading all skaters with 21:27 (23 seconds on the power play/4:09 shorthanded) and Zacha leading the forwards with 20:58 (including 2:36 on the power play and 2:56 shorthanded).
The Devils won 42-percent of the game’s draws while outhitting the Blue Jackets 22-15. The Jackets also had more blocks at 11 to the Devils’ eight and more giveaways at 11 to the Devils’ five.
Individually, Jack Hughes, who is mired in a goal drought right now, led the team with four shots on goal. Hits were led by Wood and Vatanen with five each as Wood continues his physical play. Blocked shots were led by Carrick and Mirco Mueller with two each and takeaways by Nico Hischier with three.
Next up, the Devils play out their string before the Christmas break on Monday by traveling to Chicago to finish the season series with the Blackhawks. Puck drop for that game is at 8:30 PM eastern time and we will have that for you right here. Enjoy the rest of the weekend everyone!