Devils Fall to Sharks in California Finale

Coach John Hynes felt that a good trip for the Devils on their three game West Coast swing would be accruing between four and six points. They fell one short of that goal by gaining only three. New Jersey fell last night to the Sharks in San Jose, 5-2.

The Devils had scored 11 goals on 70 shots combined in the games in Los Angeles and Anaheim. Tonight they just did not have it. They only mustered two goals on just 24 shots on net. They Devils had beaten San Jose 3-2 at Prudential Center back on October 14, but that seems a season ago now.

The only two changes to the roster tonight, on the second half of a back-to-back, were Drew Stafford slotting in at forward for Stefan Noesen and Keith Kinkaid starting between the pipes in place of Cory Schneider. Former Shark Mirco Mueller and Steven Santini were the other New Jersey scratches.

Kinkaid made 29 saves on 34 Sharks shots. Going for San Jose was Martin Jones who stopped 22 of the aforementioned 24 Devils shots.

For the Devils, the change of putting Stafford in the lineup paid immediate dividends. He scored the game’s first goal at the 12:05 mark of the first period. Damon Severson and Andy Greene had the assists. The goal came when Stafford rushed the puck up the right wing boards. He shot from a tight angle and the puck squibbed between the post and Jones’ left arm. It was Stafford’s first goal of the season and it made it 1-0 Devils.

But once again, the Devils jumped out to an early lead only to squander it a few minutes later. This time Timo Meier scored his first of two on the night at 15:51 of the first to tie it up at one. This was a tough one as Sami Vatanen gave the puck away at the Sharks’ blue line, having his pocket picked by Tomas Hertl and Meier scored off of the rush.

Joe Pavelski would give the Sharks their first lead of the evening a little less than three minutes later at 18:03. Brenden Dillon shot from the point and Pavelski shoveled the rebound by Kinkaid to make it 2-1 San Jose. Erik Karlsson had the secondary assist on the goal and the Sharks would not look back.

The second period started positively for the Devils when Kinkaid stopped an odd man rush by the Sharks, but at the 7:19 mark, Radim Simek found the back of the net for his first NHL goal. He took a shot from the point that had eyes and beat Kinkaid cleanly on his short side. Lukas Radil and Brent Burns had the assists on the goal that would make Simek the game’s third star (Pavelski was the second and Timo Meier with his two goals was the first).

The Devils seemed to be back in things when Andy Greene scored from Kyle Palmieri and Nico Hischier at 8:59 of the second to cut the San Jose lead to one at 3-2. It occurred when Palmieri made a nice power move towards the net off the rush. He muscled the puck back to a trailing Greene who put the pass by Jones to score his first of the season, his first goal in 66 games as a matter of fact.

But one goal was as close as the Devils would get in this game. At 14:52 of the second, Meier scored his second of the game from Joonas Donskoi. A Devils power play had just ended and Meier was given a lot of time and space on a 2-on-2, which according to MSG+ analyst Ken Daneyko, was played more like a 2-on-1 by the Devils. This goal once again doubled the Sharks lead to 4-2.

The game was put away by San Jose when, at 14:14, the Devils were assessed a rough delay of game penalty and the Sharks wasted no time on the power play. Hertl scored from former New Jersey Rockets youth player and Brooklyn native, Kevin Labanc and Pavelski. Labanc took a shot from the point and Kinkaid made the initial save, but Hertl was able to put the rebound past the diving goalie to make it 5-2. On the power play, the Sharks went 1-for-2 with a total of two shots. The Devils were 0-for-2 with two shots as well.

New Jersey finished the game winning a paltry 37-percent of the game’s faceoffs and were outshot by ten (34 to 24). The Devils narrowly out hit the Sharks 14-13, had more blocked shots at 14 to 10 and less giveaways at 10 to San Jose’s 13.

Individually, time on ice was led by Will Butcher, playing 22:40 (including 2:04 on the power play). The red hot Kyle Palmieri – he had two goals in each of the first two games in California – led all forwards with 17:29 of ice time (including 1:37 on power play and six seconds while the team was down a man). Shots on goal were led by Marcus Johansson with five, hits were led by Blake Coleman with three, blocked shots were led by Brian Boyle and Miles Wood with two each and takeaways were led by Damon Severson with three.

And with that, the Devils will return home to the East Coast and have a few days to get their house in order before the Vegas Golden Knights come calling on Friday at 7 PM. I will be attending this game at The Rock, so my write up on it will be a little bit late, but I will try to get it up on the site as soon as possible.

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