Penalties were the story of tonight’s game between the New Jersey Devils and the St. Louis Blues from Prudential Center. The Devils just took way too many of them and found themselves on their heels for most of the night, falling to the Blues 3-1.
St. Louis, the number one overall team in the Western Conference coming into play tonight, not only spent the majority of the night on the power play, they also ended up outshooting the Devils by double digits, hurting New Jersey’s chances at any comeback once they got down on the big board.
The Devils did not travel back on the red eye from Calgary, instead staying the night and traveling back yesterday. The team had an optional practice earlier this morning that every player showed up for despite having been on the road for eight days, which showed to head coach John Hynes that the team wanted to compete tonight and be prepared to compete.
However, despite that, the Devils were still missing a lot of firepower up front: Kyle Palmieri, Marcus Johansson and Travis Zajac remain out with injuries. Because of that, New Jersey would again find it very difficult to put the puck in the net in the clutch. On defense, Steven Santini slotted back in and, in kind of a surprise move, Damon Severson was a healthy scratch on the blueline. The Devils coaching staff simply felt that the young d-man could use some time watching the game from the press box as a learning experience. They still think he has a good upside and just needed to see the game from another persepective. Dalton Prout was also a healthy scratch on defense.
The Blues have owned the Devils of late and, in fact, goalie Jake Allen is 5-0 all-time against the Devils making for a very difficult hill for the Devils to climb out of the chute.
The Devils actually got off to a hot start, first killing off a Nico Hischier tripping penalty just 36 seconds into the game and then scoring the game’s first goal. That goal came at 3:35 of the first period and happened when Blake Coleman got the puck behind the St. Louis net and sent it back to John Moore at the point. Moore fired the puck on Jake Allen and Brian Boyle tipped it back to Coleman in front of the net. Coleman buried it to give New Jersey the 1-0 lead. That assist for Boyle was his first point as a New Jersey Devil. The Devils would end the period with that lead.
From there, though, the Devils just could not crack Allen. They had some chances. On their first power play of the night, which began at 11:44 of the first (Robert Bortuzzo for cross checking Miles Wood), Taylor Hall was reaching for a puck with a wide open net and ended up hitting the side of the goal cage. Later in the second period, Santini hit Hall with a nice stretch pass for a breakaway that was swatted aside by Allen.
The Devils had gotten through the first period with the lead, but you can only contain someone like Vladimir Tarasenko for so long. He would tie it up at the 18:57 mark of the second from Brayden Schenn. Tarasenko’s shot redirected in off of Devils defenseman Mirco Mueller. That made it 1-1 to go into the second period. Both the Devils and Blues have each only been in one game where it was tied after two periods. As per Deb Placey of MSG Network, the Devils lost theirs in a shootout (the Calgary game) and St. Louis had won theirs.
But one thing would hurt the Devils going into the third period. A penalty. With ten seconds left in the second frame, Coleman took a high sticking infraction against Joel Edmundson, putting St. Louis on the power play with the majority of it on fresh ice in the third period.
They would not pass that opportunity up. Good teams rarely do.
Just 32 seconds into the third period, the Blues’ Jaden Schwartz scored on that power play to put St. Louis up 2-1. Schenn had given him a nice pass that he roofed by Cory Schneider, while Tarasenko had the secondary assist.
Tarasenko, the game’s first star (Schenn was the second while Coleman was the third), struck again when he was sprung for a breakaway and hauled down by Santini. There was no penalty shot called, just a tripping minor. Schwartz would hit the crossbar, but the Blues would only muster one official shot on goal on that man advantage. On the night, the Blues were 1-for-5 on the power play while the Devils were 0-for-4.
The Devils really had one more chance left – when Pavel Zacha hit the side of the net on a Devils power play midway through the third. Cory would be pulled with about a minute and a half remaining in the game, but the Blues would put it away when Schenn scored into the open net with an assist to Tarasenko. Both Schenn and Tarasenko played a part in all three St. Louis goals, with each netting a goal and two assists.
Between the pipes, Allen stopped 21 of 22 Devils shots while Cory stopped 37 of 39 shots faced. St. Louis finished with 40 shots on goal with the empty netter.
One area that was vastly improved for the Devils were faceoffs. Both teams won 50-percent of their draws. The Devils had been getting brutalized in that department previously.
Individually for New Jersey, Andy Greene led all Devils skaters with 22:38 of ice time, Brian Boyle had four shots on goal to lead the Devils and Stefan Noesen led the team with eight hits.
Next up, the Devils take on the Edmonton Oilers for the second time in less than a week Thursday at Prudential Center. The Oilers just came off of an overtime win over the Islanders tonight, but hopefully the Devils will be better readjusted to home ice and get back on the winning track against an Edmonton team that is suddenly playing much better.