It has been since January 24 that the Devils won a home game. In that time, fans were allowed back into the Prudential Center (in a limited capacity). So the Devils had yet to get a win this year in front of their home fans.
But tonight put that to rest. New Jersey edged the Buffalo Sabres 3-2 to earn an elusive win at the Rock.
First, the Devils gave a health update to captain Nico Hischier. He underwent successful surgery to repair his frontal sinus fracture that occurred back in February against the Capitals when he got hit in the face with a PK Subban slapshot. His recovery time is about three weeks.
This was the sixth meeting between the Sabres and Devils this season. The Devils had a 2-3-0 record against them coming into tonight. Buffalo actually had half of their six victories come against the Devils.
But tonight, the Devils played a lot better and even had a bit of luck on their side.
In goal, the were back to Mackenzie Blackwood, who stopped 33 of the Sabres’ 35 shots for a .943 save percentage. He stopped three shorthanded shots and was 30-for-32 at even strength. The Sabres did not have a power play shot, as the Devils held them 0-for-2 on the man advantage, the first time in their six meetings that the Sabres had not scored a power play goal on the Devils.
For Buffalo, it was Jonas Johansson, filling in for an injured Linus Ullmark. He stopped 24 of 27 Devils’ shots for a .889 save percentage. He stopped two of New Jersey’s three power play shots and was 22-for-24 at even strength. The Devils were 1-for-3 on the power play for the night.
For the Devils, Will Butcher, Michael McLeod and Aaron Dell remained the scratches.
It was an odd clash of eras on the uniform front. The Sabres were wearing their 2000’s inspired white Reverse Retro uniforms while the Devils were in their 1980’s inspired green Reverse Retro unis. Regardless of its effect on the space-time continuum, it still made for a great visual on TV.
The Devils got on the board first when Yegor Sharangovich scored 17:40 into the first period. Damon Severson made a nice touch pass from just inside the blue line to Sharangovich in the slot. He shot with a Buffalo defender draped all over him and scored. Travis Zajac had the secondary assist. Sharangovich now has goals in back-to-back games.
Earlier in the period, prior to the goal, a scary moment as the Sabres’ Taylor Hall got hit in the face with a shot by his own teammate. He went to the locker room for repairs but returned in the second period.
The Sabres came alive in the second frame when Tobias Rieder tied the game 6:13 in to the new period. It came when the puck kind of bounced on the boards from Kyle Okposo to Brandon Montour, who got it to Rieder, who fired a shot over Blackwood’s glove to tie the game at one.
That goal ended a 177:20 goal drought for the Sabres.
And they were not done. About a minute later, at 7:10, Jeff Skinner scored to make it 2-1 Buffalo. Casey Mittelstadt got it to Skinner as they headed off on a 2-on-1. Skinner chose to shoot, a backhand upstairs over Blackwood, who did get a little piece of it. Montour had the secondary assist.
Before the second was out, though, the Devils would tie things. At 10:39, Sami Vatanen got his first in his return to the Devils when Ryan Murray got it to Janne Kuokkanen at the near haflwall. He got it to Vatanen at the point. Vatanen took the pass, which was on end, and snapped it by Johansson to tie the game at two.
That set up the third period, where Miles Wood would score 4:52 in on the power play to give the Devils their 3-2 win.
It began when Colin Miller laid a two-handed slash across Pavel Zacha. The officials reviewed it to see if it should be more than two minutes, but in the end it was simply a minor for slashing. Zacha would return minutes after the Devils scored.
On the man advantage, Jack Hughes got the puck off the boards to PK Subban at the point. Subban dished to Jesper Bratt, who fired and had his shot tipped by Johansson by Wood camped out in front of the net. That made it 3-2 Devils, our final.
Buffalo coach Ralph Krueger pulled Johansson with 1:51 left to go in regulation, but the Sabres could not tie things.
The Devils won and had their home victory since January 24.
The Devils were outshot 35-27 with Wood having the most shots at five. The Devils won just 39-percent of the game’s faceoffs with Zacha leading the centers with a 47-percent winning percentage. The Sabres led in hits with 25 to the Devils’ 19. Nate Bastian led by a mile for the Devils with seven. Blocked shots were led by the Sabres at eight to the Devils’ six. Murray led in that category for the Devils with two. The Devils had more giveaways at nine to the Sabres’ seven. Sharangovich led the Devils with four.
Time on ice was led by Damon Severson with 24:01. Zajac led the forwards with 20:26. Kuokkanen led in power play time with 2:53.
Next up, the Devils will see the Pittsburgh Penguins for the first time this season. They will play a three game series with them, with the first two being at Prudential Center and the third in Pittsburgh. The first game will be on Thursday at 7 PM. We will, of course, have a recap for you right here.
Until then, stay safe everyone!