The last time the Devils faced the St. Louis Blues was during St. Louis’ hot stretch in February and they lost 8-3. This time out it was a little bit closer, but still the same result: a 3-2 overtime loss at Prudential Center. The Devils still have not beaten the Blues since 2014.
St. Louis is playing for playoff positioning now having backed into a playoff spot last night due to an Arizona loss, despite the Blues losing to the Rangers and not gaining the point they needed to get in on their own.
The Devils roster was largely the same as last night in Detroit. Sami Vatanen missed a third straight game due to illness. Kurtis Gabriel and Egor Yakovlev were the scratches.
The difference in the lineup was in goal. Cory Schneider got the start tonight as he continues to alternate starts with Mackenzie Blackwood. Speaking of Cory, he was named the New Jersey chapter of the Professional Hockey Writer’s Association’s nominee for the Bill Masterton Trophy. He mentioned that it is strange to him due to not having to fight a life-threatening illness or anything like last year’s winner Brian Boyle went through. However, his fighting back through injury with grace and dignity to get back to his normal form was enough for him to truly deserve the nomination.
Tonight, Cory made 24 saves on 27 St. Louis shots for an .889 save percentage on the evening. The Blues countered with Jake Allen who made 25 saves on 27 New Jersey shots for a .926 save percentage.
On special teams, the Devils finished the night 1-for-3 on the power play with a single shot while the Blues were 0-for-1 with no shots on the power play. They did, however, have three shorthanded shots. The Devils had a big kill late in regulation that preserved the 2-2 tie and sent things to overtime.
One interesting note about one of the game’s referees that Steve Cangialosi mentioned on the MSG+ broadcast was that Tim Peel will be retiring at the end of the season as an NHL official. Also of note is that the Devils have brought in Patrik Elias as an assistant coach during the final run of games during the season. Coach John Hynes mentioned in the pregame that Elias is looking to get more into coaching in the Czech Republic and he will be learning as well as teaching with the Devils down the home stretch here.
The game began with the Devils getting a nice scoring chance early on. Allen misplayed a puck in front of his net and Nico Hischier jumped on it, but Allen got a piece of his shot and it sailed up over the crossbar.
St. Louis got on the board first with a goal at 15:09 of the first. Robert Thomas shook off Devils defenseman Connor Carrick behind the Devils’ net and cut back in front, beating Cory on the backhand. Former Devil Pat Maroon and Tyler Bozak had the assists on the goal.
The Blues escaped a power play to start the second period when they cleared the puck over the glass just as time was expiring. No delay of game penalty was assessed as the officials got together and felt that the puck left play after time had expired in the first period.
It would remain 1-0 Blues until just 4:57 into the second period. The Devils were on the power play set up when Jay Bouwmeester took a tripping call against Kyle Palmieri. Off the rush up the left wing, Kenny Agostino dished to Pavel Zacha. Zacha went to the corner and centered to Drew Stafford. Stafford’s initial shot was stopped by Allen, but Allen could not get the rebound and the Devils had tied the game up at one.
The Devils were looking at going down 2-1 late in the second when Jaden Schwartz was looking at an empty net and Kevin Rooney got his stick on the puck, keeping it out of the net and keeping it 1-1.
But St. Louis would get their 2-1 lead anyway. At 15:56 of the second, on a delayed penalty, Bozak shot through a screen and beat Cory with Maroon stationed in front of the Devils’ net. Bouwmeester and Thomas had the assists on the goal.
But, despite the Devils situation, they did not just lie down for the Blues. Joey Anderson scored his third goal of the year when he redirected a Steven Santini shot from the point by Allen. That goal came at 16:52 of the second and the secondary assist went to Travis Zajac.
Following a scoreless third period that included the Devils kill of a Santini hooking penalty late, the game was still tied up at two and headed for OT.
OT was a back-and-forth affair that saw the teams trade 2-on-1s a few times. The game seemed to be headed to a shootout until, with 2.8 seconds remaining, Vince Dunn made a great individual effort to win it for the Blues. He burst through the New Jersey defense and crashed the net, putting it by Cory to give St. Louis the 3-2 victory and the two points.
Dunn would go on to be named the game’s first star while Bozak was the second and Anderson the third.
Both teams finished the game with 27 shots on goal while the Blues won 52-percent of the game’s faceoffs. The Devils finished with more hits (20-13) and blocked shots (24-16) as well as more giveaways (11-6).
Individually, Damon Severson led all Devils skaters with 24:29 of ice time (including 2:57 on the PP and 1:20 on the PK). Leading the forwards was Blake Coleman with 19:25 (2:24 on the power play and 1:12 shorthanded). Shots were led by Anderson with five, hits by Santini with four, blocks by Severson with five and takeaways by Anderson and Rooney with two each.
Next up, the Devils take on their rivals the Rangers on Monday. The Rangers have dominated the season series so far, so a win would be nice against New York. We will, of course, have coverage here for you as well as a post later on tonight regarding the NCAA tournament and WHL playoffs featuring Devils prospects.