Devils Lose Second Straight, Downed by Caps on Retro Night

The Washington Capitals currently have the best record in the entire NHL – leading the tough Metropolitan Division. That fact would stay the same going into the All-Star break as they defeated the New Jersey Devils 5-2 tonight at the Prudential Center.

The Devils played well for most of the game, applying pressure in the offensive zone for good portions. In fact, at one point in the first period Washington went seven minutes without a shot attempt. But the Capitals are the kind of team that only needs a small opportunity to get you. As MSG analyst Ken Daneyko put it: “you give them an inch and they take a mile.” And that is what they did to the Devils tonight.

It was Throwback Thursday at The Rock as the Devils wore their original red and green colors for the game. John MacLean of the MSG broadcast team told a cool story that the reason Lou Lamoriello wanted to change the colors from green to black was because it would make the team look “bigger and tougher.” Time proved Lou right as the Devils went on to their most success in the red and black instead of the red and green.

New Jersey might have been throwing it back in the uniform department, but they were debuting a new player on the ice. Plano, Texas native Stefan Noesen was picked up on waivers from Anaheim on Wednesday. He became the second player from that Texas town to play for New Jersey this season (Blake Coleman is the other one). It was mentioned in the pregame show by Noesen that his great-grandfather was Canadian and his dad was originally from Chicago – moving to Texas to play college basketball. He wore number 23 for the Devils.

Other roster moves saw the Devils put Beau Bennett on injured reserve (which necessitated going out and getting Noesen) as well as scratching Luke Gazdic, Seth Helgeson and Sergey Kalinin. Devante Smith-Pelly drew back into the lineup. Washington was missing John Carlson (who is out with a lower body injury) and TJ Oshie (who was missing for personal matters). Jay Beagle had been sick but was back in for the Caps.

The goaltending matchup saw Braden Holtby make 27 saves on 29 Devils shots. The Devils initially went back to Keith Kinkaid, who coach John Hynes felt earned the coaching staff going back to him for tonight. Unfortunately for him, he would not last the whole game. He made 13 saves on 17 Washington shots but those four goals cost him the rest of the game. Cory Schneider, who was a little upset at not being named the initial starter, came in in relief with 9:41 to go in the second period. He stopped all 18 shots he faced. He was brilliant, making the big saves to keep the Devils in the game and give them a chance to win this game. This was the first time since November 6 and 7, 2014 that the Devils had pulled their starting goalies in back to back games.

The Capitals got on the board first at 6:14 of the first when Kyle Quincey tried to clear the Devils zone and turned it directly over to Alex Ovechkin, who scored on a backhand shot, unassisted. It was 1-0 Caps.

The Capitals would go up 2-0 when Kyle Palmieri took a high sticking penalty to put them on the power play. Remember that line about giving an inch and taking a mile? Andre Burakovsky converted to double up Washington’s lead. The Caps finished the night 2-for-4 on the power play. New Jersey was 1-for-3. Hynes used his coach’s challenge to see if Washington was offside on the goal. It would have been by a toe and the linesmen, on review, could not see enough to overturn the goal, so it was 2-0.

Washington is, statistically, the best defensive team in the NHL and are very hard to come back against. The Devils had a steep hill to climb. They would begin chipping away early in the second period when, at 3:19, Jacob Josefson gave to Pavel Zacha out of the corner. Zacha made a nice pass across to Noesen, who buried it glove side by Holtby. It was Noesen’s third of the season and first as a Devil. In a neat little bit of trivia, it was the second straight time that a Devil wearing the number 23 scored in his first game played with the team (Bobby Farnham did it last season). It was now 2-1 Washington as the Devils had cut the lead in half.

But then the floodgates opened. First, at 8:29, Lars Eller scored from Dmitry Orlov and Burakovsky. Then, at 10:19, after Karl Stollery had gone off for hooking, putting the Caps on the power play, Evgeny Kuznetsov scored from Orlov and Ovechkin to suddenly make it 4-1 Capitals. To add insult to injury, New Jersey went right back on the power play when Steven Santini was called for hooking as well.

The Devils would make things interesting when they went on the power play at 16:38 (Daniel Winnik was called for roughing Vern Fiddler) and would capitalize. Pavel Zacha would drive behind the net, giving the puck up to PA Parenteau at the point. He slid it back to the other point to Michael Cammalleri who fired a shot that Adam Henrique tipped behind Holtby to make it 4-2. Damon Severson then immediately hit the post on the next play as the Devils really poured on the pressure.

A crazy moment happened mid-third period when Brooks Orpik stood up Taylor Hall at the Caps’ blue line with a clean hit. Kyle Palmieri took exception to it, not knowing if it was dirty or not. He jumped Orpik and would end up with five minutes for fighting, the instigator penalty and a misconduct. Orpik got five for fighting while Tom Wilson got a game misconduct.

Cory and Stollery made a nice play late to keep the Devils in the game when Schneider made a spectacular save going across the crease and Stollery pushed the puck under Cory’s pad. Toronto took a look at the goal and deemed that it had not gone over the line. The game stayed 4-2.

Schneider was pulled about the 2:50 mark of the third period, but to no avail. Kuznetzov added an empty netter to make the final score 5-2.

Next up for the Devils, the All-Star break, as only Taylor Hall will be joining the festivities in Los Angeles. After that, they regroup Monday afternoon and head off to Detroit for their second to last game at the Joe Louis Arena on Tuesday. The Red Wings are in a similar place as the Devils are right now, so Tuesday will be a huge two points up for grabs.

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