The Devils were hurting following the game in Washington on Sunday. They had blown a two-goal lead and needed to stop the bleeding as their losing streak had meant they had dropped two in a row.
Things did not get better, as the team that they started the skid against, the Buffalo Sabres, victimized them again tonight. They lost 4-1.
First off, a correction from Sunday. I erroneously mentioned that Ken Daneyko was the only other Devil to play 1,000 games for the franchise. Patrik Elias did so as well, playing his whole career with New Jersey. As did Martin Brodeur, who achieved 1,000 games in a Devils uniform, but did play his final handful of games for the St. Louis Blues.
Also, Nico Hischier is the youngest captain in the currently serving in the NHL, as I forgot to mention that over the weekend as well. He was 22 at the time he was named captain, two years younger than Connor McDavid in Edmonton and a handful of other captains, who were 24 at the time they were named.
The goaltending matchup for tonight’s game saw the return of Mackenzie Blackwood to the Devils’ crease. He 33-of-36 for a .917 save percentage. He made three saves on four shots on the power play and was 30-for-32 at even strength.
Going for Buffalo was Linus Ullmark, who was, in short, brilliant all night. He stopped 41 0f the Devils’ season-high 42 shots for a .976 save percentage. He stopped all four power play shots the Devils threw his way and 37 of the 38 they peppered him with at even strength. Neither team registered a shorthanded shot.
The Devils outshot the Sabres, 42 to 37, notching their most shots on the season. The teams split the faceoffs, 50-50. New Jersey was 0-for-2 on the power play, the Sabres were 1-for-2. The Devils outhit the Sabres, 20-18 but had less blocked shots at ten to Buffalo’s 13. The Devils finished with more than double Buffalo’s giveaways at ten to the Sabres’ four.
Following a scoreless first, the Sabres finally broke the stalemate at 10:20 of the second on the power play. Victor Olofsson took advantage of the Devils penalty killers spending too much time penned in their own zone and Rasmus Dahlin fed him a pass out of the near corner. Olofsson was camped out in the slot and one-timed a shot past Blackwood to make it 1-0. Sam Reinhart had the secondary assist.
That took us to the second intermission with Buffalo in the lead. Things began to fall apart for the Devils in the third.
Rasmus Asplund scored 5:16 into the final frame when Reinhart kept the puck in the Devils’ zone and he took a shot from the point. Asplund batted the puck out of the air, showing great hand-eye coordination, banking the airborne puck off the inside of the near post and behind Blackwood to make it 2-0 Sabres.
A little over a minute later, at 6:50, Dylan Cozens made it 3-0 when Blackwood tried to wrap the puck around the boards and Eric Staal sealed it off, keeping it in the Devils’ zone. He then threw it behind the goal cage to Taylor Hall. Hall made a nice no-look, backhanded pass to Cozens in front of the net. He buried it and tripled the Sabres lead.
At the 17:10 mark of the third, Olofsson took a holding call against Jack Hughes. The Devils called a timeout and pulled Blackwood to the bench for the 6-on-4 advantage.
Buffalo would kill the penalty, but with 28 seconds left, Nikita Gusev broke the shutout, assuring that the Devils have yet to be blanked yet this year.
Ullmark made a sequence of big saves just prior to the goal. The puck eventually found its way to PK Subban at the point. He fired and Ullmark made the initial save, but the rebound bounced right to Gusev’s stick at the side of the Sabres’ net, and he found the back of an open left side of the net. Pavel Zacha had the secondary assist.
That made it 3-1. Unfortunately, the Sabres would put things away in strange fashion.
Cody Eakin scored into the empty Devils net with less than one second left (0.02 to be precise). The horn sounded and the officials conferenced to see if it was a good goal. It was and the final faceoff needed to be conducted, but both teams had left the ice! It was not a problem as it was simply a formality and the game ended with Buffalo coming away with a 3-1 win.
Damon Severson led all Devils skaters with 24:47 of ice time. Jack Hughes led the forwards with 19:09.
Hischier led the centers in faceoff percentage, winning at a 71-percent clip.
Subban had the most shots on net with five, just edging Hughes who finished with four.
Hits were led by Nate Bastian and Damon Severson who each had four.
Blocks were led by Severson, Sami Vatanen and Dmitry Kulikov who each registered two.
Hischier, Michael McLeod, Kyle Palmieri, Miles Wood, Jesper Bratt and Severson all had a takeaway.
Next up, the Devils will see these same Sabres, this time up in Buffalo on Thursday. That game starts at 7 PM and we will have coverage for you right here.
Until next time, stay safe everyone!