The Devils were home this afternoon to take on the Arizona Coyotes and it was a really close one. New Jersey prevailed in the shootout 2-1 following a nailbiter of an overtime.
The Devils got several crucial parts back in the lineup with Nico Hischier, Kyle Palmieri, Miles Wood, John Quenneville, Mirco Mueller and Sami Vatanen all returning from injury. Will Butcher remained out and Kurtis Gabriel, Blake Pietila (who was actually placed on waivers yesterday) and Egor Yakovlev were all scratched.
In goal, the Devils continued going back-and-forth between Mackenzie Blackwood and Cory Schneider to finish off the season with Blackwood going today. He stopped 23 of 24 shots in regulation and OT for a .958 save percentage. He also made four stops in the shootout to lead the Devils to victory. Facing him was Darcy Kuemper for Arizona. He stopped 31 of 32 Devils shots for a .969 save percentage and was named the game’s third star of the afternoon.
Special teams was a sticking point for the Devils today. They were 0-for-5 on the power play with 12 shots as they just peppered Kuemper all afternoon with the man advantage but could not solve the Coyotes penalty kill. Arizona was 0-for-3 on the power play with four shots, which included an overtime 4-on-3 power play when Palmieri was called for cross-checking early in the extra session. Obviously the Devils killed that off to survive. The Devils also added two shorthanded shots on the afternoon.
The first goal of the game was scored by Oliver Ekman-Larsson just 2:31 into the game. He beat Blackwood clean over his glovehand off assists from Alex Galchenyuk and Conor Garland. That made it 1-0 Arizona and things looked bad again for the Devils. The Yotes are fighting for their playoff lives and most in the mostly packed Prudential Center figured this was the beginning of the end for the Devils.
But late in the first the Devils struck back. At the 17:01 mark, Drew Stafford fired a shot that beat Kuemper five hole. Pavel Zacha and Wood had the assists on the goal that leveled the game off at one. Stafford would be named the game’s second star for this goal.
And then we settled in. As mentioned above, the Devils spent five power play opportunities opening up a firing gallery at Kuemper, but he was equal to each task. After a scoreless second and third, we headed off to overtime. It was there that Palmieri took a rough cross-checking call 55 seconds in and things again seemed bleak for New Jersey. But Blackwood rose to the challenge and the Devils’ PK was up to the job as well. The OT ended with both teams playing 4-on-4 due to there being no stoppage of play to get the fourth men off of the ice. Once they killed that off and when OT ended scoreless, we were going to a shootout. These two teams last went to a shootout earlier this calendar year when they were in Arizona.
True to the game’s form, the shootout also came down to the wire. Palmieri went first for the Devils and he was stopped by Kuemper. Nick Cousins finished off the first round for the Coyotes and was stopped by Blackwood. In the second round, Stafford was stopped and so was Galchenyuk for Arizona. The third round saw Damon Severson for New Jersey who was stopped and Vinnie Hinostroza for the Yotes who was also stopped. Next up, the fourth round and Hischier and Clayton Keller were each turned aside.
The Devils finally broke through in the sixth round when Blake Coleman scored to put the Devils ahead. But Garland also connected in the bottom of the sixth for Arizona and we were back to square one. In the top of the seventh, Zacha scored for the Devils and when the Coyotes’ Richard Panik hit the crossbar in the bottom half of the round, the Devils had scored the 2-1 win. Zacha was named the game’s first star with the game-winner in the shootout and an assist on Stafford’s first period goal.
The Devils had the upper hand in shots at 32-24, but lost 60-percent of the game’s faceoffs as the Coyotes just dominated in the circle. The Devils also led in hits (18-13) and blocked shots (14-11) and had more giveaways at six to the Yotes’ five.
Individual stats saw Coleman lead in shots with five, Kenny Agostino lead in hits with three, Mueller lead in blocks with three and Agostino, Stafford, Stefan Noesen, Michael McLeod, Steven Santini, Mueller, Severson and Vatanen all lead in takeaways with one apiece.
Next up, the Devils will continue at Prudential Center on Monday when they take on the visiting Buffalo Sabres. We will have coverage of that for you here then. Later tonight we will also have a post up on the CHL playoffs featuring Devils prospects. Have a great weekend everyone!