The Devils hung in there. With the injuries and the lineup being what it is, that is the best you can really hope for. They lost 2-1 in a shootout to the Columbus Blue Jackets, losing the season series in a sweep to the team from Ohio. It was the first time that the Blue Jackets had swept a series from the Devils since 2005-06 (they were in the Western Conference back then, so less games played between the two teams) as per Steve Cangialosi.
Columbus has shown that they are all in on making a run for the Stanley Cup with their moves during the trade deadline, but have not really gelled with their new roster yet. They remain on the outside looking in for the moment in the playoff picture.
The Devils, meanwhile, continue to battle injuries left and right. The latest victims of the injury bug were Nico Hischier, who missed tonight with an upper body injury and is day-to-day, Sami Vatanen, who missed the game due to illness and Jesper Bratt, who was lost during the game when he was hit by a shot in the second period and did not return.
But even with these injuries and a roster made up of the AHL team basically, the Devils played well tonight. They out played Columbus for much of the game and the Blue Jackets’ first goal was really the result of a fluky play that cannot be blamed on goalie Cory Schneider.
And speaking of goaltending, Keith Kinkaid was back for the first time since the trade that sent him to the Jackets. He was dressed as the Columbus backup and got a video tribute during the first TV timeout of the game. It seemed like the fans really gave him a good reaction as was deserved to a guy who was a good Devil and had a great run last season, especially.
As for the goalies that played in the game, Cory got the nod for New Jersey and played well, although he did not see much work. He made 17 saves on 18 shots for a .944 save percentage. Down the rink, Sergei Brobrovsky went for the Jackets and saw a lot more shots, stopping 29 of 30 for a .967 save percentage. Cory also saw two shots in the shootout, letting in two. The Devils missed both of their attempts in the shootout.
The lineup did see an addition. Stefan Noesen was back off of injured reserve. He last played on January 8 at Buffalo. Also, in another roster move, Egor Yakovlev was back on defense, playing on the third pairing with Steven Santini.
On the power play, both teams were 0-for-2 with the second Columbus PP coming at a crucial time as we shall see. The Devils had two shots on the man advantage while the Jackets did not register a shot. Neither team had a shorthanded shot.
There was a moment of silence in the pregame as the Devils joined the hockey world in mourning the loss of Detroit Red Wing legend Ted Lindsay, who died at age 93 on Monday.
Cam Atkinson, who has killed the Devils in the teams four meetings this season, got the scoring kicked off just 52 seconds into the game. This is the fluky goal that we talked about that came when David Savard missed the net with a shot and the puck caromed directly to Atkinson, who put it home to make it 1-0 Columbus. Markus Nutivaara had the secondary assist. It was hard to tell if Savard just missed the net or if he deliberately banked it wide to get it to Atkinson. Either way, it was kind of a weird one that cannot be pinned on Schneider.
Prior to the last game against Boston, the Devils had not been shut out in 31 tries. They seemed to be headed for back-to-back shut outs until late in the second period, at the 17:00 mark, when Blake Coleman basically created a goal by himself. Coleman skated up the left wing boards, peeled away from Columbus defenseman Scott Harrington, faked a shot and passed to Travis Zajac, who was camped out at the side of the Jackets’ net and scored. It was a goal made possible by Coleman’s patience and that made it all level at one. Andy Greene had the secondary assist on the Devils’ goal.
From there, we settled in with the Devils taking charge for most of the game. They almost came away with the win once off of a 3-on-1 odd man rush midway through the third period and again when Michael McLeod hit the crossbar late in the same frame.
When the final buzzer sounded, we were off to overtime. Without Nico Hischier, who has provided all of their OT wins this season, the Devils did not seem to have a chance. But they once again out played the Blue Jackets in the extra session. The Jackets got their second power play of the game when Zajac was called for slashing with 18.6 seconds remaining in the OT period. It was a tense, but exciting final few seconds, but the Devils held off Columbus and did not give up a shot allowing us to go to a shootout.
The shootout only lasted two rounds. Coleman went first and missed his shot wide. Atkinson went next and scored off of a backhand. Drew Stafford had the puck poke checked off of his stick by Bobrovsky and, finally, Artemi Panarin put the game away for Columbus when he scored five-hole on a shot that Cory just got a small piece of.
Atkinson was named the game’s first star with a goal in regulation and the shootout for the Blue Jackets. Zajac, with the Devils’ goal, was named the second star and Coleman, with the beautiful set up to the Zajac goal, was the third star.
The Devils out shot the Jackets wildly, 30 to 18. The Blue Jackets did not even register a shot in the last 11:54 of the first period, according to Cangialosi on the MSG+ broadcast. Columbus did win 55-percent of the game’s faceoffs and out hit the Devils, 23-22. The Devils blocked more shots at 14-12 and had more giveaways at 14 to the Jackets’ five.
Individually, Damon Severson led all Devils’ skaters in ice time with 28:16 (including 1:52 on the power play and 1:13 on the PK). Coleman led the forwards with 22:40 of ice time (including 2:02 on the PP and 1:01 shorthanded). Kenny Agostino led in shots on goal with five. Hits were led by Agostino, McLeod and Blake Pietila who each had four. Blocked shots were led by Severson with three. Takeaways were led by Stafford, Coleman, Connor Carrick and Santini who all had one each.
Next up, the Devils start a long road trip by heading down to DC to take on the Stanley Cup champs. That game against the Capitals takes place on Friday and we will have the recap for you right here. In the meantime, please feel free to leave a comment below and we will see you on Friday.