Devils’ Playoff Hopes Looking Slimmer with Loss in Columbus

For the New Jersey Devils, things looked a little bit better coming off of their 7-4 win over the Wild on Thursday. Both the Flyers and the Rangers lost today and the Red Wings were losing in to the Panthers (although Detroit would come back in that game to win) while the Devils were doing battle with the Blue Jackets in Columbus.

Unfortunately, the last team the Devils wanted to see when they were just getting their confidence back up was the Blue Jackets. Since 2011, Columbus is 8-3-1 against the Devils at Nationwide Arena. New Jersey has fallen against the Jackets in all of their previous meetings this year.

That trend would not change on this night, as New Jersey fell 6-3 to the Blue Jackets in the first game of a back-to-back home-and-home against Columbus.

On the injury front, while Michael Cammalleri and Patrik Elias are “not close to practicing” as per Devils coach John Hynes, Cory Schneider is skating on his own and the Devils will not rule out him playing again this season.

A milestone going into the game was that Blue Jackets’ coach John Tortorella was coaching in his 1,000th NHL game. He is currently the winningest US-born coach in NHL history. He will, of course, coach Team USA at the World Cup of Hockey in September with John Hynes as one of his assistants.

In addition, this was the 97th home-and-home in New Jersey Devils history and their first ever against Columbus.

For the Devils, Jacob Josefson, the recently-called-up Brian O’Neill, David Schlemko, Cory Schneider, Jordin Tootoo and David Warsofsky were scratched. Mike Sislo was a game-time decision due to an illness, but did play.

Goaltending-wise, Keith Kinkaid would make his sixth consecutive start in net, a career high for him, although it would not last as he would get chased. He made 16 saves on 19 shots. Yann Danis would relieve him after he gave up his third goal of the evening. Danis would get the loss, as he gave up the game winner. He made 12 saves on 15 shots faced.

Facing them in the Columbus net was Sergei Bobrovsky, who is still just returning from a groin injury, taking back the number one spot for the Blue Jackets. He was 27 for 30.

Shots on goal, or rather, non-shots, were one of the stories of the night for the Jackets. They hit the post five times on the night (a stat that was unofficially kept on the night by MSG+ play-by-play man Steve Cangialosi).

Columbus got the scoring started on the power play when Adam Larsson was called for cross checking, heading off. This also left the Devils without one of their key penalty killers. Sure enough, Cam Atkinson scored his 25th from Alexander Wennberg and Boone Jenner at 11:33, putting the Jackets ahead 1-0.

Just about five minutes later at 14:56, big trade pickup Seth Jones scored his third of the season when he snapped one past Kinkaid with assists to Brandon Dubinsky and Scott Hartnell. Columbus had doubled their lead and it was now 2-0.

Columbus would make the deficit even deeper for the Devils to climb out of at just 2:50 into the second when Jenner scored from Dalton Prout to make it 3-0 Blue Jackets. It was after this goal that Kinkaid was pulled and Danis made his second appearance in relief this season.

From here, the Devils would battle back. First, Scott Hartnell went off for hooking at 3:48, giving the Devils an extra man. Travis Zajac would win the faceoff in the Columbus zone, sending it back to Damon Severson at the point. He fired the puck on net and Kyle Palmieri, who had set up shop in front of the Columbus net, would tip the puck in at 5:42. It was now 3-1.

At 7:24, Prout was called for cross checking, which again put the Devils on the power play. The Devils would connect here too. At 8:57, the Blue Jackets had Matt Calvert rushing the puck up ice shorthanded when Palmieri poke checked the puck away from the Blue Jacket and head-manned it up to Adam Henrique. Henrique crashed into the net, seemingly taking Bobrovsky with him, but the puck had fully crossed the goal line before Henrique took out Bobrovsky and the net came off its moorings. The referee emphatically signaled that the goal counted. It was now 3-2. This is how it would be as the two teams went to the second intermission.

Once the third period started, things looked to be heading the Devils way when, just 49 seconds in to the final frame, Zajac again won a draw in the Columbus zone. The puck went into the corner where it was dug out by Reid Boucher. He sent a no look pass to Palmieri who redirected the pass by Bobrovsky stick side. The game was, amazingly, tied at three.

But then everything fell apart and the Blue Jackets took over again. Less than a minute later, at 1:23, Oliver Bjorkstrand scored his first career NHL goal from Wennberg and Calvert. The rookie had made it 4-3 and, like Mike Sislo on Thursday (who also scored his first NHL goal in that game), he was not done.

Eleven seconds after Bjorkstrand’s goal, William Karlsson beat Danis to make it 5-3. He got assists from Gregory Campbell and Michael Chaput. The Devils immediately called their timeout in order to gather themselves and try to regain some composure.

It would not work.

At 6:38, Bjorkstrand scored his second career NHL goal and second of the game from Calvert to make it 6-3 Columbus.

But the bleeding was not over for the Devils. At 11:13 of the third period, Damon Severson was called for high-sticking on Bjorkstrand. The play drew blood and would result in a double minor. With the Devils on the penalty kill for four minutes, things looked bleak.

Although they did kill off the penalty, the team was dealt injury to insult when defenseman John Moore blocked a shot and was seemingly hit in the knee. He left the ice with the help of the trainer. There was no word on his status, but Deb Placey did say in the postgame show that he was walking around under his own power, so he may be good to go tomorrow.

There were some positives to take from this for the Devils: the comeback and Kyle Palmieri having a hand in all three Devils’ goals (2 goals, one assist), for two. But they did need the points and could have picked them up. For some reason, Columbus just seems to have their number of late. Ken Daneyko even said that there is sometimes no rhyme or reason to it, some teams just matchup more in favor of one team sometimes.

Which brings us to tomorrow’s 5 PM matinee at Prudential Center. The Jackets will be back in action against the Devils. Let’s just hope things go a little bit better for New Jersey in this game than they have in the last few games against them.

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