Call it a dream or call it just an all-around awesome night, but the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals came into Prudential Center and left thoroughly defeated. The Devils returned to the Prudenial Center for the first time in a month – their last home game having been the preseason opener against the Rangers.
In front of a house full of raucous Devils fans, made all the more impressive considering the New York Giants were playing a home game up the road at MetLife Stadium on Thursday Night Football against the rival Philadelphia Eagles, it was the Devils who put up the touchdown. They defeated Washington 6-0 and improved to 2-0 on the young season.
The Devils played a complete game in dismantling the champs. From perfect defensive coverage against the likes of Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov to topping the Caps in scoring chances a whopping 32 to 13.
Healthy scratches for the Devils included Eric Gryba, Steven Santini and Drew Stafford. The lineup was exactly the same one coach John Hynes put out against Edmonton in Gothenburg, Sweden. Jesper Bratt remains on injured reserve with a broken jaw. He has resumed off ice training.
We can start in net, as the Devils went with Keith Kinkaid again, with Cory Schneider still on injured reserve (he is skating with the team now), he stopped all 21 Washington shots he saw. Kinkaid ended up posting the fifth shutout of his career and the team’s first against the Caps since November 14, 2014 when Cory notched it.
To put what Keith did in perspective, the Capitals had scored 18 goals in their first three regular season games. They are, of course, an offensive powerhouse. But while most of the credit for the shutout obviously has to go to Kinkaid, the Devils played some good system defense. Washington did not even register their first shot of the game until the 13:51 mark of the first period. By then, the Devils had already peppered the Capitals’ net with five shots.
Going for the Capitals was young Pheonix Copley, from North Pole, Alaska. He was starting with the Caps playing the backend of a back-to-back – having defeated the Vegas Golden Knights last night in a Stanley Cup Final rematch down in Washington. He came over to the Caps from St. Louis in the Kevin Shattenkirk trade and had only a single NHL decision prior to this game. He stopped 30 of 36 Devils shots against, but the 6-0 score does not do him justice. He came up big a few times for the Caps, including stopping Pavel Zacha a few times during the course of the evening. Zacha played a good game, but Copley just seemed to have his number early and often.
Special teams-wise, Hynes was quoted as saying that the Capitals’ power play kept him up last night. But the Devils’ penalty kill was just as effective in keeping things in check there: Washington went 0-for-4 with just two shots on net. They also registered a single shorthanded shot. The Devils, however, were 1-for-4 with the extra man while also clocking two shots on the power play and one shorthanded.
Getting the scoring going was someone very familiar. Kyle Palmieri became the first Devil in history to have multi-goal games in the team’s first two games of a season. His first came 7:02 into the game when he scored off of a goalmouth scramble to make it 1-0 Devils. Nico Hischier had the primary assist while Damon Severson posted the secondary assist.
His second came at 18:33 on the power play from Will Butcher and Taylor Hall. It came when Palmieri whiffed on a shot initially near the near half wall. He recovered and passed to Butcher who gave it back to him. He fired from the top of the near faceoff circle/slot area and blistered one by Copley to make it 2-0.
This power play goal had come after the Devils had gotten into penalty trouble when Severson and Kuznetsov were sent off for roughing along with Miles Wood. Wood had skated back into a scrum and went toe-to-toe with Ovechkin. He was called for roughing too, putting New Jersey down a man. They would, however, kill that off.
The Devils tripled their lead in the second when former-Cap Marcus Johansson scored from Sami Vatanen and Mirco Mueller. It came just 2:54 into the second frame and occurred when Zacha won a faceoff that was tipped back to Mueller. He went point-to-point with Vatanen, who one-touched it to Johansson just inside the blue line in the middle of the ice. He snapped the puck through a screen by Zacha in front and it was 3-0 Devils just like that.
The third period would see the Devils finish things off. First, Blake Coleman (who was playing center on the fourth line with Brian Boyle moved to the wing) scored at 5:49 from Ben Lovejoy. That came when Coleman won a draw back to Lovejoy at the point. Lovejoy lofted one into the right corner and Coleman, who was driving towards the net, grabbed it and spun around at the goal line. His shot snuck between Copley’s arm and the post and in, giving the Devils a 4-0 lead.
It would become 5-0 when Jean-Sebastien Dea scored his second career NHL goal and his first as a Devil from Boyle at 11:35. That one saw Boyle drive towards the net off a rush up the right wing. Copley made the save but the clearing attempt by the Capitals came right to the stick of Dea. He fired the puck five hole, beating Copley.
Boyle himself would complete the touchdown and make it 6-0 Devils when he scored from Stefan Noesen at 14:45 of the third. That one developed when Noesen worked the puck out of the far corner. He got it to the point where it was shot on net. The puck came back to Noesen, who gave it to Boyle behind the net. Boyle came out the near side, stuffing the wraparound chance by Copley to make it 6-0 and give us our final.
Statistically, the Devils were outhit by Washington 30-19, with Hall especially getting rocked by a Caps player at one point especially hard with a clean shoulder-to-shoulder hit. The Capitals definitely played the more physical game of the two. The Devils had 20 blocks to the Caps’ eight while both teams posted nine giveaways.
Individually, Sami Vatanen led the Devils with 24:45 total ice time – including 1:51 on the power play and 2:30 on the penalty kill. That is not surprising as Vatanen plays heavy minutes against the big guns and very few teams have the firepower the Washington Capitals do. For forwards, Noesen had the most ice time with 16:44 total and 2:07 on the PP and 41 seconds on the PK. Shots on goal saw Hall and Palmieri tie for the lead with five each. Severson and Vatanen each dished out three hits to lead there and Vatanen also led in blocks with five. Takeaways saw Noesen register three to lead in that category.
Next up for the Devils, another test as the San Jose Sharks come in on Sunday for the 1 PM matinee. The Sharks are one of the better teams out west. If the Devils can follow up their win tonight with another against the Sharks, that would go a long way in showing that they are able to hang with anyone. This is important because six of the Devils next eight games comes against teams that made the playoffs last season (including this one). The other two are against Florida and Dallas, two teams that just narrowly missed the postseason. We will see if the Devils can keep the momentum going after this huge win.