Well, it started out well enough. But then the wheels fell off and they ended the night losing 8-3 in Tampa to the Lightning. This was the team’s first 8-3 loss since October 28, 2014 in Pittsburgh and not a way that they wanted to begin their road trip of seven games over two weeks.
Luckily, there is always a tomorrow and the Devils can shake this loss against a good team off and get back on it on Thursday.
Some roster notes before we begin. Cory Schneider was recalled from his conditioning stint in Binghamton and he was on the bench as the back up tonight. He would end up seeing ice time after Tampa scored their seventh goal. Ben Lovejoy, who was day-to-day, also played tonight, logging 16:17 of ice time (including 3:22 on the penalty kill). Marcus Johansson was also back following his brief illness. For the Devils, Joey Anderson, Eddie Lack and Egor Yakovlev were the healthy scratches.
In goal, Keith Kinkaid started for the Devils, playing 45:02 and making 31 saves on a whopping 38 shots. Schneider would play the last 14:58 and stopped five shots of six faced. The Lightning finished the game with a total of 44 shots on goal. For the Bolts, Andrei Vasilevskiy made 27 saves on 30 Devils shots on goal.
On the power play, the Devils finished the night 1-for-3 with five shots. Tampa was 2-for-3 with five shots as well. Neither team had a shorthanded shot on their resume tonight.
As I said, the Devils jumped out to a quick start, scoring two goals in the first 5:04 of the game. The first came at 1:01 of the opener and came off the stick of Miles Wood (his first of the year). That goal developed when Travis Zajac intercepted the puck at center ice, turning back towards the Tampa Bay zone. He dropped for Taylor Hall at the blue line, who curled around at the far half wall and passed to Sami Vatanen. Vatanen fired a shot that went wide. It was collected by Mirco Mueller at the near point. He kept it in the zone and Wood wound it around to Vatanen, who was pinching in at the far wall. Vatanen fired a shot that Wood redirected past Vasilevskiy to make it 1-0 Devils. Mueller had the secondary assist while Vatanen had the primary.
At the 5:04 mark, Zajac would make it 2-0 off a breakaway. That came when Kinkaid made a save and the puck was pushed to center ice by Blake Coleman. There, Wood created a turnover and chipped the puck up to a streaking Zajac through the neutral zone. Zajac skated in, moving to his backhand and beating Vasilevskiy to make it 2-0 Devils very quickly.
But that was not to last. The Lightning would tie it at two apiece thanks to a single-handed effort by Braydon Coburn. He first tipped one by Kinkaid at 7:30 of the first from Brayden Point and Yanni Gourde to make it 2-1. At the 13:30 mark, he scored his second of the game and of the year when he took a pass in the slot from Cedric Paquette and snapped it by Kinkaid. Adam Erne had the secondary assist on that goal.
So the Devils headed into the first intermission with nothing to show for their quick start, and it was about to get worse. It began when Point shoveled in a rebound after boxing out the Devils d-man in front. He scored from Gourde and Tyler Johnson.
Then the penalties began. First, Blake Coleman was called for high-sticking Ryan McDonagh at 4:39 of the second period. McDonagh was bleeding, which meant Coleman was gone for four minutes. Nikita Kucherov would scored at 6:33, just three seconds before the Devils killed off the first of the double minor. With that the Lightning went up 4-2 and the first half of the double minor was knocked off the clock, but Coleman still had to serve the other two minutes.
Zajac was then called for slashing at 7:12 to set up a 5-on-3 for Tampa. It was then that Steven Stamkos converted from Kucherov and Point. This goal was Stamkos’ 350th career NHL goal and put the Lightning up 5-2.
Before the second was out, the Devils would go on a power play of their own, with Slater Koekkoek called for holding at 16:01. On this, Kyle Palmieri would convert when Hall worked the puck back to Will Butcher at the point. He passed back to Hall, set up at the near wall. Hall found a seam and hit Palmieri at the far faceoff circle. He fired and the puck redirected off of McDonagh’s stick and behind Vasilevskiy to make it 5-3 Tampa. With Hall getting the primary assist here, his points streak remains intact at eight games now. That goal came at 16:47 of the second.
The Devils seemed to be back into things as the second period came to a close. But things would not go so well in the third. Johnson scored at the 3:40 mark from Point and McDonagh to double up the Bolts’ lead at 6-3.
Kucherov would then add his second of the night (he would end the game with three points – two goals and an assist) from JT Miller and Stamkos at 5:02 to add the extra point. This is when Kinkaid was pulled in favor of Schneider. That was more to get Schneider some reps rather than to just pull Kinkaid. McDonagh would then finish off the scoring at the 5:51 mark when he scored his first of the year from Point and Gourde to give us our final: 8-3.
Statistically, the Devils won just 40-percent of the game’s faceoffs and were outhit 33-30. They did manage one more blocked shot with 14 to Tampa’s 13.
Individually, Sami Vatanen led all skaters with 21:38 of total ice time (1:33 on the power play and 1:23 on the PK) while Hall led the forwards with 20:23 (3:22 PP/12 seconds of PK time). Vatanen also led in shots on goal with five. Stefan Noesen led the team in hits with seven while Andy Greene and Lovejoy each had three blocked shots apiece to lead that category. Palmieri led in takeaways with two.
Next up, the Devils travel to Detroit to continue the road trip on Thursday where they will try to rebound from this one. Puck drop for that one is also 7:30 PM and we will, of course, see you here.