The Devils fell in Edmonton tonight, dropping the season series to the Oilers and getting swept in their tour of Alberta, as they lost in Calgary last night. They were shutout 4-0.
With that loss to the Flames last night, the Devils have not won the first game of a back-to-back so far this year. New Jersey rolled into Edmonton looking to at least salvage the second half of this one.
Instead, Mikko Koskinen made 26 saves as he blanked the Devils. Cory Schneider made his first start for New Jersey since October 30 against the Lightning and made 29 saves on 33 Oiler shots for a .879 save percentage.
Some changes to the Devils’ lineup following the loss at Calgary. Kevin Rooney was out in favor of Jesper Bratt, who was healthy and ready to go. He played on a second line with Jesper Boqvist and centered by Jack Hughes. On defense, Matt Tennyson was out in favor of Mirco Mueller, who had not played since October 25 and was scratched for the last five games. John Hayden was the Devils’ other scratch.
One other note that slipped by me last night was that Hughes’ goal in Calgary was his first NHL even strength goal, all of his others have come on the power play. Also, Taylor Hall made his return to Edmonton for the first time tonight since winning the 2018 Hart Trophy as league MVP. He was injured for the Devils’ trip up there last season. Hall also played in his 200th game as a Devil last night in Calgary.
The Oilers were wearing their alternate navy blue and orange uniforms tonight which are not bad, but not up to the standards of their 1980’s uniforms in my opinion. It boggles the mind why that team is so bent on getting away from those unis.
The first period was scoreless, but did feature two key plays that would deeply affect the Devils. The first was a quick whistle with 13:16 to go that robbed Nico Hischier of a potential goal. He seemed to be on a loose puck and was ready to bury it when the referee lost sight of the puck and blew his whistle. A tough one, but the next key play hurt the Devils way more tonight and possibly beyond.
Sami Vatanen took a hit from the Oilers’ Alex Chiasson and got up very slowly, seeming to favor his shoulder. He left the game and would not return. How bad his injury is and, if it is bad, how long he is out could definitely affect the Devils down the line. He only played 2:43 but did register a blocked shot in that time.
The Devils also missed a good opportunity when Hall hit the post on a breakaway mid-first period.
The second period was when things began to fall apart for New Jersey. It began at 1:55 when Leon Draisaitl, who Steve Cangialosi of MSG pointed out is the leading goal scorer for the calendar year of 2019 with 43 goals, scored his 14th of the season so far. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins found him with a stretch pass as he got behind the Devils’ defense. He went in all alone on Cory and beat him backhand to make it 1-0 Oilers. Joel Persson had the other assist on the goal.
Edmonton made it 2-0 at 15:45 when Matt Benning took a shot from the point that redirected in off of Gaetan Haas’ skate and trickled by Cory. Kris Russell had the secondary assist. It was now 2-0 Oilers.
James Neal made it 3-0 when he scored 1:06 after Haas’ goal. This one came as Chiasson shot from the point and Neal batted the puck down in front of the net and shot, beating Cory to triple the Edmonton lead. Persson again had the secondary assist on this goal. This was Neal’s 12th of the season.
The final goal came at the 6:02 mark of the third and came on the power play for the Oilers. Blake Coleman was sent off for cross checking Ethan Bear at 5:21 and the Oilers were on the man advantage. Edmonton dug the puck out of the corner and Connor McDavid made a nice no-look pass to Nugent-Hopkins who shot and the puck was redirected in off of McDavid. Chiasson originally got credit for the goal, but it was later changed to McDavid.
That goal made it 4-0 and that was the final. The Oilers were 1-for-3 on the power play for the night with six shots on goal. The Devils finished 0-for-4 with four shots. They also registered a shorthanded shot.
The Devils were outshot for a second straight night, 32-29 and won only 41-percent of the game’s faceoffs. They did register more hits, 18 to 16 and more blocks at 20 to 10 than the Oilers. They also had less giveaways at eight to Edmonton’s nine.
Individually, PK Subban led in ice time with 24:36 (2:50 on the power play and 40 seconds on the penalty kill). Hall led the forwards with 19:39 (5:05 on the power play included). Cangialosi called Subban a “shooting machine” late in the game and he was not kidding around as Subban led all Devils players with seven shots on goal. Nikita Gusev came next closest with just four shots. Mueller led in hits with four and blocks with five as he tried to make a case to stay in the lineup. Hischier and Hughes led in takeaways with two apiece.
Next up, the Devils finish off their Western Canada road trip with a game at Vancouver on Sunday at 4PM ET. This will be the second career meeting between Jack and Quinn Hughes. Hopefully for the Devils, the outcome is similar to what it was when they met for the first time.