The Columbus Blue Jackets have the Devils’ number it would seem. No matter how well the Devils are playing of late, you can count on the Jackets to play spoiler. The Devils’ four game win streak began following a 6-1 pounding at the hands of Columbus and their streak was ended tonight by a 2-1 win by those same Blue Jackets.
The Devils had some good news this week, as Nico Hischier was named the NHL’s first star of the week ending February 18. He joins Martin Brodeur, Zach Parise, Jamie Langenbrunner and Patrik Elias as the only other New Jersey players to have recieved that honor by the NHL. According to Andrew Gross of the The Record, Nico was the first Devils player to be named as such since January 3, 2010 when Langenbrunner got the nod.
Now onto this week, as the Devils had to deal with the Jackets. Roster-wise for the Devils, Mirco Mueller sat on defense while Will Butcher slotted back in. Up front, Jimmy Hayes was in while Nick Lappin was out. Blake Pietila remained in the lineup and Miles Wood was still out, serving the second game of his two game suspension.
On the injury front, Cory Schneider skated yesterday and today, as per Deb Placey of MSG. The team will see how his body reacts to being skated hard over the last two days as he tries to return from his groin/hip injury.
Because Cory is still out, Keith Kinkaid was back in net for the Devils. He stopped 17 of a measly 19 shots on him. I say measly because the Devils gave up a total of 93 shots over their last two games and came out with wins. Opposing him was perennial thorn-in-the-side-of-the-Devils, Sergei Bobrovsky who made 30 saves on 31 shots. Bobrovsky, who was named the game’s third star, stole this one for Columbus, making a few nice stops through the 60 minutes of play.
On the power play, the Blue Jackets were 0-for-3 with a single shot on goal. The Devils were 0-for-2 with two power play shots. Both teams were a little anemic with the man advantage.
So to set the stage, the Jackets were winless in their last three while the Devils had won four games in a row. It was Columbus who got the scoring kicked off when, at 5:19 of the first, Zach Werenski hit the post and Boone Jenner jammed home the rebound. Jenner scored against the Devils again and it was 1-0 Jackets and would remain that way through the first intermission.
The Devils would tie things up just 1:34 into the second period when Taylor Hall scored to extend his point streak to 19 straight game he has played in and 12 as his active streak. It came when Hall grabbed a loose puck in the Devils’ zone and skated end-to-end. He broke in on a 3-on-2 with Hischier and Blake Coleman, sold a pass to Hischier and shot with, as MSG’s Bryce Salvador pointed out, Bobrovsky cheating off the post, biting on the pass to Nico. The puck went in to tie things at one with Hall, again, extending his scoring streak. Hischier had the lone assist.
But the Jackets would have a response. After 13:10 played, Columbus took their second shot of the second period and it went in as the game winner. It came of the rush as Scott Harrington took a nice pass from Artemi Panarin. Pierre-Luc Dubois had the secondary assist. Kinkaid had not seen much work in the second period and this one was tough to stop anyway. The Blue Jackets had the 2-1 lead and that is how it would end.
Kinkaid was pulled with about two minutes left in the game, but through a series of good saves by Bobrovsky, icings and lost faceoffs, the Devils were not able to get anything going and they fell by the one goal.
Statistically, Sami Vatanen led in ice time with 25:45, Hall led in shots on goal with five, Kyle Palmieri led in hits with five, Palmieri, Andy Greene and Damon Severson led in blocks with two each and Hall and Jimmy Hayes led in takeaways with two each. The Devils won 43-percent of the game’s faceoffs.
So next up, the Devils will need to shake this loss off and get ready for the Minnesota Wild on Thursday. Patrik Elias will be dropping the puck for the ceremonial faceoff at this game and, although it is not a divisional or even a confrence game, the Devils can keep in their playoff race with a win Thursday. This will be as important a Western Conference game as the Devils will see all season.
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