They say all good things must come to an end and the Devils season starting winning streak ended at four thanks to three goals by Gabriel Landeskog, who powered the Colorado Avalanche past the Devils 5-3.
It was the second annual WWE Night at The Rock with WWE Hall of Famer Mick Foley, WWE SmackDown Women’s Champion Becky Lynch and WWE Superstar Curt Hawkins all in attendance. They were there to promote WWE SmackDown’s television taping coming up at Prudential Center this Tuesday. There was a WWE mini museum on the concourse, ticket giveaways, special Devils/WWE video presentations and, of course, fans dressed as WWE Hall of Famer Ric Flair giving plenty of “woos!”
But back to hockey, there was serious business at hand. The Devils were gunning for their fifth straight to start the season and would do so with a change to the lineup. Drew Stafford slotted in on the second line with Pavel Zacha and Marcus Johansson while John Quenneville was out. Some tinkering would seem a little strange considering all that the Devils have done so far, but Bryce Salvador, on the MSG+ pregame show, mentioned that this was more for Coach Hynes to get Stafford in and some playing time than anything that Quenneville has or has not done. Although Ken Daneyko did say during the first period of the broadcast that Quenneville needs to step up and begin to produce to justify putting him in the lineup every night.
A change that did not happen was Will Butcher. He was in and playing the game. He had a bit of an injury scare if you will recall in the last game against Dallas. It looked to be a bad shoulder or collarbone injury, but he was well enough and did play tonight. The defense remained the same up and down. The Devils would seem to lose Travis Zajac for the night when a dangerous hit to his knee took him out. Hopefully he is fine, but it does not seem likely at this point. We should find out more tomorrow.
In goal, Keith Kinkaid has been just lights out. With a 1.00 goals against average for the season, you had to go with him as the hot hand. He finished the night making 29 saves on 33 Colorado shots. For the Avs, Philipp Grubauer made the start and stopped 27 of 30 Devils shots.
The power play would play a huge role in this game. The officials were seemingly calling everything and the teams had to take advantage when they had it. The Devils ended up 2-for-5 with four shots on the man advantage as well as three shorthanded shots. The Avalanche were 1-for-6 with five shots on the power play and no shorthanded shots.
One thing the Devils did do was neutralize Nathan MacKinnon. The Avalanche forward had scored goals in each of his team’s first six games. He was held to just three points – all of them assists – on the night.
The scoring was kicked off at 17:42 of the first when Nico Hischier connected on the power play for the Devils. Matt Nieto had gone off for hooking and the Devils were up a man. Kyle Palmieri drove towards the net up the right wing side and was forced behind the goal cage. He took the hit to get it to Taylor Hall, who played tic-tac-toe with Zajac at the near side of the net. Zajac one-touched it to Hischier at the doorstep and he buried it. The Devils had a 1-0 lead that would last them to the first intermission. The assist was Hall’s first of three points on the night – he would factor into all of the Devils’ goals.
Just prior to the Devils goal, Sami Vatanen had taken a slash on his wrist that seemed to cause him some discomfort, but he would return. Also, Zacha would go toe-to-toe with Nikita Zadorov in a spirited bout as he came to the aid of a Stafford following a huge collision between him and Zadorov. Zacha is not a fighter, but came to the aid of his teammate and that has to be respected.
But the whistles would play a factor all night and that started in the first period as well. Following the Devils goal, they were back on the power play at 19:02 when Ian Cole was called for interference. That was neutralized when Palmieri was called for interference at 19:37. Then MacKinnon went off for boarding at 19:56 to make it a 4-on-3 in favor of the Devils.
This went on for most of the game as the officials were calling any and all infractions.
At the 1:17 mark of the second, Kinkaid had seemingly made an amazing kick save, sliding across his crease to just get a foot on a Sven Andrighetto shot. The officials went to a review and Toronto decided that the puck had actually crossed the line completely, tying the game at one. One-time Devils draft pick Alexander Kerfoot and Cole had the assists.
Colorado had gotten the equalizer, but the game would not remain tied for long. Landeskog scored his third of the season and first of the night at 7:08 of the second from Mikko Rantanen and MacKinnon. That made it 2-1 Avs and came on the power play as Palmieri was called for interference at 6:32.
But the Devils would pull even before the end of the second. At 15:42, Hall notched his first of the season when Hischier came up the left wing boards, reversed course in the corner, spinning out and passing to a trailing Andy Greene. Greene quickly gave to Hall, who was set up at the top of the far faceoff circle. He one-timed a laser beam by Grubauer to make it 2-2.
This would all set up a wild third period.
It began with the Devils taking a 3-2 lead on the power play at 6:22 of the third. Colorado’s Colin Wilson was off for tripping Blake Coleman and Brian Boyle would strike. It was a beautiful goal with Hall circling behind the Avs’ net and feeding Palmieri at the near faceoff dot. He sent a one-touch pass to Boyle in front of the net and Boyle redirected the puck into the goal behind Grubauer to give the Devils what would turn out to be a brief lead.
Then the avalanche by the Avalanche began. Three straight unanswered. First, Landeskog scored his second of the game at 8:08 to tie it at three from Cole and Rantanen.
Landeskog struck again to complete the hatty at 16:38 to give the Avs the lead at 4-3. Rantanen and MacKinnon assisted on that.
Finally, at 19:47, after Kinkaid had been pulled for the extra attacker, Rantanen scored into the empty net from MacKinnon and Erik Johnson. That gave us our final of 5-3.
Statistically, the Devils won 54-percent of the game’s faceoffs, out hit the Avalanche 19-16 and had more blocked shots 11-5. Individually, Andy Greene ate up the most minutes (24:03 – with 19 seconds on the power play and 6:40 of PK time) while Hall led forwards with 19:28 (including 3:36 on the PP). Blake Coleman led in shots on goal with five, Palmieri led in hits with four. Greene also led in blocks with three and Stafford, Ben Lovejoy and Damon Severson led in takeaways with two apiece.
Next up, the Devils will get to sport their road whites for the first time this regular season as they head down the Turnpike to take on the Flyers in Philadelphia this Saturday at 1 PM. We will have coverage of the game right here, of course.