The Minnesota Wild had lost two straight on their current road trip through Boston and at the Rangers. This was also the second half of a back-to-back for Minnesota, as they played last night at the Garden. They were also starting a rookie goaltender making his NHL debut. Despite this, the Devils dropped the game to the Wild, 3-2 in what was kind of a strange one at the Rock tonight.
New Jersey went with the exact same lineup that they iced in the Detroit win on Saturday, meaning no Pavel Zacha or Jesper Bratt, but plenty of John Hayden and Brett Seney up front. It also meant that Jesper Boqvist was playing, which would play a bit part in the game later on. On defense, Mirco Mueller was out with Matt Tennyson remaining in.
In goal, Louis Domingue went for the second straight game for the Devils (his first back-to-back since December of 2018 with the Tampa Bay Lightning), making 26 saves on 29 shots against for an .897 save percentage. The Devils like his puckhandling ability in net, harkening back almost to the days of Marty Brodeur and having a third defenseman back there.
For the Wild, Kaapo Kahkonen made his NHL debut from Finland tonight. With his parents in attendance, he also notched his first NHL victory. He stopped 32 of 34 Devils shots against for a .941 save percentage.
The first goal of the game came off the stick of an old friend on the power play. Blake Coleman was called for interfering with Mats Zuccarello and the Wild went on the man advantage at 5:26 of the first. Minnesota scored when they won a offensive zone faceoff and Kevin Fiala tapped the puck from the right wing side over to Ryan Suter at the point. He shot and it seemed that he had scored, as the original scoring credited the goal to him. But that was later changed as Zach Parise had redirected it by Domingue to make it 1-0 Minnesota. That goal came at the 5:30 mark of the first.
It would take the Devils a few minutes, but they would respond. This was the controversy that was referenced earlier. The goal came at 12:44 and saw Wayne Simmonds play a puck from Jack Hughes down with a high-stick in the neutral zone. He passed to Boqvist, who wristed a puck by Kahkonen. At first, it seemed that Hughes had redirected it by, but it was credited to Boqvist – it actually redirected in off of the Wild’s Luke Kunin’s stick, marking his first National Hockey League goal. And it was one he would remember due to the circumstances surrounding it.
Minnesota coach Bruce Boudreau then used his coach’s challenge due to what he believed was a missed stoppage event when Simmonds played the puck with the high-stick. The officials conferenced, reviewed the goal and ruled it a good goal, meaning the Wild would take a delay-of-game penalty for losing the challenge.
But it does not end there. The ruling by the referees said that since Simmonds played the puck and the high-stick was missed in the neutral zone and not the offensive zone, the play could not be called back. Later on in the evening, the NHL issued a statement from the Situation Room that said that the goal should have been disallowed but would stand anyway. It was a crazy sequence, but the Devils caught a break. Unfortunately for them, they could not capitalize on it now that it was 1-1.
Minnesota retook the lead at the 10:07 mark of the second period when Damon Severson made a turnover in the neutral zone and Jordan Greenway was off to the races on a 2-on-1. He took the shot himself, and went upstairs, scoring top shelf on Domingue. It was now 2-1 Wild and the Devils were fighting from underneath again. Joel Eriksson Ek had the lone assist on the goal.
The Devils would fight back about a minute and a half later at 13:28 when Kyle Palmieri scored his ninth of the year to tie the game at two. This came on the power play when Fiala was off for hooking at 12:47. Taylor Hall burst up the left wing towards the near corner and made a nice pass to the middle of the ice to Palmieri. Palmieri then paid the price, going to the net and taking a knee to the head to put the puck behind Kahkonen.
On the night, the Devils were 1-for-2 on the power play with five shots on goals. The Wild finished 1-for-4 with a trio of shots.
The Devils had tied it, but they would keep playing catch-up when Minnesota scored just three minutes into the third period. It was similar to the fist Wild goal in that they won an offensive zone faceoff, the right wing (Ryan Hartman) tipped the puck back to the point (Ryan Donato) and he went D-to-D with Ryan Suter. Suter wristed one under the crossbar to give Minnesota the 3-2 lead.
And that would hold up. The Devils pulled Domingue with about 1:12 to go in regulation for the extra attacker and Parise hit the post trying to shoot into the empty net after intercepting a D-to-D pass from Sami Vatanen intended for PK Subban. A final play in the Wild zone saw the puck cleared and the Devils desperately try a final rush up ice. But to no avail. They had lost again.
The Devils won just 44-percent of the game’s faceoffs, as their dominance in the faceoff circle was demonstrated by two of their three goals, which started on offensive zone draws. The Devils outhit the Wild, 14 to six, each team had 11 blocks and the Devils had an astonishing 21 giveaways to Minnesota’s three.
Individually, Vatanen had the most ice time of any New Jersey skater with 24:54 (1:46 on the power play and 2:37 on the PK) while Hall led the forwards with 19:22 (1:46 on the PP and three seconds shorthanded). Shots on goal were co-led by Vatanen and Subban with four each, hits were led by Hayden, Palmieri, Nikita Gusev and Vatanen with two apiece. Andy Greene led in blocked shots with two and Hughes led in takeaways with two.
Next up, the Devils will face the Montreal Canadiens on Thanksgiving night, Thursday. It is the only NHL game scheduled for American Thanksgiving as the Devils travel north of the border for the contest with puck drop at 7:30 PM. We will have coverage and will see you here on Thanksgiving night!