The Devils wrapped up their road trip of road trips today in Sweden by taking on the Edmonton Oilers in Gothenburg at the Scandinavium in the 2018 NHL Global Series. That road trip had taken them from Newark to Winnipeg to Bern, Switzerland to Sweden. The only difference between the other games played on this trip? This one was for real.
Two points were up for grabs and the Devils were equal to the task, defeating Edmonton 5-2 behind two goals each from Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac.
New Jersey would be traveling to Sweden with two native sons on their roster, but only one playing. Marcus Johansson (who was celebrating a birthday today as well) was active and played well today. Jesper Bratt was placed on injured reserve yesterday with a fractured jaw after being hit in the face by a puck off a crossbar at practice. Johansson took the ceremonial faceoff (puck dropped by Devils great Martin Brodeur) with former Devils-turned-Oiler Adam Larsson.
The Devils were also back on a NHL-sized rink, as the Scandinavium (which usually hosts games for Swedish Hockey League club Frolunda) was fitted out with the smaller ice surface.
This was the first time the Devils franchise has ever played a regular season game outside the US or Canada and they went all out. It was also, technically, the Devils home opener, as they were the designated home team. The public address announcer from The Rock, Kevin Clark, was in attendance to do the announcing and a recording of the Devils goal horn and song was played after each goal. Both teams also had a sizable fan presence in the building, both of whom were very vocal.
Healthy scratches for the Devils were Eric Gryba, Steven Santini and Drew Stafford. Santini and Ben Lovejoy will be the sixth and seventh defensemen this year as per MSG+ studio analyst Bryce Salvador.
As for the lineup today, Nico Hischier would center the first line with Taylor Hall and Palmieri, Zajac centered the third line with Miles Wood and John Quenneville.
In nets, Cam Talbot went for the Oilers, making 22 saves on 26 Devils shots. Keith Kinkaid was in goal for the Devils, making 17 saves on 19 Edmonton shots. On the power play, the Oilers were 1-for-4 with one shot while the Devils were 1-for-2 also scoring on their only power play shot.
The Marcus Johansson line started the game and the regular season was underway. And it took less than a minute for the Devils to get on the board. Just 58 seconds into the season, Palmieri scored from Damon Severson to make it 1-0. The goal came when Severson foiled an Edmonton clearing attempt and sent the puck back in deep in their zone. Palmieri grabbed it off the wind-around by the far hashmarks. He skated towards the slot area and fired the puck over Talbot’s glove side to give the Devils the early lead.
According to MSG+’s Steve Cangiolosi, Palmieri became the fourth Devil to score a goal less than a minute into a new season. He joined Stephane Richer, Scott Niedermayer and Zach Parise as players in team history to do that.
But then a preseason problem reared its ugly head. At 3:41 of the first period, Lovejoy took a holding penalty that resulted in the Oilers tying things up. Milan Lucic finished off a pass from Connor McDavid, who had tons of time and space. Leon Draisaitl had the secondary assist. That goal came at 4:01 of the first.
The game was tied at one going into the second, but New Jersey would absolutely take over the contest in the middle frame. Edmonton would not register a shot in the second period until a power play with just over five minutes left in the period. That is how dominant the Devils would be in this part of the game.
They would also score twice in the second. First, Palmieri notched his second of the game on the power play. After New Jersey had taken the first three penalties of the game, the Oilers were finally assessed one when Jesse Puljujarvi was called for interfering with Miles Wood. On the ensuing power play, Zajac won the faceoff deep in the Oilers’ zone. Hischier tipped the puck back to Will Butcher at the point. He went point-to-point with Palmieri who ripped a shot from the top of the far faceoff circle. The shot beat Talbot and gave the Devils the 2-1 lead. That goal came at 2:02 of the second.
Zajac would score his first of the season and game one minute and nine seconds later when the puck was dumped deep into the Edmonton zone. Talbot tried to settle it behind his net, but Wood, who was crashing in on the forecheck, stole the puck behind the net and centered to Zajac who was cruising through the slot. He pulled the trigger and made it 3-1 Devils as the they capitalized off the Oilers’ misstep. That goal came 3:11 into the second period.
Zajac would strike again 5:27 into the third to make it 4-1 Devils. On this one, Wood stopped an Edmonton clearing attempt just above the goal line. He grabbed the puck and gave to Zajac, who skated in front of the net and stuffed one by Talbot on the backhand. Zajac now had his second and it was 4-1 New Jersey.
The Oilers would grab one back at 11:32 of the third when Draisaitl got his second point of the game from Lucic and McDavid (who also collected two points on the evening). The Devils lead was now cut in half to 4-2.
Edmonton was now within striking distance and pulled Talbot with a little more than two minutes to go in the game. And with the empty net, Stefan Noesen cleared from the Devils zone at 18:31, banking it in off the near post and in to make it 5-2. And that was our final as the Devils got the two points up for grabs in Sweden.
As a team, the Devils finished the night with 24 hits to the Oilers’ 28. Both teams had eight blocks each while the Devils had 11 giveaways to the Oilers’ five.
Individually, Sami Vatanen led the team in ice time with 22:57 while Taylor Hall led the forwards with 18:56. Hall also led in shots on goal with four while hits were led by Mirco Mueller with three. Hall and Quenneville each had two blocks to lead in that category while Zajac led in takeaways with three.
Next up, the Devils return Stateside for their home opener proper on Thursday, October 11. And it is a doozy. The defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals invade Prudential Center as the Devils try to make it two in a row. We will have coverage of that game for you right here on Thursday night. Until then, let’s go Devils!