The Devils traveled to Columbus today day-of-game for their preseason finisher against the Blue Jackets. But unlike Wednesday’s game at Boston – where they followed the same travel itinerary – they came out much less flat tonight and defeated the Jackets 2-0.
This being the Devils’ dress rehearsal for the regular season, the team they were icing tonight was by-and-large what you will see next week. For the first time, they had Taylor Hall, Nico Hischier, Jack Hughes and Nikita Gusev all in the same lineup.
One of the few missing was defenseman and captain Andy Greene, who the Blue Jacket radio crew who were calling the game said was actually at his alma mater tonight (located in the state of Ohio). He was at the University of Miami-Ohio being inducted into their athletics Hall of Fame. Congrats to Greene on a nice honor.
Also making his preseason debut tonight was Pavel Zacha. Not in the lineup were Nathan Bastian and Michael McLeod, who were assigned to Binghamton of the AHL earlier today.
Cory Schneider got the start for the Devils and played all 60 minutes. He was brilliant at times tonight, stopping Alexandre Texier on a breakaway in the first period and helping the Devils kill two 5-on-3 advantages for Columbus in the first period. He ended up turning aside all 32 shots he saw, including eight on the power play as the Jackets went 0-for-4.
Facing Schneider was Joonas Korpisalo, who stopped 25 of 27 Devils shots, including four-of-five on the power play. The Devils were 1-for-3 with the man advantage. Korpisalo was great too, stopping a 3-on-0 Devils odd man rush midway through the second period as Damon Severson, Hughes and Gusev were bearing down on him.
The game winning goal, however, came on a Taylor Hall snipe through a screen from the far faceoff dot at the 8:32 mark of the first. Jesper Bratt had the primary assist while Hischier had the secondary.
The Devils’ insurance goal came at 8:20 of the third on the power play. Pierre-Luc Dubois went off for high sticking PK Subban and the Devils moved the puck around the perimeter, finally getting it to Kyle Palmieri, who centered to Travis Zajac in the slot. He fired to beat Korpisalo to make it 2-0. Hall had the secondary assist.
Hall had been stopped in the second period, late, when he just ran out of room, making too many moves on Korpisalo on a clear breakaway and hitting the side of the net.
The Blue Jackets did have a goal waved off late in the second just before the Hall breakaway. Texier had seemingly scored, but goalie interference was called on the ice and the goal was disallowed. It was ruled incidental contact on Schneider and the Devils dodged a bullet.
The Devils won just 41-percent of the game’s faceoffs, reversing a recent trend and got outhit by Columbus 18-13. They did block more shots at 16 to the Jackets’ eight. Columbus had three giveaways to the Devils’ one.
Individually, Subban led all Devils’ skaters in ice time with 24:15 (3:10 on the power play and 2:25 on the PK). Zajac led the forwards with 18:50 total time (3:11 on the PP/2:45 on the PK). Hall and Blake Coleman led in shots on goal with three each. Will Butcher blocked the most shots with four. Matt Tennyson led in hits with six and Hischier, Zajac, Hughes, Severson and Subban all had a takeaway to lead there.
So the Devils finish the preseason with a respectable 5-2 mark and open up the regular season next Friday against the Winnipeg Jets at home.
In other hockey-related news, best wishes to Montreal Canadiens and hockey legend Guy Lafleur, who underwent quadruple bypass surgery in Montreal on Thursday according to the Associated Press. Although he never played for the Devils, Lafleur is one of the all-time greats and we certainly hope he heals very fast and gets healthy soon.