On the Devils’ radio feed of the game tonight, color man Ken Daneyko (who was filling in for Chico Resch on the radio side for this one) said that even though preseason games do not count, getting a win still goes a long way in terms of a team’s confidence. With a 5-3 Devils win at the Winnipeg Jets, they got just that boost of confidence.
The Devils played a game where they once again got into some penalty trouble – Winnipeg had four power plays on the night – but they also got some good play out of guys. And with final cuts coming before the team heads out to Europe for the 2018 NHL Global Series, some of the guys that stepped up really needed to.
This was the final preseason game for the Devils in North America. They will play in Bern, Switzerland on Monday. It was also a good challenge in a tough building on the road against a real Stanley Cup contender icing an NHL-caliber lineup. (Although the Jets were without Dustin Byfuglien for the night.)
One guy who was making his preseason debut was Miles Wood. Wood re-signed with the Devils just a few days ago and was held out of the game against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden. But he was in the lineup tonight and ready to get back into game shape.
In goal, Keith Kinkaid went for the Devils all sixty minutes. He made 21 saves on 24 Jets shots. For Winnipeg, Connor Hellebuyck started and finished as both teams were giving their starters the full game this late in the preseason. Hellebuyck made 22 saves on 27 shots in taking the loss.
The Devils hit the penalty box early, with Mirco Mueller going off for tripping at 8:22 of the first and Blake Coleman for high-sticking at 9:07 to give the Jets the early 5-on-3 man advantage. It would be shortened to a 4-on-3 when Winnipeg’s Mathieu Perreault was called for hooking at 9:47. The Devils weathered that storm. As mentioned, the Jets were 0-for-4 with three shots on the man advantage. The Devils were 0-for-2 with three shots as well.
Winnipeg seemed to have things in hand early in the game when Perreault – who had hit a post early in the period – scored from Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele at 13:11 of the first period. The Jets had most of their big guns in the lineup and had the early 1-0 lead.
But it took less than two minutes for the Devils to tie things up. At 14:57, Andy Greene scored off of a nice feed from Jesper Bratt with the secondary assist to Marcus Johansson.
New Jersey would take the lead before the first period was out when the puck went off of Kyle Palmieri’s leg, the post, his arm and in behind Hellebuyck. Palmieri reacted in a way to indicate that he did not purposely bat the puck in off of his arm. The officials had a conference and it was ruled a good goal. Taylor Hall and Sami Vatanen had the assists.
Vatanen would score his second point of the night when he scored just 1:21 into the second period from Hall (who also had a two point game) and Palmieri (who likewise had a goal and an assist). It was 3-1 Devils just like that.
But the Jets would hang around as Kyle Connor scored 9:10 into the second from Scheifele (who had a two point game as well) and Wheeler (the fifth player in the game with a multi-point game with two assists).
Following that goal, Kinkaid would make two huge stops on Patrik Laine midway through the second.
But in the third period, the Devils would retake a two goal lead when hometown boy, Winnipeg native Travis Zajac scored just 17 seconds into the final frame. He got assists from Wood and John Quenneville. The Devils were up 4-2, but that would not last long.
The Jets got back within one at the 3:07 mark when Skyler McKenzie scored from Joe Morrow and Seth Griffith. That made it 4-3.
The Devils would finally put the game away when Damon Severson scored from Johansson (also with a two point game) and Will Butcher. That gave us our final of 5-3. Severson had made a nice “glove save” earlier in the game when he batted a surefire Jets goal out of the air to keep deny them.
Late in the game – with less than four minutes left in the game – Ben Lovejoy was given an interference penalty against Kristian Vesalainen. While shorthanded, Pavel Zacha broke free for a breakaway but shot wide off the backhand, just missing making it 6-3 Devils.
Stats-wise, the Devils were led in time on ice by Vatanen, who had 24:12 (including 1:36 on the power play and 2:21 shorthanded). Zajac led all forwards with 17:27 (1:19 on the PP, 2:35 on the PK). Wood and Severson led in shots on goal with four each while Coleman had six of the Devils’ 18 hits to lead in that category. Greene led in blocked shots with three of the team’s 12.
Next up, the Devils travel to Bern, Switzerland to take on SC Bern of the Swiss National League in their final preseason tune-up. That game is at 1:30 PM on Monday and we will have highlights up for you as soon as possible.