The Devils did not get the month of December off on the right foot. They lost for the second time in Buffalo this year, giving up seven goals once again to the Sabres, falling 7-1 tonight at KeyBank Center.
This is coming off of a game versus the Rangers on Saturday where, for the first time in team history, they gave up two shorthanded goals and got shutout.
The Devils had some hope has they had won three of their last four games on the road, dating back to the game at Vancouver in the middle of November.
The Devils made some changes to the lineup as Jesper Boqvist, who made his NHL debut earlier in the year in Buffalo, was moved to the top line with Nico Hischier and Kyle Palmieri. Taylor Hall would skate on a line with Pavel Zacha and Jesper Bratt.
John Hayden and Mirco Mueller remained the healthy scratches while Jack Hughes remained out with the lower body injury suffered in the Montreal game on Thanksgiving.
The Devils were in their reds tonight as the Sabres were again wearing their special 50th anniversary uniforms. Today was actually the 50th anniversary to the day, according to MSG’s Steve Cangialosi, that Buffalo was awarded a National Hockey League franchise, December 2, 1969.
Jack Eichel had a nine-game point streak coming into this contest and he wasted no time in making it ten.
The Buffalo captain scored just 2:46 into the game, right after the Devils had killed off a penalty (Blake Coleman went off for tripping just 44 seconds in). Rasmus Ristolainen centered the puck to Eichel on the doorstep. Devils goalie Louis Domingue made the initial save and Eichel hammered at the rebound to put it home. He scored on the first Sabres’ shot of the game.
Jeff Skinner put Buffalo up 2-0 when he scored at 4:59. Johan Larsson stole the puck at the Devils blueline and Skinner grabbed it, breaking in on a partial breakaway. He made a slight hesitation move and Domingue bit. Just like that, the Sabres were up a pair.
The next two came courtesy of Conor Sheary. The first came at 6:57 when the Devils were stopped on a 2-on-1 in the Sabres’ zone. Hall passed to Bratt and he tried to pass it back instead of shooting. By then, Hall had been cornered at a bad angle and Buffalo took control. They broke back the other way and Sheary potted his fourth of the year from Skinner and Larsson. That made it 3-0 Buffalo.
His fifth goal came at 16:41 when he came up the left-wing boards and threw it on net. Domingue blocked it aside, but the puck went off his blocker and up and over his body into the net. It was a strange one that Domingue would no doubt like to have back. Larsson and Jake McCabe had the assists on the goal that made it 4-0 Sabres.
The fifth goal for the Sabres came off the stick of Rasmus Asplund and was his first career NHL goal. It came at 19:02 of the first period when the Devils turned the puck over in their zone, and Casey Mittelstadt got it to Asplund at the far face off circle. He fired and beat Domingue to make it 5-0 Buffalo.
During the first period, Julien Fournier, one of the linesmen, got ill. This resulted in him leaving the game and the teams playing the rest of the game with just three officials: two referees and one linesman.
Following the first period, which saw Domingue get shelled and break his stick over his knee as he was leaving the ice at the end of the frame, Mackenzie Blackwood came on in relief. This was the first time since 1993 that the Devils had given up five goals in a single period and the second time that Blackwood relieved, as he had replaced Cory Schneider on opening night when the latter suffered muscle cramps.
At 3:22 of the second period, PK Subban had tried to single-handedly spark some offense and he barreled into the Buffalo goalie, Linus Ullmark. Colin Miller took exception and the two went off with matching roughing minors. This resulted in two minutes of four-on-four hockey.
During that four-on-four time, at 4:40, Victor Olofsson scored off tic-tac-toe passing from Jack Eichel and Brandon Montour. Olofsson ended up shooting from the far faceoff circle to beat Blackwood. There was some hesitation at first as neither team realized the puck had gone in. Following that, Buffalo’s celebration was subdued afterwards as the game was beginning to get out of hand. It was now 6-0 Sabres.
The Devils got on the board on the power play at 8:10 of the second when Hischier scored. Zemgus Girgensons was called for tripping Nico at 6:31 putting New Jersey on the man advantage. The goal saw Nico take a hit in the corner to get the puck, pass to Nikita Gusev at the point. He went to the other point to Sami Vatanen. Vatanen fired on net and Hischier was there to chop at the rebound, which he put in to make it 6-1.
But the Sabres would get that one back at 12:08. Olofsson chipped the puck to Henri Jokiharju at the point and Jokiharju fired an absolute bomb by Blackwood. Eichel had the other assist on the goal which made it 7-1.
The goal also came on the power play, with Kyle Palmieri taking a tripping penalty against Mittelstadt to put Buffalo on the man advantage. Palmieri was incensed on the call, feeling that Mittelstadt embellished on the trip.
Overall, the Devils went 1-for-4 on the power play with 11 shots while the Sabres were 1-for-2 with two power play shots and a pair of shorthanded shots.
The Devils actually outshot the Sabres 21-8 in the second period, but had little to show for it. The Devils seemed to have gotten one late, but the puck actually went under the net as it was slightly dislodged. That was just the kind of night it was for the Devils.
In net, Domingue stopped 10 of the 15 shots he saw for a .667 save percentage in his twenty minutes of work. Blackwood was 15-for-17 with an .882 save percentage. Buffalo finished with 32 total shots on goal. Ullmark stopped 44 of New Jersey’s 45 shots for a .978 save percentage.
The Devils own 47-percent of the game’s faceoffs, had 22 hits to the Sabres’ nine. Buffalo had 12 blocked shots to the Devils’ four and 11 giveaways to the Devils’ seven.
Vatanen led all Devils’ skaters with 20:10 of ice time (3:18 on the power play and 1:44 on the PK) while Hall led the forwards with 16:57 (including 4:09 on the PP). Shots were led by Wayne Simmonds, Jesper Bratt and Vatanen, who all had five. In fact, every Devils’ skater registered a shot in the game except for Andy Greene. Defenseman Matt Tennyson had the most hits with four. Hischier led in blocks with two and Hall, Simmonds and Zacha each led in takeaways with one apiece.
Next up, the Devils will have to regroup right away. They return home tomorrow night to take on the Vegas Golden Knights at Prudential Center. We will have that for you right here tomorrow night.