Sabres Slam Devils Again

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.

Devils Routed in Buffalo 7-2

The Devils followed up their rough shootout loss last night to Winnipeg with a trip to Buffalo and a matchup with the Sabres.

Unfortunately, this one went about as well as last night’s collapse. The Devils fell 7-2.

First, some good news. Cory Schneider left last night’s game with “lower body cramping” according to the team. He made the trip to Western New York and did backup Mackenzie Blackwood, who got his first start of the season tonight.

One roster change saw John Hayden out and Jesper Boqvist in. This was Boqvist’s NHL debut and he ended a minus-1 with a shot on goal, two blocks and a takeaway in 12:16 of ice time.

This was the Sabres’ home opener and they celebrated the opening of their 50th season. They had most of their former captains in attendance, including former Devils player Brian Gionta and former Devils coach Mike Foligno. The Sabres were also in their special 50th anniversary third jerseys, so the Devils played the game in their home reds.

Victor Olofsson got the scoring started on the power play for the Sabres at 2:56 of the first period. Will Butcher had gone off for holding to set that up. Olofsson took a no-look pass from Jack Eichel and shot from the far faceoff circle to make it 1-0 Buffalo. Rasmus Dahlin had the secondary assist.

The second goal of the game also came on the power play for Buffalo, this time off the stick of Eichel. Blake Coleman had gone off for holding to set this up. This was a weird one as Blackwood was trying to dive in front of himself and cover the puck up and just missed it with his glove. It went right to Eichel in front of the net and he potted it to make it 2-0. Jeff Skinner had the lone assist on this goal which came 17:26 into the first.

The Devils finally got on the board just 37 seconds into the second period. Nico Hischier did a good job protecting the puck behind the net and getting it to Taylor Hall in the near corner. He then set up Kyle Palmieri for a one-timer from the near circle. He scored and cut the Buffalo lead in half to 2-1. Nico’s assist gave him 100 NHL points in his young career. Congratulations to him on that milestone.

But the Sabres came back and began to pile it on starting at 2:49 when Kyle Okposo redirected a Dahlin shot by Blackwood to make it 3-1. Zemgus Girgensons had the secondary assist on the goal.

Midway through the second period, Blackwood stopped Eichel on a breakaway with a nice glove save. However, he could not stop Skinner at 8:57 when he scored off a 3-on-2 odd man rush. Marcus Johansson set him up and Marco Scandella had the secondary assist on the goal that made it 4-1.

Olofsson scored his second of the night unassisted at 13:33 on the power play to make it 5-1. Coleman was off for tripping to set this man advantage up. The goal came when Olofsson took a shot from the far circle and the rebound came right back to him in the same exact spot. He did not move, but shot on the second chance and scored.

The Sabres’ power play was effective tonight, going 3-for-4 with nine shots. The Devils were not as effective, going 0-for-2 with five shots. The Devils still have not scored a power play goal this season.

Following this goal, Jake McCabe laid a big hit on Taylor Hall, shaking him up and sending him down the tunnel. Wayne Simmonds would take exception to the hit, on which McCabe did leave his feet briefly. Simmonds would go after McCabe and a melee would ensue. In the end, Simmonds got a double minor for roughing and a ten-minute misconduct, McCabe got two minutes for roughing and PK Subban and Okposo each got misconduct penalties. Because of the double minor to Simmonds, Buffalo got a power play out of the deal but they did not score on it. Hall would return, go down the tunnel again for concussion protocol and then return permanently for the third period.

The Devils got back on the board just 58 seconds into the third when Coleman made a nice backhand pass to Travis Zajac and he whipped it by Buffalo goaltender Carter Hutton using the Sabres defender as a screen. That goal made it 5-2 Sabres. Damon Severson had the secondary assist on Zajac’s first of the season.

But that Devils comeback was short-lived due to two goals by Sam Reinhart. His first came almost three minutes after the Zajac goal at 3:56 when McCabe went point-to-point with Reinhart, who shot and beat Blackwood glove side. Rasmus Ristolainen had the other assist on the goal. It was now 6-2 Sabres.

Reinhart struck for a second time unassisted at 16:16 of the third when he stole the puck from Subban at the Buffalo blueline and was off on a breakaway. He roofed the puck over Blackwood’s shoulder to make it 7-2, which was our final.

Blackwood ended up stopping 29 of the Sabres’ 36 shots on net for an .806 save percentage while Hutton was 18-for-20 for a .900 save percentage.

The Devils were again good in the faceoff circle, winning 51-percent of the game’s draws. They were, however, outhit 14-11. The Devils had one more blocked shot at 11 to Buffalo’s ten and each team had seven giveaways.

The individual leaders for the Devils saw Andy Greene lead everyone in ice time with 20:30 (including 3:56 on the penalty kill) while Zajac led the forwards with 17:55 (2:04 on the power play and 2:59 shorthanded). Hall and Palmieri each had three shots on goal to lead there, Hall, Coleman and Sami Vatanen led in hits with two apiece. Boqvist, Greene, Mirco Mueller and Vatanen led in blocks with two each and Zajac, Pavel Zacha and Boqvist each had a takeaway to lead in that category.

Next up, the Devils travel down the Turnpike to Philly on Wednesday for their first meeting of the year with the Flyers. That game will be telecast on NBCSN and is at 7:30 PM. We will see you then.