Devils Knock Off Sabres in Buffalo

The Devils could have been reeling following the news of last night’s trade that sent Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac to the New York Islanders.

Instead, the young guns stepped up, just the way General Manager Tom Fitzgerald and coach Lindy Ruff wanted them to. They defeated the Buffalo Sabres 6-3 in Western New York.

Speaking of that trade, I did not mention in the trade recap last night that the conditions on the 2022 fourth round pick. It moves to a third-round pick should the Isles make the Stanley Cup Final. Zajac was a Devils for 15 years and Palmieri led the Devils in scoring in the time he was in New Jersey with 140 tallies.

With both Palmieri and Zajac gone, PK Subban and Miles Wood each had an “A” on their chest.

Now back to the game. This was the final game of the series between New Jersey and Buffalo this season. With the Devils’ win, the two teams split the season series with four wins each.

Some good news on the Nico Hischier front as the captain skated with the team at practice yesterday and took the morning skate earlier today. He did make the trip up to Buffalo but did not play. He could possibly be back as soon as tomorrow according to MSG Network’s Erika Wachter.

While we were talking about trades, the NHL trade deadline is Monday at 3 PM and Taylor Hall was again a healthy scratch for the Sabres, so his days in Western New York (short as they were) seem to be numbered.

The Devils scratched Will Butcher and Scott Wedgewood.

In goal, the Devils thew kind of curveball when they started Aaron Dell. Dell stopped 24 on 27 Buffalo shots for an .889 save percentage in his first start at the NHL level since March 2. He stopped 20-of-22 at even strength and was 4-for-5 on power play shots as the Sabres went 1-for-3 on the man advantage.

In goal for the Sabres was Linus Ullmark, who turned aside 32 of 27 Devils shots for an .865 save percentage. He stopped 24-of-27 at even strength, was 5-for-7 on the power play as the Devils went 2-for-4 as a team and stopped all three Devils shorthanded shots.

With Dell’s win, this became the first season since 1991-92 for the Devils that four different goalies recorded at least a win.

Victor Olofsson got the scoring started 53 seconds into the game when Henri Jokiharju went wide in the Devils’ zone and passed to Olofsson cutting throught the middle. There was some missed coverage and some miscommunication on the Devils’ defense that led to the goal. Kyle Okposo had the secondary assist.

From then, from the 2:06 mark to the 3:47 mark of the first it essentially became the “Pavel Zacha Power Play Show.”

His first came when Ty Smith, on the power play, shot from the point after taking a feed from Jesper Bratt. Smith’s initial shot was saved by Ullmark, but the rebound was collected by Zacha in front and he put it in to tied the game at one.

For his next feat, also on the power play, Bratt, from the half wall, again got it to Smith at the point. Smith then dished to Zacha at the top of the near faceoff circle. He shot and beat Ullmark again to give the Devils the 2-1 lead.

The Devils took a 3-1 lead at 16:04 when Janne Kuokkanen fore checked hard and created a turnover in the far corner. He centered to Jack Hughes and he whiffed on the initial shot but got he puck on end on his second try and roofed it over Ullmark to make it 3-1 Devils. Yegor Sharangovich had the secondary assist.

In the second, Buffalo would fight back to tie.

It began with Tage Thompson at 11:56 of the second period. Colin Miller played tic-tac-toe to Brandon Montour and he shot. Dell made the save with his left pad initially, but he kicked it out to Thompson who put the rebound in to make ti 3-2 Devils.

Then, at 18:21, Jeff Skinner tied things. Rasmus Dahlin and Sam Reinhart went D-to-D. Reinhart took a shot that was saved with the rebound coming right to Skinner. Skinner put the rebound in to make it 3-3.

In the third, the Devils retook the lead for the victory.

It started 8:45 in to the new frame. Michael McLeod forced a turnover behind the Sabres’ cage. He centered to Boqvist in the slot. Boqvist shot and Ullmark made the first save, but Boqvist put his own rebound in to give the Devils back the lead at 4-3.

At 18:17, Sharangovich added an insurance goal when Kuokkanen stole the puck in the far corner from Riley Sheahan. He passed to Hughes, who made a no-look pass to Sharangovich who absolutely ripped a shot by Ullmark to make it 5-3.

Kuokannen would add an empty netter at 19:28 with Ullmark pulled for the extra attacker. Sharangovich and Hughes had the assists to ice the Devils’ 6-3 victory.

In the end, five Devils had a multi-point night with Hughes and Sharangovich notching three points each.

The Devils outshot the Sabres, 38-17, won 52-percent of the faceoffs, were outhit 13-9, had less blocked shots (11-6) and one more giveaways at two to Buffalo’s one.

Damon Severson led the team in ice time with 22:19 with Hughes leading the forwards with 19:44.

Zacha led in shots on goal with six. Hits were led by Andreas Johnsson, Severson and Dmitry Kulikov with two each.  Kulikov also led in blocks with three. Johnsson’s lone takeaways led in that category.

Next up, tomorrow back at the Rock. The Devils will face the Pittsburgh Penguins. Puck drop for that second half of the back-to-back is 7 PM.

And before we go, congratulations to Jeremy Brodeur. Marty’s son made his American Hockey League debut last night with the Binghamton Devils versus the Hershey Bears. He took a 3-2 overtime loss but made 47 saves in the game.

Until tomorrow, stay safe everyone!

Devils Fall to Sabres, 5-3

The Devils tried for a fourth win over the Buffalo Sabres but came up short. They lost 5-3 at Prudential Center tonight.

It was Hockey Fights Cancer Night at Prudential Center as the Devils took part in the NHL-wide initiative. Camille See Wai (I believe I spelled he name correctly), a breast cancer survivor, sang the Star Spangled Banner pre-game and knocked it out of the park.

In addition, the Devils wore their lavender warmup jerseys that were then auctioned off to benefit Clara Maass Medical Center. The dasher board ads were also in lavender.

Some trade-centric news saw Kyle Palmieri sitting for the Devils for “precautionary reasons” and Taylor Hall out for the same reason for the Sabres.

Will Butcher and Aaron Dell were the Devils’ other scratches. On the injury front, Nico Hischier is back to skating on his own

In net, the Devils went with Scott Wedgewood, who stopped 12-of-15 at even strength, let in the only Sabres’ power play shot, stopped their only shorthanded shot, stopped 13-of-17 total and had a .765 save percentage.

For the Sabres, it was the Devils’ nemesis, Linus Ullmark, who has all of the wins for Buffalo in their series with the Devils. At even strength, he stopped 24-of-26, was 2-for-3 on power play shots, stopped the Devils’ lone shorthanded shot and was 27-for-30 total for a .900 save percentage.

For the Devils, the biggest news was the NHL debut of Tyce Thompson, fresh off of singing an entry level deal with New Jersey. The former Providence Friar made his debut against his brother Tage of Buffalo. Tyce got the now-traditional rookie treatment of taking his lone lap before warmups. Thompson wore number 12.

Thompson became the fourth active Devil to play against his brother. PK Subban, Jesper Boqvist, and Jack Hughes are the others.

And Thompson paid off right away. On his second shift, 69 seconds into his NHL career, at the 4:22 mark of the first period, Mikhail Maltsev chipped the puck up the boards to Thompson. Thompson shot and his rebound was put in by a trailing Damon Severson. It was 1-0 Devils early and Thompson became the first player since 1986 to record his first NHL point in 69 seconds or less.

But in a pattern that would repeat all night, the Sabres tied things at 9:56. The Sabres recovered a turnover at the Devils blue line. Casey Mittelstadt cut in with Rasmus Asplund on a partial 2-on-1. Mittelstadt dished to Asplund, who launched a one-timer by Wedgewood to tie things at one apiece.

The Sabres took their first lead of the night at 19:17 when Brandon Montour the Sabres won a faceoff in the Devils zone, getting it back to Tage Thompson at the point. He got it to Brandon Montour, who got it in the middle of the ice, shot and scored. Colin Miller had  the secondary assist. Yes, both Thompsons had assists on the night.

The Devils, however, would get that one right back when Jesper Bratt scored with less than one second to go in the first period. Ty Smith at the point passed to Pavel Zacha at the far faceoff circle, Zacha shot and it went off of Travis Zajac and to Bratt, who scored in front of the net to make it 2-2. That goal was also a power play goal, which snapped an 0-for-16 Devils power play futility streak.

The third period saw Zacha score 11:03 in to give the Devils their first lead of the night. It came when the Devils got the puck up ice quickly via Miles Wood. Wood stopped short just inside the Sabres’ zone and gave the puck up to Bratt. Bratt passed to Zahca at the side of the Sabres’ net. Ullmark made the initial save on the tip by Zacha, but Zacha stayed with it and shot the rebound in as he was falling down, scoring to make it 3-2 Devils.

But again, Buffalo stayed in it. At 15:19, Rasmus Dahlin cut down towards the net, made a nice inside-out move and beat Wedgewood to tie things at three. Riley Sheahan and Kyle Okposo had the assists.

In the third, Mittelstadt struck again at 10:20 to start to put Buffalo back on top. It came on the power play and saw Dahlin keep the puck in the Devils zone, got it to Mittelstadt and he wristed the puck by Wedgewood to give the Sabres the 4-3 lead.

A rough non-call for the Devils with less than three minutes to go saw Janne Kuokkanen taking as high stick and having blood drawn and no call being made on the play. The referees missed it, much like the other several times this has happened to the Devils this season.

Rasmus RIstolainen added an unassisted empty netter to make it 5-3 and give the Sabres the win. It was an impressive empty net goal, with Ristolainen shooting from his end of the ice and square into the Devils’ net. Wedgewood had been pulled with about 1:45 left in regulation.

The Devils outshot Buffalo 30-18. Buffalo won 54-percent of the game’s faceoffs. The Devils were 1-for-3 on the power play while the Sabres were 1-for-2. The Sabres outhit the Devils, 21-12. Buffalo edged New Jersey in blocked shots 7-6 and the Devils had one more turnover than the Sabres at six to Buffalo’s five.

Travis Zajac led the centers in faceoff win percentage at 54-percent. Smith led in time on ice with 21:43. Hughes led the forwards with 21:37. Smith led in power play time with 3:35.

Wood led in shots on goal with six. Hits were led by Zajac and Severson with two apiece. Blocks went to Severson and Subban with two each. Takeaways by Nick Merkley with two.

Next up, the Devils will head up to Buffalo to end the season series with the Sabres. That game is on Thursday with a 7 PM puck drop.

We’ll see you then and stay safe everyone!