Devils Fall in Boston in another One-Goal Game

Tonight, the Devils traveled up to Boston’s TD Garden hoping to snap a five game losing streak. Instead, they came away with a sixth straight loss. They are playing a streak of games against teams that are in position to make the playoffs, yes. They are a very young team (the ninth youngest in the NHL according to MSG analyst John MacLean), yes. But it is also becoming very apparent that they are a frustrated team. They are playing well enough to only lose in OT or by one goal in regulation, however they are still losing and that frustrates the players and the fans.

The Devils practiced yesterday at Boston University, the alma mater of coach John Hynes. Hynes is one of many Devils with Boston connections (either being from New England or going to a college in the Boston area that also includes Steven Santini, Ben Lovejoy, Kevin Rooney, Cory Schneider and a few others).

It was during that practice that team captain Andy Greene had to leave for a personal reason and could not play tonight. In his place, forward Nick Lappin was called up from Albany. Lappin had the game winning goal for the A-Devils yesterday in Providence against the Bruins’ AHL club. Dalton Prout would slot in on defense for Greene as the Devils dressed six defensemen and twelve forwards. Prout was playing in his first game since February, as he had fallen out of favor in Columbus recently and did not play much.

Other scratches for New Jersey were Michael Cammalleri, who is out with what the team is calling an upper body injury – his shoulder injury from the Washington game – he is day-to-day, and Jacob Josefson. Boston was without Matt Beleskey, Jimmy Hayes, John-Michael Liles and Joe Morrow.

The Devils knew that this game would come down to special teams, as the Devils have the best penalty killing unit on the road in the NHL and the Bruins have the best overall penalty killing unit in the NHL. The game would be decided in that realm, as the Devils were 0-for-1 with the extra skater while the Bruins were 1-for-5, the margin of victory coming on a power play goal. One of the keys to the game was that the Devils just spent too much time killing penalties. With their team marching a steady beat to the penalty box, there is no way they can get a sustained attack going.

In goal, Boston threw out Anton Khudobin. He made 15 saves on just 17 Devils shots for a .882 save percentage. Hometown guy Cory Schneider started for the Devils; he made 37 saves on 40 Bruins shots for a .925 save percentage.

The lone power play goal of the game that decided things came at the 7:06 mark of the second period after a scoreless first frame. This was set up by Taylor Hall taking a penalty for tripping Kevan Miller. Torey Krug scored for Boston during that stint with the extra man, as the Devils simply could not clear their zone on the penalty kill before Krug put the puck just under the crossbar. The assists on that goal went to David Pastrnak and Patrice Bergeron. It was 1-0 Bruins.

Hall took another tripping penalty a little over three minutes later at 9:44. Boston would seemingly score on this one too when Drew Stafford (playing in his first game for the Bruins after a deadline deal from Winnipeg) seemingly jammed the puck home on a goal mouth scramble. But the Devils immediately challenged, citing goaltender interference. They said that Stafford had pushed Cory’s pad out of the way with his stick prior to putting the puck in the net. After a review, the referees had seen enough to overturn the call on the ice – a goal – and wave it off. The Devils had dodged a bullet.

And it would pay off immediately. Right as that Boston power play expired; Devante Smith-Pelly (who had blocked a Zdeno Chara shot earlier in his shift) grabbed a puck bobbled by the Bruins’ point man at the Devils’ blue line and was off to the races. He beat Khudobin with a nice move on the ensuing breakaway to tie things up in what would appear to be a momentum shift in favor of New Jersey. Santini had the primary assist while Kyle Palmieri had the secondary assist on Smith-Pelly’s goal. Things were now tied up at one at the 11:48 mark. Although it was set up by the penalty kill, the goal was scored an even strength goal because the Hall penalty was just expiring as the marker was tallied.

But the Devils would not get out of the second period with the lead. Brandon Carlo would score from Bergeron and David Backes to give Boston back the one goal lead, 2-1 at 18:25 of the second period.

The third period began with a buzzer malfunction, as the siren kept going off inadvertently. Once that was cleared up, the Devils would get down to the business of tying things up again. It came at the 5:51 mark of the third period when Palmieri notched his 20th of the season. He got it when Hall blocked a Boston shot at the Devils blue line, grabbed it and skated up ice with Palmieri on a 2-on-1. Hall would make a nice pass to Palmieri as they closed in on the Bruins’ net. Palmieri shot and lit the lamp, tying things up for New Jersey at two apiece.

But the Bruins were not done either. Just under three minutes later, at the 8:18 mark of the third, Ryan Spooner found the back of the Devils’ net to give Boston back a one-goal lead, 3-2. The assists went to Stafford and Frank Vatrano.

New Jersey was able to use their timeout with 1:27 left due to winning the coach’s challenge and pulled Schneider then. There was a frantic charge as the Devils tried to tie it up again. Finally the time on the big clock expired just as an icing call was being made against the Bruins.

Time had seemingly run out on the Devils, but the officials decided that the clock had kept running after the whistle and 0.9 seconds were put back up. The faceoff would come in the Boston zone and the Devils had to get a shot off right as the puck dropped on the faceoff in order to tie the game and stay alive. They could not and the Bruins came away with the 3-2 win.

And so the Devils return to Newark at five o’clock tomorrow afternoon in a very quick turnaround to take on the very difficult Columbus Blue Jackets. The Jackets are coming in from Ottawa (where they lost tonight) and will also be flying into Newark around the same time the Devils do. Hopefully the Devils can catch a tired Columbus team and get off of this slide because this is actually the beginning of the home-and-home with the Blue Jackets and getting swept here would all but put the final nail in the Devils 2016-17 season.

Devils Win Nail Biter over Isles

With a win tonight, the Devils could move within two points of their opponents, the New York Islanders in the Eastern Conference playoff race. They were able to come away with the win at the Prudential Center but it was not without some drama at the end.

Some relatively big trade news to talk about first as the Devils sent Sergey Kalinin to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for defenseman Viktor Loov. Kalinin had cleared waivers yesterday and was to be sent to Albany before the Leafs came calling. He will now report to the Toronto Marlies of the AHL while Loov will also report to the AHL, he will go to Albany.

This was the first meeting of the year between the Devils and Islanders, as it took almost three quarters of the season for New Jersey to meet their streaking Metro Division rivals. The Isles were in last place in the East this time last month. After the coaching change from Jack Capuano to Doug Weight, they have gone 9-3-2 and have surged up the board to the point where, if they had won tonight, regardless of what Toronto did in their game against Ottawa, the Islanders would have taken over the last playoff Wild Card spot currently occupied by the Leafs.

In some major lineup news, Michael Cammalleri, who is enduring an 18-game goal scoring drought, was a healthy scratch on the night. He joined Seth Helgeson in watching from the press box. The veteran has been having a rough go of it of late and the benching will hopefully get him back on track. He is a very streaky scorer, so maybe this will jumpstart him and get him going. Taking his place in the lineup was Devante Smith-Pelly, who would be skating on a line with Joseph Blandisi (who was playing center tonight) and Miles Wood. This line would play a big role in tonight’s game on the scoresheet.

The Islanders were without Travis Hamonic and Cal Clutterbuck (who are injured) and Adam Pelech and Shane Prince. Up for the Islanders was former Devil Stephen Gionta. Gionta would get a nice video tribute by the Devils on the big board at Prudential Center and a nice reception from the Devils faithful in his return.

The starting goaltenders were Thomas Greiss for the Islanders, who made 18 saves on 21 shots faced and Cory Schneider for the Devils. Cory made 40 saves on an amazing 42 shots faced from the Isles.

About four minutes in, Taylor Hall had a breakaway and was stopped by Greiss. Greiss was able to just get his stick on the puck and knock it off of Hall’s stick before he could get a shot off. This set the tone for the game right off of the bat.

The Devils would connect at the 7:10 mark of the first period when Devante Smith-Pelly took a pass from Travis Zajac that sprung him for a breakaway. He went to his backhand and slid the puck five hole by Greiss to make it 1-0 Devils. Jon Merrill had the secondary assist on the goal.

Cory Schneider made what would be a huge save for the Devils at the 8:10 mark of the first when he stopped John Tavares on a penalty shot. Zajac was called for a hook on a Tavares breakaway to set that up. Cory’s save would end up looming very big later on in the game for the Devils.

The Devils had a chance to double things up when former Islander PA Parenteau hit the post on New Jersey’s first power play of the evening. It was also in the first when the Isles got a bit of a scare as both Johnny Boychuk and Anders Lee left the game for them. They would both return for New York, however.

The second period featured a nice scrap between New York’s Scott Mayfield and the Devils’ Miles Wood. Wood’s father, Randy, played for the Islanders for five years. The fight was triggered after what was a clean hit on Brock Nelson.

The Devils would double their lead on the penalty kill. New Jersey’s Taylor Hall was called for roughing at 8:03 to put New York a man up. Adam Henrique just missed on a chance right before he grabbed the puck in the Devils zone and sped away on a two-on-one with Travis Zajac. He made a nice pass to Zajac, who ripped the puck by Greiss to make it 2-0 Devils at the 8:49 mark. The Devils had scored another shorthanded goal this year to double their lead. For the game, New York went 0-for-3 on the power play while the Devils were 1-for-2.

That power play goal would come at the 6:21 mark of the third. Pavel Zacha had that one when the Devils zig-zagged the puck through the Isles’ penalty kill. It started at the far point with Damon Severson, who side across to Parenteau. He went back across to the top of the far faceoff circle to Zacha, who fired a shot just over Greiss’ shoulder and under the crossbar stickside to make it 3-0 Devils.

From there, the Islanders began their comeback. Andrew Ladd scored at 8:58 of the third from Calvin de Haan to make it 3-1. The Devils challenged this goal for goalie interference, alleging that Tavares had bumped Schneider and kept him from being able to make the save. The call on the ice and from Toronto was a goal and that was where it stood after the review. The review showed that it was actually Andy Greene who got caught up with Cory, impeding him from making the save.

Anthony Beauvillier of the Islanders would score to make it 3-2 Devils at 13:48 from Alan Quine and Boychuk. Things were beginning to get even tenser.

At the 16:57 mark of the third, Henrique was called for cross checking Tavares in front of the Devils net. The Islanders would pull Greiss with about 1:30 left in the game and about 25 seconds left on that power play (giving them a brief 6-on-4 man advantage). But the Devils stood pat and Kyle Palmieri even blocked a big shot with seconds left before the Islanders shot themselves in the foot with consecutive offside calls. Time ran out and the Devils came away with the 3-2 victory.

Next up the Islanders, but this time at the Barclays Center. The Devils travel to Brooklyn trying to take two straight from New York in what should be a very tense playoff-like battle. The Isles are 8-0-2 in their last ten at home and the Devils have been a very good road team all season long. As MSG play-by-play man Steve Cangialosi put it: something has got to give.