Devils Shutout in Edmonton, Swept in Alberta

The Devils fell in Edmonton tonight, dropping the season series to the Oilers and getting swept in their tour of Alberta, as they lost in Calgary last night. They were shutout 4-0.

With that loss to the Flames last night, the Devils have not won the first game of a back-to-back so far this year. New Jersey rolled into Edmonton looking to at least salvage the second half of this one.

Instead, Mikko Koskinen made 26 saves as he blanked the Devils. Cory Schneider made his first start for New Jersey since October 30 against the Lightning and made 29 saves on 33 Oiler shots for a .879 save percentage.

Some changes to the Devils’ lineup following the loss at Calgary. Kevin Rooney was out in favor of Jesper Bratt, who was healthy and ready to go. He played on a second line with Jesper Boqvist and centered by Jack Hughes. On defense, Matt Tennyson was out in favor of Mirco Mueller, who had not played since October 25 and was scratched for the last five games. John Hayden was the Devils’ other scratch.

One other note that slipped by me last night was that Hughes’ goal in Calgary was his first NHL even strength goal, all of his others have come on the power play. Also, Taylor Hall made his return to Edmonton for the first time tonight since winning the 2018 Hart Trophy as league MVP. He was injured for the Devils’ trip up there last season. Hall also played in his 200th game as a Devil last night in Calgary.

The Oilers were wearing their alternate navy blue and orange uniforms tonight which are not bad, but not up to the standards of their 1980’s uniforms in my opinion. It boggles the mind why that team is so bent on getting away from those unis.

The first period was scoreless, but did feature two key plays that would deeply affect the Devils. The first was a quick whistle with 13:16 to go that robbed Nico Hischier of a potential goal. He seemed to be on a loose puck and was ready to bury it when the referee lost sight of the puck and blew his whistle. A tough one, but the next key play hurt the Devils way more tonight and possibly beyond.

Sami Vatanen took a hit from the Oilers’ Alex Chiasson and got up very slowly, seeming to favor his shoulder. He left the game and would not return. How bad his injury is and, if it is bad, how long he is out could definitely affect the Devils down the line. He only played 2:43 but did register a blocked shot in that time.

The Devils also missed a good opportunity when Hall hit the post on a breakaway mid-first period.

The second period was when things began to fall apart for New Jersey. It began at 1:55 when Leon Draisaitl, who Steve Cangialosi of MSG pointed out is the leading goal scorer for the calendar year of 2019 with 43 goals, scored his 14th of the season so far. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins found him with a stretch pass as he got behind the Devils’ defense. He went in all alone on Cory and beat him backhand to make it 1-0 Oilers. Joel Persson had the other assist on the goal.

Edmonton made it 2-0 at 15:45 when Matt Benning took a shot from the point that redirected in off of Gaetan Haas’ skate and trickled by Cory. Kris Russell had the secondary assist. It was now 2-0 Oilers.

James Neal made it 3-0 when he scored 1:06 after Haas’ goal. This one came as Chiasson shot from the point and Neal batted the puck down in front of the net and shot, beating Cory to triple the Edmonton lead. Persson again had the secondary assist on this goal. This was Neal’s 12th of the season.

The final goal came at the 6:02 mark of the third and came on the power play for the Oilers. Blake Coleman was sent off for cross checking Ethan Bear at 5:21 and the Oilers were on the man advantage. Edmonton dug the puck out of the corner and Connor McDavid made a nice no-look pass to Nugent-Hopkins who shot and the puck was redirected in off of McDavid. Chiasson originally got credit for the goal, but it was later changed to McDavid.

That goal made it 4-0 and that was the final. The Oilers were 1-for-3 on the power play for the night with six shots on goal. The Devils finished 0-for-4 with four shots. They also registered a shorthanded shot.

The Devils were outshot for a second straight night, 32-29 and won only 41-percent of the game’s faceoffs. They did register more hits, 18 to 16 and more blocks at 20 to 10 than the Oilers. They also had less giveaways at eight to Edmonton’s nine.

Individually, PK Subban led in ice time with 24:36 (2:50 on the power play and 40 seconds on the penalty kill). Hall led the forwards with 19:39 (5:05 on the power play included). Cangialosi called Subban a “shooting machine” late in the game and he was not kidding around as Subban led all Devils players with seven shots on goal. Nikita Gusev came next closest with just four shots. Mueller led in hits with four and blocks with five as he tried to make a case to stay in the lineup. Hischier and Hughes led in takeaways with two apiece.

Next up, the Devils finish off their Western Canada road trip with a game at Vancouver on Sunday at 4PM ET. This will be the second career meeting between Jack and Quinn Hughes. Hopefully for the Devils, the outcome is similar to what it was when they met for the first time.

Devils Fall to Oilers in Shootout

The Devils’ woes continue as their first win eludes them once again. They fell to the Edmonton Oilers 4-3 in a shootout after failing to pull away from the Oilers.

To begin with, the Devils would be without defenseman and captain Andy Greene. He suffered an upper body injury last night in Philadelphia and was unavailable. Mirco Mueller slotted in for the injured Greene, playing on the third pairing with Connor Carrick. In another lineup change, Pavel Zacha was in for John Hayden up front.

Former Devil Adam Larsson was out for Edmonton as he suffered a broken leg on opening night and has been on long-term injured reserve.

This game would feature five first overall picks (Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Connor McDavid for the Oilers and Taylor Hall – an Oiler pick – Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes for the Devils). Steve Cangialosi on MSG Network referred to it as the “Taylor Hall Invitational” with Hall being the most senior of the picks and the Draft Lottery “good luck charm” for both teams.

The Oilers would be a stiff challenge for the Devils, coming into the game with a 3-0-0 record and currently standing fifth in the NHL in both the power play and penalty kill and second in goals per game.

The first period began with PK Subban leaving the game with an apparent injury. He had only taken one or two shifts before leaving the game. Thankfully, he would return in the second period and finish the game.

The Devils opened the scoring just 6:14 in the game when Kyle Palmieri (playing in his 500th NHL game) blocked a shot at the Devils’ blue line and was off to the races with Taylor Hall on a 2-on-1. He faked a pass, keeping Edmonton goalie Mikko Koskinen from getting set and roofed the shot to give the Devils the early 1-0 lead.

But in a trend that would rear its ugly head all night, the Oilers struck back just about 3:03 later. Zack Kassian played tic-tac-toe to Darnell Nurse, who tapped the puck over to Leon Draisaitl. Draisaitl then put it behind Devils goalie Mackenzie Blackwood to tie it.

The Oilers had tied things heading into the first intermission.

The Devils would retake the lead 14:12 into the second when Jesper Bratt hung on to the puck in the Oiler zone, spinning and controlling it before finding Nikita Gusev coming off the bench. Gusev took a pass from Bratt and fired it by Koskinen to make it 2-1 Devils.

That, however, did not last long as James Neal continued his hot streak by tipping a Nugent-Hopkins one-time shot by Blackwood on the power play at 19:32 of the second. McDavid had the secondary assist. Once again, the Devils had given up a goal in the waning moments of a period and this one tied the game at two apiece.

The Devils would again retake the lead when Damon Severson scored at 15:35 of the third. The Devils kept extended pressure in the Oiler zone, something other teams have been doing to the Devils a lot this year. Hall was able to make a nifty pass to Severson, who was at the far faceoff circle. The defenseman then corralled it in his skates and shot over a fallen Koskinen to give the Devils the 3-2 lead. Hischier had the secondary assist on the goal.

The Oilers would pull Koskinen with about 1:30 to go in the game for the 6-on-5 man advantage. Then tragedy for the Devils as Blake Coleman tripped up McDavid setting up an Edmonton power play.

On the ensuing power play, an Oscar Klefbom shot got behind Blackwood and McDavid was there to hammer it home. However, the whistle had seemed to blow and the play was seemingly dead when the puck crossed the line. The call on the ice was a good goal and replays on TV showed that the whistle had blown after the puck was in the net. The goal was reviewed and the call on the ice stood: it was a good goal and now the score was 3-3.

Coincidentally, this was the first time Connor McDavid had scored against the Devils. New Jersey was the final team in the NHL that he had scored against and this was a crucial one for them.

When time ran out on regulation, the Devils were headed to overtime for the second game this season. It was an eventful, if not fruitful one, too. Hall hit the crossbar on a breakaway, then missed the net on another one where he just ran out of room. Subban missed a chance as well, using too many moves and simply running out of room.

With those chances for the Devils not going in and Edmonton not scoring, we were off to a shootout.

In the first round, Gusev lost control of the puck and Nugent-Hopkins whiffed on his attempt. In the second round, Hughes’ shot was turned aside by Koskinen and McDavid had his saved by Blackwood. In the third round, Hall was also turned aside while trying to go five-hole on Koskinen and Draisaitl scored to give the Oilers the 4-3 victory.

Draisaitl was named the game’s first star with a goal and the shootout winner. McDavid was the second star with the game-tying goal and Gusev the third with his goal for the Devils.

In goal, Koskinen made 28 saves on 31 Devils shots for a .903 save percentage. Blackwood stopped 19 of 22 for an .864 save percentage.

On the power play, the Oilers were 2-for-3 with five shots. They also registered a shot shorthanded. The Devils have still yet to score on the man advantage, going 0-for-2 tonight with a pair of shots.

As a team, the Devils won 53-percent of the game’s faceoffs and outhit the Oilers 31-26. Edmonton had more blocked shots at 14 to the Devils’ 12. Each team had six giveaways apiece.

Individually, the Devils’ skaters were led in ice time by Severson with 25:02 (including 29 seconds on the power play and 56 seconds on the penalty kill). Hall led the forwards with 20:55 (2:14 of PP time). Miles Wood led in shots on goal with five, Coleman led in hits with a whopping 10 and Sami Vatanen led in blocks with three. Coleman led in takeaways with three.

Next up for the Devils, they ship up to Boston for a Saturday night tilt against the Bruins. Boston is another team that has yet to suffer a loss and will be a good test for the Devils. Hopefully, things break right and we can all breath a sigh of relief then with a “W” on Saturday.