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!

Caps Slip by Devils, 4-3

The Devils have played the Washington Capitals five times now this season and have been defeated by the Washington Capitals five times.

The Devils just cannot solve the elite Capitals. They play up to most good teams, but the Caps just kind of flummox them.

The lineup stayed the same from Tuesday in Pittsburgh with Will Butcher, Aaron Dell and Nikita Gusev were the scratches.

In net for the Devils was Mackenzie Blackwood. He was 18-for-22 for an .818 save percentage. He got all three Caps’ power play shots and was 15-for-19 at even strength.

For the Capitals, Vitek Vanecek was the man. He turned aside 21-of-24 for an .875 save percentage. He was 3-for-4 on the power play as the Devils went 1-for-3 with the man advantage (the Caps were 0-for-2) – but a word about the Devils and the power play in a second. Vanecek also got 18-of-20 at even strength.

Now about that power play (or lack of in this case). Twice the officials missed high-sticking calls. Once on Kyle Palmieri and once on Travis Zajac. The officials on both plays were looking directly at the play. I do not know what is happening here. Perhaps the refs are protesting Tim Peel’s firing?

Anyway, the Devils got on the board first when Nick Merkley scored 1:23. The goal was unassisted and came when Vanecek tried to poke check a puck away from Merkley and Merkley jumped on the misplayed puck and scored. That gave the Devils the early 1-0 lead.

But, in a pattern that would repeat itself all night, the Caps would respond. Dmitry Orlov scored at the 3:10 mark when Justin Schultz went D-to-D with Orlov. Orlove then fired a wrister from the top of the near faceoff circle that beat Blackwood to tie the score. Daniel Sprong had the secondary assist.

Just 6:20 into the second period, Miles Wood gave the Devils back the lead. Blackwood made a nice save at the other end to get the Devils going. Janne Kuokkanen banked the puck up to Wood on a change. Wood went down low and shot from a weird angle, banking it in off of Vanecek to give the Devils back the lead at 2-1, Damon Severson had the secondary assist.

But once again, 55 seconds later, Alex Ovechkin did what he did best to tie it up again. The Devils failed to clear the puck and John Carlson kept it in. He got it to Sprong, who set up Ovechkin in his office. Ovechkin scored and the game was 2-2.

Before the end of the second, Washington would take their first lead of the night. Evgeny Kuznetsov scored when Ovechkin shot and the rebound came to Kuznetsov. Kuznetsov went wide and shot from an odd angle, much like Wood’s goal to make it 3-2 Caps. The goal came at 11:47.

That took us to the second intermission. In the third, Jesper Bratt got New Jersey back in the game when he scored on the power play. Bratt took a pass from Pavel Zacha and went high to Ty Smith. Smith gave back to Bratt, who shot a one-timer from the top of thet near faceoff circle and scored. That made it 3-3 at the 11:04 mark of the third.

But the Caps were not done. Kuznetsov struck again when the puck was came to Schultz at the far boards. He shot and it redirected in off of Kuznetsov and then Severson and in. That gave us our final of 4-3 at 12:06 of the third.

The Devils pulled Blackwood with about 1:45 left in regulation and had some chances, but to no avail. The Caps had the game won.

The Devils had 24 shots to the Caps’ 22. Wood led in that category with four. The Devils also led in faceoff win percentage with Michael McLeod leading the centers with a 75-percentage. Washington led in hits with 26 to the Devils’ nine. Merkley and Kuokkanen led there with two hits. Blocked shots were led by the Capitals with 17 to the Devils’ 11. Wood and PK Subban led the Devils there with two each. The Devils had less giveaways at two to the Capitals’ eight. Jack Hughes had two takeaways to lead the Devils in that category.

Subban also led in ice time with 24:05. Travis Zajac led the forwards with 19:21. Merkley led in power play time with 2:49.

Next up, the Devils take on the Caps again tomorrow in DC again. Same Bat Time, same Bat Channel (I think). Puck drop for that one is 7 PM. We will have a recap here for you after the game.

Until then, stay safe everyone!