Panthers Halt Devils Point Streak

The Devils had not gone a game since the end of their bye week without gaining at least a point. That streak ended tonight as the Devils fell at home to the Florida Panthers, 5-3.

A win would have given the Devils a three-game winning streak for only the second time this season. But the Panthers are making a playoff push and lost 4-1 in their last game against Philly and had lost three straight, so you know that they were going to come out with all guns firing.

The Devils’ lineup remained the same for the third straight game. Nico Hischier and Sami Vatanen remain out, battling their injuries. Colton White was the healthy scratch. For the Panthers, Brian Boyle is out with an injury, meaning that fans did not get to see a former Devil who is beloved for his short time spent here.

A quick bit of congratulations as last game, Kyle Palmieri became the sixth player in Devils history to score at least 20 goals in five straight seasons. He did that last game, but MSG showed a graphic tonight and Steve Cangialosi mentioned it so I thought it warranted a mention here too. He joins players like John MacLean and Kirk Muller, who did it when goal scoring was much higher in the 1980s.

The goaltending matchup was an interesting one. For the Devils, Louis Domingue went in place of Mackenzie Blackwood, who had pitched two shutouts in a row, but was held out in order to “manage his workload” as interim head coach Alain Nasreddine told Erika Wachter of MSG Networks. Domingue made 28 saves on 33 Florida shots for an .848 save percentage on the night.

For the Panthers, Sam Montembeault started in order to give Sergei Bobrovsky some rest. This game would have been Bobrovsky’s tenth straight start had he gone tonight. Montembeault stopped 25 of the Devils’ 28 shots for an .893 save percentage tonight.

The Devils got on the board first 3:15 into the game. It came on the power play when the Panthers took a too many men on the ice penalty. The Cats actually pushed this rule to the limit, with seven players on the ice when the penalty was called.

On the ensuing man advantage, Damon Severson went point-to-point with Jack Hughes. Hughes then gave it back to Severson and skated to the top of the far faceoff circle. He got the puck back and wristed a shot by Montembeault to make it 1-0 Devils. This was the first goal for Hughes since December 27 and his first of the 2020 calendar year. For Severson, this continued his point streak as it now stands at seven games. Wayne Simmonds had the secondary assist.

The Devils finished the game 1-for-2 on the power play with three shots. Florida was 0-for-2 with four shots. Neither team registered a shorthanded shot.

Brett Connolly tied the game up at the 11:50 mark of the first when Florida backed the Devils up in their zone with speed. Mike Hoffman and Vincent Trocheck then went tic-tac-toe with Connolly, who then shot and beat Domingue five-hole for the equalizer.

With the game knotted at one, the Panthers would take the lead with 46 seconds to go in the first period. Mike Matheson, a defenseman playing on the fourth line at left wing, capitalized when the Devils could not clear their zone. The puck bounced to Matheson’s skate and he collected it with his skate, kicked it to his stick, gathered it in front of the Devils net and fired it by Domingue to make it 2-1. Noel Acciari and another d-man-turned-forward Mark Pysyk had the assists on the goal.

Pysyk would get one of his own to kick off a wild second period. It came just 2:43 into the new frame and saw Matheson throw one to him in front. He then chipped it in to give Florida a 3-1 lead. Acciari had the secondary assist.

But the Devils would almost immediately get that back when Kevin Rooney scored at 4:17. The Devils did good work down low as Joey Anderson recovered it and sent it in front to Rooney, who put it behind Montembeault. That cut the Florida lead to 3-2.

Before the ink could dry on that goal, however, the Panthers got one right back to reestablish the two-goal lead.

It came when the Panthers worked the puck around the perimeter of the Devils’ zone. Severson lost his stick, putting the Devils essentially down a man. Keith Yandle passed from the far half wall to Frank Vatrano in the middle of the ice, he scored to make it 4-2. Colton Sceviour had the secondary assist on the goal that came at 4:59 – 42 seconds after Rooney’s goal.

Florida began to pull away when Acciari got in on the act. That fourth line for the Panthers just hurt the Devils all night. Matheson and Pysyk worked the puck around the perimeter again and the Panthers collapsed down towards the Devils’ goal mouth. Acciari there grabbed a loose puck and put it in to make it 5-2 Florida. That goal came at 5:38.

The Devils got one back before the night was over when Palmieri scored his 21st of the season at 14:30. This was a nice one as Palmieri took a stretch pass from Will Butcher and split the Panthers’ defense. He then beat Montembeault five-hole with a nice wrist shot to make it 5-3. Connor Carrick had the secondary assist on the goal.

Immediately following the Palmieri goal, Hughes had a nice chance which was followed by the Panthers’ Anton Stralman ripping one off of the post in the Devils end.

The Devils had some chances in the third too. Blake Coleman was stopped midway through the period when he could not corral the puck on a partial breakaway behind the Panthers’ defense. He ended up getting a weak shot off that was turned aside by Montembault and then taking a tripping penalty in the offensive zone.

The Devils pulled Domingue late, but could not muster anything else and we ended with a 5-3 score.

The Devils were again losers in the faceoff circle, winning only 40-percent of the game’s draws. Travis Zajac ended as the center with the best personal winning percentage at 58-percent.

Each team was equal with 12 hits. The Devils had more blocked shots at 18 to the Panthers’ 11, but also had more turnovers at 16 to Florida’s three.

Time on ice was led by Severson who logged 24:59 (1:44 on the power play and 2:31 on the PK). Zajac edged Coleman by three seconds for most ice time by a forward with 20:24. This included four seconds on the power play and 2:01 killing penalties.

Shots on goal were led by Rooney, Nikita Gusev and Andy Greene who each had four apiece. Hits were led by Coleman with four and blocked shots by Palmieri, Greene and Severson with three each. Takeaways were led by Coleman with two.

Next up, the Devils finish up their homestand by welcoming in the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday. I will be attending this game live, so my recap post should be up a little bit later, but I will try to have it up as quick as possible. Until then, enjoy the rest of your week.

Devils Push Stars to Limit, Fall in OT

It was a celebration of the past at Prudential Center tonight as the Devils honored the 20th anniversary of the first Stanley Cup champions of the new millennium. However, the current iteration of the team was able to push the Dallas Stars to overtime, only to fall victim to a heartbreaker. They lost 3-2.

The night started off with the aforementioned ceremony honoring the 2000 Stanley Cup champs. It featured each member of the support staff, coaching staff, former general manager Lou Lamoriello, and each of the players attending the reunion. Of course, the biggest ovations from the fans came for the likes of Martin Brodeur, Scott Stevens, Ken Daneyko and Patrik Elias. In a great moment, the Stanley Cup itself was brought out and skated around the rink by Petr Sykora. If you will remember, Sykora was injured in game six of the Cup Final and never actually got to hoist the Cup on the ice in Dallas. Elias wore his jersey that night in a symbolic tribute, but this really was the perfect “full circle moment.” To see Sykora in skates getting to finally skate the Cup was a thing that was really well-done by the Devils.

From there, it was on to the 2020 team and a game against the 2020 Dallas Stars.

Despite its disappointing outcome, this one was a pretty good one from start to finish. As far as roster changes, Mirco Mueller was replaced by Connor Carrick on the blue line in the only move.

The goaltending matchup saw Louis Domingue get his first start since the bye week/All-Star break. He stopped 28 of the 31 shots Dallas peppered him with for a .903 save percentage on the night. The Stars opposed him with Ben Bishop, who turned aside 29 of the 31 shots the Devils threw at him for a .935 save percentage. Yes, both teams finished with the exact number of shots on goal, as they were even at nine in the first, the Stars edged the Devils in the second, 11-8 and the Devils edged Dallas in the third, 13-8. In OT, the Stars had three shots to the Devils’ one.

On special teams, the Devils went 0-for-3 on the power play with four shots. They also had a single shorthanded shot that they scored on, as we will get to. Dallas was 0-for-2 on the man advantage with two shots on goal. They did not have a shorthanded shot.

That shorty of the Devils’ came 13:09 into the game when Kevin Rooney scored. PK Subban had gone off for interfering with Tyler Seguin to set up the Dallas power play, but once again, it was Blake Coleman that set up this shorthanded goal for the Devils. Coleman got the puck in deep into the Dallas end and poked it towards net. It rebounded off of a Stars defender and came right to Rooney in the high slot. He ripped a slap shot that beat Bishop to make it 1-0 Devils. Although the goal was officially unassisted, it was the Plano, Texas-native who created this goal all the way.

That was it for the scoring in the first. In the second, Jason Dickinson tied things up at the 18:42 mark when Corey Perry centered a pass from behind the Devils net and Dickinson buried the chance. Stephen Johns had the secondary assist.

As we headed into the third period tied at one apiece, things were getting tight. But it would only take Dallas 5:04 into the third frame to take their first lead of the evening. It came when Jamie Oleksiak stole the puck in the neutral zone and was off with numbers. He gave to Joel Kiviranta, who shot. Domingue stopped that, but the rebound came back to Kiviranta and he made sure to bury the second chance. It gave Dallas the 2-1 lead.

However, the Devils would get that one back late. At the 11:53 mark of the third, Damon Severson took a pass at the Stars’ blue line and passed down to Jesper Bratt at the near half wall. He then passed to Nico Hischier, who had switched with Severson at the point. Nico fired and beat Bishop cleanly to tie the game back up at two.

And that was where it remained when regulation could not settle things.

In overtime, it only took Dallas 1:39 to end things. Esa Lindell gained control of the puck in the Dallas end and broke Mattias Janmark out. He skated the puck into the Devils zone and took a shot on Domingue. Domingue could not handle the rebound and a trailing Joe Pavelski put it home to give the Stars the 3-2 victory in OT.

Domingue would be named the game’s third star while Hischier was the second and Pavelski, with the game-winner in OT, was the first.

The Devils won only a paltry 40-percent of the game’s faceoffs with Coleman leading the centers with a personal 67-percent faceoff average. The Devils outhit the Stars, 19-10 and had more blocked shots at 12-9, but also turned over 12 pucks to the Stars’ three turnovers.

Severson led the Devils’ skaters with 24:06 of ice time (including 2:24 on the power play and 3:06 on the penalty kill). Travis Zajac led the forwards with 18:41 (including 11 seconds on the power play and 2:32 on the PK).

Shots on goal were led by Jack Hughes with four individually. Hits were led by John Hayden and Rooney with three each. Blocks were led by Carrick with three and takeaways by Coleman with one.

Next up, the Devils remain at home to take on the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday. We will have that for you right here then. Until then, enjoy the Super Bowl everyone and go Niners!