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.