This one was tough for the Devils, you cannot deny that. After going up 2-0 early, New Jersey fell to the Minnesota Wild 4-2 off of three goals that all came within less than five minutes of each other in the second period. The loss handed the Devils their second straight loss and marked another game where the Devils greatly outshot their opponents only to fall in the end.
On the plus side for the Devils, Taylor Hall extended his point scoring streak to 20 games total and, officially, his 13th straight game as recognized by the NHL.
The Devils last met the Wild back on November 20 and won that game in overtime. They were looking to sweep the season series with Minnesota for the second straight year.
Roster-wise, Cory Schneider did not skate this morning, but that was by design not indicating a setback (as per Deb Placey of MSG Network). He, however, will not be not be available for this weekend. But while Cory is still out injured, the Devils got Miles Wood back from suspension for this game. He returned and would notch an assist tonight on the Devils’ second goal.
Another injury involves Drew Stafford. The veteran forward was a scratch tonight with what the team is calling a lower body injury. Blake Pietila was a healthy scratch, Mirco Mueller was back in on D as the Devils rolled with eleven forwards and seven defensemen. Also, Jesper Bratt was moved to right wing (he has played both wings this season) on a line with Wood centered by Pavel Zacha.
It was a battle of the backups in goal. Eddie Lack went for the Devils and made 21 saves on 24 shots, although with an empty netter, Minnesota ended the game with 25 total shots. Alex Stalock gave Devan Dubnyk a night off and made 38 saves on 40 Devils shots. Stalock would make a save on Nico Hischier late in the third period to save the game for the Wild. Hischier was wide open in the slot and Stalock did the splits across the crease to get his glove on the puck and get a piece of it to knock it away. That goal would have tied things for New Jersey and was a big save by Stalock.
As mentioned, Taylor Hall continued his point streak when he opened the scoring for the Devils. It came on the power play at 10: 27 while Eric Staal was off for tripping. Kyle Palmieri worked along the half wall with the puck before giving it to Sami Vatanen at the point. Vatanen found Hall all alone at the far faceoff circle with time and space. Hall shot, going top shelf just under the cross bar and in. That made it 1-0 Devils and extended Hall’s streak.
And that would be how they would go into the first intermission. On the evening, the Devils were 1-for-3 on the power play while the Wild were 0-for-2. The Devils had one shot while Minnesota fired three with the man advantage. Hopefully, this jumpstarts what has been an anemic power play for the Devils over the last couple of games.
In the second period, Stefan Noesen would pad the Devils lead at the 4:17 mark, putting them up 2-0 off assists from Travis Zajac and Wood. Wood got the puck down low and centered in front to Zajac, who shot and the rebound came out to Noesen to the left side of the net. He shot and put it home. The Devils, who had outshot the Wild 18-6 in the first period, seemed totally in control.
Then came a period of about five minutes that the Devils would just like to forget.
It began at 7:28 of the second when Mike Reilly scored from Nino Niederreiter and Matt Dumba to cut the Devils lead in half, 2-1. That goal was even strength but came just after a Wild power play ended. It was deflected in in front off of John Moore’s stick.
Minnesota would tie things up at 12:25 also just after a Devils penalty expired when Joel Eriksson Ek broke free of a check to get a stick on a pass from Daniel Winnik. Mikael Granlund had the secondary assist. The game was now 2-2.
Thirty-nine seconds after that, at 13:04, Chris Stewart scored from Nick Seeler to give Minnesota the 3-2 lead. And that would prove to be the game winner.
Late in the third period, after Stalock’s big save on Hischier, Vatanen made a big stop on Mikko Koivu, who had an empty net and whose goal would have put things away for the Wild. It was a nice play, but it was for naught.
The Devils pulled Lack with about 1:30 left in the game, but a shot from the point went wide, wound around the boards to Charlie Coyle who got it to Eric Staal. Staal put the puck into the empty net and iced the game for Minnesota. Final score: 4-2.
Stats saw Vatanen lead in ice time with 22:19 (Hall was second with 21:33 due to being double shifted with the eleven forwards/seven d-men, while Minnesota’s Ryan Suter led the game with an amazing 31:40). Palmieri led the game in shots with seven. Hits were a three-way tie with Noesen, Ben Lovejoy and Mueller all registering two apiece. Lovejoy and Andy Greene both had two blocks to lead in that category. Zajac, Wood and Damon Severson each had a takeaway to lead that stat. The Devils recently worked on faceoffs at practice according to John Hynes and it showed. They won 64-percent of the game’s total draws.
So next up, Saturday and Patrik Elias night. They will be facing the Islanders in a big divisional game with a team that scores a lot, but also gives up a lot of goals. I will be attending this game live and, so, my post on it will be up a little bit later. If you are watching on TV, remember, the ceremony begins at 6 PM on MSG+. See everyone on Saturday.
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Note: the photo at the very top of this post is via Steven Ryan of Getty Images.