Minnesota Defeats Devils in Wild One

The Minnesota Wild had lost two straight on their current road trip through Boston and at the Rangers. This was also the second half of a back-to-back for Minnesota, as they played last night at the Garden. They were also starting a rookie goaltender making his NHL debut. Despite this, the Devils dropped the game to the Wild, 3-2 in what was kind of a strange one at the Rock tonight.

New Jersey went with the exact same lineup that they iced in the Detroit win on Saturday, meaning no Pavel Zacha or Jesper Bratt, but plenty of John Hayden and Brett Seney up front. It also meant that Jesper Boqvist was playing, which would play a bit part in the game later on. On defense, Mirco Mueller was out with Matt Tennyson remaining in.

In goal, Louis Domingue went for the second straight game for the Devils (his first back-to-back since December of 2018 with the Tampa Bay Lightning), making 26 saves on 29 shots against for an .897 save percentage. The Devils like his puckhandling ability in net, harkening back almost to the days of Marty Brodeur and having a third defenseman back there.

For the Wild, Kaapo Kahkonen made his NHL debut from Finland tonight. With his parents in attendance, he also notched his first NHL victory. He stopped 32 of 34 Devils shots against for a .941 save percentage.

The first goal of the game came off the stick of an old friend on the power play. Blake Coleman was called for interfering with Mats Zuccarello and the Wild went on the man advantage at 5:26 of the first. Minnesota scored when they won a offensive zone faceoff and Kevin Fiala tapped the puck from the right wing side over to Ryan Suter at the point. He shot and it seemed that he had scored, as the original scoring credited the goal to him. But that was later changed as Zach Parise had redirected it by Domingue to make it 1-0 Minnesota. That goal came at the 5:30 mark of the first.

It would take the Devils a few minutes, but they would respond. This was the controversy that was referenced earlier. The goal came at 12:44 and saw Wayne Simmonds play a puck from Jack Hughes down with a high-stick in the neutral zone. He passed to Boqvist, who wristed a puck by Kahkonen. At first, it seemed that Hughes had redirected it by, but it was credited to Boqvist – it actually redirected in off of the Wild’s Luke Kunin’s stick, marking his first National Hockey League goal. And it was one he would remember due to the circumstances surrounding it.

Minnesota coach Bruce Boudreau then used his coach’s challenge due to what he believed was a missed stoppage event when Simmonds played the puck with the high-stick. The officials conferenced, reviewed the goal and ruled it a good goal, meaning the Wild would take a delay-of-game penalty for losing the challenge.

But it does not end there. The ruling by the referees said that since Simmonds played the puck and the high-stick was missed in the neutral zone and not the offensive zone, the play could not be called back. Later on in the evening, the NHL issued a statement from the Situation Room that said that the goal should have been disallowed but would stand anyway. It was a crazy sequence, but the Devils caught a break. Unfortunately for them, they could not capitalize on it now that it was 1-1.

Minnesota retook the lead at the 10:07 mark of the second period when Damon Severson made a turnover in the neutral zone and Jordan Greenway was off to the races on a 2-on-1. He took the shot himself, and went upstairs, scoring top shelf on Domingue. It was now 2-1 Wild and the Devils were fighting from underneath again. Joel Eriksson Ek had the lone assist on the goal.

The Devils would fight back about a minute and a half later at 13:28 when Kyle Palmieri scored his ninth of the year to tie the game at two. This came on the power play when Fiala was off for hooking at 12:47. Taylor Hall burst up the left wing towards the near corner and made a nice pass to the middle of the ice to Palmieri. Palmieri then paid the price, going to the net and taking a knee to the head to put the puck behind Kahkonen.

On the night, the Devils were 1-for-2 on the power play with five shots on goals. The Wild finished 1-for-4 with a trio of shots.

The Devils had tied it, but they would keep playing catch-up when Minnesota scored just three minutes into the third period. It was similar to the fist Wild goal in that they won an offensive zone faceoff, the right wing (Ryan Hartman) tipped the puck back to the point (Ryan Donato) and he went D-to-D with Ryan Suter. Suter wristed one under the crossbar to give Minnesota the 3-2 lead.

And that would hold up. The Devils pulled Domingue with about 1:12 to go in regulation for the extra attacker and Parise hit the post trying to shoot into the empty net after intercepting a D-to-D pass from Sami Vatanen intended for PK Subban. A final play in the Wild zone saw the puck cleared and the Devils desperately try a final rush up ice. But to no avail. They had lost again.

The Devils won just 44-percent of the game’s faceoffs, as their dominance in the faceoff circle was demonstrated by two of their three goals, which started on offensive zone draws. The Devils outhit the Wild, 14 to six, each team had 11 blocks and the Devils had an astonishing 21 giveaways to Minnesota’s three.

Individually, Vatanen had the most ice time of any New Jersey skater with 24:54 (1:46 on the power play and 2:37 on the PK) while Hall led the forwards with 19:22 (1:46 on the PP and three seconds shorthanded). Shots on goal were co-led by Vatanen and Subban with four each, hits were led by Hayden, Palmieri, Nikita Gusev and Vatanen with two apiece. Andy Greene led in blocked shots with two and Hughes led in takeaways with two.

Next up, the Devils will face the Montreal Canadiens on Thanksgiving night, Thursday. It is the only NHL game scheduled for American Thanksgiving as the Devils travel north of the border for the contest with puck drop at 7:30 PM. We will have coverage and will see you here on Thanksgiving night!

Five Minutes of Wild Action Doom Devils

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.

Alex Stalock made a nice save on Nico Hischier in the third that all but sealed the game for Minnesota. Photo: VIncent Carchietta/USA TODAY Sports

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.