Devils Lose in Shootout to Hynes, Preds

The Devils played the Nashville Predators close in John Hynes’ return to Prudential Center, but ultimately, it was Hynes who had the last laugh when his team won in a shootout 6-5.

The game was broadcast on NBCSN, the Devils’ last such appearance this season, and the storyline for them going in was PK Subban’s second meeting with his former teammates. The return of John Hynes kind of fell into their lap when the Preds hired him a month or so after he was fired by the Devils. Hynes was facing his friend and former assistant Alain Nasreddine.

As for Subban, he had been dealing with an illness and was a game-time decision but did play. Connor Carrick remained the Devils’ lone scratch as the lineup stayed largely the same as against Ottawa on Monday night.

The Devils paid tribute to the late Kobe Bryant prior to the game. Bryant had some connections to the Devils. Wayne Simmonds shared a practice facility with him and the Lakers when Simmonds was playing for the Kings and got to know him a little, as mentioned by Matt Loughlin on Twitter, for one. PK Subban was also friends with Bryant. Also, Bryant’s Lakers defeated the then-New Jersey Nets in the 2002 NBA Finals to claim another championship for the storied Los Angeles franchise.

The goaltending matchup featured Mackenzie Blackwood for the Devils making 25 saves on 30 shots for Nashville. He finished the night with an .833 save percentage. He also stopped one of three Predators’ attempts in the shootout. Facing him was Pekka Rinne, who turned aside 27 of the 32 shots the Devils fired at him for an .844 save percentage. He stopped two of the three Devils shootout attempts.

The scoring began 42 seconds into the game, quite an indication of what was to come. Mattias Ekholm scored that one when he took a slap shot that redirected off of Blake Coleman’s stick and up and over Blackwood’s shoulder. Jarred Tinordi and Matt Duchene had the assists on the early goal that made it 1-0 Nashville.

It would take the Devils about four minutes to respond.

The goal came shorthanded and the sequence began when Colton Sissons of the Preds was called for a high stick on John Hayden at 2:53. The Devils were on the power play until a Damon Severson trip at 4:22 nullified the last 30 seconds or so. That up things at 4-on-4.

Just as the Sissons penalty expired, at 4:54, Nico Hischier won the puck in the far corner and passed out of the corner to Pavel Zacha camped near the front of the Predators’ net. Zacha than skated in on Rinne and beat him to tie the score at one apiece. It was the first of a three-point night for Zacha. Sami Vatanen had the secondary assist.

Before the first frame was up, however, Nashville would get that one back.

On this goal, which came at the 8:17 mark of the first, Kyle Turris took a shot on Blackwood with Filip Forsberg driving to the net. Forsberg put the rebound in to make it 2-1 Nashville. Viktor Arvidsson had the secondary assist.

That put the Preds up going into the first break. And in the second, it would take some time, but the Devils would really warm to the task.

It began at the 8:44 mark while on the power play. Nashville’s Ryan Johansen was called for a hook on Nikita Gusev to put the Devils on the man advantage. Then, a Zacha shot was redirected in off of Dante Fabbro’s stick and past Rinne to tie the game at two. Gusev had the lone assist on the goal, on his way to a two-point night.

And that second point came less than two minutes after Zacha’s goal. Duchene was assessed a high-sticking penalty on Gusev at the 9:59 mark and the Devils’ power play went to work again. At 10:26, both Nashville defenseman Dan Hamhuis and goalie Rinne were left without sticks. Gusev took advantage when he shot from a sharp angle from below the goal line that went in to an empty net. Zacha had the primary assist and Severson had the secondary. That assist for Severson was his 150th NHL point according to NBCSN’s in-game crawl.

But just as this game had gone so far, the Predators would tie it again, just a little more than two minutes later. At 12:48, Nick Bonino scored when he and Craig Smith and Rocco Grimaldi went in on a 3-on-2 into the Devils’ zone. A shot was blocked behind the Devils’ goal cage and it came off the backboards right to Bonino. He then beat Blackwood to make it 3-3.

However, before the second intermission, the Devils would retake the lead to make it 4-3. This one came at 17:24 when Will Butcher got the puck up ice to Jesper Bratt quickly. Bratt moved it to Kyle Palmieri, who broke in and shot. The puck again went behind the goal cage and Palmieri pounced on it. He passed to Bratt, who was crashing the Nashville net and scored to make it 4-3 Devils.

The second period prepared us for a crazy third that began when Nashville tied it 33 seconds in.

This one came off the rush when Duchene shot and his attempt deflected off of Devils defenseman Andy Greene and fluttered end-over-end by Blackwood to make it 4-4. Roman Josi and Johansen had the assists on the goal.

But again, in this game no lead was safe for long. At the 6:37 mark, Hayden scored when Kevin Rooney won a faceoff deep in the Nashville zone. Rooney cut in off the left wing and behind Rooney to grab the puck and fire it off of a Predators’ player’s stick. Again, the redirection beat Rinne to make it 5-4 Devils.

Forsberg would tie things up on the power play at the 9:57 mark of the third to send this one off to overtime. It was set up when Simmonds was sent off for hooking Sissons. On the ensuing power play, Forsberg kind of flubbed a pass then recovered and wristed one under the crossbar and by Blackwood to tie things at five each. Josi and Turris had the assists.

On the power play, the Devils went 2-for-3 with three shots. They also had the shorthanded goal off of two shorthanded shots. Nashville went 1-for-3 with two shots, plus a shot while down a man.

The Devils nearly lost things late in regulation when Greene lost the puck in his own zone with nine seconds to go. The puck was bouncing and Greene fell down trying to control it. He gave it up to a Predators player, but Blackwood made the save to bail him out.

And with that, we were off to overtime. New Jersey did not get their first shot of the OT period until about four full minutes were played. But they held on with three shots in the OT and when that could not decide things, it was to a shootout for the second straight game for the Devils.

In the first round, Forsberg scored and Gusev also scored, beating Rinne five-hole. In round two, Duchene went backhand and upstairs to beat Blackwood and Jack Hughes was stopped. In the third round, Blackwood stopped Johansen’s shot with a toe save and it was up to Palmieri. He was stopped by Rinne and the Devils could not repeat their magic from Ottawa three night ago as they lost, 6-5.

The Devils were beaten in the faceoff circle, winning only 46-percent of the game’s draws. Rooney led all Devils centers with a 67-percent average on faceoffs. The Devils outhit the Preds by ten, 27-17, but had less blocked shots at 15-13 and more giveaways at ten to Nashville’s two.

Individually, Zacha led the team in points on his way to being named the game’s first star. The Predators’ Duchene was second and Gusev the third.

Severson led all Devils skaters in total ice time with 24:04 (2:02 on the power play and 2:28 on the penalty kill) while Hischier led the forwards with 21:03 (2:19 on the power play and 23 seconds on the penalty kill).

Shots were led by Severson with six, hits by Coleman with eight, blocked shots by Greene and Butcher with three each and takeaways by Hischier with two.

This win by the Predators also made their general manager, David Poile, the winningest GM in NHL history, surpassing Glen Sather in the record books. Congratulations to him on this great achievement. (Even if it did have to come against the Devils.)

Next up, the Devils face the Dallas Stars at home on Saturday. This will be the 20th anniversary celebration of the 2000 Stanley Cup champions. I will be attending this game live, so my post on the game will be up a little bit later than usual. Until then, enjoy the rest of your week everyone!

Devils Fall in Music City

For PK Subban, tonight was a homecoming of sorts. He received the, now ubiquitous, tribute video on the videoboard during the first TV timeout of the game, acknowledging the crowd and their standing ovation. But, as he told Erika Wachter on the MSG pregame show, it would be all for nothing if the Devils lost. Unfortunately, they lost to remain winless in the last five, falling to the Nashville Predators 6-4 at Bridgestone Arena.

Nico Hischier remained out as he is battling an illness still. The update on Sami Vatanen is that he played after taking a puck to the face late in last night’s game versus Chicago. Colton White and John Hayden were the Devils’ healthy scratches.

In addition to Subban returning to Nashville, Wayne Simmonds was also returning to the Music City, although he did not spend as much time there as Subban did.

The Devils were on the backend of a back-to-back while the Preds had not played since last Tuesday, a 3-2 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning at home.

The Predators came out swinging in this one. Just 46 seconds into the game, Daniel Carr scored his first of the season when he tipped a Dan Hamhuis shot from the point by Devils starting goalie Louis Domingue.

Nashville would waste no time in doubling their lead either. At the 2:13 mark of the first, Dante Fabbro scored when Nick Bonino made a slick move around a Devils defender and then dished to Fabbro, who scored from the near faceoff circle. Craig Smith had the secondary assist.

But from there, the Devils made the comeback in a remarkable first four minutes of the game. Jesper Bratt scored at 2:45 when Vatanen, at the point, got it to Pavel Zacha at the halfwall. He passed to a trailing Bratt, who fired the pass by Nashville starting goaltender Pekka Rinne to cut the Preds’ lead in half at 2-1.

Then the full comeback at 3:59 when Blake Coleman worked along the wall, getting the puck to Nikita Gusev. He passed to Travis Zajac on the doorstep. Rinne read the play wrong and was actually falling backwards as Zajac put the puck under him and in to tie the game at two apiece.

Four goals in just under four minutes, the first time it has happened involving the Devils since February 9, 1993 against the Red Wings according to MSG.

The second period saw the Predators build up another two goal lead beginning at the 5:52 mark when Yakov Trenin scored his first NHL goal. Rocco Grimaldi had beaten the Devils in on the forecheck and grabbed the puck, he got it to Trenin, who shot. The shot would have actually gone wide of the net had it not hit a Devils’ skate in front and gone in. It was now 3-2 Nashville.

It became 4-2 at the 7:23 mark when Filip Forsberg scored. The Predators won a faceoff in the Devils’ zone and got the puck back to Roman Josi at the point. He shot and there was a scramble in front. Calle Jarnkrok touched it and Forsberg put it home with Jarnkrok getting the primary assist.

But the Devils would climb back into things again beginning when Coleman drew a tripping penalty from Forsberg while on a partial breakaway at 12:15. On the ensuing power play, Kyle Palmieri would score. At 13:07, Vatanen got the puck from the point down to Taylor Hall at the near halfwall. He passed into the slot to Palmieri, who one-timed it by Rinne to make it 4-3

The Devils ended the night 1-for-4 on the power play on a positive note. They had four power play shots and one shorthanded shot. Nashville was 0-for-6 on the man advantage with four shots as well as a pair of shots down a man.

Early in the third period, Coleman blocked a shot and left the game injured, but did return and should be set to go on Tuesday in Dallas, his hometown.

The Predators would again go up by two at 5:47 of the third when Bonino scored. Bonino shot from a weird angle, from just above the goal line, beating Domingue top shelf. Fabbro and Mattias Ekholm had the assists on the goal that made it 5-3.

But the Devils just kept hanging in. At 11:09, Jack Hughes lost the puck to a Nashville defender, then took it back. He got it on net and Hall was right there to poke home the rebound. The Devils had climbed back in to make it 5-4.

But Nashville put the final nail in their coffin when Grimaldi scored at 12:44 of the third. Grimaldi poked it free from Subban at the Preds’ blue line and was off on a breakaway, He converted to make it 6-4.

The Devils would pull Domingue with about 2:45 left in regulation, but a too many men on the ice bench minor put the kibosh on the extra attacker.

The last four meetings between these two teams at Bridgestone Arena had gone to overtime, with the Devils winning three of the four. But not tonight. Nashville pulled out the 6-4 victory.

The Devils won only 46-percent of the game’s faceoffs, had 11 hits to the Preds’ nine. The teams were even in shots blocked with 13 each and giveaways with 11 each.

Damon Severson led all New Jersey skaters with 23:11 of ice time (including 3:22 shorthanded) while Zajac led the forwards with 19:05 (3:45 on the PK included).

Shots were led by Coleman with seven. Coleman also led in the hits category with three. Blocked shots saw Vatanen and Subban lead with three each. Zajac had three takeaways to lead in that column.

As mentioned, the Devils will be off to Dallas on Tuesday to take on the Stars. The Stars are a very good team and I would be extremely surprised if this is where the Devils’ winless streak comes to an end. But stranger things have happened and we will have coverage for you right here following the game, which has an 8:30 PM ET puckdrop.