Devils Put Forth Great Effort, Beat Caps 5-1

So, show of hands. Who expected them to beat the top team in the league? The Devils put forth a complete effort – one of their best of the year – and got timely goaltending from Louis Domingue in the nation’s capital to defeat the Caps 5-1.

This comes off of the heels of a horrible outing in Manhattan where the Devils were killed by the Rangers on Thursday.

First off, a scoring change from that game against the Rangers. On the second Devils goal that was reviewed and originally credited to Blake Coleman, that has been changed and given to Damon Severson. Also, Travis Zajac was awarded the secondary assist on the goal. The NHL announced the scoring change about an hour following the end of the game on Thursday.

Some injury news as Mackenzie Blackwood was out tonight with an upper body injury. Evan Cormier was recalled from AHL Binghamton to back up Domingue. Ben Street was also place on injured reserve retroactive to Thursday with an upper body injury. Jack Hughes remained out and did not make the trip to Washington. He is progressing according to MSG Network’s Erika Wachter. Mirco Mueller was also a healthy scratch with Connor Carrick slotting in on defense for the Devils. The Devils also got Jesper Bratt back from injury up front. He basically slotted in for Street and played on the top line with Nico Hischier and Kyle Palmieri.

As mentioned, Louis Domingue started for the Devils and he was brilliant tonight. He was looking for his first win since November 23 (at home against Detroit) and his first win in Washington since December 29, 2016. That was a streak that, according to MSG Network, encompassed five games.

And he got it, making 33 saves on 34 Capitals shots for a .971 save percentage. Opposing him was NHL All-Star Braden Holtby, who stopped 17 of 21 for an .810 save percentage on the night.

The Caps were in their throwback uniforms and the crowd was pumped, but the Devils killed that enthusiasm off early when Hischier scored 5:27 into the game. It came when Nico came rushing up the left-wing boards and made a power move to cut towards the Washington net. He then got a shot off that kind of fluttered through Holtby’s five-hole to make it 1-0 Devils. Will Butcher and Carrick had the assists.

The second period featured a flurry of goals from both teams, but began with Coleman hitting the post early in the period. Nikita Gusev did hit the back of the net 3:28 into the frame when he made it 2-0 Devils. It came right after a Devils power play ended and saw Butcher take a drop pass from Wayne Simmonds inside the Caps’ zone. Butcher then threw a quick wrister from the top of the far faceoff circle on net and Holtby made the save, but gave up a huge rebound that came right to Gusev at the near side of the net and he shoveled it into the wide-open net as Holtby tried to get across his crease to score.

At the 6:17 mark of the second, Miles Wood took a double minor for high-sticking, putting the Caps’ dangerous power play on for four minutes.

However, it started out nicely for the Devils when Andy Greene poked the puck up to Travis Zajac and he and Coleman were off on a 2-on-1. Zajac passed and Coleman went in with a forehand to backhand move on Holtby for the shorthanded goal at 6:48 to make it 3-0. It was Coleman’s 15th goal of the year.

The Devils used that momentum to kill off the first half of the double minor, but during the second half, the Caps got on the board. At 8:28, Domingue made a save on a Washington shot. He could not handle the rebound and there was a scramble around the cage. Jakub Vrana finally found the loose puck and put it in to make it 3-1 Devils. John Carlson and Nicklas Backstrom had the assists. This would be the only goal Washington would muster all night.

Later in the second, Hischier scored his second of the night when Jesper Bratt created space, drew the Washington defenders to him and dropped the puck to Palmieri. Palmieri made a nice cross-ice pass to Nico, who was all alone on the other side of the ice. He simply walked in and scored. Bratt created the play but did not get credit for an assist, as Palmieri had the lone one on the goal that made it 4-1 at the 12:11 mark.

In the third period, the Devils got into a little more penalty trouble when, at 9:48, Hischier took what was a pretty weak elbowing penalty on TJ Oshie. Then, at the 11:05 mark, PK Subban, while trying to clear the puck down the ice, threw it directly over the glass. This was a cut-and-dry delay of game penalty and the Devils would be down 5-on-3 for 43 seconds.

But they killed this off, keeping the second-highest scoring team in the NHL to 1-for-5 on the power play with six shots. New Jersey did not muster a single power play shot in going 0-for-1 on the man advantage. They did, however, get four shorthanded shots through to Holtby.

Washington pulled Holtby with a little over five minutes to go in regulation down by three and the Devils wasted no time. Wood scored into the empty net to give us our final of 5-1.

The Devils finished the game with 22 shots on goal with the empty netter to the Capitals’ 34. They also won 55-percent of the game’s faceoffs, with Nico winning 71-percent of his. They had 13 hits to the Caps’ 19, 18 blocked shots to Washington’s 14 and only nine turnovers to the Caps’ 13.

The Devils also gave the Capitals two straight regulation losses (they were beaten by Philly earlier this week) for only the second time this season. Washington is a true powerhouse and a bona fide Stanley Cup contender, so this was no small feat for the Devils.

Greene led all skaters in total ice time (22:08, including 5:11 on the penalty kill) while Coleman led the forwards with 18:56 (including 3:52 on the penalty kill). Nico’s two goals and Butcher’s two assists helped them lead in points with two apiece. Coleman led in shots by a large margin at eight. Hits were led by Butcher and Severson with three each. Blocks were led by Carrick with four. Takeaways by Simmonds and Gusev with two each.

Hischier was the game’s first star while Domingue was the second and Butcher the third.

Next up, the Devils face another strong test in the Tampa Bay Lightning, who have won ten straight games, seem to be back on a roll and will be visiting Prudential Center tomorrow at 7 PM. Do the Devils have another upset in them facing one of the NHL’s elite teams? We will find out tomorrow and, of course, we will have a write up for you following the game.

Devils Fall in OT to Isles Despite Great Effort

It was the beginning of the second half of the season for the Devils (game number 42) and they were looking to get things on track. It was also the second meeting between them and the New York Islanders in five days. The Devils held on to defeat the Isles in that game last week at Nassau Coliseum, unfortunately, while they did get a point, they did not win at Prudential Center. The Devils fell in overtime 4-3 to an Anders Lee goal.

Some injury updates for the Devils saw Jack Hughes (upper body) and Jesper Bratt (lower body) missing tonight’s game. Connor Carrick was the healthy scratch as the lineup largely stayed the same for the Devils as the last game.

Mackenzie Blackwood was a game time decision as he had missed most of yesterday’s practice with flu-like symptoms. He was all right to go following warmups and started his seventh straight game tonight. He ended with 37 saves on 41 Islander shots for a .902 save percentage. As the second period was expiring, Blackwood took a puck to the mask that impacted some of his teeth. He ended up bloodied and having some teeth removed in the second intermission (and following the game), but did not miss a minute of play. Showing his toughness, he finished up the second and came right out to play the third too.

Facing him was Thomas Greiss – the second straight game the Devils met a German-born goaltender following Colorado’s Philipp Grubauer – who made 32 saves on 35 Devils shots for a .914 save percentage. Greiss had not won for the Isles since December 12.

The Devils were wearing their throwback red, green and white uniforms (that they have yet to win in) as they welcomed the Islanders to the Rock for the first time this season.

The Isles got on the board first when Casey Cizikas scored 3:38 into the game. Leo Komarov centered to Matt Martin in the slot who shot. Blackwood made the initial save but the rebound came out to Cizikas and he scored. That gave New York the early 1-0 lead.

But, similar to the last time these two teams faced each other, PK Subban had the equalizer. He scored at 8:37 when Miles Wood grabbed the puck off the boards and sped up the left-wing boards, he curled around the net and dished to Subban coming out from behind. Subban stepped up and blasted one with the puck being tipped by Greiss and into the Isles’ net. That tied the game up at one apiece. Ben Street had the other assist in what was his first point as a New Jersey Devil.

Before the first period was up, however, the Islanders would take over the lead again. It came off when Jordan Eberle scored unassisted at 10:17. It came when Damon Severson, in trying to clear the puck out of the New Jersey zone, cleared through the slot right to Eberle’s stick. Eberle fired and beat Blackwood to give New York back the lead, 2-1.

But much as he was in the meeting last week between the teams, Nico Hischier would step up as hero. Nico had some support in his bid to get to the All-Star Game in the NHL’s Last Men In fan voting via the dasher boards. Geico, the insurance company, changed their ads in the corner to “Nico” with an arrow pointing towards the ad for the fan voting.

But Nico made a good case himself when, at the 18:24 mark of the second period, he made a nice individual effort, protecting the puck and staying strong, cutting around the Isles’ zone and towards Greiss’ cage. With an Islander on his back, he fired a backhanded shot by Greiss and scored to make it 2-2. Nico had the game-winning goal last week and it seemed that he was poised for a big night once again. Kyle Palmieri and Wayne Simmonds had the assists on the goal.

That seemed even more likely in the third period, when the very first penalty of the game was called – against Greiss for hooking Nikita Gusev as he sped behind the Islanders’ net. It would go down as the only penalty of the game and the Devils capitalized when, at 11:55, Palmieri scored. Nico was behind the net and passed to Palmieri, who shot from a steep angle. He shot upstairs on Greiss and the puck squeaked by his shoulder to give the Devils their first lead of the night: 3-2. Severson had the other assist on the goal.

The Devils were 1-for-1 on the power play with three shots on goal. The Islanders did not have a power play, the first time the Devils franchise had not taken a penalty against the Isles since 1978 when they were, of course, the Colorado Rockies. That information came via the postgame show and MSG’s Erika Wachter.

However, the Devils would only enjoy the lead for less than three minutes. At 14:14 of the third, Tom Kuhnakckl scored to tie things up again. Once again, it came on a Devils’ turnover in their own zone. Travis Zajac was trying to pass to Blake Coleman up the boards to try to get the puck out of the zone. Michael Dal Colle knocked the pass down and he gave it to Kuhnhackl at the point. Kuhnhackl shot and the puck redirected by Blackwood off of Severson’s leg.

We were tied again, this time at three when the final horn sounded on regulation. OT was in our future and it was a good one.

The Islanders had won 11 of the last 16 games between these teams and tonight made 12 in 17.

The Devils controlled most of the play in the OT period and Jesper Boqvist and Sami Vatanen both had chances that would have put the game away. Late in the OT, the Devils missed on a 3-on-1 and then the Isles’ Anthony Beauvillier missed the net on a breakaway attempt right after. It was back-and-forth hockey at its best.

The Islanders got the W with less than a minute to go when Anders Lee scored off of a 3-on-1. The Devils were caught in a change and the Isles capitalized. Devon Toews and Mat Barzal had the assists and the Islanders took the game, 4-3.

The Devils had a good game in the faceoff circle, winning 54-percent of the game’s draws. They were, however, outhit by the Isles, 21-18 and had more giveaways at 15 to New York’s seven. New Jersey did have more blocked shots at 17 to 10.

Individually, Andy Greene led the team in ice time with 23:56. Vatanen’s 30-plus minutes he logged against Colorado the other game made him the first Devil to play that many minutes in a game since Brian Rafalski did so back in 2007 according to MSG play-by-play man Steve Cangialosi. Coleman led the forwards with 20:09 of time on ice. Palmieri, Gusev, Hischier and Severson and Vatanen were the only unit that got power play time as they were on the ice for 19 seconds, the time it took for Palmieri to score his goal.

Hischier and Palmieri led in points with two each (both had a goal and an assist) while Coleman and Hischier led in shots on goal with five each. Hits were led by Coleman with four, blocks by Greene, Will Butcher, Vatanen and Subban with two each and takeaways by Coleman with two.

Next up, the Devils complete their tour of the New York teams by traveling to Madison Square Garden to take on the Rangers. That game is on Thursday and we will, of course, have a recap for you right here.