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.

Hughes Helps Devils Down Sens in OT

Following a tough overtime loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Friday, the Devils needed a victory tonight over the Ottawa Senators at Canadian Tire Centre in the Canadian capital.

And they got it. Courtesy of a Jack Hughes overtime goal, the Devils beat the Sens 4-3 to earn a point in their third straight game – two of which have been wins.

Some roster moves first. Will Butcher did not travel with the team nor practice with them yesterday as he is now day-to-day with an undisclosed injury, although the team did say that nothing was broken. Connor Carrick slotted in on defense for him and played on the third pairing with Mirco Mueller. Kevin Rooney was the other scratch as Pavel Zacha was back in after being a game-time decision and not playing on Friday.

Ottawa has been hurting as well, as Steve Cangialosi of MSG Network pointed out, the entire left side of their defense that played when these two teams last met on November 13 at the Rock, is out.

The goaltending matchup featured Mackenzie Blackwood for the Devils who stopped 20 of 23 Sens shots for an .870 save percentage for the night. For the Senators, Craig Anderson was equal to 30 of the 34 shots the Devils threw at him for an .882 save percentage.

It was an early 5 PM ET start for the teams and they would push this game to the near limit.

The game started with some fireworks when Andreas Englund laid a big hit on Jesper Boqvist. Englund was already going to go off for interference, but John Hayden took offense and challenged him. In the end, neither team got a power play, though the Devils would be without Hayden for the next ten minutes. He got five for fighting, plus a ten-minute misconduct, plus the instigator. Englund got five for fighting plus the interference. This all came 6:13 into the game.

Nico Hischier would get the Devils on the board first on the power play when, at 7:09, Vladislav Namestnikov was called for a trip against Damon Severson. The Devils would take advantage on this chance when, at 8:58, Sami Vatanen kept the puck in the Senators’ zone, threw it at the net and Nico tipped it by Anderson to make it 1-0 Devils. Vatanen had actually made another great play to keep the zone just before the one that led to this goal. Severson had the secondary assist on Nico’s eighth of the season. This made six points in six games for Hischier and kept Vatanen’s four game assist streak alive.

Ottawa would tie things up 8:39 into the second when Nick Paul broke in on a 2-on-1 with Chris Tierney. Paul elected to shoot and the puck just squeezed through Blackwood, although he did get a piece of it. That tied it up at one apiece and Anthony Duclair and Cody Goloubef had the assists.

Artem Anisimov gave Ottawa their first lead of the evening when he scored at 13:28 of the second. Colin White won a faceoff back to Englund at the point. He shot and Anisimov batted the puck out of the air, knocking it in off the post and off of Blackwood’s heel and in. The Situation Room in Toronto looked at the goal for a possible high-stick, but it was a good goal and it was 2-1 Senators.

From here, the Devils would storm back and retake the lead. At 15:12 of the second, on a 5-on-3, Nikita Gusev struck.  At 13:57, White was called for a delay of game for shooting the puck over the glass. Then, at 14:14, the Devils went up by two men when Namestnikov was called for tripping Vatanen. On the ensuing two-man advantage, Vatanen got the puck down low to Gusev and he shot from a bad angle, but was able to get it behind Anderson to make it 2-2.  It was Gusev’s first NHL power play goal and Jack Hughes had the secondary assist.

The Devils ended the night 2-for-4 on the power play with a whopping nine shots (to go with two shorthanded shots) while Ottawa was 0-for-3 on the power play with four shots on goal.

The Devils would take back the lead at the 18 minute mark of the second when Miles Wood used his speed and strength to score the Devils’ third goal. It came when Wayne Simmonds lobbed a pass up to a breaking Wood through the middle of the ice. Wood cut in and beat Anderson five-hole to make it 3-2 Devils. At first, not even Wood was sure the puck had trickled in, but it did and the Devils had the lead again.

They would hold that lead until just over five minutes to go in the third, at 15:02, when Thomas Chabot tied it up again. Ottawa had only one once at home when trailing going into the third period, but things looked good for them when the Devils could not clear their zone and Jean-Gabriel Pageau passed to Chabot at the point. He one-timed it by Blackwood and scored cleanly to knot the game up.

Things were looking even better for Ottawa when, very late in the game, Hischier was tripped up on a partial break and went tumbling into the Sens’ net. No tripping call was assessed, although the replay did show that one should have been.

And so, when regulation expired, we were headed to OT once again. This time, it only took 54 seconds and the Devils got the result that they wanted. The goal came when Kyle Palmieri lobbed a pass to Hughes, who got in on a partial break. The pass was similar to the one that Simmonds used on the Wood goal. Hughes, fending off Pageau, who was hounding him, cut in on Anderson with one hand on his stick. He kind of chipped the puck over the Ottawa netminder and it went in, giving the Devils the 4-3 win. Vatanen had the other helper.

In the end, the Devils won 47-percent of the game’s faceoffs and were outhit 32-29. The Sens had 19 blocked shots to the Devils’ ten, but Ottawa did have more giveaways than New Jersey at 14 to the Devils’ ten.

Individually, Severson was right back on the horse, leading the Devils’ skaters in total ice time with 24:59 (including 2:32 on the power paly and 2:50 on the PK). The forwards were led by a pretty wide margin by Nico, who had 19:01 of total ice (including 3:30 on the power play and 2:23 shorthanded). Vatanen led in points with three (all assists). Hischier led in shots on goal with five, Blake Coleman in hits with seven, Coleman, Severson and Andy Greene in blocked shots with two each and Hischier, Coleman, Hughes, Boqvist and Vatanen in takeaways with one apiece.

The Devils next take on the Boston Bruins at home on New Year’s Eve. Note that puck drop for that game at Prudential Center is 1 PM ET.

Before I go, I just wanted to send a get well to the Maple Leafs’ Ilya Mikhayev. He had his wrist cut in the game against the Devils on Friday by Jesper Bratt’s skate in a freak accident. He had surgery to repair an artery and tendons and will be missing some time. Good luck to him and here’s hoping he gets well soon.