Devils to Take Part in Prospects Challenge Again This Year

Once again this September, the Devils will be participating in the Prospects Challenge in Buffalo according to a post on the Devils’ official website by Marc Ciampa.

The mini tournament takes place from September 6 to 9 at Harborcenter in Buffalo. Just as last year, the other teams competing will be the Buffalo Sabres, the Boston Bruins and the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Devils will kick off the Challenge by taking on host Buffalo in the late game on Friday, September 6. That game is at 7 PM. On Saturday, September 7, the Devils will face Pittsburgh in the 3:30 PM game. On Monday, September 9, they will faceoff with Boston at 9:30 AM.

All games, according to Ciampa, will be streamed live on the Devils’ website at NewJerseyDevils.com.

If you plan to go, tickets for all games are $10 and can be purchased on the Sabres’ official website (Sabres.com), by phone (1-888-223-6000) or at the KeyBank Center box office (the arena the Sabres call home is right next door to Harborcenter).

The Prospects Challenge is always a good time as it officially kicks off the preseason and gets the ball rolling towards October.

Devils Blitz Pens at Prospects Challenge

The Devils’ rookies took the ice for their second game of the 2018 Prospects Challenge in Buffalo at HarborCenter and with the NFL season fully kicking off tomorrow, put up a football score on the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Devils won 6-2, after a five-goal outburst in the second period.

Brandon Gignac broke the seal on the game, scoring 12:32 into the first peirod from Yegor Sharangovich and Ryan Schmelzer. That goal came on the power play, on which the Devils went 2-for-10 on the afternoon.

The offensive cloudburst that came in the second began just 49 seconds into the new frame, with Blake Speers scoring from Brandon Baddock. That made it 2-0 Devils. Colby Sissons scored at 5:15 from Joey Anderson to make it 3-0 and the blitz was on.

At 6:42, Marian Studenic scored from John Quenneville to make it 4-0. Anderson notched his second point of the afternoon at 10:23 when he scored off an assist from Sissons to make it 5-0. Gignac wrapped up the Devils scoring at 13:45 of the second period when he connected from Jocktan Chainey on the power play to make it 6-0.

The Pens would break up the shutout, scoring two on the power play in the third (Troy Josephs at 7:19 and Adam Johnson at 10:35). Pittsburgh was 2-for-7 on the man advantage in the game.

After getting pushed around by the somewhat bigger and more physical Sabres yesterday, the Devils showed some fight today, literally, as Baddock fought Joseph Masonius at 19:05 of the third period. Baddock took the extra boarding minor on the play plus the fighting major.

Cam Johnson went between the pipes, making 32 saves on 34 Penguins shots for a .941 save percentage. For Pittsburgh, Tistan Cote-Cazenave started, stopping just 18 of 24 shots against. Christian Propp took over in net for the third period, turning aside all nine shots he faced.

The Devils finish up the 2018 Prospects Challenge on Monday when they take on the Boston Bruins at 9:30 AM.

Devils Pick Up Point, Fall in OT to Penguins

Travis Zajac’s line did a good job shutting down Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. They also produced a goal in the 4-3 OT loss. Photo: Andy Martin/USA TODAY Sports

Major League Baseball began today, with the Mets getting a big win over St. Louis in Queens earlier. But while the baseball season is just beginning a marathon, the NHL and the Devils are coming down to the wire. Points are at a premium and New Jersey needs to pick them up.

They were playing the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight, a team that they were trying to sweep in a season series for the first time since the 2009-10 season. But that was not to be. The Devils lost 4-3 in overtime to the Pens, picking up only a point.

Some roster moves for the Devils to get to first. Patrick Maroon was back in, playing on the second line with Pavel Zacha and Michael Grabner (who was back in a top six role). Jesper Bratt was out up front, scratched along with Jimmy Hayes, Ben Lovejoy and Drew Stafford. Kyle Palmieri was moved up to the top line with Taylor Hall and Nico HIschier.

The checking line of Blake Coleman, Travis Zajac and Stefan Noesen would be called upon to contain the Sidney Crosby/Evgeni Malkin unit again, as they would be key if the Devils were to win this game and complete the sweep. That line along with the Andy Greene and Sami Vatanen defense pairing did a lot to stop those superstars tonight.

Also, on the injury front, Marcus Johansson has started practicing with the team. He had been skating on his own for a few days.

In goal, Keith Kinkaid was called on to do what he has been doing best down this stretch run for the Devils: get a win. This would be a little bit easier on home ice. The Pens, according to MSG+, were 15-20-4 (34 points) away from PPG Paints Arena coming into tonight. Kinkaid ended up making 31 saves on 35 shots.

Opposing him was Matt Murray. Murray made 28 stops on 31 Devils shots.

Kinkaid was tested early when the Penguins broke in on a 2-on-1 just seconds in. He made a big save and the game was off and rolling.

It was Murray who blinked first, though with Palmieri beating the Pens’ goalie at 12:18 of the first off an assist to Hischier. Nico was relentless meeting Malkin at the Devils’ blue line, stripping him of the puck and using a soccer-style play to kick the puck up to his stick. He dished off to Palmieri on the rush. Palmieri skated in and deked Murray using a head fake to open him up and scored through the five hole. It was a beautiful play as Hischier was relentless on the puck and Palmieri finished the play. It was 1-0 Devils.

Nico’s assist gave him 50 points on the year, making him the first rookie since Adam Henrique in 2011-12 to notch at least that many points.

But it would only take 25 seconds for a response from Pittsburgh. Conor Sheary scored at 12:44 from Patric Hornqvist and Jamie Oleksiak to tie things at one.

The Pens began the second period with Justin Schultz hitting the post right away to get the frame started. And Pittsburgh would grab the 2-1 lead when Kris Letang scored at the 6:59 mark from Carl Hagelin and Brian Dumoulin. On that one, Letang beat Kinkaid up high while he was all alone in the slot. The puck was on end and he just roofed it.

The Devils seemed to be behind the eight-ball, but at 13:40, Oleksiak was sent off for interfering with Maroon. It was then that Hall went to work. He scored his 34th of the season from Will Butcher. On that one, Maroon was strong on the forecheck and rushed the Pens’ clearing attempt. Butcher held the line and gave to Hall at the far point. Hall walked in, had time and space and shot a laser beam that clanged off of the far post and in. Maroon was providing a screen in front, just careful not to interfere with Murray and the game was tied up at two.

Overall on the night, the Devils were 1-for-3 on the power play with five shots on goal. The Devils kept the Penguins off of the scoresheet again on the power play, as Pittsburgh went 0-for-2 with five shots as well.

As if all of that action in the second period were not enough, the session ended with a spirited scrap between Miles Wood and Matt Hunwick. The fight got the crowd pumped up and into the game even more and things were at a fever pitch going into the third.

The Devils would oblige the home fans early on when Coleman scored at the 5:11 mark of the third frame to make it 3-2 Devils. Travis Zajac had the lone assist. It came on a delayed penalty against the Pens when Coleman intercepted a Pittsburgh clearing attempt at their blue line. He broke in with Zajac, giving to him and driving towards the net. He got the puck back and went to his backhand. Murray got the first one, but Coleman roofed his own rebound by him to put the Devils in front.

The Devils would hold that lead until the 11:26 mark when Hornqvist scored a weird one. His shot, which came off like a knuckle puck, took a perfect bounce behind Kinkaid and bounced off the post and into the net. Kinkaid clearly had some trouble with the shot as it beat him. That goal made it 3-3 and Hornqvist got assists from Dumoulin and Riley Sheahan.

After about a half a period of frantic, playoff-like action, the final horn sounded and the game went to overtime. It was in the OT period where Sidney Crosby took a pass from Letang 19 seconds into the extra session. He shot the puck off the post and batted his rebound out of mid-air and behind Kinkaid to win the game for Pittsburgh. It was a signature Crosby move (he has done it a few times before) and fitting for a day when the baseball season kicked off.

So where does that leave the Devils? In exactly the same place they were at the beginning of the night. The Panthers lost in OT on a penalty shot goal by the Senators to only take home a point. There remains three points separating the two teams. It was the best possible outcome for the Devils barring an outright Florida regulation loss.

Statistically, New Jersey won 43-percent of the game’s faceoffs, were outshot by the Pens 35-31, were outhit 27-17 and out blocked 10-7. Individually, Vatanen led the way in ice time with 23:43, Hall led in shots with seven, Coleman, Greene and John Moore led in hits with three each, Brian Gibbons led in blocks with two and Hischier led in takeaways with three.

Next up, the Devils take on the Islanders at home this Saturday. It should be a good one, as a local rival who has already been eliminated from playoff contention will come in and try to play spoiler while the Devils just need to play their game and get two points. We will see you then.

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Devils End Road Trip With OT Win In Pittsburgh

Taylor Hall scored the OT winner just 27 seconds into the extra frame. It was his third OT winner of the season. Photo: Perry Nelson/USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Penguins have played about 16 home games in the past 78 nights. They have only two losses in that time period at PPG Paints Arena. After those two losses have both come against the New Jersey Devils.

After a Devils victory in Pittsburgh back on February 27, they notched an overtime win tonight, coming away with both points in a 4-3 barnburner.

The Devils did get some help from the Columbus Blue Jackets yesterday in the playoff race, as the Jackets defeated Florida Panthers to keep them away from New Jersey in the standings. The Devils would take advantage of that help by ending their road trip 4-2-0, taking a eight of a possible 12 points.

According to the MSG+ pregame show, Ben Lovejoy was summoned by the coaching staff to give a speech after practice yesterday. He told the team, basically, that they were a good team and one that they must collect points to get to the playoffs. The point seemed to be that the Devils just had to continue to play the way they have and that would sustain them. That seemed to be enough to pump the Devils up to end their trip on a winning note.

They also got reinforcement when Pavel Zacha joined the team in Pittsburgh and played tonight for the first time since his injury March 6 against Montreal. The Devils would be missing Miles Wood, who remains out following his upper body injury suffered in Anaheim. Jimmy Hayes, Mirco Mueller and Stefan Noesen also sat while Jesper Bratt slotted back in up front.

In net, the Devils went back to Keith Kinkaid. Kinkaid has been the hot hand and the Devils went right back to him. He played amazing at times in notching his first-ever 20 win season tonight. He stopped 40 of 43 Penguins shots. The Pens threw out Matt Murray, who is playing his first games back after missing a block of time due to a concussion. He stopped 30 of 34 shots against.

The Devils did not look too good early on, as they got hemmed in early and Sidney Crosby was able to put in a rebound off of a Jamie Oleksiak shot. The goal came just 2:29 into the game and Jake Guentzel had the secondary assist. One-nothing Pens.

A scary moment in the second period when one of the linesmen, Tony Sericolo, fell and the Devils’ Brian Gibbons tripped over him. He was seemingly cut and had to leave the game to get stitched up. He would return about four or five minutes after the incident occurred at 11:03 of the first.

While the Pens grabbed the early lead in the first, the second period belonged to the Devils. It began at the 3:48 mark when Bryan Rust took a tripping call, putting the Devils on the power play. Will Butcher would convert, scoring his first goal since November 20, ending a 52 game goal drought.

Butcher skated the puck out from behind the Devils’ net, pushing it ahead to Taylor Hall. Hall broke into the Pens’ zone and found Damon Severson at the near point. Severson went point-to-point with a trailing Butcher, who was just joining the play. Butcher fired and beat Murray to tie things up at one.

For the night, the Devils were 1-for-2 on the power play with four shots on goal. Pittsburgh was held 0-for-2 with only two shots.

The goal that gave the Devils the lead was set up at the 8:36 mark of the second when Andy Greene and Carl Hagelin took coincidental minors – Greene for tripping and Hagelin for interference. The ensuing four-on-four would lead to a beautiful goal from Blake Coleman. That one came at 7:20 with assists to Drew Stafford and Zacha.

It began when Kinkaid made a nice save on a Pens’ 2-on-1. Zacha grabbed the puck, moving it ahead to Stafford, who headmanned it to Coleman, alone with one Penguin to beat behind the Pittsburgh blue line. He drove hard towards the net, keeping one hand on his stick and was able to backhand the puck, top shelf, by Murray. That made it 2-1 Devils.

New Jersey added an insurance goal at the 8:54 mark of the second when Nico Hischier scored to make it 3-1. It happened when the Devils broke into the Pens’ zone with numbers. Hall threaded a pass cross ice to John Moore in at the bottom of the near faceoff circle. Moore then threaded one back to Nico Hischier, who had fought to get all alone in the slot. He layed the puck in, all alone with an empty net in front of him. Three-one Devils.

The Devils had scored three goals in just 3:39. The Devils seemed to have things in control going into the third period. But this was Pittsburgh and these are the two-time defending champion Penguins we are talking about.

At 3:13 of the third, Crosby won a draw deep in the Devils’ zone, back to Brian Dumoulin. Dumoulin scored to make it 3-2. The comeback was on.

Sure enough, at the 10:52 mark, Phil Kessel beat Kinkaid through a screen to tie the game at three. The assists went to Derick Brassard and Conor Sheary. The game was back to square one.

What ensued was about nine minutes of the most jaw-dropping, back-and-forth, end-to-end hockey that you have ever seen. Both goalies stood on their heads, some big breaks to both teams, including the Pens getting lucky on Michael Grabner’s shorthanded try somehow not going in.

When the dust settled, we were headed to overtime. Because that is just what a fan with a vested interest watching this game needed after enduring the final nine minutes of the third period.

But OT would not last long. The Devils started with Hall, Sami Vatanen and Nico Hischier to start. Just 27 seconds in, Hall pushed the puck up the far boards in the Devils’ zone to Nico. Nico got into a puck battle along the boards with Kessel and was able to kick the puck to his stick blade, soccer-style. He had outmuscled one of the strongest Penguins and was able to throw the puck to an all-alone and in the clear Hall just outside the Pittsburgh zone. Hall was in alone on Murray and shot five hole, beating him to give the Devils the 4-3 win. It was his third OT game winner of the season for New Jersey.

Hall’s celebration was understated. He told Deb Placey on the postgame show that he would wait for the playoffs to celebrate bigger. That and he was just too exhausted to celebrate too wildly.

Either way, the Devils had gotten the two points and now have beaten Pittsburgh three times this season.

Stats-wise, the Devils won 49-percent of the game’s draws, outhit the Pens 37-20 and had 15 blocked shots to the Penguins’ eight. Vatanen led all Devils in ice time with 24:19 (2:35 on the power play and 58 seconds on the penalty kill) while Hall led all Devils’ forwards with 20:06 (2:48 on the PP). Hall also led in shots on goal with seven, Coleman led in hits with five, Greene led in blocks with three and takeaways were led by Hischier, Coleman, Kyle Palmieri, Zacha, Gibbons, Lovejoy and Vatanen, who each had one.

It is a quick turnaround for the Devils as they finally return home to face the Tampa Bay Lightning tomorrow night at Prudential Center. I will be attending this game, so the recap will be up a little bit later. We will find out then if the Devils can build up more space between them and the Panthers as we head into the final stretch.

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Devils End Pens’ Home Winning Streak

The Pittsburgh Penguins are always a tough team to play. They are the back-to-back Stanley Cup champs, who only got better at the trading deadline. But beating them at their home rink, PPG Paints Arena, has been an even more daunting task of late. The Pens, coming into this game against the Devils had won eleven straight home games.

Faced with that on their plate, what did the Devils do? They won 3-2 as they put more separation between themselves and the teams below them in the standings and move within two points of Pittsburgh for third place in the Metro Division.

First, I wanted to get some details about Patrik Elias night that I forgot about. First was Elias’ entrance through the crowd that really hammered home that he was one of us. He was a real fan favorite and that and taking the plastic green hat from the fan who offered it, putting it on and then throwing it back to the fans was a nice touch.

Another point I missed was that the Devils were playing the Islanders because that was the team that Patty played his most games and had his most points against. Also, the Devils wearing the white road jerseys for a change was a nice touch.

And finally, the Devils kept their winning streak on jersey retirement nights intact. They defeated the Hurricanes on Stevens Night, the Bruins on Daneyko Night, the Stars on Niedermayer Night, the Oilers on Brodeur Night and Saturday, they came from behind to defeat the Isles on Elias Night.

With that out of the way, we move on to tonight’s game versus the Penguins. The task of beating the Pens only got bigger as Derick Brassard was making his debut for Pittsburgh following his blockbuster three-way trade from Ottawa also involving Vegas. The Devils’ newest addition, Patrick Maroon, did not play tonight, as he traveled all night from San Jose (where the Oilers were playing tonight) to Pittsburgh via Atlanta. Maroon did practice with the team today, but did not play due to travel fatigue. He will make his Devils debut at Florida on Thursday.

Along with Maroon, Jimmy Hayes and Mirco Mueller were the scratches for New Jersey. Michael Grabner was playing in his second game as a Devil and was on a line with Travis Zajac and Stefan Noesen (who was playing in his 100th NHL contest tonight – congrats to him).

With 20 games remaining in the 2017-18 season including tonight, the Devils knew it was time to really make that final push for the playoffs and can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Cory Schneider will rejoin the team in Florida after making an AHL rehab start tonight.
Photo: downloaded from BleacherReport.com

Goaltending-wise, there is some news on the Cory Schneider front. Cory played a game for Binghamton at the Belleville Senators tonight in a conditioning stint. His return is imminent (he will rejoin the team in Florida) according to the MSG broadcasters, with Bryce Salvador in particular saying that an AHL stint will help him out. If he had had something happen to him against the Penguins tonight, things could have gotten disastrous. In the AHL, he can have a bad night if he needs to as he gets in game shape. For the record, he won that game 4-1.

In his place, Keith Kinkaid made another start – as he adds to his career highs in starts and wins – played brilliantly at times tonight. He stopped 36 of 38 shots on goal. For the Penguins, Casey DeSmith got the start as Matt Murray got hit in the head with a puck at practice and is suffering from concussion symptoms. The undrafted DeSmith made 35 saves on 38 Devils shots.

One of the big stories coming out of this game was the Devils’ special teams. The Pens have the top ranked power play in the NHL. But it was the Devils who came out on top in that facet of the game. New Jersey was 1-for-1 with the man advantage with two shots on net while Pittsburgh was 0-for-2 with the Devils limiting them to a single shot. The Devils power play and penalty kill came up huge for the team tonight.

However, it was the Pens who got on the board first in what seemed like business as usual. Sidney Crosby scored at 8:17 of the first period from Brian Dumoulin and Jake Guentzel. On this play, the puck got through Kinkaid’s legs, squirting over to Crosby, who simply tapped the puck into the empty side of the net to make it 1-0. Following the goal (and some technical difficulties with the monitors on the Devils’ bench), coach John Hynes challenged for goalie interference, saying that Crosby’s leg as he was swooping across the crease impeded Kinkaid’s ability to make the save. Replays showed otherwise and the goal stood. The Devils lost their timeout with the failed coach’s challenge.

Immediately following the Pittsburgh goal, the Devils got right to work. Michael Grabner hit the post on a shot right after, but it was not until the 12:19 mark that Kyle Palmieri continued his hot streak and tied the game. Damon Severson and Taylor Hall had the assists. Hall dropped to Severson at the Devils’ blueline and Severson and Palmieri began to criss-cross up ice. Severson left for Palmieri at the Penguins blueline and he skated in up the left wing boards, shooting from the top of the faceoff circle and beating DeSmith stick side to tie the game up at one all.

With that assist, Hall continued his point scoring streak – now to 22 games. That is a season high in the NHL for this season.

The game was tied up at one going into the first intermission, but things looked a little bleak for the Devils. Ben Lovejoy took a hooking penalty at 19:38, giving Pittsburgh an almost full power play on fresh ice to begin the second period. But as noted above, the Devils were able to stifle the Pens’ power play and nothing came of it.

Instead, Hall would add to his point total by scoring the go ahead goal for the Devils to make the score 2-1. This one came on the power play and was set up by Severson and Travis Zajac. It happened when, at the 4:25 mark of the second, Zajac passed to Severson in the slot. The defenseman shot and hit the crossbar with the puck caroming to Hall, who was just under the goal line. He shot and beat DeSmith to give the Devils the lead. It was a weird one, but the Devils would take it.

Severson would joke with Deb Placey on the MSG postgame show that he was making a “post pass” since Hall was calling for the pass and Severson elected to shoot.

The Devils lead would last until the 17:02 mark of the second period when Matt Hunwick scored for Pittsburgh to tie things up at two. Guentzel had the lone assist on that goal.

The score was tied going into the second intermission as it was in the first, but the resilient Devils were not done. At the 5:01 mark of the third period, Stefan Noesen put the Devils up 3-2 on a goal with assists to Andy Greene and Zajac. It came when Noesen passed from behind the net to Zajac in the slot. DeSmith made the save and pushed the puck to the near corner. The puck came to Greene at the wall and he fired from that angle. Noesen was able to get a stick on it as he was cycling by, tipping the puck by DeSmith, who was not able to get across his crease and get set in time to make the save. The Devils had the lead back and would not relinquish this one.

DeSmith was pulled with about 1:30 left in the game. But Hynes was dogged in getting the Zajac line matched up against the Evgeni Malkin line and that continued late in the game. With a few blocked shots and key saves by Kinkaid, the Devils withstood the final minute and a half and got out of Pittsburgh with the victory. A huge two points in division for the Devils.

Stats-wise, Sami Vatanen led in ice time with 27:14 (including 1:06 on the power play and 2:13 on the PK). Palmieri and Pavel Zacha led in shots on goal with five each. Nico Hischier was the most physcial player with four hits. Blake Coleman and Greene each had four blocks and Noesen had two takeaways. Hall, Zajac and Severson each had two points on the night and the Devils won 43-percent of the game’s faceoffs. Hall was named the game’s first star for his efforst while Severson was the second star. Crosby earned third star honors.

It was a big win, but the Devils work is not done. Thursday they are in Sunrise to take on the Florida Panthers – a team that has also been pretty hot of late. It will be the Devils’ only trip to South Florida this season and will mark Patrick Maroon’s Devils debut. We will see you then.

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Zajac Line Comes Through as Devils Defeat Penguins

The Devils had a very important meeting with the other team from Pennsylvania following their victory over the Flyers on Thursday. These guys just happened to be the two-time defending Stanley Cup champs and one of the hottest teams in the NHL the last month. All the Devils did was play as complete a game as they could with the Travis Zajac line of him, Stefan Noesen and Blake Coleman producing all three goals in a 3-1 win.

And don’t look now, but the Devils have won three straight coming out of the All-Star break and are 4-2-0 against Metropolitan Division foes since their bye week in January.

One of the bigger news stories of the last day was that John Quenneville was called up from AHL Binghamton. With that, Steven Santini was sent down in order to get some playing time so that he would not be rusty when called upon to fill in for injuries. Also sent down on a conditioning assignment was Jimmy Hayes (who was also a healthy scratch tonight for the New Jersey club). Quenneville did not play and he and Cory Schneider were the other Devils’ scratches along with Hayes. The Devils again went with eleven forwards and seven defensemen, meaning Taylor Hall was going to be double shifted a lot come the crucial parts of the game.

Pittsburgh was missing Patric Hornqvist, who was injured and did not make the trip to Newark. The Pens were coming off of a 7-4 drubbing of Washington on home ice where they scored four goals in the third period. To say the Penguins have a high-octane offense is very much an understatement. But the Devils were able to contain them tonight, as we shall see.

In net, Keith Kinkaid continued to be the man for the Devils with Cory Schneider out with injury. He made 15 saves on just 16 shots against. Kinkaid got his first career win over the Pens and his tenth of the season so far – notching a career high there. Those shots against were a huge story early on. The Devils outshot Pittsburgh 13-6 in the first period and 16-4 in the second. They limited the Pens’ chances and, thus, neutralized their attack. Devils coach John Hynes said that he wanted the team to “play fast, but disciplined” and it showed.

The Penguins had a rookie backup in net for them, as Casey DeSmith made the start, giving Matt Murray a night off. He made 35 saves on 38 Devils shots on goal.

Besides the lopsided shot total, the first period also saw Stefan Noesen and Ian Cole drop the gloves in a scrap. That was the only other Devils penalty on the night besides a Miles Wood hooking call 1:34 into the game. The Devils, whose penalty kill came into the game clicking at 82.5-percent, which was tied for seventh in the NHL overall, was not tested and, thus, the Pens’ power play spent little time on the ice. Overall, the Penguins were 0-for-1 on the man advantage with a single shot. The Devils were 0-for-3 with seven shots on goal.

After a scoreless first, Travis Zajac got the scoring off to a start 30 seconds into the second period. It came when Blake Coleman had the puck down low and banked it off the boards behind his back to Zajac, who was in on the doorstep. Zajac was able to stuff it by DeSmith to give the Devils the 1-0 lead. Noesen had the secondary assist on the play, giving that line their first points of the night.

The Devils would double their lead at the 3:05 mark of the second when Noesen kept the puck in on the forecheck and Zajac, Noesen and Coleman played tic-tac-toe around the net, before the puck landed on Coleman’s stick. He ripped one past DeSmith from the top of the far faceoff circle to make it 2-0 Devils.

In the third period, 6:16 in, Evgeni Malkin – the NHL’s player of the month for January – struck on a Devils’ defensive breakdown. He got assists from Cole and Phil Kessel to cut the Devils’ lead to 2-1.

But the resilient Devils bounced back: at 9:51, Zajac got his second when Sami Vatanen hit Taylor Hall with a breakout pass. Hall skated into the Penguins’ zone and curled around at the goal line. He dished back to Damon Severson at the near point. Severson fired on net and Zajac, camped out in front of the Pens’ goal, redirected it by DeSmith to make it 3-1 Devils.

And, although that was your final, it almost did not end up that way. At the 7:06 mark of the third, Keith Kinkaid was knocked down in his crease with a high stick by a Penguins player. No whistle was blown to end play, but Sidney Crosby shot from an odd angle and banked the puck in to the Devils’ goal off of Kinkaid’s mask. The officials met and made the ruling that the call on the ice was no goal, due to goaltender interference.

Penguins coach Mike Sullivan used his coach’s challenge to dispute this, but replay showed that Kinkaid was interfered with and the call on the ice stood: no goal. New Jersey finally caught a break on instant replay. This was due to an edict passed down to the on-ice officials earlier this week, according to MSG’s Steve Cangialosi, that the officials streamline reviews and not look too hard for anything that might not be there. The score remained 3-1, Devils.

From there to about the two minutes remaining in the game mark, was back-and-forth, end-to-end pure hockey goodness, as Pittsburgh frantically tried to tie things up. The Devils kept pushing back though and by the time DeSmith was pulled, the Devils met that with resistance too.

Once the final buzzer went off, the entire line of Zajac, Coleman and Noesen went one-two-three in the three stars voting. The Devils had also done something they did not do all of last year: beat the Penguins. Last season, they were swept in the season’s five game series. That win also allowed them to leapfrog Pittsburgh into second place in the Metro Division. It was two crucial points, to be sure.

Stats-wise, Taylor Hall led in ice time with 25:58. He also extended his personal points-scoring streak to ten games with the assist on Zajac’s second goal. Zajac led in shots with five, Coleman led in hits with three, Andy Greene led in blocks with three and Zajac and Coleman each had two takeaways. The Devils won 55-percent of the game’s faceoffs.

Next up, the Devils travel north to Ottawa on Tuesday for a tilt with the Senators – who just came off of a hard-fought shootout win over the Flyers today. Hopefully for the Devils, they will be able to sustain their streak and show that the complete effort put forth tonight was no fluke.

Devils Fall to Penguins at Prospects Challenge

The Devils came into game two of the 2017 Prospects Challenge off of a 4-3 overtime victory over the Buffalo Sabres in their first game. They took on the Pittsburgh Penguins today and lost, 6-2.

There was a considerably smaller crowd on hand this afternoon as compared to last night, considering the earlier start time and the lack of the Sabres in the game. However, there was a good contingent of Devils fans who made the trip, including a large group in the corner, camera-side, at the end of the rink where the Devils attack twice. They were there for the first period and then dispersed, to be seen around the rink at varying times.

New Jersey did look a little bit sloppy, especially in their own end, at times. But you have to remember that this is a learning experience for these kids. It is a short series of games and they have not been playing together much outside of developmental camp. Many of them looked solid defensively and the offensive chances will come from there. Add to that that the Pittsburgh goaltender played well, making some nice stops in close, especially in the second period, and it just was not the Devils’ night.

The game did feature a scrap late in the game, that involved Steven Santini from the Devils. It was a spirited affair and nice to see Santini step up when challenged.

Once again, I appologize for lack of details. The stream was in and out for me for most of the game and got kind of blurry at times. Hopefully, things will be better on Monday at noon when the Devils take on the Boston Bruins in the final game of this year’s Prospects Challenge.

Devils Set Roster for Prospects Challenge

Once again this year, the Devils will be participating in the Prospects Challenge, a round-robin mini tournament featuring young players from the Buffalo Sabres, Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins in addition to the Devils. The Challenge takes place from September 8 to 11 at HarborCenter in Buffalo.

The Devils put out a press release today setting their roster for the tournament and it is a nice lineup. Goaltenders include Ken Appleby, Evan Cormier and Mackenzie Blackwood. The team will send ten defensemen: newly signed NCAA talent Will Butcher, Michael Kapla, Steven Santini, Joshua Jacobs, Yaroslav Dyblenko, Jacob MacDonald, Colton White, Colby Sissons, Jocktan Chainey and Nicolas Guay. Forwards will feature number one overall draft pick Nico Hischier, Nick Lappin, Michael McLeod, Nathan Bastian, Blake Speers, John Quenneville, Brandon Gignac, Brandon Baddock, Ryan Kujawinski, Jan Mandat, Austin Cangelosi, Nikita Popugaev, Jesper Bratt and Marian Studenic.

The press release also included the Devils’ schedule which will see them take on the Sabres on September 8 at 7 PM, the Penguins on Saturday, September 9 at 3:30 PM and the Bruins on Monday, September 11 at 12 noon.

This event is open to the public at HarborCenter in Buffalo and tickets are available at the Sabres’ website. If you are a Devils fan in the area, you might want to check it out to see some of the young talent the Devils will be icing for the coming season and beyond.

Penguins Repeat as Cup Champs

The Pittsburgh Penguins, in their 50th season, have won their fifth Stanley Cup in franchise history. They defeated the Nashville Predators 2-0 in game six last night at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. In doing so, they became the first team since the 1997 and 1998 Detroit Red Wings to repeat as Cup champions. It was the first game in the series won by the road team.

Matt Murray got the shutout win in the Cup clincher and Sidney Crosby was named the Conn Smythe Trophy winner as playoff MVP. Crosby also won the Conn Smythe Trophy last season. He had eight goals and eleven assists for 19 points in 24 games, coming back from a concussion suffered in the Washington series to lead his team to the Cup.

Former Predator Patric Hornqvist (who was traded for James Neal in 2014) scored the Cup clinching goal with just 1:35 left in the game as the teams had battled through a 0-0 tie for the majority of the game. Carl Hagelin scored into an empty net to top off Pittsburgh’s Cup victory.

Amazingly, the Penguins have never won a Stanley Cup at home. All five of their wins have come on the road. No Pittsburgh team has won a championship at home since the 1960 Pirates won the World Series there.

So, with the 2016-17 season in the books, we congratulate the Pittsburgh Penguins on a job well done. They endured the season through the tough Metropolitan Division – the toughest in hockey – and they persevered. There is no doubt that they had one of the hardest roads to the Cup in this year’s playoffs, defeating Columbus and surviving wars with Washington and Ottawa to get there. The Predators also gave them a run for their money and they overcame them.

Next, we look forward to the NHL Awards in Las Vegas on June 21 and the NHL Draft in Chicago on June 23 and 24 where the Devils will take center stage with the first overall pick. There is no secret that general manager Ray Shero is looking to build the Devils in the Penguins’ image. Here’s hoping the dividends are the same in the future.

Congrats again to the Pittsburgh Penguins and all of their players, coaches and staff.

Stanley Cup Final 2017 Preview

After last night’s epic double overtime game seven of the Eastern Conference Final, things are finally set for the 2017 Stanley Cup Final. The defending Stanley Cup champions, the Pittsburgh Penguins will represent the East while the upstart Nashville Predators will represent the West.

The Final is set to begin on Monday, May 29 and you have to wonder how the layoff will affect the Predators, who clinched their spot this past Monday. They will have a full week off to prepare while the Pens will only have four days.

That could help the Penguins in that they get right back on the horse and do not have time to over prepare for the Preds, but it could also hinder. The Pens are banged up, no doubt about it. Sidney Crosby suffered a concussion earlier on in the Washington series and that is only the tip of the iceberg. There is little doubt that the Pens have had a bit rougher path to the Final, having survived Columbus, Washington and then a seven game series that took two OTs to decide with Ottawa. The Capitals series also went seven games and both the series with Washington and the Senators were wars. How will this grind affect the Penguins in the long run?

By contrast, the Preds cruised by the Blackhawks in the first round and dispatched St. Louis in six games in the second. They took out Anaheim in six to advance to the Cup Final. While those series were just as brutal as anything the Penguins played, they did not last as long and that may give the Predators an edge in the Cup Final.

If there was one team that could have used a week off to recover from their wounds, it would be the Penguins. The Pens also took a regular season’s worth of abuse, playing in the much tighter Metropolitan Division.

None of this is to discount what the Predators have done. They are in the Final for a reason. Although finishing sixteenth out of the sixteen clubs that make the playoffs, they have gotten on a roll at the right time and have gelled. Shrewd trades have allowed the team to get to where they have gotten. Picking up PK Subban from the Montreal Canadiens in a blockbuster trade last summer that sent the popular Shea Weber to the Habs has paid off in dividends. Subban is a dynamic player who gives any team a bit of energy when he is there. But it was smaller stuff like getting veterans Vern Fiddler and PA Parenteau from the Devils that also built towards this run to the Cup for Nashville.

One thing working in Pittsburgh’s favor is definitely the experience factor. They have been there and they know what it is like to win. Nashville is largely doing this for the first time. They will also be doing it without left winger Filip Forsberg, who injured his thigh in the Ducks series, requiring surgery and will miss the Final.

So, the series will likely come down to who can stay healthiest and whether the Penguins can remain resilient. Also, can the Predators continue the magic in one of the loudest and best atmospheres in the NHL at Bridgestone Arena? Answers to these and more questions will begin to become clearer beginning this Monday night.

Some miscellaneous fun facts about this series are that this will be the first time two teams with yellow as one of their primary colors will be facing off in the Stanley Cup Final. Nashville uses yellow and navy blue while Pittsburgh just switched back this season to yellow and black, traditional colors for Pittsburgh, from black and Vegas gold. Also, Pittsburgh has repeated as Wales/Eastern Conference champions for the third time in their history. All of their trips to the Final have come in pairs: 1991 and 1992, 2008 and 2009 and 2016 and 2017. They are five and one all time in terms of series wins in the Stanley Cup Final.

Congratulations to both the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Nashville Predators and their fans for getting to the Stanley Cup Final. Let’s hope it is a great series!