Devils Narrowly Suffer Ninth Straight Loss

It was not a blowout and it was not lopsided. The Devils played a much better game today, narrowly suffering loss number nine when the Pittsburgh Penguins defeated them 4-2.

The Devils lost some more players as Jonas Siegenthaler joined PK Subban on the COVID Protocol list and Janne Kuokkanen joined Mikhail Maltsev and Ty Smith as injured. Kuokkanen blocked a shot on Thursday with his hand. Nolan Foote also did not play. Aaron Dell was the healthy scratch as Scott Wedgewood served as the backup.

And with that, Mackenzie Blackwood was back from injury. He stopped 33 of the 36 Pens shots thrown at him for a .917 save percentage. He stopped both of Pittsburgh’s shorthanded shots, let in their only power play shot and was 31-for-33 at even strength.

Facing him, Pittsburgh put out Casey DeSmith, who stopped 34 of the Devils’ 36 shots for a .944 save percentage. He got all five of the Devils power play shots and was 29-for-31 at even strength.

The Devils were 0-for-2 on the man advantage while the Penguins were 1-for-1.

The Pens got on the board first as the Devils have now allowed the first goal in their last eight games. The goal came off the stick of Jeff Carter at 9:41 of the first when a puck bounced to Jason Zucker and he was off to the races. He skated through traffic in the Devils’ zone and gave to Carter who was with him. Carter then snapped the puck by Blackwood to make it 1-0. Mike Matheson had the secondary assist.

Jared McCann made it 2-0 at 12:50 on the power play when Kris Letang fired a wrist shot from just inside the Devils’ blue line and Jake Guentzel – who was providing the screen in front – guided the rebound to McCann who was at the far side of the net. He shoveled it in while falling down to double the Pens lead.

In the second period, Bryan Rust made it 3-0 at the 7:30 mark when Sidney Crosby who a faceoff back to Cody Ceci. He went D-to-D with Guentzel and Guentzel shot. Rust was in front of the net and tipped the shot by Blackwood with the puck actually going wide until it hit Matt Tennyson and then went in off of Rust.

Although the Devils were down, they were not out.

At the 8:45 mark of the second, Jack Hughes made it 3-1 when Will Butcher thew a shot on net from the near boards. It went to Yegor Sharangovich at the far side of the net and bounced off of his stick to Hughes at the near side of the net. Hughes put it in and suddenly the Devils were back into things.

In the third period, Miles Wood scored 10:58 cut the Pittsburgh lead to one on a nice one.

Damon Severson gave the puck to Ryan Murray who faked a shot at the near faceoff circle and passed to Wood at the far faceoff circle for the one-timer. He shot through a Michael McLeod screen and scored.

Later in the game, Nick Merkley fought Zucker following Zucker’s hit on a vulnerable Marian Studenic. It stood to fire the Devils up and get them going in what would be a wild finish.

Blackwood was pulled with just over 1:30 remaining in regulation and the Devils had a few great chances, none greater than Nico Hischier’s chance with seconds left from point blank that just got pushed wide of the Penguins’ net.

Crosby would add an unassisted empty net goal, a desperation clear more than anything with 0.01 seconds remaining in the game. That gave us our final of 4-2.

The Devils have now dropped nine straight in regulation, one shy of the club record of ten straight set in 1983.

The Pens outshot the Devils 37-36. New Jersey won just 39-percent of the game’s faceoffs – with Hischier leading the centers with a personal 67-percent winning clip. The Devils outhit the Pens, 29-26 and had less giveaways at three to Pittsburgh’s nine but the Pens blocked one more shot at nine to the Devils’ eight.

Will Butcher led all Devils in time on ice with 25:07 while Hughes led the forwards with 22:19. Pavel Zacha led in power play time with 3:02.

Shots were led by Wood and Jesper Bratt with six each, hits by Nate Bastian with six, blocked shots by Yegor Sharangovich and Wood with two each and takeaways by Sharangovich and Hughes with two apiece.

Next up, the Devils will try to snap their losing streak in Philadelphia when they take on the Flyers at 6 PM tomorrow. That is the beginning of four straight against Philly with the middle two games of the series taking place at Prudential Center and the first and fourth in Philly.

We will see you then with coverage of course. Stay safe everyone!

Devils Lose Eighth Straight

Once again the Devils traveled to Pittsburgh to take on the Penguins and once again the lost to the Penguins. This time there was no dramatic comeback, just a routine 5-1 loss to Sidney Crosby and company.

With the win tonight, the Pens moved into second place in the East Division, leapfrogging the loser of the Capitals-Islanders game (should that game not go to overtime). The Devils, meanwhile, were mathematically eliminated from playoff contention with Tuesday’s loss.

The Devils had their leading scorers back tonight as Pavel Zacha and Jesper Bratt returned from injury. The lineup mostly stayed the same as PK Subban remains on COVID protocol, Ty Smith, Mackenzie Blackwood and Mikhail Maltsev all remain out.

Pregame the MSG Network crew talked about Mackenzie Blackwood’s mask for warmups the other night. It was also designed by an RWJBarnabas Health employee who got to see his creation on an NHL rink.

And speaking of goaltending, Aaron Dell got the nod tonight, making 11 saves on 15 shots for a .733 save percentage. He stopped both Pittsburgh power play shots (the Pens were 0-for-1 on the man advantage) and was 9-for-13 at even strength. He was pulled in the second period following the fourth Pittsburgh goal. Scott Wedgewood came in and stopped 7-of-8 for an .875 save percentage. He let in the only shorthanded Penguins shot he saw and was 7-for-7 at even strength.

In goal for the Pens, they went right back to Tristan Jarry despite Tuesday’s third period. He stopped 30 of the 31 shots the Devils peppered him with for a .968 save percentage. He turned aside all six Devils power play shots (the Devils were 0-for-4) and stopped 24-of-25 at even strength.

The Penguins were in their yellow alternate jerseys resembling a uniform from an outdoor game a few years ago.

You knew it was going to be a rough night for the Devils when Crosby scored just 41 seconds into the game. After a turnover in the Devils zone, Bryan Rust gave to Crosby, who stepped up and shot, beating Dell upstairs to give Pittsburgh the early 1-0 lead. Kris Letang caused the turnover that led to the goal and got the secondary assist.

Some life for the Devils occurred a little less than 12 minutes later at 12:34 when Matt Tennyson broke his goalless drought of 104 games by beating Jarry to tie the game. Ryan Murray shot the puck wide of the net and it wrapped around the boards to Tennyson at the right point. He bombed a shot that beat Jarry cleanly to knot things up. Jesper Boqvist had the secondary assist.

But things were not to remain that tidy for long. At the 17:46 mark of the first, Cody Ceci made it 2-1 Pens in what would go down as the game winner.

Kasperi Kapanen got the puck up top and Brian Dumoulin went D-to-D with Ceci. Ceci shot and beat Dell to make it 2-1.

The game was still close and the Devils had a chance until the second period started. Then the wheels fell off.

It began with Bryan Rust at 12:03 when Jack Hughes turned the puck over to Crosby. Crosby sprung Guentzel and Rust on a 2-on-1. Guentzel passed to Rust and he finished to make it 3-1 Pens.

Just 25 seconds later, Kapanen scored to make it 4-1. Teddy Blueger banked the puck off the boards to Kapanen who was off to the races up the right wing. He cut in on Dell and shot five-hole, scoring and ending Dell’s night. Zach Aston-Reese had the secondary.

After that goal, Wedgewood was on in relief.

And the hits were not done. At 15:59 Blueger scored shorthanded to give us our final of 6-1. The puck was dug out of the far corner in the Penguins’ zone by Letang. Blueger picked it up and was again off up the right-wing boards. He had Colton Sceviour as a decoy and shot, scoring to make it 6-1. John Marino had the secondary assist.

And that was that.

The Devils outshot Pittsburgh 31-23, won 47-percent of the game’s faceoffs, had more hits at 29-25 and had less giveaways at three to the Pens’ six. Each team had ten blocked shots.

Michael McLeod led the centers with a 69-percent winning clip on faceoffs. Damon Severson led the team in time on ice with 23:29 of TOI. Nico Hischier led the forwards with 18:46. Hischier also led in power play time with 4:59.

Shots were led by Hughes with four, hits by Nate Bastian with eight, blocks by Connor Carrick and Tennyson with two each and takeaways by Hughes with three.

Next up the Devils end the season series with Pittsburgh on Saturday at 12:30 PM. The Devils will try to snap their eight-game losing skid and we will have all of the details for you right here.

Until then, stay safe everyone!