In their recent string of games, you would think something would fall right for the Devils. New Jersey fell in a shootout 3-2 to the St. Louis Blues amid another offsides challenge controversy and some stellar play by Blues goaltender Carter Hutton.
The Devils were playing this game with defenseman Damon Severson out of the lineup as a healthy scratch and Ben Lovejoy playing in his first game since December 9 in his place. Lovejoy would be paired with Will Butcher and play on the penalty kill. Coach John Hynes said that basically Severson has had some lapses of late that have cost the team and that since the Devils are in contention, they are not just playing guys to play them. Jimmy Hayes and Drew Stafford were the other Devils scratches.
Another player seeing his first action since that December 9 loss at the Rangers was goalie Keith Kinkaid. Kinkaid played well for the Devils, making 27 saves on 29 St. Louis shots. The problem was the guy down the ice from him, Hutton, played just that much better. He made 24 saves on 26 Devils shots and two more in the shootout. The call for Hutton by Blues coach Mike Yeo was a strange one considering Jake Allen, St. Louis’ number one, has such good numbers against the Devils.
To that, the Devils are on a (now) nine game losing streak against the Blues, including the last six at Scottrade Center. It has been rough sledding for the Devils against the Blues lately, but they did play well against them tonight.
Vladimir Tarasenko got the scoring started to give St. Louis a 1-0 lead off an assist from Scottie Upshall. On the play, the Blues intercepted Sami Vatanen’s outlet pass and Tarasenko put his own rebound off the end boards into the net behind Kinkaid. That goal came 12:48 into the first period.
Nico Hischier tied things up at the 12:36 mark of the second period when Jesper Bratt shoveled the puck from behind the Blues net to Vatanen at the near point. He fired and Hischier redirected it past Hutton to knot the score at one apiece.
St. Louis would then regrab the lead at 18:08 of the second period when Vladimir Sobotka scored from Tage Thompson and Paul Stastny. Of note on this goal was that the officials missed a potential holding call against Marcus Johansson along the near boards during the play. Either way, it was now 2-1 Blues.
During the Blues’ streak of dominance over the Devils, they had killed off 24 straight power play opportunities for New Jersey, including one tonight in the first period. That streak would come to an end just 1:17 into the third period when Taylor Hall tied things up at two. The goal developed when Travis Zajac won the faceoff back to Butcher. Butcher shot and hit the post with the rebound coming out to Kyle Palmieri. Palmieri’s shot went wide of Hutton’s cage, behind the net and came out to Hall on the other side. Hall shot from a crazy angle behind the goal line and the puck went in to give the Devils a power play goal and tie the game.
Overall, the Devils were 1-for-2 with three shots on the power play while St. Louis was 0-for-4 with eight shots on goal.
Then, the controversy and you can stop me if you’ve heard this one already. At the 14:01 mark, Jesper Bratt had scored to seemingly give the Devils the 3-2 lead. The St. Louis bench took a look at it and (after a matter of time) decided to challenge, saying Marcus Johansson was offside as the play was crossing into the Blues’ zone. After a very lengthy look at things by linesmen Ryan Daisy and Matt MacPherson, the goal was waved off. The issue again stemmed from the Devils player being offside by a micro fraction of an inch, but either way another highlight reel goal (it was a nice goal) was taken off the board and the game was back to being tied.
And that was it for scoring in regulation. In overtime, the Devils had a fantastic chance to end the game when Hischier hit the post and Johansson was unable to stuff the rebound by Hutton. The Devils actually began celebrating, with some players coming off of the bench, but the referee on the ice made the correct call that no goal was scored.
So, to a shootout we went. This was a quick one as Brayden Schenn scored on his shot, Hall was stopped in the bottom of the first round, Tarasenko converted his chance and Palmieri was stopped to give the Blues the shootout win.
Andy Greene led all skaters in ice time by far with 26:32. He also led in blocked shots with six. Hischier, Palmieri and Blake Coleman tied for the shots lead with four each while Steven Santini led in hits with three.
So, the Devils lose the season series to St. Louis but keep pace with the Capitals in the Metropolitan Division. The Caps won in OT tonight, getting two points and the Devils one point keeps them only two back off the Metro Division pace.
Next up, the Devils’ road trip continues on Thursday as they head to Dallas to take on the Stars, also one of the top teams in the Central Division. The Devils will try to get back in the win column in that one, but they may have to overcome their opponents as well as the rulebook in order to get it.