Hall Named First Team All-Star

On the same night he was named NHL MVP, winning the Hart Memorial Trophy at the NHL Awards, Taylor Hall took home another honor.

He was named to the NHL’s first team All-Star squad. Hall was named the left wing on the team with 644 points (105 first place votes, 36 second place votes and 11 third place votes).

Hall joined Connor McDavid of the Oilers (center), Nikita Kucherov of the Lightning (right wing), Victor Hedman – Lightning (defense), Drew Doughty (Kings, defense) and Pekka Rinne (Predators – goalie) as the first All-Star team.

The second team consisted of Connor Hellebuyck (Jets – goalie), PK Subban (Predators – defense), Seth Jones (Blue Jackets – defense), Blake Wheeler (Jets – right wing), Nathan MacKinnon (Avalanche – center) and Claude Giroux (Flyers – left wing). Giroux finished behind Hall with 368 points (28 first place, 66 second place and 30 third place votes).

For Hall, this is his first selection to the first postseason All-Star team. There were a lot of first timers on these teams. MacKinnon made his first second team, as did Giroux, Wheeler and Hellebuyck. For McDavid, this is his second career first team, Kucherov made his first first team (he made a second team as well in his career). Hedman made his first first team (he made also made one second team as well). Doughty made his second first team (he also has two second team selections under his belt). Subban made his first second team and has made two first teams in the past. Jones made his first second team.

Congratulations to Taylor Hall and and all of the NHL’s postseason All-Stars.

Hall Has Hart: Taylor Hall Named NHL MVP

It was a great night for the New Jersey Devils at the 2018 NHL Awards at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.

First, Brian Boyle, after overcoming a form of leukemia he was diagnosed with in training camp, was named the winner of the Masterton Trophy for best exemplifying “the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.”

And while that would have made for a very successful night for New Jersey in and of itself, the main event was Taylor Hall being named the Hart Trophy winner as the NHL’s Most Valuable Player for 2017-18.

Hall had a tremendous year, of course, the 26-game point scoring streak, but his leadership was what was highlighted by most people who talked about the award. According to Ken Daneyko on the NHL Network’s NHL Tonight show, he also became a more well-rounded player.

An interesting note by ESPN Stats & Info was that Hall’s Hart win came without him finishing in the top four in NHL scoring (he finished sixth). The last time that happened was in 1991-92 when Mark Messier won while finishing tied for fifth in scoring. Bobby Clarke finished sixth when he won the award in 1974-75 and Gordie Howe won in 1959-60 when also tied for fifth in scoring.

Hall becomes the first Devil to win the Hart Trophy in franchise history while Boyle is the first Devils recipient of the Masterton since Daneyko in 2000.

Other award winners named tonight include Connor McDavid of the Oilers winning the Ted Lindsay Award as the most outstanding player voted on by the NHLPA. Hall was also in the running for this award, but former teammate McDavid, who had a great season on his own (and would have possibly challenged for the Hart had Edmonton made the postseason) won it instead.

Victor Hedman of the Lightning was named Norris Trophy winner as best defenseman. The King Clancy Trophy for leadership and humanitarian contribution went to a pair this year: the retiring Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin of the Canucks. The Sedin twins become the first co-winners of this award in NHL history.

Matthew Barzal of the Islanders won the Calder Trophy as NHL Rookie of the Year. According to Devils beat writer Amanda Stein, two Devils received votes for this trophy. Nico Hischier finished seventh in voting with 111 points (no first place votes, seven second place, six third place, six fourth place and 14 fifth place) and Will Butcher finished ninth with 37 points (no first place votes, one second, two third, five fourth and five fifth).

The hometown Vegas Golden Knights took home an amazing four awards, not surprising after their great maiden voyage of a season in 2017-18. William Karlsson was named the winner of the Lady Byng Trophy for most gentlemanly player, Gerard Gallant was Jack Adams Award winner for top coach, former Devils draft pick and longtime Las Vegas resident Deryk Engelland was given the Messier Leadership Award and George McPhee was named top General Manager.

Anze Kopitar, who came in third in the Hart Trophy voting did get some hardware. The Kings forward won the Selke Trophy as best defensive forward.

Pekka Rinne of the Predators took home his first Vezina Trophy as top goaltender in the NHL. Also at the show, Rinne’s teammate, PK Subban, was announced as the cover athlete for EA Sports’ NHL 19 video game.

And finally, a new award was given out, the Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award. The first recipient was Darcy Haugan, awarded posthumously. Mr. Haugan was the coach of the Humboldt Broncos, the Saskatchewan junior team that was involved in a tragic bus accident earlier this season while traveling to a playoff game. A nice fitting tribute to a team and community that the hockey world has rallied around all year.

The Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award will be presented to those who commit to “improving lives and strengthening communities through hockey.” Christina Haughan accepted the award on behalf of her late husband.

Overall, it was a successful night for the Devils and their fans. Congratulations to Brian Boyle, Taylor Hall and all of the other NHL award winners. We will have coverage here tomorrow of the NHL schedule release, as we will know just where the Devils’ itinerary will take them in 2018-19. On Friday and Saturday, we will also have coverage of the NHL Draft. The Devils pick 17th overall in the first round.

Three Devils Have Surgery

The Devils put out a press release today stating that three of their players – Taylor Hall, Patrick Maroon and Cory Schneider – underwent successful surgery for various ailments following the team’s elmimination from the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Taylor Hall had “surgery to repair torn ligaments in his left hand” on April 30. The sugery was done “by Dr. Robert Hotchkiss at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City.” According to the press release, Hall suffered the injury in late December and the Devils’ medical staff was able to keep him in game shape for the season. The release states that “(i)t was not the injury that kept him out of the All-Star Game in January.” It also says that he should be set to go for training camp come September.

Cory Schneider had his surgery “to repair torn cartilage in his left hip” last Thursday. Dr. Bryan Kelly, also of the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City, performed the successful surgery. The press release states that Cory’s “recovery time is approximately five months and Dr. Kelly expects him to make a ful recovery.” The release promises further “updates regarding his progress” throughout the summer on the Devils’ website.

Patrick Maroon had surgery on a herniated disc in his back on Wednesday. The surgery was successful and was performed by Dr. Andrew Sama at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. His outlook is the best, as “(h)e will be able to resume off-season training and preparation programs before the start of training camp.”

The press release notes that all of the players “will continue to be under the care and observation of the team’s medical and training staffs throughout the off-season recovery process.”

Both Schneider and Maroon’s injuries were pretty much known by Devils fans late in the season and going into the Playoffs. But if Hall’s injury was different from what kept him out of the All-Star Game and interrupted his scoring streak, then that just makes the season he had that much more amazing. The fact that he was playing through a hand injury and still performing at the high level he was speaks to the type of player he is and his skill level.

Good luck to all three on speedy recoveries and lets hope that they are good to go by training camp.

Hall Officially Named Hart Trophy Finalist

Well, it’s official.

To the surprise of very few, Taylor Hall has been named a finalist for the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s Most Valuable Player today.

Hall will be opposed by Nathan MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche and Anze Kopitar of the Los Angeles Kings at the NHL Awards show on June 20 in Las Vegas.

The official press release put out by the NHL on NHL.com stated that former number one overall draft picks have won the Hart the last two seasons (Patrick Kane of the Blackhawks in 2016 – who went first overall in 2007 and Connor McDavid last season – he went first overall to the Oilers in 2015). Hall and MacKinnon could continue this trend, as Hall was taken first overall by the Oilers in 2010 and MacKinnon first by the Avs in 2013.

One of Hall’s biggest assets going into the voting for this award will be the differential between him and his next closest teammate in points. He finished the year with 93 points which was a whopping 41 better than Nico Hischier’s 52. The press release noted that this was “the largest differential between a team’s top two scorers since 2007-08 (Alex Ovechkin/Nicklas Backstrom, Washington Capitals, 43 points).” For the record, Ovechkin won the Hart Trophy in 2007-08.

Also keep in mind that the Devils possibly do not make the post season without Hall putting them on his back the last few months of the season. If any player was most valuable to his team, it was Hall to New Jersey. You can make a good case for MacKinnon and, we shall see, Kopitar had a very strong year. But, watching the Devils day in and day out, I find it very hard to believe that there is anyone in the NHL who was a more valuable player to one team as Hall was to the Devils.

We covered Hall and MacKinnon’s credentials in yesterday’s post about the Ted Lindsay Award since both are also finalists for that trophy. Because of that, we will just kind of “scout” Anze Kopitar in this post.

Kopitar finished the year with 35 goals, 57 assists for 92 points, which was “tied with Pittsburgh Penguins forward Phil Kessel for seventh in the NHL.” The press release also notes that he was the first player LA Kings player since Wayne Gretzky (1993-94) to finish with more than 90 points. Gretzky had 130 that season. Gretzky is also the first and only Kings player to have won the Hart Trophy as league MVP – nabbing the honor in 1988-89.

Much like Hall and MacKinnon, Kopitar helped the Kings make a return to the playoffs after they missed last season. All three finalists played on teams that were elminated in the first round of the playoffs: the Devils by the Lightning, the Avalanche by the Predators and the Kings by the Golden Knights.

As Kopitar is also a finalist for the Selke Trophy as best defensive forward, a trophy that he won in 2016 last, he would join Bobby Clarke and Sergei Federov as the only players to win the Hart and Selke in their careers. Federov won the Hart in 1994 and the Selke in 1996 as a Red Wing while Clarke won the Hart in 1973, 1975 and 1976 and the Selke in 1983 all with the Flyers. Like the other two, he is a first-time finalist for this trophy.

Were MacKinnon to win, he would be the third Avalache player to win the honor, joining Joe Sakic (2001) and Peter Forsberg (2003).

Were Hall to win, he would be the first New Jersey Devil to take home this prestigious trophy.

Good luck to Taylor Hall and congratulations on this great honor for him.

Taylor Hall Named Finalist For Ted Lindsay Award

Taylor Hall’s personal best season continues to get better. Today he was named a finalist for the Ted Lindsay Award, given “to the most outstanding player in the NHL, as voted by fellow members of the NHLPA.”

He will be competing for the award with Nathan MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche and Connor McDavid, his former teammate on the Edmonton Oilers, for the award. The winner will be announced on June 20 at the 2018 NHL Awards show in Las Vegas.

The three finalists “received the most votes from their fellow players based on their 2017-18 campaigns” according to the press release put out by the NHLPA and NHL on NHL.com. McDavid won the award last season.

The press release listed each players credentials. Hall led the Devils in all major offensive categories, including goals (39 – good for ninth in the league overall) and points (93 – good for sixth in the league). According to the press release, he was tied for fourth in the NHL in multi point games with 27, fifth in power play points with 37 “and averaged the seventh-most points per game (1.22).” He did this all in 76 games played and helped lead the Devils to the playoffs for the first time since the 2011-12 season

The press release notes that Hall had “41 points more than his next-closest teammate” (Nico Hischier) and noted his consecutive point scoring streak, recording at least one “in 26 consecutive appearances (18-20-38) from Jan. 2 to March 8.”

Hall is “a first time finalist” for this award and would also be the first Devil to ever win it.

His opposition includes MacKinnon of the Avalanche, who led his team “with career highs in goals (39), assists (68) and points (97).” Much like Hall, MacKinnon helped lead his team to a playoff appearance for the first time in four seasons.

The press release noted that he also led the NHL in game winning goals with 12. He was second in points per game (1.31), which the NHL notes was only .01 behind McDavid. He also “shared the league-lead in multi-point games (27) and shared the league-lead in multi-point games (9).”

MacKinnon is also a first-time finalist and would be the first member of the Colorado Avalanche to win since Joe Sakic in 2000-01.

Connor McDavid is the reigning and defending champion, if you will, as he won last year’s Ted Lindsay Award. The Edmonton Oiler superstar played all 82 regular season games for the second consecutive year, but missed out on the postseason.

He led the NHL in points with 108, winning his second straight Art Ross Trophy as the league’s leading point scorer. He placed sixth in goals scored with 41, third in assists with 67 and first in points per game with a 1.32 average.

The release also notes that he “led the NHL in multi-point games (32), as well as even-strength goals (35), assists (49) and points (84) – finishing with 18 points more than the second-ranked player in the latter category.” He also finished fourth amongst all NHL forwards in time on ice per game (a 21:33 average).

McDavid is looking to become the first player to win back-to-back Ted Lindsay Awards since Sidney Crosby did it in 2012-13 and 2013-14. He is the third player in Edmonton franchise history to win this award (which was formerly known as the Lester B. Pearson Award). He joins Wayne Gretzky (who won the award every season from 1981-82 to 1984-85 and again in 1986-87) and Mark Messier (who won the award with Edmonton in 1989-90 and then again in 1991-92 as a member of the Rangers) as Oilers who won it. According to the press release, McDavid is aiming to become the first player to win the award twice before the age of 22.

Good luck to Taylor Hall and congratulations on this wonderful honor.

Round One, Game Three: Now We Have a Series! Devils Defeat Lightning 5-2

Cory Schneider was back in net for the Devils. He turned aside 34 of 36 Tampa Bay Lightning shots. Photo: Ed Mulholland/USA TODAY Sports

Playoff hockey is back, ladies and gentlemen! In the Devils’ first playoff game at The Rock since June 9, 2012 (game five of the Stanley Cup Final versus the Kings), they scraped and clawed back into the series with a 5-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Devils were back in New Jersey with a new look to their lineup. For one thing, Marcus Johansson was in, playing in his first game since the January 23 game at Boston when Brad Marchand cheap-shotted him as he was cutting to the net. That hit cost him the rest of the regular season and two playoff games, but number 90 was in the lineup tonight. He was playing in his first playoff game with the Devils, his first since he was with Washington last season. Johansson played on a line with Pavel Zacha and Patrick Maroon.

Joining him as changes to the lineup were Drew Stafford (playing on a line with Miles Wood and Brian Boyle), slotting back in up front as the Devils went back to 12 forwards and six defensemen, and Cory Schnedier. Cory was starting his first playoff game as a New Jersey Devil. We know all about the drought – he had not won a game since December 27, 2017 versus Detroit – and that this was his first playoff start since a May 7, 2013 loss to San Jose as a Vancouver Canuck.

But he played a fantastic game tonight. He would nearly have to leave the game just before the Devils took the lead later in the third period after he stretched his leg out to make a save and then had a Tampa player bump into his outstretched left leg. With his history of hip and groin injuries, the Prudential Center held its collective breath. But he would fight through the pain and continue on. He ended up making 34 saves on 36 Tampa shots.

Going for Tampa was Andrei Vasilevskiy again. He stopped 36 of 39 Devils shots. The Devils added two empty net goals and so finished the game with 41 total shots on goal.

The Devils had a crowded press box with newly-signed Joey Anderson, Christoph Bertschy, Jesper Bratt, Brian Gibbons, Michael Grabner, Jimmy Hayes, Michael Kapla, Eddie Lack, Nick Lappin, Michael McLeod, Mirco Mueller, Blake Pietila, Kevin Rooney, Steven Santini and Brian Strait all scratched. Binghamton did not qualify for the AHL Calder Cup Playoffs, for what it’s worth.

The game was tight through the first period, with no score going into the first intermission. What we did have was a penalty to the Devils’ Andy Greene that was called slashing officially, but what looked more like a cross check to Yanni Gourde at 19:44. In any case, the Lightning would have the majority of their power play time on fresh ice in the second period.

Their lethal power play wasted no time, scoring 42 seconds into the second frame when Alex Killorn was all alone in the slot, took a pass from Nikita Kucherov and scored his fourth of the series. Steven Stamkos had the secondary assist. The penalty kill continued to be a point of contention for the Devils, as Tampa was 2-for-5 with eight shots on goal on the man advantage. The Devils went 1-for-7 with 13 shots on net. In a game when the Devils knew they had to stay out of the penalty box, it was Tampa who still capitalized when they did get chances.

The Lightning had the 1-0 lead, but the Devils tied things up at the 12:24 mark of the second when who else, but Taylor Hall notched one unassisted. Hall skated the puck low to high and dished to Kyle Palmieri. Palmieri fired on net and the rebound came to Hall in the slot. He unleashed a shot and found the back of the net to tie things up at one. Initially, Boyle and Palmieri were given assists on the goal but the scoring was changed and it was called unassisted at 12:24.

Either way, it was great for Hall, who hit the crossbar on a partial breakaway late in the first period after beating Vasilevskiy cleanly. Bryce Salavdor of MSG joked that there was a dent in the crossbar due to how hard Hall had shot the puck there. Also, a Devils goal had been waved off midway through the second period when Blake Coleman’s shot crossed the goal line after the Tampa net came off of its moorings. Toronto reviewed the shorthanded chance, but the call on the ice stood: no goal.

Prudential Center errupted following Hall’s goal, but things were about to get a whole lot better.

But first, Tampa would take another lead. This came when Stamkos notched his first of the playoffs just 38 seconds into the third period from Kucherov and Killorn on the power play. Cory got a piece of the shot, but could not hold on to it. It was 2-1 Tampa.

Once again, the Devils had taken a penalty late in a period and paid for it early in the next. It was 2-1 Lightning, but things were about to turn up for the Devils.

It began with Will Butcher on the power play. It began at the 2:39 mark of the third when Tampa’s Cedric Paquette went off for tripping Butcher. Then, at 3:39, the Lightning took a bench minor for too many men on the ice. The Devils had about a minute or so of 5-on-3 power play time. And Butcher responded. At the 4:03 mark, he would score from Hall and Palmieri to tie things up at two.

Palmieri guided the puck back to Butcher at the point. Butcher gave to Hall at the near half wall. He gave back to Butcher, teeing him up to snipe one top shelf by Vasilevskiy. The game was now 2-2 as the Devils scored on the power play. They would not convert on the ensuing 5-on-4, but the damage was done.

And the Devils were not done. New Jersey took a 3-2 lead when Stefan Noesen scored his first of the playoffs at 12:55 from Hall and Greene. It started with Greene giving to Hall in the Devils’ zone following a delayed offside on Tampa Bay. Hall then weaved his way up ice and, once he broke into the Lightning zone, fed Noesen, who fired a one-timer by Vasilevskiy to give the Devils their first lead of the series.

Hall said during the post game that he knew Noesen had a great shot and was just looking to set him up.

Tampa would pull Vasilevskiy wtih about 1:20 left int the game and the Devils would pot two empty netters. The first came at 19:02 when Coleman scored shorthanded and unassisted to make it 4-2 (the Devils were in the middle of a huge kill and Tampa had a 6-on-4 advantage with the goaltender pulled). Ben Lovejoy then scored unassisted at 20 seconds later to make it 5-2, your final.

The game ended with Tampa on the power play as things got a bit chippy late. Tempers began to flare when Nico Hischier was speared by Victor Hedman in the groin and no call was made. This followed Coleman receiving a high hit from Mikhail Sergachev that was called. This was after the Noesen goal and the bad feelings contiued to the final whistle. In the end, Paquette (Tampa), Boyle (New Jersey), Chris Kunitz (Tampa), John Moore (New Jersey), Braydon Coburn (Tampa), Drew Stafford (New Jersey), Cory Conacher (Tampa), Damon Severson (New Jersey), Mikhail Sergachev (Tampa) and Miles Wood (New Jersey) were all assessed misconduct penalties at 19:37. The Devils’ Boyle also was called for holding, which is why the Lightning ended the game on the PP.

But that was enough. The Devils came away with the 5-2 victory and cut the series lead to 2-1 in favor of Tampa. For what it’s worth, the last time the Devils came back from a 2-0 series deficit was 1994 against the Boston Bruins in the second round.

In the end, Travis Zajac led all Devils skaters in ice time with 24:23 (7:48 of power play time and 5:02 on the PK). Sami Vatanen led all d-men in TOI with 22:42 total. Hall and Coleman tied in shots on goal with six, Coleman also led in hits with five. Zacha had two blocked shots to lead the Devils in that category and takeaways were led by Coleman with two. Coleman really imprinted himself on this game and made his mark.

Team-wise, the Devils out shot Tampa 41-36, won 55-percent of the game’s faceoffs, were out hit 34-33 and had one more blocked shot, 9-8. The three stars of the game were: Taylor Hall (first), Cory Schneider (second) and Stefan Noesen (third).

Next up, Wednesday and game four at The Rock. The Devils will look to pull even in that one and make this into a full-on series.

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Round One, Game One: Devils Fall to Lightning 5-2

Taylor Hall had a goal and an assist in his Stanley Cup Playoff debut. The Devils fell, 5-2. Photo: Ron Chenoy/USA TODAY Sports

For the Devils players without much, or any, playoff experience, it was trial by fire. They jumped in the deep end and were off having to perform on a stage they might not have been used to. New Jersey fell in game one 5-2 to the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena tonight.

It was playoff veterans versus playoff newbies, that was for sure – MSG+ showed a stat pregame which showed that the combined playoff games played by Tampa was 1,152 while the Devils’ players combined for just 561. Players like Taylor Hall, Keith Kinkaid, Pavel Zacha, Blake Coleman, Nico Hischier, Will Butcher and others were playing in playoff game number one.

But the Devils do have plenty of veteran leadership: Travis Zajac and Andy Greene are the lone holdovers from the Devils’ last playoff game (played on June 11, 2012 – game six of the Stanley Cup Final – a 6-1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings). Brian Boyle certainly has played a lot of playoff hockey in recent years, as have Sami Vatanen and Ben Lovejoy (who has a Stanley Cup ring from his time in Pittsburgh).

What I am trying to say is that there are plenty of guys on this team that have the experience to help this team advance.

That being said, there is always pressure in game one – as there is all throughout the playoffs – and a lot of nervousness and anticipation.

The Devils just got hit early and often by Tampa and were not able to come back from it. Once they settle down, things should be better.

The good news: Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov, the Bolts’ big guns, were largely held at bay and Taylor Hall wasted no time in getting his name on a playoff scoresheet. The bad news: Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson and Yanni Gourde were all over that same scoresheet for the Lightning.

The Devils and Lightning have met twice before in the playoffs in 2003 and 2007 with New Jersey winning both matchups. Both teams are part of a huge turnover in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, as both missed last year and are back in in 2018.

Scratched for the Devils were Jesper Bratt, Jimmy Hayes, Marcus Johansson, Eddie Lack and Steven Santini (both called up from Binghamton for the playoffs), Damon Severson and Drew Stafford.

In nets, Keith Kinkaid was in for the Devils, making 27 saves on 31 Tampa shots. He became the first Devils goalie not named Martin Brodeur to start a playoff game in 24 years. I am going to go ahead and guess it was Chris Terrreri who made that last start in 1994.

For the Bolts, Andrei Vasilevskiy went and made 29 saves on 31 Devils shots.

Kinkaid was on point very early, stopping Gourde and causing him to lose the handle on a sure goal into a wide open net early in the game. But he could only do so much. At the 15 minute mark of the first, Palat scored, taking a pass from Tyler Johnson as he was cutting through the slot and chipping the puck up and over Kinkaid’s shoulder to give the Lightning a 1-0 lead. Ryan McDonagh had the secondary assist.

The Devils would not get out of the period down only 1-0, though. with just 29 seconds remaining in the first, Tyler Johnson took a pass as he was skating into the slot from Palat. He fired up over Kinkaid’s glove to make it 2-0. Bryce Salvador of MSG+ pointed out that this goal resulted in the Lightning winning the board battles and gaining the puck. Brayden Point had the secondary assist on that goal.

A goal late in a period is a momentum killer, but so is one early in a period. The Bolts obliged there too. Just 1:54 into the second period, Palat kicked a puck across the front of the Devils’ net to Gourde, who took the pass and buried it. Palat was having his stick lifted by Mirco Mueller which facilitated him having to kick to puck to Gourde. Mikhail Sergachev had the secondary assist there. That one came on the power play when Miles Wood was called for slashing Dan Girardi.

But Taylor Hall has not come this far to not be a factor. He scored the Devils’ first goal of the game, unassisted at 13:55 of the second period. Hall intercepted a pass from Tampa’s Palat – he was trying to hit Johnson in front of the Lightning net – and fired it by Vasilevskiy’s stick side. The Devils were on the board 3-1 and Hall had his first NHL playoff goal.

The Devils would take some degree of control at the end of the second, pushing into the third when Travis Zajac scored from Hall and Butcher at the 9:35 mark. This one came on the power play and was set up when JT Miller went off for slashing Mueller. Kyle Palmieri sealed off his man along the far boards and gave the puck to Butcher at the point. He passed to Hall down low at the near faceoff dot. Hall saw Zajac right on the doorstep and passed. Zajac simply chipped the puck in to cut the Tampa lead to one.

The goal that made it 3-2 was Zajac’s eleventh career playoff goal and his first since game five of the 2012 Eastern Conference Final against the Rangers. Hall also now had two points on the night.

Overall on the night, the Devils were 1-for-2 on the power play against a Tampa PK that was ranked 28th in the NHL during the regular season. They had seven power play shots on goal. Tampa was 1-for-1 with four shots on goal during the man advantage.

The Devils’ momentum, however, was short-lived. At the 12:14 mark, Tampa broke through as Alex Killorn scored as the trailer on a 3-on-2 for the Lightning. It started with a blocked shot and a turnover and Tampa was off to the races. He shot upstairs on Kinkaid and made it 4-2. Gourde had the lone assist.

The Devils would pull Kinkaid with about 2:30 remaining in the game – and nearly scored on their own net. Tampa would add an empty net goal as Kucherov scored unassisted into the open cage at 18:48.

There was some pushing and shoving following the final horn, as both teams were trying to set the tone for game two. It was the Lightning who came out of the game with the early 1-0 series lead, however.

Statistically, Vatanen led the team with 26:32 of ice time (including 37 seconds on the power play), Hall led in shots on goal with five, Palmieri led in hits with seven, Greene, Butcher, Mueller and Vatanen all had two blocks to set the tone there and Hischier, Zajac, Stefan Noesen and Zacha each had a takeaway to lead in that stat.

Team-wise, shots on goal were pretty even: Tampa had the slight edge 32-31 (due to their empty netter). The Devils won 48-percent of the game’s faceoffs. The Devils also had more hits than the Bolts, 36-35 and more blocked shots, 16-15.

Next up, game two comes on Saturday from Amalie Arena. That game will be on NBC nationally. We will have you covered here as well.

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Hall, Butcher With Big NIghts as Devils Down Rangers

Will Butcher had two goals versus the Rangers tonight. His first NHL multi goal game. He was named the game’s second star of the night. Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The push to the playoffs is coming down to the wire and the Devils are looking better and better with each passing game. Tonight they defeated their cross-river rivals 5-2 to move their magic number to clinch to just two. They would not clinch tonight, as Florida beat Nashville 2-1 in regulation to keep their hopes alive, but they did leapfrog the Flyers as Philly lost to the Islanders 5-4 in Brooklyn. They did not leap over the Blue Jackets either, as they beat the Red Wings in OT 5-4 in Ohio.

This was the second to last home game of the year for the Devils, they do have Toronto at home on Thursday, but this one was a big one against a rival with so much at stake for New Jersey.

Some roster moves first. The Devils scratched Jesper Bratt tonight with Brian Gibbons slotting back in at forward. Jimmy Hayes, Marcus Johansson and Drew Stafford were also out with Damon Severson scratched on defense.

The D would remain the same with Severson out and Lovejoy in. The lines were shaken up a little bit with Taylor Hall, Nico Hischier and Kyle Palmieri were the top line combination and Pavel Zacha, Michael Grabner and Patrick Maroon rounding out the top six.

The goaltending matchup saw Keith Kinkaid, who tonight became the winningest goalie in the NHL since February 15 go against Rangers veteran Henrik Lundqvist. It was a relatively light night for Kinkaid, as he stopped 22 of 24 Ranger shots. Lundqvist, however, was under siege most of the night. He made 39 saves on 44 Devils shots.

This is uncharted territory for Lundqvist, who is playing meaningless hockey for the first time in his career. The Rangers are set to miss the playoffs for only the second time since 2005-06 and Lundqvist was on the team in 2010 that missed on the final game of the season – a shootout loss in Philly.

The Devils got the most from their power play tonight too. They went an amazing 3-for-4, scoring on four power play shots. The Rangers went 0-for-2 with a single shot with the man advantage.

The Devils had won three of four games against the Blueshirts this year and were gunning for the fourth of five. They would not waste time in getting there.

Just 25 seconds into the game, Travos Zajac scored from Blake Coleman to make it 1-0. The Devils broke into the New York zone on a 2-on-1. Zajac dropped to Coleman, who was trailing as the Ranger backchecker was getting back quickly. Coleman got a shot off as he was falling to the ice. Lundqvist made a good save to stop him, but Zajac was right there to tap in the rebound as Lundqvist had come way too far out of his crease.

The Devils had their foot on the gas and they would not let up. The Rangers were given a too many men on the ice bench minor at 3:14 of the first and the Devils were on their first power play of the night. Taylor Hall would take it from there. Will Butcher, at the point, passed to Kyle Palmieri down low. He one-touched to Maroon at the doorstep. Lunqvist made the save there, but the rebound jumped out to Hall stationed at the far faceoff dot. He shot and beat Lundqvist to make it 2-0. The goal came at 3:41 of the first and was scored unassisted, but I believe that at least Butcher was given an assist later, as I think he would end the night with a goal and two assists. Although Palmieri and Maroon would make more sense as the two assists.

The Devils would make it 3-0 at 10:40 of the first. That one came on the power play also as John Gilmour was called for delay of game for shooting the puck over the glass. Butcher scored from Palmieri and Hall to convert there. Hall weaved in the far corner to alieviate pressure before finding Palmieri at the far point. He faked a shot and went point-to-point with Butcher, who ripped a one-timer towards goal that beat Lundqvist for the Devils’ third goal of the young contest.

The Rangers would push play a little bit towards the end of the first, finally breaking through when Ryan Spooner scored from Jimmy Vesey and Filip Chytil at 17:47 to make it 3-1.

The second period would belong to New Jersey, however. Butcher scored again on the power play at 6:53 of the second from Hall and Zajac while New York’s Ryan Sproul was off for high sticking. Hall skated down the left wing and dropped for Butcher at the near point. He unleashed one, beating Lundqvist again to make it 4-1 Devils. This was Butcher’s first career NHL multi-point game and pushed him past Slava Fetisov for most points by a Devils’ defenseman in their rookie season with 44.

A scary moment while the Devils were killing off a penalty midway through the second period. A Pavel Buchnevich one-time shot hit Kinkaid square in the mask and knocked it off. He would get his backup mask and continue on.

At the 15:45 mark of the second, Taylor Hall was hauled down on a breakaway by Rangers d-man Brady Skjei. The referee’s arm went up and fans did not know if it was a tripping minor or a penalty shot. It was a penalty shot to be taken by Hall. He skated in and went high over Lundqvist’s glove, converting and making it 5-1 Devils. With that goal, Hall moved past Anze Kopitar of the Kings and into a top six spot in the NHL scoring race. He would hear chants of “M-V-P” from then until he came out for his TV interview after being named the game’s first star.

Midway through the third, Brian Boyle and Vesey would drop the gloves but would not fight. Linesman Tony Sericolo jumped in and the two were only assessed matching roughing minors instead.

New York would score one more at 14:26 of the third when Kevin Hayes took a giveaway in front of the Devils net and scored unassisted to make it 5-2. But the Devils had this one in hand with a 5-2 victory.

Statistically, John Moore led the Devils in ice time with 21:23 (including 1:17 on the power play and 52 seconds on the PK) just edging out Sami Vatanen, who had 21:06 of TOI. On a night when every Devil registered a shot on goal except for Andy Greene, Hall and Lovejoy tied for the lead with five each. Stefan Noesen and Moore both had two hits to lead in that category, Lovejoy had two blocked shots and Zajac had three takeaways to lead there.

Team-wise, the Devils won 58-percent of the game’s faceoffs, outshot New York an impressive 44-24. They were out hit 23-8 and the Rangers had more blocks, 12 to 9.

Next up, the Devils take on the Toronto Maple Leafs at home. Again, the magic number is two – either two points gained by the Devils or lost by the Panthers will get them in. Florida also plays on Thursday, at home agaisnt the Bruins. Hopefully everything will shake down in the Devils favor and we can begin to talk about potential first round matchups.

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Hall Strikes With Late Shorthanded Goal, Devils Win in Montreal

Nico Hischier and Taylor Hall acted as the Devils’ one-two punch in their 2-1 victory in Montreal. Photo: The Canadian Press (downloaded from TSN.ca)

The Devils are inching closer and closer to that elusive playoff spot. Tonight, they came away with a close one in Montreal, defeating the Canadiens 2-1 on a late Taylor Hall shorthanded goal.

The Devils now stand with four as the magic number: any combination of four points lost by the Florida Panthers (who were idle toinght) or won by the Devils will get them in. Florida does have two games in hand, but they come against teams like Nashville and Boston as well as Buffalo and Carolina. Not easy sledding for them, or for the Devils for that matter. The Devils just need to put their head down and go about their business and things will fall into place.

But first, tonight’s game. Some injury news to begin: Kyle Palmieri, who was clipped by an errant Andy Greene stick last night and was cut. The Devils wanted to take all precautions with him so he did not travel with the team to Montreal, however he was flown in once he was cleared and good to go. He wanted to play and was eager to be in the lineup. Also, some other good news as Marcus Johansson was cleared to play and taken off of injured reserve today. He was a healthy scratch for this game, along with Jimmy Hayes, Drew Stafford, Brian Gibbons and Damon Severson, as the coaching staff want to make sure he’s just right to get in. He did travel with the team to Montreal.

With Gibbons out, Jesper Bratt slotted back in at forward and with Severson out, Ben Lovejoy was back in on the blue line. Palmieri played on a line with Pavel Zacha and Michael Grabner while Patrick Maroon moved up to the top line with Nico Hischier and Hall.

In net, Keith Kinkaid made his third back-to-back start in as many weeks. He made 25 saves on 26 shots and was again brilliant at times. Opposing him was Carey Price, who tied Jacques Plante on the Canadiens’ all-time games-played list with 556. He was also fantastic for them, stopping 30 of 32 shots.

Special teams played a huge role in this one, as the referees certainly did not put the whistles away. The Devils ended the night 0-for-5 on the man advantage, with 11 power play shots. They also scored on their only shorthanded shot of the night, which we will get into in more detail later. Montreal was 1-for-4 on the power play with nine shots.

The Habs are on pace to finish with the fewest points by a Montreal team since the NHL went to an 82 game schedule in 1995-96. The Devils pushed the pace for most of the game, but things looked bad early on as Montreal got on the board first. It was the power play goal, scored at 19:51 of the first when Kinkaid drew a tripping penalty. Travis Zajac and Grabner were on a shorthanded 2-on-1 and Grabner’s pass was blocked, allowing Montreal to take the puck up the other way. Daniel Carr buried one from Arturi Lehkonen and Mike Reilly then.

But the Devils used their coach’s challenge, claiming offsides. The review was inconclusive to the linesmen who watched the replay, and, thus the call on the ice stood. It was a good goal and New Jersey was assessed a delay of game penalty. This was the first time coach John Hynes had tried to challenge for offsides against an opponent, but the Devils were right back on the penalty kill. Plus, they were down 1-0, the first time this season the Devils had trailed the Habs in regulatioin according to Deb Placey of MSG+.

The Devils had their chances to break through, but it was not until the third period that things would begin to click for them.

First, they tied things up 26 seconds into the third stanza. Nico Hischier scored from Sami Vatanen and Kyle Palmieri to even things up at one. Hall won a board battle in the far corner, pushing it towards Palmieri, who quickly wound it around the boards to Vatanen at the near point. He fired a quick one and Hischier, who was camped out in the slot, was able to get a stick on it and redirect it by Price.

The game was knotted up and for the next few minutes, it became the Nico Hischier show. He began by coming in on a breakaway midway through the third. Price stopped him as Nico elected to shoot instead of deking. A few minutes later, Nico would clang one off of the iron on another glorious chance.

But the game winner was set up by a penalty, or rather two penalties. Not to the Canadiens, but to the Devils. At the 13:45 mark of the third, the Devils were given a bench minor for too many men on the ice. That would be served by Hall (which would turn out to be a brilliant move on Hynes’ part). A little over a minute later, at 14:53, Lovejoy was called for cross checking Brendan Gallagher on a play in front of Keith Kinkaid’s net.

The Habs would have 52 seconds of 5-on-3 power play time and it looked like the game hung in the balance. The Devils would kill off the too many men penalty with Zajac blocking one final 5-on-3 shot by Montreal. He calmly gathered the puck and saw Hall coming out of the box. He saucered a pass directly to him, springing Hall for a breakaway. All alone in on Price, Hall beat him stick side to put the Devils up 2-1.

It was a well-timed play by both Zajac and Hall, and a nice one. Credit to the Devils’ PK unit for keeping the puck out of their own net. It was also a smart move by Hynes. Having a choice of who to put in the box for the bench minor allowed him to get his best offensive player, who does not generally kill penalties anyway, a jump start to come out of the box on a break. Zajac timed the block and pass so well and Hall was there to finish.

The goal came at 15:53 of the third with the only assist to Zajac. It was shorthanded, so the Devils still had the Lovejoy penalty to kill off, which they would.

With that shorty, the Devils notched their 12th shorthanded goal of the season, taking over the lead in the NHL.

Price would be pulled with about a minute left in the game, while Montreal was killing off a Nicolas Deslauriers slashing penalty, but were unable to tie things up. The Devils came away with points 92 and 93, putting them one behind the Flyers for the first wild card spot and seven ahead of the Panthers.

Statistically, the Devils won 47-percent of the game’s faceoffs and out shot Montreal 32-26. They were out hit 40-18 by the Habs, but the Devils had more blocked shots with 17 to Montreal’s 15.

Greene led the Devils in ice time with 23:15 (inlcuding 45 seconds of power play time and 4:50 on the PK). He narrowly edged Vatanen, who had 23:06 of ice time. Vatanen did lead in shots on goal with seven, while Stefan Noesen and Zacha led in hits with three each. Greene and Mirco Mueller led the team in blocked shots with three apiece while Grabner, Lovejoy and Vatanen each had one takeaway.

So, next up, the Devils take on their rivals, the Rangers, Tuesday. While the Rangers are long out of the playoff race – having been eliminated the night the Devils beat the Hurricanes at home – you can bet that New York will be looking to play spoiler against the Devils. This will not be an easy one, but if the Devils come away with the two points, it will be very much worth it.

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Devils Down Isles to Pad Playoff Position

Taylor Hall was one of four Devils with a multi-point game versus the Islanders. He had two goals. Photo: Andy Marlin/NHLI via Getty Images

It has been almost a cliche this season to say how the Devils were not picked to be here and that they have defied expectations. But when you really look at how things are going and have gone for this team this season, it truly has been amazing.

The Devils defeated the New York Islanders tonight at Prudential Center 4-3. With the Florida Panthers falling earlier in the day to the Boston Bruins, that means that there is five points separating the two teams. The Panthers remain the only threat to the Devils and the magic number is now six. Any combination of six points gained by the Devils or lost by the Panthers will see New Jersey clinch a playoff spot for the first time since 2011-12.

We will get to the game in due time, but first, the Devils paid tribute to a longtime treasure of metro area hockey coverage both in print and television. Stan Fischler announced his retirement to come at the end of the season and the Devils paid tribute to him tonight. Former TV colleagues Mike “Doc” Emrick and Chico Resch were on the MSG+ pregame show along with Deb Placey to reminisce about Stan’s 60 years of covering hockey in the New York area.

There was even a retrospective on the Matt and the Maven segment that he and Matt Loughlin used to do on Devils’ broadcasts which featured the immortal Chuck the Duck. There was also a special presentation on the big board made to Stan in-game and he spent some time on the broadcast with Ken Daneyko and Steve Cangialosi. Good luck to the Maven in retirement and thank you for the tireless work you did for hockey in the New York metro area.

Today was also Stan’s birthday, so happy 86th birthday to him!

Now on to the game details. First, on the injury front. Marcus Johansson has been cleared for contact. He has not been cleared to play yet, but has been cleared for contact.

Roster-wise, nothing much changed from the OT loss to Pittsburgh. Jesper Bratt, Jimmy Hayes, Ben Lovejoy and Drew Stafford were the scratches.

In goal, Keith Kinkaid made the start again, making 27 stops on 30 Islander shots. Coach John Hynes has not announced a starter for the game in Montreal tomorrow (tonight was the start of the Devils’ final back-to-back of the season), but you would have to assume that Cory Schneider gets some work and Kinkaid gets a little bit of a rest going into the playoffs, should the team get there.

For the Islanders, Thomas Greiss made just his fourth start since January 14. He made 31 saves on 35 Devils shots.

Things looked bad for the Devils just 1:15 in as the Isles got on the board first. Tanner Fritz scored then from Brandon Davidson and John Tavares to give New York the 1-0 lead early. The bad news was that Kinkaid had let in a goal within the first two minutes of a game again. The good news is that when that happened, the Devils were 8-3 coming into tonight. They would be 9-3 before the end of the night.

It started at the 7:54 mark when Stefan Noesen scored from Blake Coleman and Will Butcher. Coleman sealed off an Islander behind the New York net. He took the puck to the front of the net and slid it to Noesen who was cutting towards the net. Noesen stuffed it in to make it 1-1. Things were beginning to turn. Noesen was playing in his 100th game as a New Jersey Devil tonight so congratulations to him.

Also, with the assist, Butcher took over the franchise record for assists in a season by a rookie defenseman with 38. He passed Barry Beck, who set the previous record of 37 when the team was in Colorado.

Kinkaid was shaken up by a high shot by Anthony Beauvillier to the collarbone late in the first period, but would shake it off. The Devils would lose Travis Zajac briefly late in the second, but he would return. Also, Kyle Palmieri took an errant Andy Greene stick to the face just below his right eye in the middle of the third period. He would not return and Hynes had no update on his condition in his post game presser.

The second period was a busy one for both teams. It began with Taylor Hall scoring on the power play from Butcher and Palmieri just 41 seconds into the second. Anders Lee was called for tripping at 19:11 of the first, giving the Devils 1:12 of power play time on fresh ice in the second period. Hall worked it to Butcher at the near point. Butcher gave it back to Hall along the half wall and Hall found room, then fired a pass towards a cutting Palmieri. The puck took a fortunate bounce off of the New York D-man’s skate and past Greiss. It was 2-1 Devils. Hall now has points in seven straight games.

And his magic was not done. He scored again at the 9:08 mark of the second from Noesen to make it 3-1 Devils. Noesen jarred the puck loose to Hall in the Devils zone. He then took it all the way up ice, using his speed to push the Islander defense back on their heels. Once he had gained the New York blue line, he fired from the hashmarks inside the slot, beating Greiss glove side. It was a beautiful play, as Hall winded his way up ice and just sliced through the New York defense.

The Devils now had a two goal lead, but the Isles would just not go away. At 11:22, Patrick Maroon was called for tripping and the Islanders were on the power play. Beauvillier scored when his shot was tipped by the Devils’ Brian Gibbons in front and beat Kinkaid up high. Mathew Barzal and Brock Nelson had the assists on that one.

Overall, on the power play for the night, both teams were an exact 1-for-2 with three shots.

The difference for the Devils was when Damon Severson went off for holding at 18:27. Things seemed to be going in the Isles’ favor and the momentum was shifting. But, at 18:58, Blake Coleman would score shorthanded from Mirco Mueller and Michael Grabner to make it 4-2 Devils. Mueller skated the puck out of trouble into the New York zone on a 2-on-1 with Coleman. He drew the defender towards him and then passed to Coleman, who roofed a wrister by Greiss stick side to double the Devils’ lead.

The Islanders would end the second period with 27 seconds still left on that power play and nearly gave up another shorty early in the third. Grabner skated in all alone on a breakaway, but was stopped by Greiss, who was single-handedly keeping the Islanders in the game.

The Devils would spend most of the third period in the Isles’ zone with great offensive zone pressure. They were killing the clock, but could just not solve Greiss. That would come back to bite them when, at 16:21. Chris Wagner redirected a Johnny Boychuk shot by Kinkaid to cut the Devils’ lead to 4-3. Nick Leddy had the secondary assist.

We were in for a wild finish. Greiss went to the bench with about 1:30 left in the game for the extra skater. The Devils endured about three key faceoffs deep in their zone, but were finally able to get the puck out after Noesen had a timely blocked shot.

It was a nailbiter, but the Devils got the W, with Keith Kinkaid notching his 23rd win of the season.

Stats-wise, the Devils outshot the Isles 35 to 30, won 43-percent of the game’s faceoffs, out hit the Islanders 31 to 13 and doubled them up in blocked shots with 12 to New York’s six.

Sami Vatanen once again led in time on ice by a wide margin with 27:15 – including 27 seconds on the power play and 2:18 on the PK. Hall led in shots on goal with six, Coleman led in hits with five, blocks were led by Coleman, Gibbons, Grabner, Mueller and Vatanen with two each and Hall led in takeaways with three.

In the end, four Devils had multi-point nights: Hall with two goals (although he could have had at least two more, it seemed – he was that in control of the game), Coleman with a goal and an assist, Noesen with a goal and an assist and Butcher with two assists. Hall was named the game’s first star, Butcher the second and Noesen the third.

Next up, the Devils travel up to Montreal to take on the Habs in the back end of their final back-to-back of the season tomorrow. Florida has a back-to-back beginning Monday when they take on the Hurricanes. We will have you covered here tomorrow as the Devils take on the Montreal Canadiens.

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