Devils to Host “Devils Down the Shore”

The Devils are going down the Shore for Labor Day weekend.

This year the Devils will host “Devils Down the Shore” at two bars at the Jersey Shore. The two bars will be The Anchor’s Bend in Asbury Park and Jenks Inlet Bar in Point Pleasant Beach. The event is free of charge at both bars.

The Devils’ website promises “a fun day of prizes, games, giveaways, and Devils player and alumni appearances.” Grant Marshall is scheduled to appear at The Anchor’s Bend while Travis Zajac, Will Butcher, Ken Daneyko and Marshall will be appearing at Jenks Inlet Bar.

Be advised that the Asbury Park event is 21+ according to the Devils’ site.

At the Devils’ website you can also enter a contest for a chance “to win access to free food & beverage, and a private meet and greet at each bar.”

This event will be replacing the “Devils Beach Bash” which was reportedly getting too expensive with not enough people coming out for the team to justify keeping it.

So, if you are a Devils fan and find yourself near Asbury or Point Pleasant Beach this Labor Day weekend, come out and enjoy some food, drinks and Devils-related events.

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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Devils Dominate Golden Knights in Sin City

The Devils made their very first trip to the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas a productive one. They defeated the Vegas Golden Knights 8-3, paying back a one-goal loss last week in New Jersey where the Devils were just not able to muster one last one past Marc-Andre Fleury.

This loss marked just the eighth regulation loss at home for the first-year Golden Knights, who have had a dream season for an expansion team. This also marked the worst home loss the Knights have had this year.

The big question coming into last night’s game was how the Devils’ three off days in Vegas would affect them. To a man, the players said that they were “on their best behavior” and, while they enjoyed their time in the city, knew they were on a “business trip.”

Some roster business to get to as Travis Zajac, who had injured his back against Winnipeg last week, made the trip west with the team and played tonight. With him in, Jesper Bratt was a healthy scratch up front. Kyle Palmieri slotted into the top line with Nico Hischier and Taylor Hall as a result. Pavel Zacha remains out with an upper body injury, as he could join the team later in the trip according to the team and Steve Cangialosi of MSG. Jimmy Hayes and Mirco Mueller were the other two out of the lineup.

Vegas was without James Neal and Reilly Smith, two big producers who would be missed for the Golden Knights.

Keith Kinkaid got the nod in goal for the Devils, as his performance in Nashville was too good and coach John Hynes wanted to continue with the hot hand. He made 39 stops on 42 shots against. The Golden Knights started Fleury again, who recently became the fastest goalie to 400 wins in his NHL career. He made seven saves on 11 shots, being chased after the fourth Devils goal in favor of Maxime Lagace. Lagace made 13 saves on 17 shots. The Devils finished the night with a total of 28 shots, being outshot in the victory.

There were a few hundred Devils fans who made the trip to Vegas to see their team take on the Pacific Division leaders, according to Deb Placey and Ken Daneyko of MSG. They were ready, so let’s get to it.

Blake Coleman scored twice and was named the game’s first star of the night as the Devils won 8-3 in Vegas. Photo: Andy Martin/Getty Images

The Devils broke the seal on the game with a shorthanded goal. It was their ninth shorty of the year and, of course, involved Brian Gibbons and Blake Coleman. The Devils’ Damon Severson was serving a tripping penalty and, off of a faceoff in the Devils’ zone, which Vegas won, the puck bounced back to the point. Gibbons was right there, picking it up and skating it into the Knights’ zone. He stopped just inside the blue line and found Coleman driving to the net. Coleman chipped the puck over Fleury to give the Devils a 1-0 lead at the 6:23 mark.

The Devils would double their lead about a minute and a half later when Nico Hischier scored from Severson and Sami Vatanen. That one came when Nico moved in on a two-on-one with John Moore. Using Moore as a decoy, he threw the puck towards the Vegas net. Tomas Tatar inadvertently got his stick on it and tipped it by Fleury to make it 2-0. Finally, it seemed, the Devils were getting a little bit of puck luck. The Devils were up by two going into the first intermission. But would that be enough against a good team like Vegas?

They would not let it get that far. Just 1:55 into the first, Zajac put the Devils up 3-0 to start to create some separation between them and the Knights. Will Butcher had the secondary assist, but getting the primary was Michael Grabner. It was his seventh assist of the year, but his first point as a New Jersey Devil. The goal developed when Butcher skated crossed the blue line with the puck and dropped for Grabner, who was trailing just behind. Grabner tic-tac-toed to Zajac, who was entering the slot. He fired a wrister by Fleury to make it 3-0 just like that.

And it only took 36 seconds for the Devils to extend the lead to four. Stefan Noesen notched his eleventh from Andy Greene when Greene swept the puck from a Golden Knights player and connected with Noesen behind the Vegas defense. Noesen had a partial breakaway and beat Fleury five hole to put the Devils up 4-0 and knock Fleury out of the game.

This was the first time the Golden Knights had trailed by as many as four goals in their history at T-Mobile Arena.

But they would quickly have some pushback. Erik Haula scored on the power play at 11:08 from Colin Miller and Nate Schmidt to cut the Devils lead to 4-1. On the evening, the Devils would go 1-for-2 on the power play with two shots. They also had one shot shorthanded. Vegas was 2-for-5 with the man advantage, as they had their chances. They had 11 power play shots.

Miller would cut the Devils lead in half just before the second intermission when he scored unassisted at 18:55. Things were not looking good for the Devils heading into the third, as the Vegas crowd was loud and back into things.

But the Devils would silence them very fast. Blake Coleman scored unassisted just 2:04 into the third period. Coleman stole the puck from Deryk Engelland and skated into the Vegas zone. He shot and had it blocked in front by Jon Merrill. Coleman grabbed his own rebound and beat Legace to make it 5-2 Devils. This was Coleman’s first career two goal game.

At the 7:02 mark, Grabner would notch his 26th of the year, and first as a Devil, from Hischier and Gibbons to make it 6-2. Hischier came out of the far corner, skating to just inside the Vegas blue line. He fired on net, with the rebound coming back to him in the near corner. He was a ball of energy as he grabbed it and worked along the boards with Gibbons. They got it to the front of the net and Grabner took a pass from Nico, simply shoveling it into the empty side of the net.

But the Devils were not done yet. With Merrill off for tripping Grabner (who had his best game as a Devil so far), Kyle Palmieri got onto the scoresheet. On the power play, he scored from Patrick Maroon and Taylor Hall. The Devils won a faceoff in the Vegas zone, with the puck going back to Sami Vatanen. He walked the line and gave it to Hall at the near half wall. Hall found Maroon at the side of the Vegas net. He tried to jam it home and the rebound came to Palmieri at the other side of the net. He put it into the empty side of Legace’s net to make it 7-2 Devils.

With that seventh goal, the Devils had scored seven for the first time since the comeback in Chicago earlier this season on November 12. But they still were not done.

The final one to get in on the Devils’ goal scoring binge was Taylor Hall. He scored his 31st of the year from Brian Boyle at 14:31 of the third to make it 8-2. Hall skated in to the Golden Knights’ zone, shot and, with Boyle battling in front of the Knights’ net, took his own rebound and stuffed it home. The Devils had put up an eight-spot on the road for the first time since November 25, 2005 against the Lightning.

Vegas’ Haula scored from David Perron and Tatar with 28 seconds remaining in the game on the power play, but it was simply window dressing. The Devils had sealed their second straight victory to kick off a rough road stretch.

Stats-wise, Vatanen led in ice time with 24:05 (including 1:18 on the power play and 3:48 on the PK). Zajac led all Devils skaters with 18:06 (including 1:09 on the power play and 4:06 on the penalty kill). Shots were led by Hischier with four, hits by Boyle with seven, blocks by Moore with five. Takeaways were led by Boyle and Grabner who each had one. The Devils won 52-percent of the faceoffs in the game.

Blake Coleman took home first star honors while Keith Kinkaid was the second star and Taylor Hall the third.

Next up the Devils will head off to Los Angeles for a game with the Kings on Saturday, St. Patrick’s Day. That game is a 4 PM start time here in New Jersey. Hopefully the Devils can get the California leg of their road trip off on the right foot when they travel to Staples Center.

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Hall Extends Point Streak; Devils Hang on to Beat Habs

The New Jersey Devils had lost three in a row with a rough stretch of games staring them right in the face. There was this homestand where the Devils faced high-powered teams like Vegas and Winnipeg. And then there is the western road trip against Nashville, the California teams, Vegas and then ending in Pittsburgh that could make or break this season.

Coach John Hynes did not want to use the word “desperate” – saying that that sounded like the Devils were not in control – and preferred the term “urgent” instead. But simply put, the Devils needed this game tonight against a weak and depleted Montreal squad. They got the two points, defeated the Canadiens 6-4 following a late surge by the Habs.

It was a special night at The Rock as the Devils were honoring the women’s US Olympic hockey team who won gold in South Korea last month. The eleven members of the team that were there talked to young female hockey players before the game and were on the broadcast talking during the pregame and the first intermission to Deb Placey and Bryce Salvador of MSG Network. They also participated in a ceremonial puck drop between Devils captain Andy Greene and the Canadiens’ Brendan Gallagher and were there to generally promote women’s hockey. With Team USA defeating Canada for their first gold medal since 1998, the women’s game has never been stronger.

The Devils made some changes to their lineup with Jesper Bratt slotting back into the lineup (in for Drew Stafford) and back on the top line with Taylor Hall and Nico Hischier. Hynes switched up some of the lines with the second line consisting of Michael Grabner and Kyle Palmieri centered by Pavel Zacha.

The Canadiens were without the injured Max Pacioretty and Shea Weber (who will be missed for the rest of the season). They were also missing goaltender Carey Price to injury. In his place started Charlie Lindgren who stopped 27 of 33 shots faced.

For the Devils, Keith Kinkaid went as Hynes said that he wanted Cory Schneider to practice more to get some of the rust off of him. He also felt that Kinkaid deserved another start (his career high 28th appearance) in light of how he has played of late. He made 29 saves on 33 shots.

So with the Canadiens making their only trip to Jersey this year, the Devils were ready to go. It only took to the 8:25 mark of the first period for Stefan Noesen to get the Devils on the board, getting assists from Will Butcher and Travis Zajac. The goal came when Zajac won a battle along the boards in the far corner. He slid it to Butcher at the far point. Butcher fired a shot on goal that was tipped in front by Noesen to make it 1-0 Devils. As Ken Daneyko pointed out on the MSG telecast, it was all made possible by Zajac’s strong play along the boards.

Butcher’s assist on that goal would be his first point in 12 games. He had a good game and also took a puck to the face for which he would leave briefly to get repaired, but would return.

The Devils’ other Plano, Texas import, Blake Coleman, would give them their second goal at the 16:33 mark of the first off assists from Butcher and Brian Boyle. That one developed when Boyle came down the right wing and made a move to drive around the Montreal net, coming out from behind and giving the puck to Butcher at the far point. Butcher fired on net again (something Hynes said that the coaching staff had asked him to do more of) and Coleman buried the rebound to make it 2-0.

The Devils’ onslaught would continue in the first period as Zajac notched his first of two at 18:08 of the first from Palmieri and Sami Vatanen. That one came on the power play – set up when Jacob de la Rose was called for slashing. On that one, Hall stickhandled into the Habs’ zone along the near boards. He dished to Vatanen at the point. Vatanen gave to Palmieri at the top of the far faceoff circle. He fired, with Zajac tipping the puck by Lindgren with Patrick Maroon providing a screen in front. It was now 3-0 Devils.

The Devils would build up a 4-0 lead with Zajac’s second of the game. He scored with 12 seconds remaining in the first from Hall and Vatanen. This one also came on the power play, as Montreal’s Andrew Shaw had gotten a double minor for high sticking Greene and cutting him at the 19:39 mark. This one came when a faceoff was won back to Vatanen at the far point. He one-touch passed to Hall, who was set up at the other point. Hall fired on goal and Zajac cleaned up the rebound in the slot. That assist for Hall extended his personal point scoring streak to an amazing 26 games.

According to Steve Cangialosi on MSG, the last time Hall failed to register a point was December 30 at the Washington Capitals. He has scored a point in every game he has played in the 2018 calendar year. This was also the first time this season that the Devils had scored four goals in the first period of a game.

There would be some crossover penalty time into the second period, as only the first two minutes of the double minor were extinguished when New Jersey scored their second power play goal. Overall on the power play, the Devils were 3-for-5 with eight shots while the Habs were 0-for-2 with three shots on goal. The Devils power play had had some struggles, but now seems to be back on track somewhat.

The second period would see four more goals. The first came off the stick of Gallagher, who made a nice power move on Kinkaid’s net to make the score 4-1. He got assists from Jeff Petry and Paul Byron at 10:27 of the second.

Patrick Maroon had his first goal as a Devil. Brian Boyle also scored a goal on the night. Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Devils would get that one back less than a minute later at 11:36 when Maroon scored his first as a Devil. He got assists from Hall and Palmieri on the power play to make it 5-1. It came when Hall won a draw back to Vatanen at the point. Vatanen faked a shot and passed to Palmieri at the near half wall. Palmieri found a nice seam to Hall at the far faceoff dot. He fired and the rebound came right to Maroon, who gobbled up the rebound and put it home to extend the Devils’ lead to four.

That was not all for the Devils’ scoring in the second, either. At 15:14, Brian Boyle scored from Coleman to make it 6-1. It came on the rush with Coleman trying to pass to a cutting Grabner in front of the net on a 2-on-1. Instead, the puck came to a trailing Boyle, who scored his first goal since prior to the All-Star break. The Devils had put up a half dozen on the Canadiens, but that was it for their offense on the night.

From there, it was the Habs who were in comeback mode. That started when de la Rose scored with 14 seconds remaining in the second period from Phillip Danault and Jordie Benn. It was 6-2 New Jersey.

In the third period, de la Rose would strike again, this time from Andrew Shaw and Mike Reilly at 14:40. The Devils’ lead was now cut in half at 6-3.

Byron Froese would score the final goal of the game at 19:01 from Daniel Carr and Reilly. On this one, the Devils did use their coach’s challenge to see if there was goaltender interference, but review showed that the Habs player was pushed into Kinkaid by the Devils’ defender which meant that the call on the ice stood: it was a good goal. It was now 6-4 Devils.

Monteal coach Claude Julien would pull Lindgren with about a minute remaining to get the extra attacker, but a well-timed clear and then some pressure from the Devils would result in a win, the 100th of John Hynes’ NHL career.

In the end, seven Devils had a multi-point night: Hall, Boyle, Zajac, Coleman, Palmieri, Butcher and Vatanen. Butcher was named the game’s third star while Hall was second and Zajac first, with two goals and an assist for three points.

Vatanen would lead the team in ice time with 23:26 total, including 3:10 on the power play and 1:24 on the penalty kill. Hall led in shots on goal with four. Boyle, Stefan Noesen and Ben Lovejoy all had three hits to lead the Devils. John Moore and Greene each had three blocks to lead in that category. Hall led in takeaways with two. The Devils won 52-percent of the game’s faceoffs.

Next up, the Winnipeg Jets come to Prudential Center on Thursday in the next stiff test for the Devils, who got points 75 and 76 tpnight. The Jets beat the Rangers tonight off a Patrik Laine hat trick. The Devils will then go on a two week road trip that will see then play some of the best teams, not only in the Western Conference, but in the entire NHL. Hopefully they can play well agaisnt Winnipeg and come away with at least a point in a crucial time in their schedule.

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Note: the photo of Taylor Hall at the top of this post is copyright Adam Hunger/Getty Images.

Devils Downed in Ottawa, 5-3

The Devils rolled into Ottawa looking to sweep their season series with the Senators. Unfortunately for them, while they got off to a quick start, they got into some penalty trouble and even though they were able to make a bit of a comeback, but ended up losing 5-3.

This game was Taylor Hall’s 500th NHL game. Although he is only 26 years old, Hall has been in the league a long time as that stat shows. His family and friends were in attendance due to Ottawa being the closest NHL city to his hometown of Kingston, Ontario. Congratulations to Hall on that milestone.

The Devils again went with eleven forwards and seven defensemen, something that coach John Hynes said he would run with until it did not work. Jimmy Hayes and John Quenneville were the healthy scratches. Cory Schneider, still out with a groin injury, did not make the trip. Quenneville did make the trip but has yet to see action. In the postgame, Devils announcer Steve Cangialosi speculated that he might get in against Calgary on Thursday, seeing as Hynes may drop the eleven forwards/seven d-men roster alignment.

The Senators last spring were one goal from the Stanley Cup Final, but find themselves in second to last in the Eastern Conference at this point this year. Part of that is injuries. The team is missing five forwards alone due to injury, including Bobby Ryan – who is out for three-plus weeks with a hand injury. With that, they called up a forward from AHL Belleville, Max McCormick. He would play a key role in the game for the Sens later on.

The goaltending matchup saw Craig Anderson make the start for Ottawa. He made 30 saves as the Devils peppered him with 33 shots. Just like the other night against Pittsburgh, the Devils unleashed shot after shot, but did not play as complete a game as they did against the Pens.

The Devils started Keith Kinkaid in net, he made 16 saves on 20 shots. He was relieved in the second period, following the Sens’ fourth goal, by Eddie Lack. Lack stopped 11 of 12 shots faced. The Senators had a total of 32 shots. The veteran Lack had just been called up from AHL Binghamton when Ken Appleby was sent back down.

The Devils could have equaled their win total of all of last season with a win tonight and seemed to be right on target for that when Travis Zajac scored just 1:57 into the game. It happened when Blake Coleman circled in the Ottawa zone towards the far corner. He tried to center one to Stefan Noesen, but the Sens’ Dion Phaneuf tried to intercept. He could not and turned it over to Noesen, who flicked the puck up to Zajac. Zajac collected and skated in on Anderson and beat him to make it 1-0 Devils.

Then some strangeness in a very strange game. Ottawa was 4-for-30 coming into tonight’s game on the power play, making them the 28th ranked PP in the NHL. But at 11:55, Coleman was called for roughing, followed by Kyle Palmieri going off for high sticking at 13:02, giving the Senators a 5-on-3 power play. Mike Hoffman scored off of a one-timer from Matt Duchene on the first part of the power play to tie it up at one. Erik Karlsson had the secondary assist. That goal came at 13:35.

Then, on the 5-on-4 that resulted when Coleman exited the box after the Hoffman goal, Christopher DiDomenico scored from Cody Ceci and Ryan Dzingel at 14:33 to put Ottawa up for the first time all evening, 2-1.

Duchene would score himself at 18:58 by flipping one top shelf over Kinkaid’s glove to make it 3-1 just before the end of the first period. Hoffman and Fredrik Claesson had the assists.

Just like that, the Devils found themselves down by a pair of goals as they headed into the second period. And it was about to get worse.

At the 8:43 mark of the second, rookie Colin White (no relation to the former Devil) notched his first NHL goal when he scored from Thomas Chabot and Duchene. Less than halfway through the second period, Matt Duchene already had three points. He would go on to be named the game’s first star. It was after this goal that Lack came into the game.

Earlier in the second, at the 3:18 mark, McCormick and Ben Lovejoy had gotten into a scrap with Lovejoy taking the extra roughing call. It came when McCormick hit NIco Hischier with a borderline dirty hit. Lovejoy was coming towards McCormick and McCormick dropped his gloves preemptively. The officials assumed that Lovejoy was coming to the aid of Hischier and gave him the extra two minutes in addition to the fighting majors. The Sens did not score on the power play.

Things got even weirder later in the second at the 10:02 mark when Taylor Hall laid a clean hit on Alexandre Burrows. Burrows took exception and, as Hall put it in a postgame interview “kind of lost his mind.” He began by cross checking Hall down to the ice, then rabbit punching him while he was down and, for good measure, kneeing him in the head twice. He ended up with a double minor for cross checking and roughing. The feeling is that the NHL will look into the kneeing incident to see if further discipline is in order.

So the Devils were now on the power play for four minutes. And Hall wasted no time letting the Sens know what he thought. He scored at 10:54 to cut the Ottawa lead in half at 4-2. It came when Palmieri freed the puck up along the near boards to Pavel Zacha. Zacha found Hall at the top of the far faceoff circle and unleashed a bomb of a slap shot on net that beat Anderson.

Overall, on the power play, the Devils were 1-for-4 with nine shots while the Senators were 2-for-3 with four shots on goal. The Devils penalty killing unit did not have a good night, to say the least.

The Sens would get their three goal lead back when Zack Smith scored at 19:12 of the second from JG Pageau and Burrows to make it 5-2.

Palmieri would notch another point when he scored at the 5:12 mark of the third period to put the Devils within two. It developed when Miles Wood freed up the puck behind the Senators’ net, much like Palmieri did on the Hall goal, and Pavel Zacha went behind the back to feed Palmieri in the low slot. Palmieri fired and beat Anderson over the glove with the puck quickly going in and out of the net. It was 5-3 Senators and the Devils seemed to be on the comeback. On Saturday, Ottawa had given up a lead late to the Flyers (a game they won in a shootout), so they were vulnerable.

New Jersey pulled Lack with about two minutes remaining in the game, but to no avail. Time ran out and the Devils fell by that same score, 5-3.

In terms of stats, the eleven forwards/seven d-men setup allowed Hall to once again be double shifted, especially late in the game, and lead the team in ice time with 22:11. Palmieri led in shots on goal with five as he was named the game’s third star. Hits were a tie between Coleman and Sami Vatanen, with five each. Three defensemen, Andy Greene, Will Butcher and Damon Severson tied for the lead in blocks with two each. Wood and Severson both had a takeway to lead the team in that category. As a team, the Devils won 45-percent of the game’s faceoffs.

Next up, New Jersey will return home to take on the Calgary Flames on Thursday. I will be attending this game, so my post on it will be up a little bit late. We will find out then if the Devils can get back on the winning track as they hit a rough patch of their schedule.

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 Lose in Shootout to Isles; Now Winless in Last Five

The Devils played game number 41 today, a 1 PM matinee and the halfway point of their season, on the brink of their bye week and it is official: they have hit a swoon. Winless in their last four, that longest stretch without a victory continued today in Brooklyn as the Devils fell 5-4 in a shootout. The Islanders had had an just as rough of a stretch, dropping their last four. All of their losses had come in regulation, putting them at the bottom of the Metropolitan Division as they came into this game. They snapped that with the win today.

The Devils have gotten a few points here and there: the overtime loss to Buffalo, the shootout loss to St. Louis and now this game, but they need to right some things coming out of their five day bye week. The majority of their games from here on out are against Metropolitan Division teams, including their first four out of the break – they get Philly twice, the Isles again and Washington, a rough patch for sure.

The Devils made some roster moves for this game, as Damon Severson, following being benched for two games, slotted back in. No defenseman came out, the Devils ran with eleven forwards and seven d-men. Stefan Noesen slotted out along with Jimmy Hayes and Drew Stafford up front.

The Islanders were missing two key cogs in their system, Josh Bailey and Andrew Ladd are out with injuries, but they should return soon. Isles coach Doug Weight said that the team is a walking MASH unit right now, likely part of the reason for their recent struggles. They had lost five in row for the first time since November of 2013. Sebastian Aho slotted in for Dennis Seidenberg for them.

In goal, Cory Schneider was back in for the Devils. He made 34 saves on 38 shots faced. Goaltending has been a bit of an Achilles heel for the Islanders, but they got a good game from Jaroslav Halak who made 42 saves on 46 shots.

It has almost become a running gag with the Devils having goals waved off and it continued today. At the 17:38 mark of the first period, Kyle Palmieri had seemingly scored on a wraparound. The officials waved the goal off, saying that Palmieri made incidental contact with Halak on the far side of the net, catching his blocker hand and impeding him from making the save. Despite Halak being outside of the blue paint, the goal did not count. The Devils used their coach’s challenge to say that their was no goalie interference but upon reviewing the video, the officials upheld the call on the ice. There was still no score.

That would change 15:28 into the period when Anders Lee scored for New York from Ryan Pulock and Thomas Hickey. After some bad luck, it was 1-0 Islanders.

The second period would bring the offensive awakening of Travis Zajac, as he scored twice before the period was over to help the Devils keep pace with the Isles, who would also grab one in the second. Zajac would go on to be named the game’s second star.

Zajac’s first goal came 4:43 in and happened when Palmieri skated the puck behind the Islanders’ net. He sent it back to Sami Vatanen at the near point, he shot and the puck came to Marcus Johansson, who spun, shot and the rebound came right to the stick of Zajac, who was collapsing down. Zajac scored and the game was tied up at one.

Anthony Beauvillier would give the Isles the lead again at 10:44 when he scored from Mathew Barzal and Jordan Eberle. That made it 2-1. But Zajac had one more in him before the period expired.

At 16:25, Zajac scored while the Devils were killing off Pavel Zacha’s high-sticking penalty. The shorthanded goal came when Brian Gibbons dished to Zajac at center ice, springing him for the breakaway. Zajac skated in on Halak and roofed one, tying the game up at two. That set the stage for a wild third period.

First, just 2:41 in, the Devils took the lead for the first time all game when Miles Wood scored. It came when Taylor Hall grabbed a loose puck off the Devils’ forecheck. He passed to Will Butcher at the near point. Butcher fired and Wood gathered up the rebound and potted it to give the Devils the lead, 3-2.

Hall would double the Devils lead and score his second point on the afternoon less than a minute later at 3:18. Wood, John Moore and Hall broke in on a partial 3-on-2 with Wood carrying the puck. He dropped for Moore, who was trailing. Moore immediately found Hall, who cut in and made a nice move around Halak to give the Devils the 4-2 lead. That, however, would not last.

Aho would scored on the power play at 7:58 of the third while Hall was sitting for cross checking. He got assists from John Tavares and Barzal. On the evening, New York was 1-for-3 with the man advantage with four shots on net. New Jersey was 0-for-5 with eleven shots on goal. They also had three shorthanded shots.

The Islanders were not done, however, Cal Clutterbuck scored at 15:43 from Aho and Brock Nelson to tie things up at four. And that is how regulation would end. The Devils’ first trip to Brooklyn this season would result in at least a point, if not more if they could manage a win in overtime.

They were certainly presented with the opportunity. With 2:30 remaining in the five minute extra session, Isles superstar Tavares was called for tripping Palmieri. The Devils would have a 4-on-3 for most of the remainder of the OT. They did not finish, coming closest when Hall hit the crossbar late in the man advantage. Time expired on the overtime and we were headed to the dreaded shootout.

It ended up going five rounds as Eberle missed on his shot, Hall’s shot was corralled by Halak in the first round. Schneider saved Tavares’ shot and Jesper Bratt missed in the second round. In the third, both goalies made saves on Barzal and Palmieri. In the fourth round, Schneider got Anders Lee’s shot and Brian Boyle lost control of the puck on his chance. Brock Nelson kicked off round five by scoring and Brian Gibbons missed in the bottom of the round to seal the win for New York.

Statistically, time on ice was led by Taylor Hall with 23:53 (narrowly edging out Kyle Palmieri, who had 23:31). Hall, who is really hitting a stride recently, despite the team’s struggles, also led in shots on goal with eight. Blake Coleman led in hits with four and Palmieri and Andy Greene tied in the lead for blocks with three each. The Devils won 46-percent of the game’s faceoffs.

So now we head into the five day bye week for the Devils – the Islanders will also have their bye this week. They will practice on Friday at four o’clock when the bye officially ends, but their next game is not until next Saturday when they meet the Philadelphia Flyers at home for the first time this season. A lot of their upcoming schedule will be dominated by the Metro Division so it is time to make hay. Hopefully, the team can get things going and make up some ground. They did lose a little bit of ground as the Capitals won in OT against the Blues today, so the Devils are at least three points out going into the break. We will see how things shake down when the Devils get back on the ice.

Devils Fall to High Powered Caps

The Metropolitan Division still runs through Washington, DC. Despite the Devils great play recently, they will still need to be able to beat Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom and the Washington Capitals if they want to be considered real contenders.

Unfortunately, last night they were unable to get that done. Ovechkin had three assists, Backstrom had two assists and a goal and John Carlson had a goal and two assists as the Caps beat the Devils 5-2 at Capital One Arena. The Devils’ second half of the season will feature more and more Eastern Conference, and especially, Metro Division opponents, so they need to get things going now if they are going to stay in contention. The loss last night put the Capitals ahead of the Devils by one point into first place in the Metro.

A trade to talk about before we get to the game, as the Devils sent Dalton Prout to the Calgary Flames in exchange for goalie Eddie Lack. Prout will report to the Flames’ AHL affiliate, the Stockton Heat, while Lack will report to Binghamton. A good move to trade Prout, as he was just not getting playing time with the Devils, a more speedy skill team now. This move will allow him to get some playing time while getting back a veteran goaltender for the Devils. Prout had cleared waivers on Friday and had been sent down to Binghamton. Good luck to him and I hope he gets some playing time with Calgary.

As for last night for the Devils, Jimmy Hayes, Ben Lovejoy and Drew Stafford were the healthy scratches.

Marcus Johansson was making his return to Washington last night, his first such regular season trip (he played them there in the preseason and one regular season game against them in New Jersey). He got the special video tribute treatment and a standing ovation by the Washington crowd. One other milestone is that Travis Zajac played in his 800th National Hockey League game (all with the Devils) last night. Congrats to him.

In the nets, Cory Schneider was making his ninth straight start for the Devils. Coach John Hynes said that they went back to him basically because Cory is playing well, did not see much work against Buffalo and it was an important game for the Devils, as well. Cory has all the confidence of the coaching staff and is back to being the team’s workhorse. He made 30 saves on 34 shots faced. Braden Holtby, who has been one of the top goaltenders in the league for the past four or five years, including winning a Vezina Trophy, went for Washington and made 25 saves on 27 shots against.

Tom Wilson got the scoring off to a start just 2:26 into the game, getting assists from Christian Djoos (who pronounces his name as “juice”) and Jersey-native John Carlson. Washington quickly took the 1-0 lead.

They would go up by a deuce when Djoos scored at 11:09 of the first from Backstrom and Ovechkin. The Devils were not out of the first period yet and were in a bit of a hole.

But John Moore cut that lead in half at 17:35 of the first when he pushed the puck deep in the Caps’ zone, giving it to Johansson behind the Washington net. The former Cap gave it to Zajac, who found Moore setting up at the far faceoff circle. He passed across to him and Moore snuck it between the pipe and Holtby’s left arm, making the score 2-1.

The Capitals would retake the two goal lead at 7:01 of the second period when Carlson, from Colonia, New Jersey (who grew up a Scott Stevens and Devils fan) scored from Backstrom and Ovechkin on the power play. It was set up by Pavel Zacha taking a holding penalty against Djoos. The Caps’ power play on the night was 1-for-2 with four shots while the Devils were 0-for-2 with a pair of shots.

Some controversy on the Capitals’ fourth goal, which came at 4:25 into the third period. Matt Niskanen scored that from former Devil Devante Smith-Pelly and Ovechkin, but replays would show that the Capitals had six men on the ice. How four officials all missed that is anyone’s guess, but the goal counted and Washington had the 4-1 lead.

The Devils would get one back when Zajac scored at the 9:00 mark of the third. It came when the Devils got the puck down low and Sami Vatanen eventually got it at the near half wall. His pass rebounded off of a Capitals player’s skate right to Johansson. He found Zajac on the near side of the net and he just shoveled it in to make it 4-2 Caps.

Unfortunately, Backstrom would put the game away at 19:19 of the third, making it 5-2 and finishing the Devils off. He got a lone assist from Carlson on that goal.

So with that, the Capitals move slightly ahead of the Devils into first place in the Metropolitan Division with 51 points. The Devils fall to second with 50 points. The Devils also become the lastest team to get to double digit losses. Now only Tampa Bay and Vegas remain with less than 10 losses.

And now the Devils are done with the 2017 calendar year, their next game coming in 2018, on Tuesday at the St. Louis Blues. This will be yet another test for the Devils and hopefully they can get back on a winning track. The Devils will just need to shake the loss in Washington off and move on. Hopefully they are able to shake the Capitals buggaboo at some point before the playoffs start.

Happy New Year everyone and here’s to a very happy and healthy 2018!

Devils Get Off Slide; End Kings’ Winning Streak

The Los Angeles Kings came into Prudential Center on an eight game winning streak while the Devils had just dropped two to Metro Division rivals in the Columbus Blue Jackets (a game where they had a 2-0 lead in the first period) and the New York Rangers. But the Devils knew that they were, as coach John Hynes had put it, playing “soft and loose” and they were willing to work to right the ship. The coaching staff held a practice on Monday that players were describing as the toughest since training camp and it paid off in dividends. The Devils beat LA 5-1 on Tuesday night, ending their brief slide and the Kings’ winning streak in the process.

The Devils would need to right the ship without the services of Marcus Johansson, if at least for the night. Johansson is day-to-day with an ankle bruise suffered while blocking a shot against the Rangers. Ben Lovejoy and Dalton Prout were the healthy scratches. Drew Stafford came back in with Johansson’s injury.

The Devils would also have a scare thrown into them late in this game against the Kings when Taylor Hall, who was working on a two goal game, suffered a knee-on-knee hit from Kurtis MacDermid. Hall would continue to play for a couple of shifts, but eventually left the game. Coach Hynes said that they will know more about Hall’s injury, if any, later today. The hit looked ugly, but hopefully the team does not lose him for any length of time. Hall would briefly tie Brian Gibbons for the team lead in goals with 11 until Gibbons scored a shorthanded goal late to notch his 12th of the year and take back the lead.

The goaltending matchup saw Jonathan Quick going for the Pacific Division-leading Kings. He would make 21 saves on 26 Devils shots on goal. Cory Schneider was back in net for the Devils and made 16 saves on 17 LA shots. Cory also came up big when needed, including on a big save early in the first period on Dustin Brown, keeping New Jersey in the game when called upon.

Travis Zajac got the goal scoring kicked off. He had been badly snake bitten since his return to the lineup, but connected at 13:44 of the first period. It came when Brian Gibbons pushed the puck through the neutral zone. He sent it along the near boards to Blake Coleman, who tried to pass to a cutting John Moore in the slot. Coleman grabbed the puck from him and started the cycle along the far boards, getting it Zajac. He turned and fired, with the rebound coming to Gibbons. He shot off of the paddle of Quick’s stick and the rebound dropped right back to Zajac, who tapped it by Quick to make it 1-0 Devils.

The Devils would take a 2-0 lead into the first intermission when Hall scored his first of two. This one came on the power play, as Torrey Mitchell was serving two minutes for tripping Will Butcher and came at 16:14 of the first period. Butcher dropped the puck off in the neutral zone for Hall, who weaved with Pavel Zacha, giving him the puck and crossing up with him. Zacha gave to Brian Boyle just inside the Los Angeles blue line. He dropped to Butcher at the point and Butcher found Jesper Bratt along the near half wall. Bratt found a seam to Hall, who was swooping in on the back of the play. He had the entire half of the net to shoot at and did not miss, making it 2-0. Overall on the power play, the Devils were 1-for-2 with a single shot on goal – giving them a 100-percent shooting percentage on the man advantage. The Kings were 0-for-3 also with a lone shot on goal.

New Jersey had a two goal lead going into the first break, but that was where they were against Columbus a few nights ago too. They would need to go for the kill to put a team like LA away. Hall would be up to that task. He scored unassisted at 15:42 of the second period to make it 3-0. It came when the Kings had some trouble in the Devils’ zone. Play eventually came to the LA blue line, where Jake Muzzin tried to corral the puck. Hall snuck in behind him and stole the puck, moving in one-on-one on Quick. Hall avoided the poke check and buried the puck five hole to triple the Devils’ lead.

A little over a minute later, at 17:04, the Devils would add another one courtesy of Brian Boyle. It came when Boyle won the offensive zone draw for the Devils to Jimmy Hayes in the corner. Hayes kicked the puck to Stefan Noesen, who passed back to Boyle at the near faceoff dot. He fired one that beat Quick cleanly to make it 4-0. It was a nice goal set up by the Devils winning the faceoff. They won 57-percent on the night, so they did pretty good there for the game.

The Devils took their 4-0 lead into an eventful third period. At the 12:04 mark, Torrey Mitchell would score from Alec Martinez and MacDermid to get the Kings on the board and cut off Cory Schneider’s shutout bid. But Brian Gibbons would get that one right back for New Jersey when he scored shorthanded and unassisted at the 19:49 mark.

It was set up when Damon Severson went off for hooking at 17:53 and the Devils went on the penalty kill. As the Kings were trying to break into the Devils’ zone, Coleman put his stick down to knock the puck off Adrian Kempe’s stick. It bounced around to a few LA players until Gibbons cut off a pass and skated up ice with the puck. In all alone on Quick, he made a nice inside out move to beat him and make it 5-1 Devils. As mentioned, that was Gibbons’ team leading 12th goal of the season. It was also the Devils’ first shorty since their October 28 game against the Arizona Coyotes.

And that was your final. Stat-wise, Steven Santini led all Devils skaters with 22:17 of ice time. Gibbons led in shots on goal with four while Sami Vatanen, Santini, Zajac and Jimmy Hayes all tied for the lead in hits with four apiece. John Moore, Andy Greene and Severson all had two blocks each to lead the Devils in that category.

Next up, the Devils travel to Montreal on Thursday to face a struggling Canadiens team. The Devils will look to strike against a Habs team that has fallen out of things in the weak Atlantic Division. We will see how they respond in Quebec. Can they keep the momentum of the LA game going? Or will they fall back on bad habits? Also, will they have Taylor Hall available to them on Thursday. We will find out then.