The Devils rolled in to T-Mobile Arena on the Vegas Strip riding a six-game point streak. They had not tasted regulation defeat since they lost at the Blues in St. Louis on February 18. That streak ended tonight as they lost 3-0 to the Vegas Golden Knights.
The pregame was delayed essentially because MSG Network is run by idiots. They had three games airing tonight and four channels to air them on. Instead, they decided to show the Devils game after the Islanders game on MSG+ and, since the Isles ended late (read: about the usual time an east coast game starting at 7 PM eastern time), the Devils pregame was pushed to 9:45 instead of 9:30.
Now two fanbases lose here. Isles fans did not get much of a postgame (although they lost 6-2 to Montreal, so that might not have been much of a problem) and Devils fans lost most of our pregame (again, not too much of a problem since road games tend to feature a lot of fluff in the pregame shows – no Bryce Salvador, in other words). It really is the principle of the situation as MSG 2 and MSG+ 2 were sitting there doing nothing. You have FOUR channels to show THREE games on and you still had to cut time out of two games for God knows what reason.
Now I am sorry for the rant because I obviously do not work in cable and I don’t program these things, but c’mon already, MSG. You already make it abundantly clear that the Devils and Islanders are second class citizens here, but do we need to go this far this consistently?
Anyway, the game.
The Devils are starting a run of games where they will be facing teams already in a playoff position or otherwise in the hunt. Vegas was the beginning of this.
Jesper Boqvist slotted back into the lineup in place of John Hayden. He played on the second line with Miles Wood and Travis Zajac, who was centering. Erika Wachter did mention that some of the forwards are a bit banged up and this was one of the reasons Boqvist was recalled. Will Butcher, who is still injured and did not make the trip west, and Fredrik Claesson were the other scratches.
This was the Devils’ first meeting against former coach Pete DeBoer in his new digs. When the Devils played Vegas at the Prudential Center earlier in the season, Gerard Gallant was still the Knights’ coach.
In goal, Mackenzie Blackwood was looking to start another personal win streak, as his last six-game streak was ended Saturday at the Kings. He made 29 saves on 32 Golden Knights shots in taking the loss, finishing the night with a .906 save percentage.
Facing him was one of the Golden Knights’ new toy: Robin Lehner. He was, of course, picked up at the trade deadline from Chicago. HE stopped all 27 shots he saw from the Devils. For his efforts, Lehner was named the game’s first star of the night.
On special teams, the Devils had more chances on the power play, going 0-for-3 with four shots. This total does not include Nico Hischier hitting the post on a power play opportunity in the second period, nearly tying the game. Vegas ended the game 0-for-1 on the power play with a single shot. Neither team registered a shorthanded shot.
In the first period, Blackwood was flying high, keeping the Devils in the game almost single-handedly. This includes a huge save that saw the Devils cough up the puck at their blue line and Chandler Stephenson step up and grab it. He walked in on a partial breakaway and Blackwood was equal to the task. This helped keep the game scoreless as Lehner was also on point in the first.
Max Pacioretty broke the seal on the game just 45 seconds into the second frame. William Karlsson sprung him up the left wing and Pacioretty carried it into the Devils zone. He fired from the top of the far faceoff circle and beat Blackwood upstairs stick-side to give Vegas the 1-0 lead that they would enjoy for the majority of the game.
Karlsson struck again 37 seconds into the third to double the Golden Knights’ lead. This one also came off the rush as Nicolas Roy and Karlsson played give-and-go with Karlsson taking it back a few feet out from the Devils’ net. He fired off a one-timer from that spot and blew it past Blackwood to make it 2-0.
Ryan Reaves put the capper on it at the 8:49 mark of the third when the Devils were unable to clear their zone. William Carrier got the puck towards the net and Reaves stayed with it, scoring off of a scramble in front. Tomas Nosek was awarded the secondary assist later on. That made it 3-0 and gave us our final.
For Blackwood, this was his first regulation loss in the last seven and for the Devils, this was the eighth time this season they had been shutout. It also reversed the score from Anaheim as the Devils had blanked the Ducks 3-0 in their last game.
The Devils were outshot 32-27 and had more turnovers than Vegas at eight to the Knights’ six. New Jersey won 43-percent of the game’s faceoffs, with Hischier and Zajac tying with the best personal percentage amongst centers at 47-percent. The Devils outhit the Golden Knights 25-14 and had more blocked shots at 17 to Vegas’ 15.
Damon Severson led all Devils skaters in ice time with 22:44 (including 3:54 on the power play and 1:03 on the penalty kill). Hischier led the forwards with 18:10 played (including 3:51 on the power play and two seconds on the PK).
Four seemed to be the magic number for the Devils tonight. Kyle Palmieri led all Devils shooters with four shots on goal. Hits were led by Michael McLeod who had four. Blocks by Mirco Mueller with four. Takeaways were led by Mueller with two.
Next up, the Devils return home to faceoff with the defending Stanley Cup champs for the first time in a little more than two weeks. The St. Louis Blues come into Prudential Center as the Devils return east on Friday with a 7 PM start time. We, of course, will have coverage for you right here. Enjoy the rest of the week and see you Friday!