Devils Cannot Repeat Magic, Lose to Caps 5-2

After defeating the Washington Capitals five days ago in the Capital One Arena in DC, the Devils were right back looking to take another one from the NHL’s best team.

They would not. They were downed 5-2 tonight as the Caps just rolled. It did not hurt that Alex Ovechkin scored a hat trick either.

Some roster notes to get to first as the bug that got Jack Hughes in Toronto has apparently hit the rest of the team. Kevin Rooney missed tonight with illness. Also, Kyle Palmieri was placed on injured reserve retroactive to the last time these teams met on January 11. Mike McLeod was recalled from Binghamton to take Palmieri’s spot on the roster and, since Rooney was a game-time decision that could not go, played tonight. He centered a line with Jesper Boqvist and John Hayden. Mackenzie Blackwood was the other scratch as he is, according to MSG Network’s Erika Wachter, very close to returning.

Which brings us to the goaltending situation. Interim coach Alain Nasreddine mentioned that the team would have to look at things coming out of the All-Star bye week, but that decision may have gotten a little bit easier for him.

Louis Domingue got the start tonight, but left after the first period with a lower body injury. He stopped 13-of-16 Washington shots for an .867 save percentage. He was making his fourth straight start. Cory Schneider came on in relief for the second straight game and made 20 saves on 23 shots against for an .870 save percentage. Washington finished with 38 total shots. Ilya Samsonov went for the Caps, making 32 saves on 34 Devils shots for a .941 save percentage.

Domingue started the game making a big stop early on Ovechkin. The puck went over his shoulder, hit the post and he swept it out with his stick as it was going over the goal line.

That was followed, with 16:41 to go in the first period, by Carl Hagelin seeming to score when Lars Eller got the puck down low and passed to Hagelin, who was cutting towards the net. It went behind Domingue, but, after some discussion at the bench, Nasreddine decided to use his coach’s challenge, saying the Caps were offsides at the blue line just prior to the goal being scored.

Sure enough, replay showed that Michal Kempny, at the Devils blue line, was unable to keep the puck in and the call on the ice (good goal) was reversed to no goal. The Devils had seemingly dodged a bullet, but things would get bad soon enough.

It came on the while the Devils were down two men, with Travis Zajac going off for tripping at 13:39 and then Hayden at 15:12 for holding. It set up a 5-on-3 situation and Ovechkin would make this one count.

The Capitals won the faceoff in the Devils’ zone and got it back to John Carlson at the point. He passed down to Ovechkin in his “office” and he ripped a shot by Domingue to make it 1-0 Washington. Nicklas Backstrom had the secondary assist. That goal came at 15:17.

Ovechkin got his second with less than a minute to go in the first. At 19:08, Backstrom won another faceoff deep in the offensive zone and Ovechkin swooped in to grab the loose puck. He wristed it by Domingue to make it 2-0.

Cory came in in the second to relieve the injured Domingue. He had little luck with Hagelin, as he scored for real this time, 16 seconds into the period on a cold Schneider. It came when the Devils could not clear and Eller took the puck, making a slick pass to Hagelin, who scored from the slot. Richard Panik had the secondary assist. This made it 3-0 Washington.

But the Devils got on the board less than a minute later at 1:08 when Wayne Simmonds ended his 28-goal drought. Nico Hischier grabbed the puck down low and protected it, eventually finding Simmonds in front of the net and he shoveled it home to make it 3-1. Will Butcher had the secondary assist. All of the goal scoring in the second period happened within the first minute and a half.

So that took us to the third with the Devils trailing by two and about to go on the penalty kill 2:11 into the new frame when Butcher was called for holding.

But the Devils are always a threat to score shorthanded with Blake Coleman on the ice and that is exactly what happened. At 3:34, Coleman took the puck at center ice and broke in on Samsonov. He went backhand to score his third shorthanded goal of the year and cut the Caps’ lead to one at 3-2. Zajac had the lone assist.

But the Capitals would retake control of the game at 6:42 when Cory made several saves in tight. Eventually, the puck squibbed out to Jakub Vrana in the high slot and he shot, beating Cory unassisted to make it 4-2 and restore the two-goal lead.

Later on, with 7:02 to go, a turning point in the game for the Devils as Kempny was called for a double-minor for high-sticking on Nikita Gusev. When Gusev got hit, play was immediately whistled dead. However, once the call was made, the officials reviewed it and found that, while Kempny had swung at an airborne puck, his stick did not hit Gusev’s face. It was the puck that made contact with him and the penalty was overturned. The Devils would not be going on an extended power play.

Instead, at 15:42, Ovechkin would complete his hat trick and put Washington up 5-2. It came when the puck was misplayed in the Devils zone. Tom Wilson grabbed a loose puck along the near boards and blindly threw it towards net. He ended up connecting to Ovechkin tape-to-tape at the side of the Devils’ net and Ovechkin tapped it in. Carlson had the secondary assist.

And that was it. The Devils ended the night 0-for-4 on the power play with five shots. They also had four shorthanded shots, one of which they scored on. Washington was 1-for-5 with six shots. Three shots came on Domingue and three on Schneider. They added a shorthanded shot as well on Domingue.

The Devils won only 41-percent of the game’s faceoffs, with Zajac winning 65-percent of his to lead and McLeod winning 60-percent of his draws.

The Devils outhit the Caps, 18-11, had more blocked shots at 18 to 13 and less turnovers at six to Washington’s 18.

PK Subban led all Devils skaters in time on ice with 23:30 (4:34 on the power play and 3:01 shorthanded), just edging Damon Severson, who had 23:07. Coleman led the forwards with 18:57 (including 5:42 shorthanded, where he is obviously very dangerous).

Stats-wise, Coleman led in shots on goal with six, Pavel Zacha and Connor Carrick led in hits with three apiece, Andy Greene led in blocks with four and Jesper Bratt led in takeaways with two.

Next up, the Devils have one more game prior to the All-Star bye week. They will take on the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday in Ohio. I have a family function on Saturday, so I am recording the game and will eventually have the recap up a little bit later than usual.

Devils Put Forth Great Effort, Beat Caps 5-1

So, show of hands. Who expected them to beat the top team in the league? The Devils put forth a complete effort – one of their best of the year – and got timely goaltending from Louis Domingue in the nation’s capital to defeat the Caps 5-1.

This comes off of the heels of a horrible outing in Manhattan where the Devils were killed by the Rangers on Thursday.

First off, a scoring change from that game against the Rangers. On the second Devils goal that was reviewed and originally credited to Blake Coleman, that has been changed and given to Damon Severson. Also, Travis Zajac was awarded the secondary assist on the goal. The NHL announced the scoring change about an hour following the end of the game on Thursday.

Some injury news as Mackenzie Blackwood was out tonight with an upper body injury. Evan Cormier was recalled from AHL Binghamton to back up Domingue. Ben Street was also place on injured reserve retroactive to Thursday with an upper body injury. Jack Hughes remained out and did not make the trip to Washington. He is progressing according to MSG Network’s Erika Wachter. Mirco Mueller was also a healthy scratch with Connor Carrick slotting in on defense for the Devils. The Devils also got Jesper Bratt back from injury up front. He basically slotted in for Street and played on the top line with Nico Hischier and Kyle Palmieri.

As mentioned, Louis Domingue started for the Devils and he was brilliant tonight. He was looking for his first win since November 23 (at home against Detroit) and his first win in Washington since December 29, 2016. That was a streak that, according to MSG Network, encompassed five games.

And he got it, making 33 saves on 34 Capitals shots for a .971 save percentage. Opposing him was NHL All-Star Braden Holtby, who stopped 17 of 21 for an .810 save percentage on the night.

The Caps were in their throwback uniforms and the crowd was pumped, but the Devils killed that enthusiasm off early when Hischier scored 5:27 into the game. It came when Nico came rushing up the left-wing boards and made a power move to cut towards the Washington net. He then got a shot off that kind of fluttered through Holtby’s five-hole to make it 1-0 Devils. Will Butcher and Carrick had the assists.

The second period featured a flurry of goals from both teams, but began with Coleman hitting the post early in the period. Nikita Gusev did hit the back of the net 3:28 into the frame when he made it 2-0 Devils. It came right after a Devils power play ended and saw Butcher take a drop pass from Wayne Simmonds inside the Caps’ zone. Butcher then threw a quick wrister from the top of the far faceoff circle on net and Holtby made the save, but gave up a huge rebound that came right to Gusev at the near side of the net and he shoveled it into the wide-open net as Holtby tried to get across his crease to score.

At the 6:17 mark of the second, Miles Wood took a double minor for high-sticking, putting the Caps’ dangerous power play on for four minutes.

However, it started out nicely for the Devils when Andy Greene poked the puck up to Travis Zajac and he and Coleman were off on a 2-on-1. Zajac passed and Coleman went in with a forehand to backhand move on Holtby for the shorthanded goal at 6:48 to make it 3-0. It was Coleman’s 15th goal of the year.

The Devils used that momentum to kill off the first half of the double minor, but during the second half, the Caps got on the board. At 8:28, Domingue made a save on a Washington shot. He could not handle the rebound and there was a scramble around the cage. Jakub Vrana finally found the loose puck and put it in to make it 3-1 Devils. John Carlson and Nicklas Backstrom had the assists. This would be the only goal Washington would muster all night.

Later in the second, Hischier scored his second of the night when Jesper Bratt created space, drew the Washington defenders to him and dropped the puck to Palmieri. Palmieri made a nice cross-ice pass to Nico, who was all alone on the other side of the ice. He simply walked in and scored. Bratt created the play but did not get credit for an assist, as Palmieri had the lone one on the goal that made it 4-1 at the 12:11 mark.

In the third period, the Devils got into a little more penalty trouble when, at 9:48, Hischier took what was a pretty weak elbowing penalty on TJ Oshie. Then, at the 11:05 mark, PK Subban, while trying to clear the puck down the ice, threw it directly over the glass. This was a cut-and-dry delay of game penalty and the Devils would be down 5-on-3 for 43 seconds.

But they killed this off, keeping the second-highest scoring team in the NHL to 1-for-5 on the power play with six shots. New Jersey did not muster a single power play shot in going 0-for-1 on the man advantage. They did, however, get four shorthanded shots through to Holtby.

Washington pulled Holtby with a little over five minutes to go in regulation down by three and the Devils wasted no time. Wood scored into the empty net to give us our final of 5-1.

The Devils finished the game with 22 shots on goal with the empty netter to the Capitals’ 34. They also won 55-percent of the game’s faceoffs, with Nico winning 71-percent of his. They had 13 hits to the Caps’ 19, 18 blocked shots to Washington’s 14 and only nine turnovers to the Caps’ 13.

The Devils also gave the Capitals two straight regulation losses (they were beaten by Philly earlier this week) for only the second time this season. Washington is a true powerhouse and a bona fide Stanley Cup contender, so this was no small feat for the Devils.

Greene led all skaters in total ice time (22:08, including 5:11 on the penalty kill) while Coleman led the forwards with 18:56 (including 3:52 on the penalty kill). Nico’s two goals and Butcher’s two assists helped them lead in points with two apiece. Coleman led in shots by a large margin at eight. Hits were led by Butcher and Severson with three each. Blocks were led by Carrick with four. Takeaways by Simmonds and Gusev with two each.

Hischier was the game’s first star while Domingue was the second and Butcher the third.

Next up, the Devils face another strong test in the Tampa Bay Lightning, who have won ten straight games, seem to be back on a roll and will be visiting Prudential Center tomorrow at 7 PM. Do the Devils have another upset in them facing one of the NHL’s elite teams? We will find out tomorrow and, of course, we will have a write up for you following the game.