Capitals Come Back to Deal Devils Third Straight Loss

The New Jersey Devils, as they are constructed now, are a team built for the future. Sure, winning now would be nice and they have been in the mix of things in the Metropolitan Division all season long. But when you see them pitted up against a team like the Washington Capitals, it becomes clear that there is much room for growth.

They were scrappy, fought hard and had a few leads on the night. But in the end, when you are dealing with the firepower that the Capitals can throw at you, you know that you are going to be in for a long night.

The Devils hung in against them and were unable to come away with a point. They are quickly falling out of the playoff race, but are showing some grit along the way.

Some lineup changes did occur for the Devils, who did not get a morning skate due to Georgetown basketball earlier in the afternoon at Verizon Center. Out was Bobby Farnham along with Eric Gelinas and Damon Severson. Back in was Tuomo Ruutu possibly to spark some offense and possibly as a way for the team to “showcase” the veteran as possible trade bait with the trading deadline quickly approaching.

The Devils goaltending saw Cory Schneider get the nod again. Some are talking that should the Devils make the playoffs, Cory would be in the running for the Vezina Trophy. The main competition standing in his way was the man standing in the crease down the rink from him: Braden Holtby. Holtby will almost certainly be making the playoffs, barring an injury. Cory made 28 saves on 32 Washington shots and Holtby was 21 for 24.

Cory was tested early and often by the best offense in the NHL: on the first Capitals power play of the night, he robbed Alex Ovechkin off a beautiful pass from TJ Oshie and at 14:49 of the first, a Devils giveaway in the slot made things a little tough for him. But almost right after that, at 15:28, Kyle Palmieri skated down the wing, making a move, drawing the Washington defender towards him. He tried a wraparound with Holtby out of the net. The puck bounced to Reid Boucher who knocked it over to Travis Zajac who fired his ninth of the season behind the Washington netminder. It was 1-0 Devils early.

But in what would become the story of the night, less than two minutes later, Ovechkin scored his league-leading 38th goal from Dmitry Orlov. In a blink, the Caps had tied the game at one.

But before the period would end, the Devils would regain the lead. With just about 30 seconds left in the first frame, Boucher would give the puck to Palmieri from the half wall and Palmieri would skate to the goal line, shooting from an impossible angle and beating Holtby over the right shoulder. The Devils had taken a 2-1 lead.

In the second period, the Caps would tie things up at 9:16 when Evgeny Kuznetsov scored from Michael Latta and Brooks Laich. And from there, it was an all-out assault for most of the period. The Devils were able to weather the storm with good defense and Cory, again, coming up big.

That would pay off in the third period. The Devils seemed to have things under control. Early on in the period, the teams traded posts as Stephen Gionta hit one for the Devils and Andre Burakovsky nailed iron for the Capitals.

Then, at 11:04, the hard work seemed to pay off when John Moore dug the puck out of the corner and got it to Zajac who slid it to Boucher at the point. He released a great wrist shot to handcuff Holtby and suddenly the Devils had a 3-2 lead.

But then the Washington Capitals took things into another gear. From here on out it was all Caps. At 13:55, Oshie scored his 17th from Orlov and Brooks Orpik. The game was, frustratingly for the Devils, tied again.

Then things fell apart when, at 16:02, Orpik scored on a wrist shot from Kuznetsov and Alex Ovechkin. The Capitals had done what the Capitals do and had taken a 4-3 lead late.

The Devils tried to pull Schneider, but repeated icing calls kept bringing the faceoffs back to their offensive zone, which put an end to trying to tie things. Although Jacob Josefson did have a great chance to tie things but missed high on an empty Washington net.

The Devils penalty kill was once again big for them. They kept the Caps from scoring on three power play chances. The Devils power play was 0-for-1.

Again, the Devils played well. They were, in the words of coach John Hynes “competitive” on the night but the Capitals are just on another plane at this point.

Next up comes a big one: the Rangers arrive at The Rock on Tuesday for a rivalry game. Some would say the rivalry game. The Devils again find themselves up against a team in the Metropolitan Division firmly entrenched in a playoff position for the third game in a row. And once again, New Jersey finds itself trying to end a losing streak against their hated rivals from across the Hudson.

We will find out if the game in DC demoralized the Devils or has energized them to come out on Tuesday and have a great game against a Ranger team that has been playing well of late. This game will go a long way in letting up find out if the Devils are real playoff contenders this year.

Capitals Hand Devils Second Straight Shootout Loss

After suffering a shootout loss in Toronto Thursday, the Devils returned home to face the first place overall Washington Capitals. The opponent may have been at a different point in the standings, but the result was the same for the Devils: a shootout loss.

The Devils went into the game on wave of anticipation. Martin Brodeur’s jersey retirement is less than a week away and the man himself was on-hand to drop the ceremonial first puck. In a neat change of pace, instead of both teams captains taking the draw, Cory Schneider and Braden Holtby, the game’s starting goaltenders took it. In the final game at Prudential Center before Marty’s statue goes up and his number is raised to the rafters, the Devils would look to get a win for their former star goalie.

The goalies were solid: Holtby made 22 saves on 24 Devils shots, including two more in the shootout. Schneider was 27 for 29 and made one extra save in the shootout.

After a scoreless first period, Washington’s Andre Burakovsky put them ahead 12:30 into the second. He got assists from Justin Williams and Evgeny Kuznetsov.

The Devils would catch a break, though, when the Caps’ Mike Richards was called for tripping Tyler Kennedy just 1:34 into the third. The Devils needed just about twenty seconds to capitalize when the puck was worked from the point to Jacob Josefson on the near half wall. He passed to Joseph Blandisi behind the Capitals net, who quickly passed to Travis Zajac in the slot. He fired and the puck squirted behind Holtby, only for Blandisi to sneak behind and bury the puck in the net. The game was tied on the power play and the Devils seemed back in business.

The Devils would break through at 7:47 of the third when Blandisi and Lee Stempniak were sprung for a two on one. Stempniak tried to pass to Blandisi, but a Capitals defender broke up the pass, which luckily for the Devils, landed on the stick of Adam Henrique. Henrique shot and beat Holtby cleanly stick-side. The Devils had a 2-1 lead with just about half of a period left to go.

But it was not to be as Washington’s Paul Carey scored his first of the year at 14:07 of the third (assists to Matt Niskanen and Brooks Laich) to tie things up. Suddenly, the Devils were facing three-on-three overtime with the high-scoring Washington Capitals.

But luck would shine on them again when Williams was called for tripping Kyle Palmieri with one minute left in regulation. The Devils would finish the game on the power play and, if needed, would begin the extra session with the man advantage.

Time would expire with the Devils a man up, but they would still have one minute’s worth of power play time in the overtime period.

The bad news: they did not score on the man advantage. The good news: they kept the Capitals off the board as well.

And so, time ran out on overtime and it was back to the shootout. The Devils had gotten a point on the Caps, now they just needed to stop them in the “skills completion” to finish the job.

In the first round, Joseph Blandisi was stopped by Holtby and the Capitals’ TJ Oshie converted. Jacob Josefson was stopped in the second round, as was Kuznetsov. The Devils needed Reid Boucher to score to keep them in it. He did and it was down to Alex Ovechkin and Cory Schneider to decide the game. Two all-stars, one-on-one with the game on the line.

The Russian superstar skated in to a chorus of boos from the New Jersey fans and, after a series of head fakes and leg pumps, was able to beat Cory to give Washington the 3-2 shootout victory.

The Devils had stayed in the game with a very tough Washington team, only being outshot 29-24 and were able to come out with a point. That is a minor victory in and of itself, but they will need more when they visit the Rangers at the Garden on Monday.

It is another rough Metro Division game on Monday in Manhattan with more than bragging rights on the line. The Rangers won today and the Devils will need to pull off another victory against their arch-rivals in order to keep up the pace in the race for a playoff spot.