The Devils were off on a new beginning. Earlier today, general manager Ray Shero announced that the team had fired head coach John Hynes. Chris Ryan of NJ.com was the first to break the story via Twitter and the news came down officially around two or three in the afternoon.
Alain Nasreddine would take over on an interim basis and tonight was his first game behind the bench.
And, although the team showed some improvement in a few areas and had a little bit more jump in their game, the result was, unfortunately, the same as it has been: a loss to the Vegas Golden Knights, 4-3 at Prudential Center tonight.
The lineup remained the same as last night in Buffalo on the back end of a back-to-back for both teams (Vegas was at the Garden taking on the Rangers last night) with all lines and defensive pairings staying the same. Jack Hughes remained out with a lower body injury and John Hayden and Mirco Mueller were the healthy scratches.
In goal for the Knights was Malcolm Subban, the younger brother of Devils d-man PK. He is getting some play while Marc-Andre Fleury stays on a leave of absence due to the death of his father. Goalie Subban made 32 saves on 35 Devils shots for a .914 save percentage. The Subbans had faced each other three other times, all while PK was with Nashville.
In goal for the Devils was Mackenzie Blackwood who turned aside 26 of the Golden Knights’ 30 shots for an .867 save percentage.
Vegas had won three straight, including defeating the Rangers last night. They looked to continue that trend early on when Reilly Smith redirected a shot off the post.
The Devils went down a man on the bench at 11:26 of the first when William Carrier hit Matt Tennyson, putting him out of action for the evening. Will Butcher took exception and ended up with a roughing minor while Carrier took two for roughing plus another two for the boarding play on Tennyson.
It was the Devils who would come out of the first period with the lead. Kyle Palmieri scored on a breakaway when he came off the bench, catching the Golden Knights in a change, took a stretch pass from Damon Severson and beat Subban to make it 1-0 Devils at the 16:31 mark of the first. Blake Coleman had the secondary assist. For Palmieri, this was his tenth of the year, making him the first Devil to reach that plateau this season.
Vegas would tie the game 5:24 into the second when Chandler Stephenson, newly acquired last night from the Washington Capitals, scored his first as a Golden Knight. It happened when Butcher was unable to clear the zone and Vegas took over the puck in the Devils’ zone. Alex Tuch centered from the near corner to Stephenson and Stephenson, cutting in, fired it home to make it 1-1. Tomas Nosek had the secondary assist on the goal.
But the Devils would retake the one goal lead as the game headed to the third period. At 14:17 of the second, Jesper Bratt took a pass from Severson at the point. He then fired from the far faceoff circle to beat Subban and give the Devils the 2-1 lead. Pavel Zacha had the secondary assist.
The call on the ice was a good goal for this one, but Vegas coach Gerard Gallant challenged for goalie interference. Taylor Hall had collided with Paul Stastny and fallen into Malcolm Subban. The puck crossed the line as Hall was falling into Subban, but the replay showed that it was coincidental contact with Stastny and Hall did not interfere. The call of good goal stood and the Golden Knights were assessed a delay of game penalty for losing the challenge.
The Devils had the 2-1 lead but then the third period and Jonathan Marchessault happened.
Marchessault scored just 1:05 into the third to tie the game at two. This one came when William Karlsson burst up the right wing and threw the puck at Blackwood with Marchessault cutting to the net. It deflected in off of his skate to give him his first of the night, but not his last. Smith had the secondary assist.
At the 5:04 mark, Marchessault scored to give Vegas their first lead of the night. It came when Deryk Engelland shot from the point and Marchessault tipped it down and in past Blackwood to make it 3-2 Golden Knights. Tuch had the other assist. The two goals came 3:59 apart as the Knights took their first lead.
Marchessault completed the natural hat trick at 9:40 on the power play. Severson had been called for a hook to set this up. Smith and Tuch played give-and-go down low before Tuch dropped it to Marchessault cutting in. Blackwood stopped his initial shot, but Marchessault put his own rebound in to complete his third career NHL hat trick.
On the power play, the Devils were 0-for-2 with four shots. New Jersey also had a pair of shorthanded shots. Vegas was 1-for-3 with eight shots on the power play and as well as a shorthanded shot.
Twenty seconds after Marchessault’s third goal, Nico Hischier would add one of his own to pull the Devils back within one. Palmieri banked the puck up the boards to Hall and Hall gave to Hischier inside the Vegas zone. Nico then wrested one from the far faceoff circle, beating Subban to make it 4-3. This would be our final.
The Devils had a chance as Palmieri was hauled down on a breakaway late in the period, but no penalty was called. They pulled Blackwood with about 1:45 to go in regulation, but could not get it tied.
The Devils won 46-percent of the game’s faceoffs and outhit the Knights 23-19. The Golden Knights had three more shots blocked at 16 to 13 and less giveaways at six to the Devils’ ten.
Hall and Coleman led in shots on goal with five each. Hits were led by Hischier, Coleman and Palmieri with three apiece. Sami Vatanen led in blocks with three. Takeaways were led by Hall with two.
Time on ice saw Vatanen lead with a whopping 27:13 (2:08 on the power play and 3:17 on the penalty kill). But remember that Tennyson was injured early in the game and, thus, the Devils were playing down a defenseman. Hall led the forwards with 19:21 (including 2:08 on the power play).
Next up, the Devils get a few days off before they take on the Chicago Blackhawks at home on Friday. We will have coverage for you here as, hopefully, Nasreddine can get his first victory behind the Devils bench then.