The Devils finished up the preseason tonight, traveling down to Washington to take on the Capitals. They would get another offensive outburst in the first period that would be enough to get them the victory and bring them to a final preseason mark of 5-1-1.
The teams met up in the newly-renamed Capital One Arena, as naming rights for the Verizon Center changed hands this past offseason.
Cory Schneider made the start for the Devils, going the distance and making 22 saves on 23 shots faced. Keith Kinkaid backed him up. For the Caps, Braden Holtby made the start and also played the whole game. He made 29 saves on 33 Devils shots. Cory had a good game, not seeing much rubber in the first period and then, when the Capitals adjusted a bit in the second period, coming up big a few times for New Jersey.
John Hynes’ squad was coming off of a big time offensive onslaught in Prince Edward Island on Monday against the Senators. It seemed to carry over in the first period with a little bit of help from the Caps’ undisciplined play and poor penalty killing.
It began when Dmitry Orlov took a slashing penalty against John Moore just 1:46 into the game. On the power play, Nico Hischier played catch with former Cap Marcus Johansson down low and finally took a shot from just at the near faceoff dot. He beat Holtby short side to record his third goal of the presesaon and put the Devils up 1-0. That came at the 2:21 mark of the first. Washington had spent nearly the entire first two minutes of the game trapped in their own zone due to the Devils’ strong forecheck.
Will Butcher’s goal at the 5:03 mark of the first did not come on the power play like the other three Devils’ goals, but it did come on a delayed penalty when the Devils were able to pull Schneider to get the extra attacker on. Marcus Johansson had been tripped up at the Capitals’ blue line and Adam Henrique picked up the puck just inside the zone. He dished it across to Hischier, who found Butcher trailing. Butcher unloaded past Holtby and suddenly it was 2-0 Devils.
The next goal was set up when Matt Niskanen was whistled for tripping Stefan Noesen at 8:24 of the first. The Devils were back on the power play and this time it was Jimmy Hayes unassisted. Hayes took a Caps’ clearing attempt, pivoted and fired, making it 3-0 at 9:02 of the first period.
It was at this point, about ten minutes into the game, that Cory Schneider had only faced one shot against. The Devils were really pushing the pace in the first and Washington was struggling to keep up.
The Devils’ final goal of the game came about when Brett Connolly took a slashing call against Hischier setting up another Devils’ power play. On that power play, Drew Stafford would light the lamp at 14:19. It came when Johansson dished off the half boards to Damon Severson at the near point. He fired on goal and Hischier gathered the rebound. His shot was blocked and Stafford buried home that rebound to make it 4-0 Devils.
Hischier finished the game with a goal and two assists for three points.
Washington would get one back in the second period when Jay Beagle skated around Butcher, who lost an edge. Beagle took a shot and Tyler Graovac put home the rebound to make it 4-1 at 2:41 of the second period.
Late in the second, Stefan Noesen and Brooks Orpik fought, with Orpik taking the instigator and a misconduct penalty, giving the Devils another power play. The replay did show that Noesen hit Orpik late from the blindside, which was why Orpik was so angry. The Capitals’ broadcast team (MSG+ was showing the CSN-Washington feed) speculated that that will be a suspension for Noesen and that the league will at least have to take a look at it.
Overall, it was a pretty good night for New Jersey. The Devils outshot Washington 33-23 and were 3-for-6 on the power play while the Caps were 0-for-2. The Devils also had more blocks, 16 to 11 and less giveaways (at 3 versus 9) than that Caps – which shows that the Devils have been getting to loose pucks, staying strong on the puck and retaining possession when the get the puck. Washington won more faceoffs at 53-percent and out hit the Devils 25-15.
At 5-1-1, it was a good preseason for New Jersey. The problem is, they now have a little more than a week until opening night (October 7 at The Rock against the Colorado Avalanche) and no games until then. Hopefully, they can stay sharp and be ready once the puck drops on the 2017-18 season. They are doing a team bonding exercise at West Point, New York at the military academy. But they will not be playing any more preseason games.
Here’s to another great season as the Devils begin their 35th season of play in the Garden State.