The Devils, coming off of their first win in Denver since March of 2008 last night, came into Glendale, Arizona to face an old friend and try to make it two in a row on a back-to-back. Unfortunately, that old friend, Scott Wedgewood, was very motivated and stood on his head to give the Devils fits. The Arizona Coyotes blanked the Devils 5-0, their biggest loss of the year so far. The (usually) lowly Coyotes got their first regulation victory on home ice this year with that win.
The night started on a high note, as MSG’s Deb Placey interviewed Devils General Manager Ray Shero. Among the highlights from that interview was him explaining the Hentrique/Vatanen trade and saying how hard it is to trade a fan favorite like Adam Henrique, but that the Devils were getting a good asset back in Sami Vatanen. He also feels that the Devils are fighting this year to get back some of the respect that they lost last season throughout the NHL. Unfortunately, this game tonight was not a good example of them doing that.
On paper, this game was a mismatch in favor of New Jersey. The Devils have the best road record in the NHL while Arizona, as noted, struggles at home, having the NHL’s worst home record. But the story, as we shall see, was Wedgewood and his revenge on his former teammates, as he pitched his second career shutout and first for a Coyotes goalie this year.
But before we get to all of that, let’s address roster moves. The defense remained intact from last night’s game in Colorado, with Dalton Prout and Steven Santini as healthy scratches. The only difference was Pavel Zacha sitting out up front in favor of Jimmy Hayes.
The Devils were playing an earlier start (six o’clock local time) tonight, which meant that they were playing twice in less than 24 hours. The game in Colorado started at seven o’clock local (both games played in the Mountain Time Zone). The Devils were also looking for the season sweep of the Yotes, having already beaten them back in New Jersey earlier this season.
The goaltending matchup saw Wedgewood go for the Yotes while Keith Kinkaid started for New Jersey. Wedgewood stopped all 27 shots he faced while Kinkaid turned aside 22 of the 27 shots he saw.
On the power play, both teams had an ofer, the Devils were 0-for-3 with four shots on goal while the Coyotes were 0-for-2 with five shots on goal.
But the Coyotes scored early and often. They found the back of the net just 34 seconds into the game and did not look back. Jason Demers had that goal off an assist to Derek Stepan. The Arizona forecheck simply hemmed the Devils in their own zone and a turnover led to the goal. The Devils coaching staff thought about challenging for offsides, but replays showed that it would have brought nothing. They did not challenge. This is the second time in a week that the Devils gave up a goal 34 seconds into a game (last Saturday the Devils gave up one 34 seconds in against Detroit – they would go on to win that game, however, in OT).
The Yotes scored early in the period and would also score with 25 seconds remaining in the first period. That goal came from Stepan off assists from Tobias Rieder and Kevin Connauton.
The Devils came out and played a very good second period where they outshot the Coyotes 15-4. But the play that best encapsulated the game was Wedgewood making a huge right toe save on Stefan Noesen, who was in on a 2-on-1 with Brian Gibbons. MSG’s Ken Daneyko felt that it seemed like a “slam dunk” and would prove to be a real turning point for the game.
That was best shown when Jordan Martinook scored at the 17:08 mark of the second, as the Devils pushed the play in that period, to make it 3-0 Arizona. Zac Rinaldo and Connauton had the assists. That was Martinook’s first goal since October 30.
While the Devils played a somewhat coherent second period, the wheels just fell off in the third. It began at the 12:05 mark when Alex Goligoski scored on a 2-on-1 with Anthony Duclair. Miles Wood tried hard to back check and get back in the play, but simply could not and it was 4-0 Arizona. Christian Fischer had the secondary assist on that goal.
The Coyotes capped off the scoring at the 13:38 mark of the third when Dylan Strome scored his very first NHL goal when he scored five hole on Kinkaid. Fischer and Clayton Keller had the assists on his career first. Congratulations to Dylan Strome on his first NHL goal.
Even though the Devils could not break the shutout, Kinkaid did make a nice save on Duclair late in the game. Coach John Hynes called a timeout late, also, where he was able to sort of try to get the Devils back on track.
Stat-wise, with Vatanen playing so much in the last few days (going back to his last few games with Anaheim), John Moore took over the time-on-ice leadership for this game, playing 20:15, just four seconds more than Vatanen. Drew Stafford led the team in shots on goal with five while Andy Greene led in hits with four. The Devils only won 47-percent of the game’s faceoffs.
Next up, the Devils take on the Columbus Blue Jackets in the start of a home-and-home with the Metropolitan Division leaders. It will be a showdown that will really test the Devils’ mettle and should make for some exciting hockey. Daneyko feels that the Devils will be angry coming out of this game and will feel they need to prove something against the Jackets, which could be a blessing for New Jersey. A better effort on Tuesday in Ohio is all fans are looking for. See you then!