The New Jersey Devils, hot off their weekend blasting of the Colorado Avalanche, headed to KeyBank Center in Buffalo for their inaugural road game of the 2017-18 season. It was another offense-oriented game, and the Devils seem to be plenty comfortable playing in those situations. The young and unproven members of the lineup put on another strong showing. The offense was obviously present in a big way. And the Devils never seemed to let anything shake them from playing their game.
New Jersey started hot again thanks to some good net-front work from Brian Gibbons. Gibbons, who spent all of last year in AHL Albany and started the preseason on a PTO, put a shot on net from the low slot, collected his rebound in front of the chaotic Buffalo crease, and whirled a second attempt from the side of the net, one which deflected off the helmet of Stefan Noesen in front and into the Sabres’ net at 6:28 of the opening frame. The Devils failed to score on the only power play of the period, a Kyle Okposo tripping call which occurred just about three minutes after the Noesen goal. But, with just over a minute left in the first, Nico Hischier showed some of what made him a first overall pick in the National Hockey League. The Swiss rookie took the puck off a faceoff in Buffalo territory, and then proceeded to exhibit his excellent skating and playmaking ability as he wheeled away from defenseman Marco Scandella behind the net and fed the aforementioned Gibbons with a pass which he would bury over Sabres goalie Chad Johnson’s right shoulder. It was the first point in the very young career of Hischier and the first NHL goal for Gibbons since the 2013-14 season, when he was in a Pittsburgh Penguins jersey. It was also Marcus Johansson’s first point as a Devil since coming our way from Washington this past offseason.
Buffalo’s Evander Kane showed hustle and strength as he powered his way to the Devils’ net and scored the first Sabres goal of the game 5:02 into the second frame. Steve Santini went to the box for slashing Kane on that exact play, and just 21 seconds later Adam Henrique led a breakout which quickly evolved into a Devils 2-on-1 where Henrique would feed Jesper Bratt a slick saucer pass for a goal. The Devils had wasted no time striking back, once again staking their claim to a 2-goal lead. About two minutes later, Taylor Hall pickpocketed Sabres D-man Nathan Beaulieu in front of the Buffalo net and left a drop pass to be buried by Johansson, and just like that it was 4-1 Devils and the second wasn’t yet half over. With just over twelve minutes gone in the period, Jesper Bratt again scored, burning the Sabres on a poor attempt at a breakout and deflecting a Taylor Hall one-timer home to make it 5-1. The Devils’ offensive explosion of a period came to a close when with a little over a minute remaining in the second, Marcus Johansson scored again, this time assisted by Bratt.
From there on things were pretty much on auto-pilot. A dejected and sullen Buffalo crowd slowly thinned out, the Devils quietly played a strong period before allowing Evander Kane to again score with just over the three minutes, closing the scoring and capping off a 6-2 victory for the visitors. New Jersey played well, showing an ability to cause havoc with forechecking and to cash in on turnovers.
For further reading on the big road win:
The Game Highlights: From NHL.com