For the New Jersey Devils, Tuesday night’s game was one that they needed, badly. The Devils were 2-4 in their previous six games, and that poor stretch of play landed them in fourth place in the Metropolitan Division for a brief moment. With the fanbase starting to get a bit anxious, the Devils showed their ability to bounce back and win a game that most of us envisioned them losing by a similar score. The win came against a Los Angeles Kings team who posted the longest winning streak in the NHL this season when they defeated the Carolina Hurricanes in overtime this passed Saturday to extend their streak to eight consecutive games. The Devils would not allow that streak to grow to nine at the Prudential Center.
However, things didn’t look great to start the night. New Jersey found themselves in penalty trouble early, as the referees failed to call a tripping penalty against the Kings, and instead bagged Miles Wood for interfering with Drew Doughty just over six minutes into the first. On this first penalty kill of the night, Damon Severson and John Moore got into a little fender bender, coughed the puck up to the Kings, and were lucky to have Cory Schneider make a big save on a bad turnover. A half a minute after the kill was over however, the Devils again would go down a man. This time it was John Moore headed to the sin bin for tripping Anze Kopitar. That Kings man-advantage wouldn’t last, as another half minute later Kopitar would slash Andy Greene, and find himself sitting for two minutes. In the ensuing 4-on-4 New Jersey would come oh so close to opening the scoring, as Taylor Hall carried the puck across the Kings’ blue line and made a power move to the net. Hall lost his footing as he tried to get a step on Drew Doughty while driving to the net. He got off a soft backhand that was easily turned aside by Jon Quick, but the loose puck was scooped up in front and nearly put home by Nico Hischier. Quick robbed the young man to keep the pair of goose eggs up on the big board at Prudential Center.
With a little over six minutes remaining in the first, the Devils got on the board on a Travis Zajac goal assisted by Brian Gibbons and Blake Coleman. Zajac tossed the puck off into the corner behind and to the right of Quick. He then streaked to the front of the net, where Gibbons dished a pass that Travis buried to put New Jersey up 1-0. You could see a look of visible relief on the face of the celebrating Zajac, who had only scored once this season up until that goal.
With under five minutes left in the opening frame, the Kings would go to the PK again, this time it was Torrey Mitchell off for tripping. And the Devils’ power play capitalized. They gained the zone, worked the puck to Jesper Bratt on the far left boards, who slid a cross-ice pass that went untouched until Taylor Hall wristed it home from the right faceoff circle. 2-0 New Jersey in the dying minutes of the opening frame. An opening frame which saw New Jersey out-chance their opponents nearly 3-to-1.
The line of Hischier-Bratt-Hall was a menace for the Kings in this game. With nine minutes gone, the formidable trio drove into the offensive zone on a 3-on-2. Hall fed Bratt with a pass, and Jesper just couldn’t get the puck high enough, as Quick slid across the crease to make the desperate pad save. But, they weren’t done for the period, yet. Inside of five minutes, and some broken play in the neutral zone, followed by poor communication from Jake Muzzin and Drew Doughty in their own end, led to Hall being able to strip Muzzin from behind and glide in on Quick 1-on-1. Taylor backhanded a shot through the five-hole for a 3-0 New Jersey lead with 4:18 remaining in the second. Just over a minute later, the Devils were at it again. Fresh off an offensive zone draw to the right of Quick, Brian Boyle took a Stefan Noesen pass from the near boards and snapped it through the five-hole. 4-0 New Jersey with 2:56 left in the period.
New Jersey played a pretty loose third period in their own end. They gave L.A. a few cracks at Cory Schneider which could’ve been avoided. I saw a few comments in the game-thread saying how badly everyone wanted to see Schneider seal the shutout. It would’ve been nice, but the Kings’ Torrey Mitchell would get a goal back on a deflection that Schneids stood no chance on. Brian Gibbons would also score a shorthanded goal with 11 seconds left to play to wrap up the scoring summary. The final: 5-1 New Jersey.
So, that was fun. New Jersey came out with a ton of jump in the early going, and they made it last pretty much throughout this one. They out-shot their first opponent since early November, and they out-chanced the Kings for most of the night as well. There were things to be worked on, of course, but with that said the Devils held L.A. to 15 shots for the whole night. Not bad at all.
The Opposition Opinion: Jewels From the Crown should have a recap of the game up soon.
The Game Highlights: From NHL.com
The Devils will play next on Thursday night in Montreal against the Canadiens. But, for now, have a good night everybody.