The New Jersey Devils flew into music city looking to break a second 0-for tonight against the Nashville Predators. Last night’s game allowed them to break their season long overtime win-less streak, and tonight the Devils looked to win on the latter half of a back-to-back for the first time in 2018-19. While they were unsuccessful, they still played a very hard game and earned a point for their efforts.
The Predators and Devils both came out skating hard, but it would be the Preds who almost struck first off of a deflected shot within the first minute; luckily, Keith Kinkaid knocked the puck away, keeping Jersey from another early deficit. Pavel Zacha, Jesper Bratt and John Quenneville kept up the moment from last night early as well, with Q sending Zacha up the ice and Pavel almost cashing in.
Nashville would get the first power play of the game just over seven minutes into the game with Brett Seney taking down Rocco Grimaldi with a high stick. After each team traded a good chance (the Preds hit the post on theirs), the score sheet remained unchanged. In a funny/strange moment, another Devil would lose a skate blade, as Quenneville caused a delay with just under seven minutes left in a scoreless first.
It looked like the period would end scoreless, but with just over a minute to go, the Preds would drive up the ice and while Kinkaid got Miikka Salomaki’s initial shot, the rebound kicked right out to Frederick Gaudreau and he buried it to give Nashville a one goal lead. The Devils would get their first PP chance roughly half a minute later on a Kevin Fiala high stick. They would not be able to cash in on the remaining 33 seconds of the first, and Nashville though down a man went to the locker room up a goal.
The second period would start with PP doing nothing; the Devils established a bit of pressure after the end of the man advantage, but the Predators would push things back a bit in their favor. Marcus Johansson would draw a second PP on a somewhat-questionable tripping call against Austin Watson; to be fair, his skate did clip MarJo’s but Cangi/Daneyko kept saying it was his stick. The Zajac/Bratt/Johansson/Severson/Vatanen unit looked really good with their puck movement, but it did not lead to a Devils goal.
Seney would draw another call, this time against Kyle Turris, but the Devils’ PP would have trouble gaining any sustained pressure this time. Dan Hamhuis would make a foolish turnover just after the PP expired, and Blake Coleman almost made him pay; safe to say he owes Juuse Saros dinner after that one. After play resumed, Ben Lovejoy took a penalty due to him being out of position (shocking, I know) giving Nashville their second PP. A rocket from Roman Josi would find its way to the back of the net; John Hynes would challenge the ruling, feeling Kinkaid’s ability to make an attempt at a save was impaired. Colton Sissons noticeably bumped Kinkaid (the overhead showing the best view on the broadcast) and the refs would reverse the call, leaving the game 1-0.
The Devils would successfully kill the remainder of the penalty after the overturned call and Vatanen would draw another call against the Preds. A broken play would see Travis Zajac get the puck on the doorstep courtesy of Damon Severson and Travis would be robbed by Saros. JQ would get a couple of good chances on the second wave, but the PP remained fruitless, and the deficit would still be one.
There were more good chances on both sides; there were chippy moments in front of each net where the puck could have gone in. The horn would sounds however with the same score as the end of the first. For anyone concerned that the Devils would be tired, they certainly didn’t seem it against a rested Nashville team through two, keeping the Preds on their heels more often than not.
The first few minutes of the third saw Jersey’s Team attempt to even the score, but the Preds kept the puck out of the net; Kinkaid almost made a costly turnover, but the puck stayed out. Midway through the period Johansson had a beautiful opportunity alone on Saros, but attempted to pass to Nico Hischier (who was slightly behind), and the puck got knocked away and sent the other way where Grimaldi had a chance snuffed out by Kinkaid.
Zajac also had a glorious opportunity to knock in a rebound a minute or so later, but Saros again made the save, though this time we had some decent extra curricular scuffling. John Quenneville would attempt to later convert on a breakaway, but Saros would make save #27 to prevent the Devils from tying the game. The Predators responded with some good chances of their own, but Kinkaid would rise to the occasion and keep the biscuit out of the basket.
The net would be emptied with just over two minutes left and Brian Boyle would FINALLY get the Devils a goal with 1:31 to go in the game; credit Jesper Bratt for 90% of the play and Marcus Johansson for creating a great initial shot that led to the rebound goal. Kyle Palmieri almost gave the Devils a winner in regulation, but it banked off the side of the net/post. For a second straight night, the Devils would go beyond 60.
Nashville came out fast and furious trying to defend their home ice, and both teams wound up getting their fair share of chances. After a number of heart-stopping two on ones, the game would require a shootout to determine who would walk away with a second point; both teams were 0-1 in shootouts before tonight.
Turris shot first with no result; Palmieri would follow and got Jersey on the board. Ryan Ellis would be next, and while Keith for a piece, it trickled in. Shootout ace Drew Stafford was next, and Saros would deny him. Nashville’s anchor would be Calle Jarnkrok and Kinkaid gloved the shot out of the air. Jersey’s anchor would be big Brian Boyle, but Saros got it with the tip of his skate. In extra rounds, Fiala would start, with Kinkaid shutting the door again. Jesper Bratt would be the response, yet his move wound up being one where he ran out of room, with no shot attempt.
Craig Smith was next for Nashville yet no puck went in the net as Kinkaid stayed with him. Nico Hischier would come out attempting to be the hero again; alas the shootout would persist. Ryan Johansson and he made a crazy slow move that fooled Kinkaid to put Nashville up one, and the Devils would trust JQ to be the next shooter. Saros would knock the puck aside, and the Devils would fall after fighting to at least salvage a point.
The Opposition Opinion: Check out On the Forecheck for their take on tonight’s game.
The Game Highlights: NHL.com will have their usual highlights package for tonight’s game at this link, but they’re not up just yet. I can guarantee they’ll showcase quite a bit of exciting hockey, but not a lot of pucks in nets.
A Solid Game: I think the biggest compliment I can give is that both teams played a solid hockey game tonight. While the Devils seemed to control play more overall, the Predators still had enough of their big names in the lineup to have a large number of good opportunities, and quite a few dangerous looking shots. Juuse Saros was truly the difference tonight, but Keith Kinkaid was no slouch either.
Advanced Stats: Most of the Devils forwards were at,above, or close to 50% CF tonight, with Miles Wood (48%, 12-13), Pavel Zacha (44% 12-15) and John Quenneville (40%, 8-12) being under by just a bit. The fourth line, however, of Brett Seney (12.5%, 1-7), Brian Boyle (20%, 2-8), and Drew Stafford (31%, 5-11) got killed in the run of things. For a road game where you don’t have last change, to only have one line get caved in isn’t all that bad of a result.
On defense, Damon Severson, Andy Greene, and Mirco Mueller were all 50% CF or above with Sami Vatanen (48%, 19-21) again being very close. Will Butcher (38%, 9-15) and Ben Lovejoy (32%, 6-13) were the beaten up pairing, and again while not a bad result without last change, how long until Steve Santini gets another chance in lieu of Lovejoy?
Tired Legs? Not Quite: The Devils came into tonight’s game on the latter half of a back to back, while the Preds were rested, having last played at home on Thursday night. Seemed like a situation for the Devils to get blown out, right? As mentioned, not the case; hopefully this weekend can be a strong turning point for the team this season, especially because Taylor Hall missed his second straight game.
A Final Thought: The Devils are 5-0-2 this season with John Quenneville in the lineup; coincidence? You decide.
Your Take: The Devils failed to take two points home with them from Nashville, but they made a comeback for the second night in a row and managed to take three out of four possible points this weekend. The team has looked much better outside of the first 10 minutes they played against Vegas, and they need to carry it with them once Hall comes back. Please leave any thoughts, comments or otherwise that you had from this game in the comments below.
Thanks to Devin for the game preview, to Nate for running the @AAtJerseyBlog account, and all of those who commented in the gamethread. Thank you all for reading.