First Period: Off the opening faceoff, the Devils turned the puck over to Anze Kopitar in near the faceoff circle to the left of the Devils net, and he fired a challenging shot on Keith Kinkaid. Kinkaid made the save, but it was not a pretty way to open the game. Kopitar was very good in his first shift of the game, until John Moore knocked him in the ice after he made another attempt on Kinkaid.
Keith Kinkaid was sharp early in the period, being forced to make a few stops. The Devils also blocked a few shots, doing a good job of not letting the Kings’ possession result on full chances.
The first great chance for the Devils came when Nico Hischier got the puck into the neutral zone, and got the puck to Michael Grabner. Grabner gained the zone, passed across the blue line to Brian Gibbons, and Gibbons’ shot was almost redirected by Nico Hischier in front of Jonathan Quick.
The first penalty came at 5:56 into the period. Miles Wood was chasing a dump and put his glove on Tyler Toffoli’s shoulder. This got a holding call, which was a bit soft. Michael Grabner cleared the puck off the face off, and the Kings had trouble gaining possession in the offensive zone after that. The Devils managed multiple clears and Travis Zajac got the closest chance during the two minutes when he fired a slap shot past a Kings defensemen high of the Quick and the net.
Shortly after, the refs whistled the Devils for another penalty. Kyle Palmieri went off for two minutes for high sticking. He was in a net battle with Dustin Brown, and his stick came down onto Brown’s face. The puck was taken away off the faceoff by Michael Grabner. He got in close on Quick, made a little move, and flipped it over Quick, who was already down for a save.
After the goal, the Kings seemed to be more determined to get chances on their power play. They still only got one shot on goal, as a few shots were deflected away, including a puck that rebounded off the boards from a point shot, which was shot at a somewhat open net but blocked by John Moore.
After the kill the Devils were getting some possession in their offensive zone. The game was very fast paced, and the Devils their second goal of the game as the Kings tried to change after some chaos. Nico Hischier wristed a shot past Drew Doughty and Jonathan Quick, for his 16th goal of the year. Damon Severson and Brian Gibbons got assists on the goal.
With about six minutes left, Tanner Pearson got a great chance on Keith Kinkaid. Kinkaid made at least one stop, going down on the ice to stretch his pad far enough. Blake Coleman cleared the puck out, but the Devils took another penalty. John Moore went off for two minutes for hooking.
The Kings fired away on the power play, and they took another penalty as Ben Lovejoy hooked Tyler Toffoli before he could get a partial breakaway on Keith Kinkaid. The Kings had a two-man advantage for 58 seconds, and Zajac, Greene, and Vatanen went out to start the kill. Jeff Carter almost got an open shot but couldn’t settle the puck. Keith Kinkaid made a couple of stops right after Andy Greene broke his plastic skate protector and couldn’t skate, and Travis Zajac cleared the puck as it trickled back to the slot. After Moore came out of the box, Kinkaid made another stop on Kopitar. Ben Lovejoy almost got a breakaway coming out of the box, but seemed to lose the puck a bit after gaining the offensive zone, and just threw the puck towards the net.
As the game was at even strength for a bit longer, the game slowed down a bit. Both teams had trouble sustaining possession, and they seemed to miss their passes and skate just a bit slower. The period ended with a 19th stop by Kinkaid off a blue line slap shot. The Devils, meanwhile, had just four shots on goal, though they had a few chances miss the net. Regardless, it’s hard to ask for anything more than a two-goal lead after one period, and the Devils had that. They killed a few penalties, including a 58 second two-man advantage, and they made the most of their shots.
First Period statistics: In the first period, Andy Greene played 8:30, and only 2:45 was at even strength, according to Natural Stat Trick. The extent to which Greene is relied upon in defensive situations and penalty killing cannot be overstated.
On the more negative side, Taylor Hall and Kyle Palmieri had 0 CF each, and 13 and 14 CA, respectively in the first period at even strength. Travis Zajac had 0 CF and 8 CA at even strength. They did get multiple defensive zone faceoffs, but it was not good in the first period when the first line was on the ice.
Second Period: Miles Wood almost made an amazing goal a few minutes into the period when he used Will Butcher as a decoy and deked Jonathan Quick onto the ice. The shot off his backhand might have hit something and went through the crease, but Butcher couldn’t get on the puck.
The Devils were definitely looking better in the second period, getting some sustained pressure and not allowing the Kings to replicate their first period attack. Will Butcher seemed to have a bit of trouble, as I noticed he missed the puck a few times aside from being unable to get on the Wood rebound. He may have gotten somewhat off his game sitting on the bench so much as the Devils killed penalties in the first period.
Miles Wood continued to cause trouble, as the Kings kept going after him a bit more tough than other Devils. After Jake Muzzin knocked off his helmet in the corner, Wood went back and threw a somewhat late big hit on him.
Nico Hischier almost got his second goal of the game on a redirection almost eight minutes into the period. It caused some chaos, but the Devils couldn’t score. The second line was certainly causing the Kings trouble whenever they got the puck on their sticks.
The Kings took their first penalty of the game when Drew Stafford was held by Paul LaDue nine minutes into the period. Dustin Brown stole the puck from Kyle Palmieri near the blue line, and got a two-on-one with Kopitar against Vatanen. Brown’s shot was stopped by Kinkaid, as well as a second attempt. The Devils couldn’t get much going after that until late in the power play. A Zajac shot with seconds left in the penalty was stopped and made Quick go sprawling, and Torrey Mitchell took a hooking penalty on Stefan Noesen. Thus, the man advantage continued, but it lasted eleven seconds. Miles Wood trucked over Jonathan Quick. It was goaltender interference, and the Kings made sure not to retaliate and pick up more penalties themselves.
On the four-on-four, the teams exchanged some shots but didn’t get anything really dangerous. There wasn’t much sustained possession.
With 4:43 left in the period, Paul LaDue took an interference penalty on Miles Wood for spinning him around as they chased a puck. Kyle Clifford felt some sort of need to retaliate at Miles Wood after the whistle, but nothing came of it after Wood fought back.
The power play was again not that amazing in the first half of it. With about 30 seconds left in it, Hischier rang a shot off the iron, and the Devils started pressuring the Kings. It didn’t result in anything though, and the power play ended with two shots on goal.
The Devils took yet another penalty with less than two minutes to play. Blake Coleman went off for tripping Tyler Toffoli with 1:37 to play. The penalty kill would thus have to function without one of its forward options.
After a faceoff, Brian Gibbons just missed intercepting a no-look backhand pass from Drew Doughty near the blue line. It would have resulted in a breakaway if he got the puck. The Kings then got a couple chances, and the puck was cleared after Gibbons got back to block a shot. After the Devils got some shorthanded possession in the last few seconds, the puck got back to Tyler Toffoli, and he blasted a shot on Kinkaid with just a second left. Kinkaid made the stop, and the Devils went into the second intermission up 2-0.
After being down in CF% in the first period 68.75 to 31.25, the Devils were even with the Kings at five-on-five and barely behind when including the four-on-four into the stat. Overall, after being outshot 19 to four in the first period, the Devils outshot the Kings 14 to eight in the second period. It did not result in any goals, but the Devils were causing more trouble when they had the puck than in the first. When the Kings had the puck, Kinkaid was there to make the stop. All that remained was shutting the door in the third period.
Third Period: The Devils killed the end of Blake Coleman’s penalty to start the period. The Kings had two shots on their power play. The Devils did a good job of not letting the Kings get too much momentum early in the period. There were several stops in the first few minutes, and it was the slowest moving period at its start.
Miles Wood came very close to scoring again. Chasing a puck flipped by Ben Lovejoy, Wood flew past the Kings defensemen and fought them off as he tried to one hand the puck through Quick’s five hole. He was definitely held as he tried to get the puck, but whatever.
However, the Kings couldn’t keep him off the scoresheet forever. Six minutes into the period, Miles Wood picked up a loose puck and got a two-on-one with Drew Stafford. Instead of passing, he ripped the puck high and Jonathan Quick was not ready to stop it. Brian Boyle got an assist on the goal. That was Wold’s 17th goal, and Boyle’s 10th assist of the year for his fifth point in five games.
Jonathan Quick made a huge glove save on Taylor Hall halfway through the period. Hall had stripped the puck, and he had a breakaway. Hall went backhand for his shot, but Quick was ready for it.
The Kings continued to press, but Kinkaid was there to stop them. They started to dominate possession more after the halfway point, and the Devils were reduced to transition chances. Kinkaid made a great stop with about six minutes left, and chaos ensued - until the puck went the other way and a Blake Coleman shot almost resulted in a Stefan Noesen goal. Noesen barely missed scoring, and Quick covered the puck. Nico Hischier also went off after blocking a shot, but he was back for after the stoppage.
Nico Hischier drew a penalty with 4:31 left in the game. Brian Gibbons gave him the puck at center ice, and Hischier took the puck deep, trying a power move, resulting in him being hauled down by Tyler Toffoli. Hischier crashed into Quick, but it was not his fault and nobody retaliated against him.
The power play didn’t get much going until the very end of it. Taylor Hall and Miles Wood passed the puck between each other a couple times on a two-on-one, and Wood’s shot went just high over the net.
The penultimate minute didn’t have much Kings pressure. The Devils continually were able to send the puck out of their defensive zone, and the result of the game became very clear. The Kings pulled the goaltender with just over a minute left.
On a clear attempt by Sami Vatanen, the puck hit Brian Boyle just above his eye. Boyle does not wear a visor, and it was very close to being a much scarier stoppage of play. Fortunately, Boyle got away with a cut by his eyebrow.
After that, the Devils continued to block shots and deflect pucks. The Kings got Kinkaid on the ice with seconds left, and the teams scrambled in the crease. The Devils, still, cleared the puck and iced it with seven seconds left. Doughty’s final shot went wide, and Keith Kinkaid finished with his second career shutout versus the Kings.
The Opposition Opinion: Check out Jewels From the Crown for a recap from the Kings perspective.
Death to the King(s): This loss is bad for the Los Angeles Kings. They are now stuck at 84 points - tied with the Anaheim Ducks, and four ahead of the Calgary Flames. The current wild card holders are the Colorado Avalanche and Dallas Stars at 84 points each. The Devils, however, will not be seeking to help the Ducks out in their quest to dethrone the Kings from the safety of a divisional spot.
Speaking of Divisional Spots: At the time of making this recap, the New Jersey Devils are third in their division. They are five points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins, seven points behind the Washington Capitals, and one point ahead of both the Columbus Blue Jackets and Philadelphia Flyers. After Adam Larsson scored a game winning goal against the Florida Panthers, the Devils have a five point cushion between them and ninth place. The Flyers are currently playing the Carolina Hurricanes, and the Blue Jackets are currently playing the Ottawa Senators, at the time of this recap being posted.
Keith Kinkaid: The Devils backup is now looking like a starting netminder, with his ninth win in his last 11 starts. In those starts, he has a .935 save percentage. In times where Cory Schneider has not been healthy enough to be a full-time number one, and his performance has not been good for his standards, the Devils have needed Kinkaid to string together good, and sometimes great goaltending. There is no way a goalie could do better than what he did against the Kings today. This was Keith Kinkaid’s fourth career shutout, and second against the Kings. In his career against the Kings, he has three wins in four appearances, with a .990 save percentage and a 0.27 goals against average. Not too bad.
Miles Wood: Have you ever seen a player who is more of a mixed bag than Miles Wood? He took two penalties, and sometimes seemed sure to draw a third. But no matter how much it may have been the normal response to bench him, Hynes kept sending Wood onto the ice, and he was always involved. His speed made multiple chances for the Devils, and he drew the ire of the Kings throughout the game. He got under their skin, got a goal, and came close to multiple goals.
The Top Line: In the first period, the top line of Travis Zajac, Taylor Hall, and Kyle Palmieri registered no even strength attempts. As the game progressed, they seemed to play considerably better. Zajac was key to the penalty kill throughout the game, and Hall played great in the third period. Ultimately, they kept their opposition off the scoresheet (most commonly the likes of Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown).
What Would We Do Without Our Captain?: Andy Greene played over seven minutes on the penalty kill today. The Devils allowed just five shots during one-man advantages with him on the ice, and not one high danger chance against. During the two-man advantage, which he was on with Vatanen and Zajac for, the Devils allowed three shots and Greene played part of it without full use of one of his skates. Greene tied Michael Grabner for the game lead in takeaways with two (one of Grabner’s resulted in the shorthanded goal), and the Kings only got one high danger chance for while he was on the ice during even strength play. Stats aside, I never noticed Greene out of position during the game today. He was constantly preventing the Kings from making the play they wanted to, and all of the time that Los Angeles had the puck was ultimately in vain. For the Captain’s efforts, he got second star honors. Without him, Kinkaid probably wouldn’t have a shutout.
Moore Blocked Shots: The Devils blocked a lot of shots tonight. They were credited with 22, after being credited with 26 last night. John Moore, for the second night in a row, led the team. Tonight, he had four blocked shots, after having five last night. Two of those blocks came in his 1:34 of ice time during penalty kills, including one that deflected a shot at a half-open net with a scrambling Kinkaid away. If John Moore wants to start blocking shots that often, I’m all for it. He already has his career high in blocked shots with 96 after this game, with a previous high of 83 in 2015-16. This was also the second game in a row that he made a big hit on an opposing player. Against Vegas, he made a big hit at the blue line in the first period (on Cody Eakin, if I recall correctly). Today, he made a big check on Anze Kopitar as Kopitar was trying to be a one-man offense early in the game. He had three credited hits against both Vegas and the Kings, extending his career high to 117 on the year (versus 93 in again 2015-16). Again, if this is a part of a larger pattern of John Moore using his body on defense, it’s a welcome change. He’s been good in these two games, from my point of view.
Your Thoughts: What did I miss in my recap of the game? Who do you think deserves more credit for their performance in the game? What do you think about our current place in the standings? Leave your thoughts below.
Thanks to everyone who followed with us for the match in the gamethread. This is Chris - thank you for reading, and have a good evening.