New Jersey’s road trip would see them out further west tonight against the Arizona Coyotes. Desiring six of eight points on this trip; the Devils would need a victory to even have a chance at that after dropping Thursday’s contest. After 65+ minutes of hockey, Jersey’s team would garner their first two points of the trip.
The Devils would jump out to an early 1-0 lead just 1:05 in on one of strangest hockey plays I’ve ever seenn. Kyle Palmieri made an excellent read and rushed two on maybe one half (Clayton Keller was behind both Palmieri and Nico Hischier) and as Darcy Kuemper made the initial save on Nico, Keller pushed the net off while trying to block the pass between the two Devils. The refs would look at it for a long time before the ruling came down that the puck would have crossed if Keller had not knocked the net out of position, therefore good goal.
Jersey’s Team would need it as soon after Blake Pietilla would have an inauspicious start to his 2018-19 with a penalty on his first shift. The kill would be marred by Travis Zajac pushing Keller somewhat close to the boards and picking up a cross checking penalty, while Blake Coleman and Richard Panik took coincidental roughing minors. The sheer volume of PP was inconsequential; Blackwood would stop all four shots on net and the Devils would kill off both penalties.
The Devils would get their own chance on the PP at 8:41 with a too many men call against Arizona. It was powerless, with the Devils not getting set up at all and recording zero shots. MacKenzie Blackwood had some discomfort after a play midway through the period, but stayed in a bit longer; around sixteen minutes in, he would be replaced by Keith Kinkaid. Almost immediately after the change, Pavel Zacha committed an awful turnover and Conor Garland would put the puck past Kinkaid on the first shot against Keith.
Miles Wood and Blake Coleman would attempt to make something out of nothing off of a quick backhand Wood pass and a Coleman one-timer that went off the post. The Devils would almost surrender a breakaway chance, but Ben Lovejoy of all people got back and rubbed out the play without taking a penalty. The teams would go to the locker room tied at one after one.
The second period would start uneventful, until around six minutes in when Coleman put a shot on net. Blake Pietilla would crash the net and poke the puck in, but the ruling (seemingly due to no audio) was no goal due to the whistle blowing prior to the puck entering the net. Ken Daneyko would point out that it was a quick whistle, but on replay it also appeared the puck crossed as the whistle started to blow. Either way, the Devils were officially one for two on situation room goals.
There would be a goal with 10:55 remaining as Will Butcher got caught in the offensive zone, leading to an odd-man rush. Lovejoy would again make the correct defensive play cutting off a potential pass, but Christian Fisher would wire one past Kinkaid to give the Coyotes their first lead of the night, and their second double digit goal scorer this year.
The Devils would have a chance to earn it back with their second power play of the night from an Oliver Ekman-Larsson high stick on Coleman. A couple of good chances would go towards Kuemper but nothing would get past, keeping the score at 2-1. However, as the clock dripped just under four minutes, Travis Zajac, Blake Coleman and Miles Wood made the most of a broken play. Wood kept the puck in the zone, Zajac would go around a defender and make a nice backhand pass that Coleman would get a stick on to even the game at two.
Richard Panik would give the Devils their third PP with 2:25 to go in period two; while they would officially record a shot on goal this time (I think the prior PP should have had at least one from Wood) New Jersey still couldn’t solve the best PK in the NHL. The second would end with a tie score again, but with each team having added a goal.
The action would favor the Devils early in the third as they pressed to get a lead once again, but it would be the Coyotes given a golden opportunity when Brian Boyle hit Mario Kempe with a high stick halfway through the period, resulting in a four minute double minor. The best chance would belong to the birthday boy Nico Hischier however, as a Coyote defender fell down and Nico got in on a breakaway with Kuemper making a fantastic save. The PK would get the job done without allowing a goal.
Steven Santini would follow up Boyle’s performance by sending the puck out of play for a delay of game with 5:49 remaining in the third. The Devils PK would cotinue their strong run of play and eliminate another Arizona man advantage. The Devils and Coyotes would each exchange a couple chances, with the Devils again getting the better of the run of play, however no more goals would be scored in regulation. Overtime would be needed on a night where east coast fans were probably hoping for a regulation finish.
Overtime would start poorly for the Devils with a shot almost going in, but thankfully Jesper Bratt would sweep the puck away before it crossed. Travis Zajac would get a glorious chance but Kuemper poked it away while a defender pressured Travis. A Bratt to Hischier connection almost crawled over the line but Kuemper knocked it away at the last second. Zajac and Hischier would have another great chance with Butcher, but Kuemper again bailed out his team. OT wouldn’t even be enough, and the shootout would commence.
Alex Galchenyuk would start and was promptly denied by Kinkaid. Kyle Palmieri would be the Devils’ first choice and his hesitation move would beat Kuemper. Nick Cousins came second for Arizona, and Kinkaid stopped him again. Drew “King of Shootout Style” Stafford would be next for Jersey and after a BEAUTIFUL move in his 800th NHL game, the Devils would leave Arizona victorious.
The Opposition Opinion: Take a visit over to Five for Howling for their coverage of tonight’s contest.
The Game Highlights: NHL.com will have them at some point, but they’re not getting a recap video up before this tired teacher does tonight!
The Cavers and The Cave-ees: The Devils bottom six and Ben Lovejoy got beaten up today, with the fourth line getting pulverized in the run of play. Stafford (3-12; 20%CF), Brett Seney (3-10; 23%CF) and Boyle (8-15; 35%CF) got picked up and matched up against purposefully. The third line of Zacha, Pietilla and Stefan Noesen all hovered in the 44-46% range, so they didn’t have as bad of a run of play. The defense aside from Lovejoy did well with each being at or above 50% CF.
Meanwhile Travis Zajac was a monster on the ice for Jersey with his CF (27-10) coming in at just under 73%! His linemates Blake Coleman (22-10; 69%CF) and Miles Wood (21-12; 64%CF) were no slouches either, and it was nice to see three rewarded with a point each. The top line had similar success with Palmieri (16-7; 70%CF) leading his trio and Hischier (18-11; 62%CF) and Bratt (19-10; 66%CF) close behind. A good night to be in New Jersey’s top six.
Power Kills: Tonight’s contest featured #1 and #3 ranked penalty kills in the league and it certainly showed tonight, as neither team got much going on any of their power plays. While both teams would find ways to record a pair of goals, the man advantage did not provide any of the four. Jersey’s PK has been very good especially as of late, and may have jumped into the #2 slot after tonight’s contest, a testament to one thing that’s working especially well for this team.
Birthday Boy: Nico Hischier got some luck from a review at the start of the game and contributed a big goal on his 20th birthday. Let’s hope he continues to pot more and more goals in his many years to come as a Devil.
Concern for MacBlack: I’m still not sure if we’re going with Mac or Mack (someone make a decision on this please so that I can have some consistency in my life) but he did leave the game with just over four minutes to go in the first period. He had injured himself earlier and stayed in for a bit, but obviously did not feel good enough to continue. As always, it was termed “questionable to return” and “lower body injury” so hopefully by Sunday’s game we’ll know if this is long-term (please no) or not.
A Final Thought: The New Jersey Devils are 1-0-0 since the birth of Mason Fischer; ladies and gentlemen we’ve found the team’s new good luck charm!
Your Take: The Devils win their first shootout of the year thanks to Kyle Palmieri and Drew Stafford, and pick up two points with two remaining games on this road trip. Hopefully Blackwood is good to go for the final game of it, and the team carries tonight’s momentum into Vegas on Sunday. Leave any and all thoughts about tonight’s game and/or the current road trip below.
Thank you to Mike for running the @AAtJerseyBlog account, and all of those who commented in the gamethread. Thank you all as always for reading!