The puck drops down in Nashville, and Louis Domingue is up for some action early. The Predators immediately pin the Devils down in their own zone. A shot aimed towards net is tipped by Daniel Carr and past Domingue for a goal within the first minute. Perhaps this is a good reason to not start your fourth line ?
Lets try this again.
Puck drops... and we’re right back into the Devils end. They get things together for a moment with a rush for Taylor Hall but no one is with him to collect the wide open rebound and Nashville regains control. Back to the Devils end and Nashville plays a little tic tac toe across the ice on the way down before Dante Fabbro puts a shot past Domingue from a wide angle. 2-0 Nashville 2 minutes into the game.
What we could really use here is a comeback goal. Cue Jesper Bratt
The third line hops on the ice and skates right down into the Nashville zone. Zacha picks up the puck in the corner and finds a wide open Jesper Bratt floating through the high slot. Bratt takes the pass and buries it to put the Devils on the board just 32 seconds after Fabbro’s goal. 2-1
You know what we should do now? Lets tie it up.
Nikita Gusev helps the puck out of the Devils end where its picked up by Blake Coleman. Coleman carries it in and returns a pass to Gusev. Gusev finds Zajac in front of the net, who’s fascinating presence apparently knocks Pekka Rinne off his skates, and Zajac puts it between his feet as he falls. Tie game, 2-2, five minutes into the game.
Know what we should do now? Take the lead.
Alright it was worth a shot.
We don’t tie it up, but we do get to go to the power play a few minutes later due to an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty to Yannick Weber. Unfortunately that power play is cut short due to a shorthanded rush for the Predators broken up by a slashing penalty to Nikita Gusev, so we’ll try just over a minute of 4 on 4 instead.
Or not. Instead we’ll see a delayed penalty to PK Subban that nearly allows a goal for Nashville, and instead finally touch up and go to the penalty kill. 10 seconds of 4 on 3 is killed before 30 seconds of 5 on 3 starts. Duchene gets a good opportunity but Domingue squashes it and Zajac is able to carry it away and kill the remainder of the 5 on 3. Gusev’s penalty ends as Domingue is forced to make a save and we go to 1:10 of 5 on 4. This stage of the kill starts with a clear but the Preds come back hard and force Domingue out of position but their shooter fortunately lost the handle—it may have been tipped by either Domingue or Severson— and missed the open net. The rest of the penalty is handled, and we return to 5 on 5.
The rest of the period trickles by without much excitement, which is fine because most fans are probably still hyperventilating from the first five minutes (just me?).
First Period Stats:
Shots- Devils 11, Predators 13
Shot Attempts- Devils 15, Predators 23
Scoring Chances- Devils 9, Nashville 11
Hits- Devils 3, Predators 3
Blocks- Devils 7, Predators 3
We start the second period with a power play, as Dante Fabbro took a hooking penalty just 30 seconds into the period. The Devils do not manage to score but their puck movement is 20x better than it has been in past games and they had some excellent opportunities and, most importantly, actual SHOTS. It was great. What was not great was Hughes wiping out in the Devils zone as they regrouped after the powerplay and nearly giving up a 2 on 0, which forced the remaining Devils to scramble and lead to a high sticking penalty to Miles Wood. Both teams getting a full special teams workout tonight. Fortunately the Devils penalty kill is sharp as ever, allowing just one shot. With five minutes past, we finally start to play some 5 on 5 again.
Unfortunately 5 on 5 doesn’t work as well for the Devils as the penalty kill does. A D to D pass in the defensive zone does not connect, and Rocco Grimaldi is able to pick up the puck off the boards and send it on net. It misses wide, but catches Yakov Trenin’s skate and deflects past Domingue’s 5-hole. Preds on top 3-2.
We’ve done well to come back from 2 goal deficits tonight, so to be safe we should give them another 2 goal lead right? Okay sure. We can thank Mirco Mueller for this one, as his idea of defending Philip Forsberg in the slot was to have his stick up across Forsberg’s midriff as he allowed him to walked directly into the crease after a loose puck and put it home. 4-2 Nashville.
To add insult to injury, the Devils will go quickly to the penalty kill here as Coleman gets a penalty for what looks more like a reverse hit as Weber runs directly into the back of him, but instead he gets 2 minutes for head contact. To even out the terrible call, Ryan Johanssen takes an interference penalty immediately after the puck drops against Pavel Zacha so the penalty is negated after 5 seconds and we go right to 4 on 4 hockey.
The Preds dominate most of the 4 on 4 but Domingue makes some surprisingly good saves and neither team scores. Coleman picks up the puck out of the box from an excellent pass from Zacha and makes a run for it but is tripped up at the last second and draws a penalty. He was fully ahead of the two backchecking Predators so in my opinion it should have been a penalty shot but we don’t get those kind of breaks so we’ll have to settle for a power play. Ill take it though, as within the first minute Vatenen finds Hall on the boards, who feeds Palmieri for a one-timer past Rinne. Back up to a one goal deficit with 6:30 left in the second period.
Back in the Predators zone, Hughes nearly puts home another big rebound from Rinne but it doesn’t go. The Preds come right back the other way and Forsberg does a great job to effectively split Vatanen and Butcher and heads right to the net but can’t get it past Domingue. Palmieri gets the clear and the Devils return to the Preds zone. The Palmieri power play goal seems to have put some wind back in the Devils sails, but the play over the rest of the period varied between choppy and sloppy for NJ. They have a few shoots and some good scoring opportunities develop over the final couple of minutes but nothing further develops from it and the Devils will go into the second intermission down 4-3.
Second Period Stats
Shots- Devils 12, Predators 12
Shot Attempts- Devils 19, Predators 17
Scoring Chances- Devils 3, Predators 10
Hits- Devils 4, Predators 2
Blocks- Devils 1, Predators 4
The Devils start off the first period right back on their horse, buzzing with two excellent chances from Gusev and Coleman right off the bat. Coleman then takes a holding penalty so he goes right back to the box and we go right back to the penalty kill. The PK, with the addition of Palmieri in place of Coleman this time, is again successful. Coleman makes up for his penalty by returning to the ice and making a big block at the blueline to get the puck out of the zone. Unfortunately it was a massive shot and Coleman, who’d been having an excellent game despite the multiple penalties, had to be helped down the tunnel.
Nashville really starts to tilt the ice here in the third, piling on zone time and shots and grinding down on the Devils defense. The remaining Devils continued to struggle to get the puck out of the zone after the penalty kill ended, and the extremely extended zone time finally pays off for the Predators. Nick Bonino roofs a hard angle shot past Domingue to restore the two goal lead for Nashville. 5-3.
Coleman returns to the ice just a few minutes later fortunately, and he makes his renewed presence known with a big opportunity in front of Rinne just moments into the shift.
The first line has been a little quiet tonight, but now they’ve decided to pick up on the momentum from their fellow lines and make something happen. Jack Hughes walks through the Nashville zone, splits two players but is stopped by a second two. He steals it back and gets a shot on net. Taylor Hall, driving the crease, finds the loose rebound and buries it. Devils right back on the board and its 5-4 now.
The Devils were starting to really buzz in the offensive zone, but the trade-off for increased offense is often less focus on defense, and that kills them here. Subban attempts to step up on the puck but gets poke-checked by Grimaldi, who earns himself a mile-long breakaway and capitalizes on it. The Devils deficit returns to two.
They pull Domingue with 3 minutes left in the game, but he’s forced back in for a bit due to a neutral zone faceoff. Back out at 2 minutes remaining, the Devils make an effort but have too much trouble gaining the zone to make anything out of their 6 on 5... or, actually, their 7...9? on 5? The Devils are called for a too many men with 45 seconds left with some really miraculously bad changing decisions and we are forced to spend the remaining seconds of the game on the penalty kill instead of the man advantage.
Third Period Stats:
Shots- Devils 10, Predators 12
Shot Attempts- Devils 21, Predators 20
Scoring Chances- Devils 10, Predators 7
Hits- Devils 4, Predators 4
Blocks- Devils 5, Predators 6
Shots- Devils 33, Predators 37
Shot Attempts- Devils 55, Predators 60
Scoring Chances- Devils 22, Predators 28
Hits- Devils 11, Predators 9
Blocks- Devils 13, Predators 13
We’re still not getting the results we want in games, but there are key things that are different that are important to note.
The resiliency— sure, we could give up two goals and collapse and call it a game. We’ve done it plenty of times before. Instead we gave up two goals twice tonight and neither time did they come out dejected and bored. The first time they tied it right back up and the second time they got a goal back and made a solid effort for the second tying goal.
The power play— not only are goals actually coming for us on the power play all of a sudden, but its also clearly not just a lucky hop here and there; they’re doing things the right way. Both power play teams are moving the puck, moving their feet, and taking shots. Is it perfect yet? No, absolutely not. The first power play saw only three Devils playing catch with each other for 30 seconds before Ellis picked off the pass and turned it into a shorthanded rush and a penalty to negate the power play, This was not good. But they adjusted, and came back out for the next power play and did things better and scored a goal out of it.
In-game adjustments— these were also missing lately. They’d fall apart and it seemed like nothing could be done to make things better over the rest of the game, but this time things are improving from period to period, shift to shift and that’s a huge statement for the effectiveness of the ‘new’ coaching staff.
Gusev-Coleman-Zajac has been good since they were put together, but their continued excellence is worth pointing out again. CF% of 64%, .61xGF, 7 scoring chances, things looked absolutely solid on the third line yet again tonight. Gusev has found his people, and they’re looking great out there.
Louis Domingue— I don’t think Domingue is as bad as he has looked in his last two starts for us. Buffalo? The whole team played terrible. Tonight? Some bad goals, some flukey goals. That being said, it’s tough to look at the whole performance tonight, the goals allowed, the amount of goals the Devils were able to score, and wonder if this would have been a win if Blackwood had been in net.
Your Take: How much of a difference did goaltending make in this game? Who had the biggest impact offensively? How much do you miss Connor Carrick lately? Leave your thoughts in the comments below and as always thanks for reading!