NBCSN had puck drop pushed to 9:45. The Leafs end was entertaining. The Canadian anthem was beautiful - and the Devils were ready to play.
First Period: A solid nothing happened in the first couple minutes, aside from a redirection chance by Draisaitl to McDavid that Cory Schneider had the angle on from the start. The second shot I noticed was at 2:49 into the game by Kyle Brodziak from far out, which was followed by a scrum. They must have seen CJ’s grittiness poll.
Kurtis Gabriel and Milan Lucic dropped the gloves a half a minute later. It was an entertaining bout I’d guess. They both got some hits in, and didn’t seem worse for wear in the immediate sense.
Back to hockey. Colton White took a holding penalty in his first NHL game at the 5:30 mark, as he had Leon Draisaitl in a hug going along the boards. The first wave penalty kill of Greene, Zajac, and Coleman plus another was adequately chaos creating in their first shift, getting the puck out before a shot could be taken. Greene stayed on while the forwards changed. Alex Chiasson had a good chance in front, doing a turnaround shot on Schneider followed by a few jabs, but Cory had the rebounds the whole way.
Kenny Agostino had a solid attempt on goal after the penalty expired. Andy Greene saw him cutting up ice, saucering it to the offensive zone blue line where Agostino took it in, shot - and the puck bounced up off Mikko Koskinen, where it deflected into the net off a player. That was Agostino’s fifth goal and Greene’s 18th assist.
The Oilers answered a couple minutes later. A shot deflected, apparently off Will Butcher, and again right in front of the net. The goal was credited to Jujhar Khaira.
Ken Hitchcock was interviewed after the goal, saying that the Devils’ 1-1-3 had the Oilers “stymied in the neutral zone”, and I suppose to be fair to the Devils they were doing okay at limiting transition.
The Devils took another penalty with 7:30 left in the period. Drew Stafford took two minutes for tripping, as he took out an opposing player going to the net.
Mikko Koskinen misplayed the puck on the first clear, and Travis Zajac had a quick shot on the chance but it went wide of the net as Koskinen scrambled back.
Later in the kill, Blake Coleman was taken down from behind by Connor McDavid after a Schneider save, but no call was made. Meh. The Oilers proceeded to score after the following offensive zone entry, as Alex Chiasson took a pass in front from McDavid for an easy shot, as Greene was not in position to contend with him in front.
The more the period went on, the more lost the New Jersey Devils looked. Cory Schneider was forced to stand up to multiple extended zone controls by the Edmonton Oilers, and was performing admirably.
Ray Ferraro said something humorous about Zack Kassian looking more like the player people thought he would be when he was drafted in the mid-first round by Buffalo years back. Kassian has 12 goals and nine assists this year. He’s had more points twice (24 in 2016-17 with EDM and 29 in 2013-14 with VAN).
After Alex Chiasson was sent off for slashing with 51 seconds left in the period, Travis Zajac made a move on Koskinen so good that Adam Larsson gave him a pat on the head out of respect. Zajac’s move to the backhand on the power play with 17 seconds left in the period was his 17th goal of the season, assisted by Damon Severson. As Zajac scored his second in two nights, Severson continues his march towards 40 points, as that was his 26th assist and 36th point, Thus, the period ended 2-2, with Edmonton leading in shots 14 to eight.
Second Period: The first few minutes of the second period were still more Oilers centric at even strength. The most the Devils did on offense seemed to be take a few shots from long distance.
Then, Stefan Noesen (!) had two prime opportunities on Koskinen - the second being a backhand that was kicked out. Zajac got angry as Oscar Klefbom was holding his stick, and the Devils went back to the power play.
McDavid was nearly sent on his way by Draisaitl, but he couldn’t settle the puck and had it taken away behind Cory Schneider. On the other end, Damon Severson took the lead for the New Jersey Devils with a perfect shot from long range - his 11th of the year - this one giving a nice ring off the post. That was his 37th point of the season. Drew Stafford and Connor Carrick picked up assists - both of their first power play points of the season.
John Quenneville finally did it - he scored a goal with seven minutes remaining in the period. Quenneville took the puck, wound up, and blasted it off the glove, knocking Koskinen out of the game. Anthony Stolarz came into the goal. Kurtis Gabriel and Will Butcher picked up assists on the play.
Blake Coleman got in behind Adam Larsson, making a move on Stolarz but running into the goaltender before he could finish it. He looked to the referee for a penalty, but I don’t think Larsson did enough to warrant a call.
On the rush, Kevin Rooney beat Stolarz with a wrist shot off a play by Kenny Agostino. That was Rooney’s fifth goal of the year, and Agostino’s fifth assist. Right after the goal, Kurtis Gabriel and Kris Russell picked up coincidental slashing penalties. During the four-on-four, Darnell Nurse boarded Kevin Rooney away from the play, getting a bad two minute call for roughing. Kyle Palmieri got off a couple shots before the coincidental calls expired. Damon Severson, unfortunately, took an interference call to negate the rest of the power play right before Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had a golden shorthanded opportunity snuffed out by Cory Schneider.
Back to four-on-four, the Oilers scored right away, setting a bad omen in place for the third period, where the Devils would be starting on the kill. Not only was Schneider screened by Blake Pietila, the shot from Matt Benning was a bit of a snipe off the post. Connor McDavid also picked up his 100th point of the season, capturing a third straight season with that milestone.
Third Period: Travis Zajac proved continually valiant in this game, taking the puck into the offensive zone on the kill and killing several seconds of penalty time. Damon Severson came out of the box, and the Devils returned to five skaters still up two goals.
The third period was much slower than the second, with a lot of the time just being spent flipping the puck in and out of zones and taking long range shots. Aside from Connor McDavid trying to take the puck end to end and crashing out by Schneider, nothing much was happening in the several minutes after the kill.
After a shot hit off the post behind Schneider on a chance from the side of the net, Rooney and Quenneville took the puck to the other end and created a rebound chance, but nobody jumped on it.
Will Butcher took a two minute minor for delay of game with eight minutes and 21 seconds remaining in the game for flipping the puck over the glass. Where’s Ben Lovejoy for a proper icing when you need him?
Blake Coleman got his revenge on the penalty kill. This time, off a chipped puck, he took the puck backhand across the crease, shaking off a slash, and sliding it right past Stolarz. That was his 21st goal of the season, and Andy Greene’s 19th assist of the season. That means that Greene has set his half-decade high with 23 points on this season - his most since he had 32 in 2013-14 (when he played on the power play). He also hit 23 points in 2010-11.
The Devils took another penalty after the goal - with Coleman going off for cross-checking.
That penalty, too, was killed, as the Edmonton Oilers started to look less effective on the puck than they were in the late first and early second. Even when McDavid would create a zone entry, his teammates tended to just misfire a puck wide or make an inconsequential move to the net for a poorly angled shot or a turnover.
Play was stopped for excessive grit shown by the benches with a minute to play. Khaira went after Noesen, and Gagner tried to get to him from behind as Noesen went to the bench, but Kurtis Gabriel, noted diplomat and pacifist, quickly ushered Noesen in before a cheap shot could be thrown. The Devils got a power play to finish the game, but everything was just the motions until the end.
The Three Stars: The three stars for the game were Connor McDavid, Damon Severson, and Kenny Agostino. Though the three stars have no inherent meaning, I thought it was an interesting selection. Connor McDavid, registering his 100th point of the year, also failed to register his first career goal against the Devils, in his seventh game against them.
Damon Severson Was a good choice for a second star. He had some great moments on offense tonight, with a multi-point game. Severson had a 62.96 CF% according to Natural Stat Trick at even strength, and successfully helped stifle a potentially dangerous Edmonton top six in those minutes, with the Devils outshooting the Oilers 15 to five.
Kenny Agostino: While playing a good game, would have not been my choice for first star. He did have a multi-point game, though his goal may have been more luck than pure skill and precision. His assist was a top-notch move to Rooney, and he’s certainly playing his way into a good negotiating spot for the off-season. In 12:28 at even strength, Agostino had a 63.64 CF%, with the Devils outshooting the Oilers eight to seven.
The main Devils vets - Travis Zajac, Andy Greene, and Cory Schneider - all played admirably. I think that, in a non-Edmonton setting, one of the three (probably Schneider) would have been media-selected star.
Andy Greene: For a guy who doesn’t have a great reputation for creating transitions to offensive chances from the defensive or neutral zone in his aging days, Team Dad Andy Greene was a solid man in that regard tonight. On both Kenny Agostino and Blake Coleman’s goals, they were provided chances by deliberate puck chips by Greene. That’s the type of stuff you want to see from an older defenseman who should be making his bread off of reading the ice rather than trying to emulate some of the skill he’s lost touch with over the years. Not to mention, he also registered seven blocked shots in the game, which pulls him closer to the team’s single-season record for blocked shots.
The NHL has been tracking blocked shots since the 1997-98 season. Since then, the #NJDevils franchise leader for blocked shot in a single season has been Colin White (199) in the 2005-06 season.— Craig Seiden (@CraigSeiden) March 14, 2019
As of right now, Andy Greene has blocked 192 shots this season (4 tonight).
Travis Zajac: After a poor game in Calgary (goal aside), the team’s first-line-center-for-the-time-being played it up in Edmonton. He went 13-for-17 in the face off circle, got a power-play goal, and was an invaluable part of the penalty kill. He only played 9:16 at even strength, putting up a 46.15 CF% (+3.30 relative), though he was able to help limit the shots that made it to Cory Schneider to a mere two in that span.
Cory Schneider: Every win for Cory feels good. And not only did Cory Schneider pick up a well-deserved win tonight with 36 saves, he ticks closer to a .900 save percentage for the season. He now stands at .898, rounding down. This performance pulls him about .0018 higher than he was before the game. In all these tiny numbers lie the clawing back from the brink of obsolescence that Cory Schneider did in front of the entire NHL. And every game that trend continues is a good one.
Some Words: This was a good response for the Devils team, following the atrocity of the third period in Calgary. For John Hynes to get his team together to face the best player in the league leading a team desperate to get into the playoffs and pull out a win on no rest was…solid, and what we should expect from a coach that was extended to continue leading after the rebuild.
Your Thoughts: How did you feel about tonight’s game? Did you get excited at the goals? Did it matter? Was it fun to watch the Devils play spoiler? Does John Hynes still have a good handle on his job? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
Thanks to those who followed along, whether in the gamethread or on Twitter @AATJerseyBlog. This is Chris - goodnight.