Jonathan Quick is in net for the Kings, surprisingly. As mentioned in the preview, Pheonix Copley has been the hot-hand recently. We’ll see how that one turns out. The Devils start out with the Hischeir-Palat-Bratt line, with the Kings matching the Kopitar-Kempe-Byfield line. Palat sent one just wide on a redirect just a couple seconds in. No shots on in the first couple minutes as Severson had one blocked shooting from the right flank. With the Hischier line out for a defensive faceoff, the Kings again sent Kopitar out with the last change, which seems to be the desired matchup for the Kings. Hischier drew a penalty on former second-overall draft selection Byfield in the neutral zone. The Devils first unit — again with Tatar out there with Hischier, Hughes, Bratt and Hamilton — had some sustained pressure, without really creating anything dangerous. The Kings killed it off and almost immediately went the other way with Graves swiping one off the line on a rebound as Blackwood mad a good pad save on a fast break before the Kings forward knocked the net off.
Sigenethaler took a penalty for crosschecking Blake Lizotte six minutes in, sending LA to the power play. Kopitar won the draw against Mcleod but Severson intercepted and sent it down the ice. However, on the reentry, Adrian Kempe sent a perfect cross-crease pass to Kevin Fiala who had an easy tap-in after being lost in coverage. Notthing Blackwood could do on that one. 1-0 Kings. The Devils are 11-6-2 when allowing the first goal.
Shots are 3-1 Kings eight minutes in. Not much to do in terms of offense despite the two penalties. Hughes was sent out for the offensive zone faceoff, with Danult — the defensive center — and his line taking this matchup. Tatar takes a hooking penalty, and the Kings again go to the powerplay. Blackwood swallows a soft Doughty shot from the point. Iafallo fanned on a one timer from the right circle: good thing, as there was no way Blackwood was getting across for that one. The Devils kill it off, somewhat unconvincingly.
As Matt Loughlin interviewed a couple New Zealand-based Devils fans — good for them! — Mcleod drew a trip off Fiala, sending the Devils to the man advantage again. Tatar scores off a Hughes rebound, making amends for his previous penalty blunder. 1-1, good response from the Devils after killing that second penalty.
A good shift from the Hischier line, with Palat winning a couple board battles, but it comes to nothing. 8-6 Kings in shots with five to go in the first. Kempe fans on a difficult look from a sharp angle after a weird bounce off the boards. Hughes makes a great defensive play on a dangerous Kings look, before Lizotte has a shot from the left point which Blackwood sees clearly. The Kings are fighting back in the last couple minutes of the first. Smith trips Iafallo with 2:06 to go, on a pretty silly play. Devils have to hold out to get into the intermission tied. Kings win the faceoff and Kopitar has a shot from the high slot, saved by Blackwood — who has looked good so far — and the Devils send it down the ice. The Kings take it in offside, further running down the clock. With the second unit out, the Kings move the puck around the perimiter quickly, before Byfield gets a look in the low slot off a no-look pass from Arvidsson. Saved by Blackwood, who then saves off a powerful Kopitar one-timer. Real Kings pressure here. The Devils survive unscaved, with Blackwood the main reason, making 14 saves across the first. Aside from the powerplays, not much to say about the Devils offense, outshot 15-6. They have to come out better in the second.
Sharangovich out with Hischier and Bratt to start, with Ruff reshuffling the lines. Palat moves up to Huges’ wing, alongside Tatar. Haula moves down the lineup to the third line with Wood and Foote. Let’s see how these new combinations do, how long Ruff sticks with them. The Devils broadcast show a graphic of the Devils’ recent run, being the only team to win 16 road games through the first 19 of the season in NHL history (a bunch mustered 15); better pick it up if they want to make it 17 out of 20. After the Kings have the first couple shots of the period, Haula scores on a 2-on-1 with Boqvist, electing to shoot and going high-blocker on Quick. The third of the season for Haula, who has been snake-bitten this year (albeit, perhaps to an extent from a lack of finishing ability, playing alongside Hughes for the most part — hopefully Jack sees the irony of Haula scoring on his first shift off Hughes’ wing). Those moves by Ruff look good very quickly. First New Jersey shot in nine minutes.
Sharangovich puts a slapper wide from the high-slot. Hamilton puts one off the bar next shift after good interplay between Hughes and Palat. The Devils do look a little sharper. As I write that, Wood unnecessarily hooks Drew Doughty in the offensive zone, giving the Kings another man advantage. Not ideal, potentially handing momentum directly back after just getting it. Mcleod wins the draw and Smith clears. Mcleod has started well tonight, as an aside. Vilardi misses the puck as he is set up by Kempe on an empty net, but Kopitar deflects it in off a Doughty shot just seconds later. 2-2, again, not much Big Mac could do in net on that tip. 19-8 in shots after that goal. But Okhotiuk scores his first of the season from the left face-off dot after a fake shot confused the Kings defense. The Devils go back up 3-2 immediately, dare I say luckily, as they had really dug themselves into a hole there, unnecessarily. Nonetheless, good for the kid, who has played solidly in his chance since Marino went down and Kevin Bahl played himself out of favour.
Hischer makes a good play to send it across the net to Bratt, who is just ahead of two Kings defenders; Quick gets across to make the save. Bratt was stretching slightly to get that one on goal. A good shift from the Hughes line after the TV-timeout. I do like Palat on Hughes’ wing, they seem to have great chemistry. They both had assists on the Okhutiuk goal, by the way. Just as against Carolina, Siegenthaler sends one on net from a very tight angle. After deliberation, the officials review for whether the puck crosses the goal-line. The over-head angle is inconclusive. It looks like it is glued to Quick’s pad just up against the post. They presumably have better replays up in Toronto, and the call ends up being no-goal, due to inconclusive evidence that the puck crosses the line. Fair enough, it would have been a Devils-favouring call to give that one.
The Devils score a legitimate goal shortly thereafter, however. Hischier works the puck well down low. It comes up to Graves who fires one on from the point and it defelcts in off Fiala up high — off his hand, down into the ice, and up past Quick. Hischier was in front, as were a couple of Kings. 4-2 Devils. Graves with his fourth of the year, the first for a long time for him. As a spontaneous thought, Graves has looked really good in his pairing with Severson recently. I wonder what Ruff does when Marino gets back in — he was obviously wonderful next to Graves in the early going of the season. Personally, I would like to see Marino alongside Okhotiuk, with Smith dropping out, but I doubt Ruff will go that way.
We have conclusive evidence that Ryan Graves extends the lead. pic.twitter.com/2BeWwIKKyw— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) January 15, 2023
The Kings send a couple on, Blackwood handles them pretty comfortably. Some sloppy play in their own zone from the Devils, luckily nothing comes of it. The puck comes out in front to Fiala, who chips it over the net on the backhand. Should have scored that one, frankly. The Kings pushing back after going down two. 2:37 to go here in the second, let’s hope the Devils weather the strom. They almost do better, as the Hischier-Bratt-Sharangovich line almost score on a 3-on-2, with the puck bouncing just wide. 26-13 Kings in shots at the interval. Blackwood the difference over Quick.
Palat draws a penalty, being slashed by Iafallo after Hughes squares it on a two-on-one. Good penalty to take, as Palat probably scores that otherwise. Hughes flies in and puts it off the bar. Lizotte skates around in the Devils zone short-handed before passing it to Anderson-Dolan who was robbed by Blackwood. Pretty poor powerplay from the Devils, all things considered. Hamilton lays the body, which he’s done a couple times this game — the Kings have had the puck the majority of the time, so the Devils are hitting a lot. Foote passes one across to Haula, who sends one into the chest of Quick. Fourteen to go. Bratt has a shot saved, making it 9-1 Devils in shots in the third. Fiala comes in on a breakaway and Smith hooks him from behind. As Fiala glides inot the net, the referee awards a penalty shot. Fiala comes in, shoots, well-saved from Blackwood with the right pad, as Fiala tried to wire it low. Blackwood really good tonight.
Hughes dances around the offensive zone, first passing it out into the slot where Tatar almost gets a stick on it, then chucking one on from up high. Hughes has two points tonight, witout really being his remarkable self. Edler floats one on, easily saved by Blackwood, before a scrum breaks out. Brendan Lemiux — son of Claude — and Miles Wood have some words, with Wood not happy about how Lemiux was treating Okhotiuk. Nothing called on that one. Ten minutes to go with the Devils up by two. A slow couple minutes follow, which suits the Devils nicely, as they look to kill time. The puck bounces around in the Devils slot, with Blackwood making a good reactionary save as Roy wacked one towards the net. Kopitar then has a shot saved through traffic as LA are pressing. Fiala has one shot saved, another blocked as the Devils finally get a clear after a long shift. Arvidsson sets up Iafallo with a nice spin play, but Blackwood again has the answer. TV-timeout with 4:25 to go. The Devils, as with the first and second, look to survive a late Kings onslaught.
Haula out to take the draw alongside Mercer and Boqvist — Ruff putting faith in his young defensive forwards. The Devils win it, but ice it after the puck comes back into their zone. Empty net with 3:42 to go. Kings possession. Boqvist — looking for his third in three — puts it just wide on the empty-net bid after being fed by Mcleod. Icing, we go again. 11/19 vs 11/29, Mcleod vs Kopitar on faceoffs. The Hischier line is out and have three or four bids at the empty net, but none of them go: it tantalisingly bounces over Bratt’s stick in the blue paint. Quick is back in the net as the Kings ice it twice. Hughes out with Mercer and Mcleod, the latter loses the draw but good pressure from the Devils stops Quick from getting to the bench. Neutral zone faceoff with a minute thirty to go. Quick goes to the bench and Bratt scores on a feed from Sharangovich — this one not evading him. 5-2 Devils, Bratt with his 18th of the year. Sharangovich has looked fantastic alongside Hischier and Bratt; I hope Lindy keeps these lines intact against San Jose. The clock winds down: 5-2 Devils win!
Big Mac the hero! The Devils got away with one here, with Moneypuck having the Devils losing this game roughly 2 out of 3. Also per Moneypuck, Blackwood saved 35 of 37 shots faced for a save percentage of 0.946, saving two goals more than expected. He was not in the official three stars for the game, but there is no way the Devils win without this stellar performance. As I noted on both the Kings goals, there was nothing he could do about either, and he was perfect everywhere else. Mackenzie Blackwood is the man of a thousand false dawns, often showing signs of becoming that great goalie we know he has the potential to be, equally often disappointing. I expect him to get one of the games against San Jose and Seattle, with Vanacek taking the other, so hopefully he can continue this form.
I thought the Devils looked good in moments, but were overall not on their top game tonight. Something that did please me was how they stood up under pressure, as LA had big momentum in the last five or so of each period. Granted, the Kings were rested and New Jersey were on the second half of a back-to-back, so perhaps they can be forgiven for not being perfect against what is clearly a good team.
The depth scoring came up big, with goals from Tatar, Haula, Okhotiuk and Graves. This continues the resurgence of the New Jersey non-top players, as they have been responsible for a lot of goals in recent games. Long may this continue. On to the Sharks now, as the Devils look to sweep California.