Can the Devils put an end to this two-game losing streak before it gets out of hand?
The New Jersey Devils have had their moments since returning to play, but have found themselves on a two-game losing streak.
The Devils look more than respectable at even-strength but special teams, particularly the penalty kill, is losing them games. You wouldn’t expect much else from the team with the worst penalty kill in the league.
On Tuesday, the Devils took on the Buffalo Sabres for the fourth time this season. This would be yet another game where the penalty kill would be an x-factor for the Devils: the Sabres have the third-best power play in hockey.
MacKenzie Blackwood got the nod in net after a game off and would look to lead his team to victory.
1st period: Hot then not
The Devils looked good for the first chunk of the period. They were great in transition and showed off some impressive puck movement. They were dominant to start, but got sloppier as the period went on.
They ended up giving the Sabres more chances, and Blackwood got busy in net. The Sabres were especially dominant in New Jersey’s zone to end the period.
2nd period: Oh, special teams
What we said about special teams became the story of the second period. The Devils were the first team to go on the penalty kill and actually did a solid job.
The Sabres maintained control of the puck in the Devils’ zone, but the penalty killers did well to prevent them from scoring. The pipe being the Devils’ friend throughout this game helped, too.
The Devils were then given their chance on the power play: the 21st-best against the 23rd-best penalty kill. It was a bad two minutes for the Devils and the Sabres looked strong in their own end, not letting the Devils get anything going.
So far, two subpar penalty killing units were prevailing.
Unfortunately for the Devils, their penalty killing woes weren’t just going to disappear. They found themselves shorthanded once again and looked great until 1:53 in. A very tired group fell victim to a notoriously dangerous Victor Olofsson shot.
The Devils would need to step up big time in the final 20 minutes of this game.
3rd period: Not. good.
The Devils opened the third, as expected, dominating in Buffalo’s zone. Unfortunately for them, the next two goals of the game would be scored by the Sabres.
They were able to get on the board thanks to a late Nikita Gusev goal, but it was too little too late.
The Devils had trouble generating offense this game and didn’t generate many truly great chances, but credit must be given to Sabres goaltender Linus Ullmark, who was excellent in net.
It’s tough to drop a game to a team that’s lost five of its last six, but the Devils will have another chance to rebound against this same group on Thursday.
Key Moment: The goal
The key moment for the Devils was really their only moment: Gusev’s late goal. This was their only goal of the game and didn’t mean much, but allowed the Devils to avoid getting shut out.
Fans will hope the team can build on this goal and come out firing on Thursday.
Player of the game: Andreas Johnsson
Andreas Johnsson was the Devils’ best player on the ice. He didn’t record any points and had a subpar offensive game (he was just less bad offensively than the vast majority of his teammates), but did well defensively.
Johnsson’s numbers: 11:31 TOI, 0.21 iXG (2nd on team), 0.49 xGF, 0.14 xGA (team-high), zero GA, 71.43 CF% (team-high), -0.26 offensive impact, and 0.72 defensive impact (1st among forwards, 2nd on team).
Stats are courtesy of Hockey Stat Cards and Natural Stat Trick.