Devils take on Washington Capitals in Saturday matinee as they celebrate Travis Zajac.
New Jersey Devils center Travis Zajac skated in his 1,000th career game on Sunday, and was celebrated at home prior to the Devils-Capitals game on Saturday.
Zajac was awarded with a silver stick recognizing his accomplishment and all of his teammates wore his jersey during warmups.
Would the Devils be able to secure a victory to continue the celebration?
After going through a rough stretch, the Devils earned a much-needed overtime win against the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday. They’d look to do get a streak rolling with a victory against a much more dangerous Washington Capitals team.
They’d need to take advantage of Evgeny Kuznetsov’s absence from the lineup.
For the Devils, defenseman Ryan Murray was out and Will Butcher, who had actually looked quite good in three games played this season, returned to the lineup after a week off. MacKenzie Blackwood would start in net.
1st period: Sorry, Trav
The Devils got off to a slow start and it was obvious that that would lead to some trouble for them. They couldn’t get anything going in the first few minutes and looked like one giant turnover machine.
The Capitals, who were sharp from the get-go, took advantage of New Jersey’s mistakes and scored two huge goals within the first five minutes or so.
The Devils looked like they had had a bit more life in the second half of the first period, but a bad pass attempt led to a three-on-one that the Capitals made sure to turn into a goal.
The Devils were given an opportunity to at least get on the board with a late power play. That’s exactly what they did.
A P.K. Subban shot bounced off the boards and newly-appointed captain Nico Hischier was alert enough to put the puck in the net after the bounce. The youngest captain in the league now has goals in back-to-back games.
This was an uncharacteristically slow first period for the Devils. They usually come out firing and are very high-energy in the first 20 minutes. Their late goal was huge, though, and they would look to build on it heading into the second.
2nd period: Pavel Zacha cannot be stopped
The Devils had an early power play to try to score another on the man-advantage, but they couldn’t get anything going here.
That wouldn’t be a problem, however. Some beautiful passing in the offensive zone led to yet another Pavel Zacha goal. He now holds the second-longest active point streak in the NHL.
We said that the Devils would have to build on their late first period goal and that’s exactly what they’ve done.
Unfortunately, the Capitals had some pep in their step and ended up dominating play after the Devils’ goal. Lucky for the Devils, though, it remained a one-goal game.
Devils fans held their breath when the Capitals were awarded their first power play of the game.
The Devils’ Achilles heel has been special teams, particularly the penalty kill which is the worst in the league, and they’ve had the misfortune of facing teams with some of the best power plays, as of late.
Here, they’d go up against the third-best power play in hockey. Shockingly, the Devils came out of the two minutes unscathed and actually looked pretty fantastic on the kill.
They played with desperation and put pressure up ice, something they hadn’t been doing all season.
The Devils won the period and did what they had to do heading into the third. A goal a period was working, and they’d have to at least do it one more time in the final 20 minutes of the game.
3rd period: Best wishes for the captain
The Devils brought the pressure to begin the third, but Washington goalie Vítek Vaněček wouldn’t let anything get past him.
They were the more dominant team in the second half of this game, but it continued to slip away from them. The Capitals went over 18 minutes without a shot on goal and it looked like the Devils had a real chance at at least tying the game up.
Unfortunately, during one of the Devils’ offensive drives, the Capitals got control of the puck and a lucky bounce allowed Jakub Vrána to score a breakaway goal.
The Devils had a chance to get something done on a power play later in the period, but that had a scary beginning. A Subban shot was deflected by Capitals forward Nic Dowd, and the puck hit Hischier in the face.
There was blood, but he was able to get off the ice under his own power and was escorted to the locker room. The power play wouldn’t get better: shortly after, Kyle Palmieri was penalized for hooking.
The Devils ended up losing this one 5-2. It all came down to the opening period. Had the Devils gotten off to a better start and come out ready to play, this could’ve been a completely different hockey game.
The fact that they were able to dominate most of the game moving forward was impressive and a testament to how hard this team has been working this season, but this game showed how important it is to get off to a good start.
All eyes will now be on Hischier, as his teammates and the fans will hope that he’s ok and will be able to go in Sunday’s rematch against the Capitals.
Key moment: The captain on the PP
The key moment of the game was Hischier’s power play goal late in the first period. After a rough start to the game, this goal gave the Devils momentum.
They were the more dominant team for most of the remainder of the game, even though they came up short in the end. Plus, the Devils do have one of the worst power plays in hockey so this might be a sign of good things to come.
This was an important goal for Hischier, himself, who has looked good in the past two games.
Player of the game: Nico Hischier
Speaking of Hischier, he was the Devils’ player of the game. His afternoon didn’t end well after taking a puck to the face, but he was so impactful for his team throughout the game.
His numbers: 18:01 TOI, one goal, one assist, 0.26 iXG, 1 block, 0.52 xGF, 0.61 xGA, 0.95 GA, 1.08 GA, 0.13 offensive score, 1.64 individual score, and 54.84 CF%.
Stats are courtesy of Hockey Stat Cards and Natural Stat Trick.