Devils look to shake off Saturday’s loss, even without their captain.
The New Jersey Devils entered Sunday’s game against the Washington Capitals in a rough patch and coming off an ugly loss to the same opponent the day before.
During that loss, Devils captain Nico Hischier took a puck to the face and was immediately taken to the locker room. Head coach Lindy Ruff revealed that Hischier is day-to-day and was ruled out for Sunday’s game.
Mikhail Maltsev made his return to the lineup on the fourth line and MacKenzie Blackwood got the start in net.
Capitals goalie Ilya Samsonov gets his first start in net in over a month after a lengthy battle with COVID-19.
1st period: Soft goals
The awful, slow start to Saturday’s game was what the Devils would have to avoid in Sunday’s matchup.
Samsonov hasn’t played in a while and it showed. The Devils caught the Capitals on a line change and Maltsev was able to get the puck through Samsonov’s five-hole for the first goal of the game.
Pavel Zacha got the secondary assist on the goal, extending his point streak to a whopping 10 games. The kid is on fire.
Unfortunately, Blackwood went on to give up a soft five-hole goal for himself. Jakub Vrana got a rebound off Blackwood’s pads that he put past New Jersey’s netminder.
The Devils were much better in the opening 20 minutes of this game than in Saturday’s, and that’s a significant improvement.
2nd period: More history for Zajac
An awful pass by Jack Hughes became a turnover that resulted in a two-on-one goal. Luckily, the Devils were able to tie it up shortly after.
Fans were getting ready to write off rookie Yegor Sharangovich as an NHLer at this stage in his career, so naturally he had to prove his worth. He scored a big goal to keep his team in the game.
With a secondary assist on the goal, Travis Zajac passed Scott Stevens for fifth all-time in assists in franchise history with 338.
Alexander Ovechkin wouldn’t let this game stay tied. He gave his team another one-goal lead on a terrific and vintage Ovechkin shot.
The successful completion of passes in the offensive zone has been a problem for the Devils all season. That’s been evident this game.
Can they come out firing in the third to at least tie the game?
3rd period: Better, but not perfect
The Devils opened the third on the penalty kill, and that’s shockingly been one of the best parts of their game in this matchup. Not one of the Capitals’ three goals was scored against New Jersey’s penalty kill.
The Devils, especially Jack Hughes, were buzzing to begin the third.
The Devils had a good short-handed game, but were unable to get anything going on several power play chances, something that’s been an issue all game long.
The Devils emptied the net to end the period and with around 40 seconds left, Miles Wood took a Zdeno Chara puck to the head.
He got up quickly but was rushed to the locker room. Hischier on Saturday and then Wood on Sunday. Both incidents coming in losses, too.
The Devils played much better in this game than they did the day before, and it’s unfortunate that they came out of this one point-less. The penalty kill doing so well is something the team should be proud of.
Now they must focus on keeping it consistent and improving the power play, as well. Taking P.K. Subban off the first power play unit might be the first step to success on the man-advantage.
Key moment: The first penalty kill
The key moment of the game for the Devils was actually their first penalty kill. Coming out of those two minutes without conceding a goal was a success that they built on when they found themselves short-handed thereafter.
The fact that the Devils, who have the worst penalty kill in the NHL, were so successful against a top-five power play in the league is even more impressive.
The hope will be that they can consistently replicate this success moving forward because they’ve shown that they are, in fact, capable of killing penalties against the best of the best.
Player of the game: Mikhail Maltsev
Mikhail Maltsev, who came into the lineup as a replacement for the injured Hischier, was the Devils’ best player. He scored the team’s first goal and proved that he’s capable of being a good depth piece.
Maltsev even had a positive defensive impact. He stepped up big time in a big game. His numbers: 9:43 TOI, 40.91 CF%, one goal, 0.05 iXG, 1 block, 0.26 xGF, 0.28 xGA, 0.94 GF, 0 GA, 0.23 defensive rating, 0.33 offensive rating, and 0.83 individual rating.
Stats are courtesy of Hockey Stat Cards and Natural Stat Trick.