In order to win a hockey game, you have to play a complete game. The New Jersey Devils only played half of a game. After a very strong first period and a strong part of the second, the Devils collapsed in the third period in an embarrassing fashion. New Jersey jumped out to a 2-0 lead halfway through the second but eventually gave up four unanswered goals. There were some positives, such as the play of Jack Hughes, but the negatives clearly outweighed the positives. The special teams are a glaring mess that badly needs to be addressed.
The Devils came out fast out of the gate. These looked like the Devils we have seen as of late. New Jersey was all over the Capitals, putting seven of the first eight shots of the game on the net. Jack Hughes also generated a few scoring chances, manevuring his way to the net quite a few times in the opening period. Andreas Johnsson opened the scoring for the Devils on the powerplay with 10:25 to go in the first. Kyle Palmieri gathered another point on the goal, now on a four-game point streak. The Devils were playing at a fast intensity and dictating the pace for most of the period. Washington eventually woke up and started to gain some momentum within the last 5-7 minutes of the first. Devils goaltender Aaron Dell stood tall and made some big saves early to keep it 1-0 Devils heading into the first intermission.
New Jersey came out fast again in the second. Jack Hughes continued to put together a strong game. Hughes was all over the ice and was a strong suit for the Devils in today’s matchup. The 2019 first overall pick eventually potted a goal in the second. Hughes came all the way down the ice from the defensive zone and Andreas Johnsson delivered a beautiful pass to Hughes who went to his backhand and put it in the net. New Jersey now took a 2-0 lead.
Poor Special Teams Play Leads To Collapse
Washington gained some more momentum again about halfway into the second period, and with 6:47 left in the second the Devils went to the box. Sami Vatanen was sent off for hooking. 25 seconds later the Capitals put one on the board. T.J. Oshie got one behind Dell. Heading into the third the Devils held on to a 2-1 lead.
New Jersey came out strong to start the third, generating a few shots in the opening seconds with one going off of the pipe. The Capitals went down he ice and gathered some more momentum, and the onslaught began. The Devils were getting killed in their own zone, and a John Carlson goal tied it at 2 with 10:44 left in the game. This led to the Devils going down a downward spiral, with Washington pressuring and generating tons of shots. New Jersey had a rough time even just getting it out of the zone. Kyle Palmieri got sent to the box for holding with 10 minutes left, putting the Capitals on the powerplay.
With 8:07 left, the Capitals took the 3-2 lead. T.J. Oshie scored his second powerplay goal of the game. New Jersey had no answer for Washington’s dangerous powerplay as the penalty kill was badly struggling. Even the 5 on 5 defense was struggling. This game got ugly real fast. The Devils took another penalty with 3:11 left to go, this time it was Ryan Murray for tripping. Seven seconds later, Alexander Ovechkin effectivley ended the game. Yet another powerplay goal for the Capitals, with horrible defense from the Devils, led to a 4-2 Capitals lead. New Jersey surrendered three powerplay goals in the contest.
Devils Going Forward
Nikita Gusev finally scored his first of the season with 11 seconds to go, and Kyle Palmeri has found his game finally. Jack Hughes continues to be strong as well. But moving forward the Devils need to address special teams. The powerplay has been horrendous for most of the year and so has the powerplay kill. New Jersey also needs to be more disciplined, especially against teams like Washington. The three powerplay goals pretty much explained that you cannot play with fire, with that fire being the Capitals powerplay. The Devils also were having trouble breaking out of their own zone and generating offense in the third period. Going forward, these young players need to learn that. Growing pains are part of the game, especially with a young team such as the Devils. New Jersey is back in action on Tuesday vs the Sabres at the Prudential Center.