The New Jersey Devils take on the Buffalo Sabres at Prudential Center. In their last meeting, Buffalo won 3-2 as the Devils went down 3 goals in the game and started the comeback too late. Mackenzie Blackwood will be starting in goal and will go against Linus Ullmark. The Sabres will be playing their second night of a back to back. After losing 3-2 to the New York Islanders, they will be looking for a bounce back win. The Devils want to end their two game skid with a strong outing against Buffalo.
The pace of the first few minutes of the game were very equal and balanced. New Jersey would take the first 4 shots on goal and the better of the chances halfway into the first. The Devils quick pace was becoming more apparent as the period went on. The first line of Pavel Zacha, Nico Hischier, and Jesper Bratt were working together well and becoming used to playing again. The second line of Andreas Johnsson, Jack Hughes, and Kyle Palmieri registered high quality chances and great passing.
The Devils had the better of the play in the first period and controlled the play for more than half of the period. Blackwood made a couple of stellar saves for the Sabres. Ullamrki was the busier of the goalies and saved 15 of 15 shots that the Devils fired at him. Blackwood made all 12 stops and the first period would end at 0-0.
The beginning of the second was very similar to the first period. Both teams exchanged shots of goal. 3:17 into the second, Michael McLeod took a tripping penalty and the worst penalty kill in the league would be brought on the ice. The Devils were extremely lucky on their first penalty kill as the Sabres hit the post 3 times and Blackwood came up with big saves. The Devils power play would get a chance but would come up with nothing. 8:27 into the second, Sami Vatanen would take a tripping penalty and Victor Olofsson would score his 7th goal of the season.
The Sabres would tilt the ice for the rest of the second and take control of the game. The Devils fired a measly 6 shots on Ullmark while the Sabres doubled the Devils shots with 12. The total shots on goal heading into the 3rd period would be for 24 for Buffalo and 21 for New Jersey.
The Devils would need a strong push for the third period to get the score even. New Jersey had many chances in the first 5 minutes of the period but could not put one past Ullmark. At 15:16 of the 3rd period, a deflected shot would be batted behind Blackwood by Rasmus Asplund to give the Sabres a 2-0 lead. Just a 1:43 later, Buffalo would extend the lead to 3-0 with a goal by Dylan Cozens.
With 2:50 left in the third, the Devils would go on another powerplay. Nikita Gusev would score on the powerplay but it would not be enough. The Sabres put one in the back of the empty net with 2 seconds left in the game. The Devils would drop this game to Buffalo and now be tied with them in points.
The Devils struggles continue to toll as the team is currently on a 3 game losing streak. The penalty kill is still a major issue that is hurting New Jersey tremendously. Mackenzie Blackwood played a strong game but did not receive help from the team in front of him. The Devils 5 vs. 5 play was decent, but the team quickly lost momentum after the first goal. The Devils will take on the Sabres again in two days in Buffalo and need to find a way out of their losing streak. With 1/4th of the season behind the Devils, they will need to get back on track very quickly.