One Mistake Does In Devils By Matt Blittner, The New York Extra/TheNYExtra.com
Tribute and Legacy are two words that often get bandied about in sports. They go hand in hand. While people like to debate these ad nauseam, there’s no debate that Travis Zajac’s legacy with the Devils is tribute worthy.
Tuesday night at Prudential Center, the Devils, who (finally) honored Travis Zajac for playing in his 1,000th career game (during) last season, watched as the momentum they built against Colorado on Tuesday was swept away by the Winnipeg Jets in a 2-1 loss.
It should be noted that Devils’ Captain Nico Hischier missed the game as he continues to deal with a lower-body “issue.” Without their on-ice leader New Jersey has needed to rely more heavily on its top line of Yegor Sharangovich, Jack Hughes and Dawson Mercer. And with that heavy reliance at the top has also come a lack of depth lower in the lineup.
Now that we’ve gotten the results, let’s review the details that led to them.
1) Prior to the start of the game the Devils honored Travis Zajac by having him skate out with the team and then had him “face-off” with Jets’ Captain Blake Wheeler in a ceremonial face-off. By the way, Zajac currently works for the team and can often be seen on the ice during practice imparting his wisdom on the newest generation of Devils.
2) The brief ceremony for Zajac culminated in him “winning” the ceremonial face-off. However, the good feelings didn’t last very long. After a semi-disjointed opening couple minutes, the Jets scored 3:22 into the period off a two-on-one odd man rush. Brenden Dillon potted the goal after Mark Scheifele’s pass got through a diving Dougie Hamilton. New Jersey’s Nico Daws tried to make the highway robbery save but was unable to get over in time.
3) A brief power-play shortly after the midway point of the opening period failed to get the Devils going and ended up being a wasted opportunity. Against a bruising team like Winnipeg the Devils couldn’t afford to let such a prime opportunity slip through their fingers.
4) When Brenden Dillon was sent to the box with just 2:03 remaining in the first period the Devils made sure to capitalize on their second power-play of the game. 30-seconds into the power-play Jesper Bratt made a beautiful cross-ice pass to Jack Hughes, who was stationed by the right face-off dot. Hughes ripped a laser past Jets’ netminder Eric Comrie and tied the game 1-1.
5) The second period was one in which the Devils controlled play for large stretches of time, although they didn’t score. That ended up biting them later on.
“I think we outplayed them,” said Pavel Zacha. “But playing good is one thing. Winning games is another.”
New Jersey also protected the house very well, allowing Winnipeg to only get seven shots on goal in the entire period. That number is a little misleading though as the Jets only had two shots on goal through the first 15-plus minutes of the middle period.
6) Speaking of things coming back to bite the Devils. With under a minute remaining in the period, Kyle Connor picked off the puck and sprinted the length of the ice on a breakaway. It appeared as if Connor’s shot initially hit the crossbar but the officials ruled the puck went in; 2-1 Winnipeg.
“I might have been the only person in the building who knew he scored,” quipped Nico Daws.
7) New Jersey came out strong to start the third, unfazed by the way the second period ended. Jesper Bratt led a three-on-one odd man rush against the Jets that resulted in Pavel Zacha being stoned by Comrie to keep the Devils’ deficit at one.
8) During the Devils’ odd man rush Dylan DeMelo was called for hooking Bratt, which sent New Jersey to its third power-play of the game. However, the Devils again allowed the opportunity to go by without being capitalized on.
“(It’s) kind of an old theme for us,” said Devils’ Head Coach Lindy Ruff. “Too many missed opportunities.”
9) A mid-third period shot by Jesper Bratt off the post represented New Jersey’s best chance to score the equalizer but the puck stayed out of Winnipeg’s net. In a game of missed opportunities every shot is vitally important.
“We tend to spend too much time to the outside” said Ruff.
10) A hooking penalty committed by Ty Smith against Nikolaj Ehlers 11:50 into the third sent New Jersey to the penalty-kill for the first time in the game. And at a crucial juncture to boot. So it was music to New Jersey’s ears when the Devils held Winnipeg to just two shots on goal and no goals while Smith was in the box.
11) Unfortunately, the Devils were unable to turn their defensive momentum into a successful offensive counterattack. A desperate defensive play by Tomas Tatar with New Jersey’s net empty led to the team’s second penalty of the game and eventually the clock became the Devils’ enemy. Finally, the team ran out of time, losing the game 2-1.
New Jersey’s power-play went 1-for-3 on the night. Meanwhile the Devils went 2-for-2 on the penalty-kill…Jack Hughes led all Devils forwards in ice time at 21:19…Damon Severson led all New Jersey defensemen in ice time at 23:49…The Devils celebrated Travis Zajac’s 1,000 career games played milestone with a night in his honor…Jack Hughes’ power-play goal marked his 13th consecutive home game with at least a point.
WHAT THEY SAID:
As a new feature of our game coverage we’ll be hearing from members of the Devils fan base.
Prior to their game against the Jets, several Devils Fan Club members had this to say about their beloved team.
“Congratulations to Travis (Zajac) on his wonderful career and his 1,000th game! We loved watching him play and miss seeing him on the ice!! Welcome (to all) Winnipeg fans and family to help Travis celebrate this joyful night!!” – Debbie.
Fan Club President Trudy Stetter offered a prediction about the game prior to puck drop. “Devils 5-2 on this night for Devils great, Travis Zajac!”
Fan Club member, Em, also tried her hand at predictions. “I hope I’m wrong, but I’m going with 4-2 for Winnipeg.”
Two predictions, both thought the game would feature much more fire power. Maybe next time?