The New Jersey Devils have already endured numerous moments this season in which it appeared they hit rock bottom. However, they must hope there’s no place lower than the depths they plunged to Monday night.
The Devils will look to recover from their most discouraging loss of the season on Tuesday when they host the Vegas Golden Knights in Newark, N.J.
The game will be the second game in a back-to-back set for both clubs, who experienced drastically different results Monday.
The Devils gave up five first-period goals in a 7-1 loss to the host Buffalo Sabres. Meanwhile, the Golden Knights began a three-game East Coast road trip by scoring the first four goals and cruising to a 4-1 win over the New York Rangers.
New Jersey dropped its second straight, as it also gave up a pair of short-handed goals Saturday in the third period of a 4-0 loss to the Rangers. But it didn’t take long Monday for the Saturday defeat to look like the good old days for the Devils, who yielded five first-period goals for the first time since an 8-5 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Feb. 8, 1993.
The Devils have given up at least 11 goals over a two-game span five times this season. New Jersey’s nine wins, 22 points and negative-31 goal differential are all second worst in the NHL, ahead of only the Red Wings.
“It’s tough,” Devils captain Andy Greene said Monday night. “We weren’t very happy with the Ranger game. Obviously we needed to come out here tonight on fire. We didn’t, and it’s tough.”
Things aren’t likely to get any easier Tuesday against the Golden Knights, who have won a season-high three straight following a 10-game stretch in which they went 2-6-2. After earning a 4-3 overtime win over the Nashville Predators and a 2-1 shootout victory over the Arizona Coyotes, Vegas went 6-for-6 on the penalty kill against the Rangers on Monday.
The winning streak arrived at an opportune time for the Golden Knights, who are now one of eight Western Conference teams bunched between 30 and 34 points.
“Sometimes when you’re stringing wins together, you’re not playing your best, but you’re still finding ways to win,” said Vegas right winger Reilly Smith, who scored a goal against the Rangers. “You’re not going to be your best every single night, but to be able to pick up two points, that makes a huge difference.
“We’ve had different people step up the last three games, and we’ll continuously need that if we’re going to try to start jumping people in the standings.”
Devils goalie Mackenzie Blackwood, who didn’t start Monday but relieved Louis Domingue after the five-goal first period, is expected to start Tuesday. Blackwood made 15 saves Monday and 19 saves Saturday, when he took the loss against the Rangers.
Malcolm Subban, who earned the win by recording 29 saves Monday, is likely to draw a fifth straight start for the Golden Knights if Marc-Andre Fleury is not back yet from a leave of absence following the death of his father last week.
Vegas coach Gerard Gallant said he expects Fleury to rejoin the team during a road trip that ends with a game against the New York Islanders on Thursday night.
–Field Level Media