Friday night’s game against the Vegas Golden Knights was the most exciting highlight of the Devils 2018-19 season so far. What started out as a 3-0 lead for Vegas ended in a 5-4 overtime win for the Devils. Less than 24 hours after their epic (and only second) come back win of the season, the Devils boarded a plane to go to the Music City and face off against the perennial Western Conference powerhouse, the Nashville Predators. The Devils almost had the same result, a come from behind win in overtime, for the second time in two nights. But their comeback fell short, even if the game was a lot closer than you expected.
The Devils recently have been a team that’s scoring more goals, while letting up all the more. While their defeats earlier in the season saw scores among the likes of 3-2 or 4-2, the Devils and their opposition have recently been seeing scores among the likes of a 6-3 win in Los Angeles or a 6-5 shootout loss in Anaheim. That made it more than a little surprising that for most of the night, it was a one-goal game, with Nashville holding a 1-0 score until the closing minutes of the third when the Devils managed to tie it up.
The first goal of the game came late in the first period off a rebound that was scored by Frederick Gaudreau against Keith Kinkaid. Kinkaid saw game action for the second day in a row. He had entered Friday’s game in relief of Cory Schneider and stayed in the crease, as the Devils erased their three-goal deficit for a surprising win. While no other NHL team would ever play a goalie twice in a home and away back-to-back, when Schneider is your only other option, you have to make desperate decisions.
On the other end of the ice, Saros was in goal for the Predators instead of franchise favorite Pekka Rinne. Saros stats paint the picture of an average, if not slightly below average, résumé for a backup goaltender. He also seems to have become the Predators goalie of choice versus the Devils, facing them in both appearances this season. It is worth noting that during the Prudential Center matchup, Rinne was on injured reserve.
There was good news, bad news, and the best news for the Devils in the second period. The good news is that they were the recipients of multiple power plays. The bad news is that they couldn’t find the back of the net on any of them. The silver lining was that, while ineffective, the Devils possessed more control over their power play and put on a much better showing than we’re used to seeing from them. The best news of the period came when Nashville scored a power play goal on a Ben Lovejoy penalty, only to have it waived off due to goaltender interference.
Most of the game was the two teams locked in a 1-0 score. But the end of the third saw things begin to heat up, with both teams furiously trying to score. The Devils were trying to tie it up, with the Predators looking for an insurance goal. New Jersey’s best offensive chance of the night came off a partial John Quenneville breakaway that, of course, was stopped by Saros. It was just shaping up to be one of those kind of nights.
Finally, something went right for the Devils at the end of the third. With Kinkaid out and the extra skater on, the Devils tied it up at one goal apiece off a Brian Boyle goal off that was set up by Jesper Bratt.
Just like the last few Devils-Predators games, the game went to overtime. Unlike the game earlier this season, the game did not end in overtime. The OT effort was one of the Devils most exciting of the season, with multiple scoring chances for both sides. The highlight of the five-minute overtime was an early Keith Kinkaid glove save off Kevin Fiala.
The lone Devils scorer in the shootout was Kyle Palmieri, who was wearing the “A” on his jersey in the absence of Taylor Hall. With the way the Devils season has been going, a road loss to the Predators is in no doubt disappointing, but leaving Music City with the consolation prize of a single point is a small moral victory. The game may have lacked the two points and the adrenaline rollercoaster of the night before, but it was a competitive effort from the Devils that was exciting to watch and they didn’t leave empty-handed.
The Devils end their 2018-2019 season matches with Nashville with a score of 0-0-2.