A sequence of 1:20 to begin the third period against the LA Kings put the New Jersey Devils in a hole they could not climb out of.
After Pavel Zacha tied the game at one early in the second period, the Devils and Kings entered the third period with a tie score. The tide quickly changed for New Jersey as the Kings scored three goals in a span of 1:20, before the final period was two-minutes old. Tyler Toffoli scored two goals 35 seconds apart, Dion Phaneuf's first of the season and a goal by former Devil Ilya Kovalchuk completed a four-goal third period for the Kings to defeat the Devils 5-1 on Tuesday night in New Jersey's first game of a four-game homestand.
Here are 10 Takeaways from the game:
1. Travis Zajac returned to the Devils lineup against the Kings, after sitting out the Devils last game against Montreal. Zajac returned to center the second line with Miles Wood and Blake Coleman on his wings, in his 892nd game as a member of the New Jersey Devils. That puts Zajac into a tie with Scott Neidermayer for 5th place all-time in Devils franchise history for games played.
2. The boo-birds were definitely out when a certain member of the Kings hit the ice and touched the puck. For the first time since his departure in 2013, former-Devil Ilya Kovalchuk was on the ice at Prudential Center and facing his former team. Only two members of the current Devils roster were teammates with Kovalchuk (Andy Greene and Zajac). The return of Kovalchuk marked nine-years to the day that he made his debut as a member of the New Jersey Devils.
3. With a record of 4-0-0 over his career when facing the Kings, Keith Kinkaid was given the start on Tuesday night. Things were going fine for Kinkaid and the Devils prior to the start of the third period. Kinkaid had made 16 saves on 17 shots through the first two periods, the final period proved more difficult for the goaltender who gave up three goals in the span on 1:20 in the opening two-minutes of the period, with Kinkaid suffering his first career loss to the Kings.
4. After the Kings took a 1-0 lead on the Devils at the 6:21 mark, Kinkaid made an array of saves to keep his team within one goal. It was however the captain, Andy Greene, who may have made the most impressive save to bail out his goaltender. With just 50 seconds left on the clock, Greene made a diving save at the goal-line to swipe a loose puck away and out of the blue paint with King Dustin Brown right on the doorstep.
5. In a head to head matchup of two of the league's great defensive forwards, Zajac went up against LA's Anze Kopitar for most of the night. Zajac dominated in the faceoff circle, particularly in the first period where he went 4-for-5 (80%) against Kopitar alone and 5-for-6 overall (83%). In the second period, Zacha finished 10-for-13 (77%).
6. Pavel Zacha wasted little time to begin the second period to tie the game up. Zacha was the beneficiary of a no-look pass from line mate Jesper Bratt 3:31 into the second period, as he came streaking down the wing to one-time the puck past LA netminder Jack Campbell. Zacha's ninth goal of the season marks a new career season-high for the 21-year-old.
Bratt and fellow Zacha line mate Drew Stafford were credited with the assists.
7. Prudential Center celebrated the Lunar New Year on Tuesday night. The game was not only broadcast in North America, but the matchup was specially broadcast live to millions of hockey fans throughout China by Tencent. Prudential Center was decorated with traditional Chinese New Year decorations, while fans were able to indulge in Chinese cuisine and entertainment on the Prudential Center concourses.
8. Back on the Devils bench was one Cory Schneider who has rejoined New Jersey after a conditioning stint in Binghamton and time recovering from injury. Schneider backed up for Kinkaid and was on the Devils bench for the first time since December 15 at Nashville and the first time at Prudential Center since December 14th against the Vegas Golden Knights.
9. The Devils were stifled on the power play going 0-for-4 with the man-advantage. Heading into the game, the Devils had scored five power play goals in their three previous games.
10. The four-game homestand will continue on Thursday night when the New York Islanders visit Prudential Center, followed by a big weekend featuring a visit from the Minnesota Wild and Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday and Sunday respectively.