Devils put in a valiant effort against one of the League's elite minus Taylor Hall
DENVER, CO - With Taylor Hall pulled out of the lineup right before game time for precautionary reasons, the Devils competed hard from beginning to end in a tough situation against one of the top teams in the NHL's Western Conference but were ultimately edged out 3-1 by the Colorado Avalanche on Friday night.
The Devils wrap up their road trip on Saturday against the Arizona Coyotes. The game can be seen on MSG+ and heard on the Devils Hockey Network, including right here at NewJerseyDevils.com. Puck drop is 8:08 p.m. ET.
"The effort was there. I was looking forward to this game, especially after the last game in Dallas. You can't complain about the effort tonight," said Devils interim head coach Alain Nasreddine.
The coach added that he liked the response after the club found out they'd be without one of their top players so close to game time.
"As soon as I found out, I grabbed the guys right after warmup and told them Hallsy wasn't going to go tonight," he said. "Management's decision. Guys reacted well. I told them we've got to go out and perform, and I thought the guys came ready to play."
The game began with two Avalanche power plays in the opening 10 minutes. First, Jesper Boqvist received delay of game for clearing the puck over the glass and then Mike McLeod for intereference.
With McLeod in the box, Gabriel Landeskog one-timed a shot from the left circle past Louis Domingue to put the Avalanche on the board.
With four minutes to go in the opening frame, Jack Hughes snuck in behind the Avs defense and rifled a shot but it was kicked away by Pavel Francouz.
Devils then got their first power play of the night. Nazem Kadri received two minutes for cross-checking, resulting in the first Devils power play of the game.
After one, shots on goal were 13-6 for New Jersey.
"When it's that close to game time, you have no choice but to block it out," stated Devils captain Andy Greene of the Hall decision. "You have to. It seems like the longer you have to focus on a decision like that the worse it is."
He added that the team needs to take the response they had tonight and bottle it up for tomorrow night in Arizona.
"We have to make sure we know what we did right tonight. How and why. We were a little loose in the second, they pushed hard in the second half of the second. But besides that we played some north hockey and managed the puck."
With 12:04 to go in the second, Colorado netted their second of the night to double their lead. Valeri Nichushkin wired a shot from the hashmarks past Domingue.
Four minutes after the Nichushkin goal, Domingue left the game due to injury and was replaced in net by Mackenzie Blackwood. Blackwood was sharp in relief, turning away all 19 shots he faced.
"I was watching for half (of the game). It seemed like guys had their legs, the compete we talked about there. They came ready to play. Everyone here knows that we deserved better," Blackwood said.
"When your team's battling for you, it's pretty easy to battle for them back. It's kind of a contagious effort."
After two, shots on goal were 25-22 for Colorado; 19-9 in the middle frame.
In the opening minute of the third, Hughes was all alone in front after receiving a great pass from Bratt but his deke was stopped by the outstretched pad of Francouz.
Landeskog was sent off for holding Subban to give the Devils an early third-period power play but the best chance in the two minutes was Colorado's Matt Calvert, whose shorthanded breakaway attempt was denied by Blackwood.
The clubs traded power plays once more in the period but no goals.
Francouz made a flurry of big saves, the biggest coming off Nikita Gusev on a breakaway as Devils pressed for a goal late.
Mirco Mueller's shot from the left circle beat Francouz five-hole to get the Devils on the board with 4:12 to go in the third.
Nathan MacKinnon added an empty-net goal with 32 seconds left to seal the deal for the home team but Devils had plenty of chances to pull even in the game's waning minutes.
"In the third period, we had numerous chances. Even right after the goal, we had a couple chances to tie it up," Nasreddine noted.