Jack Hughes nets his first career three-point game but it's not enough as Coyotes prevail
An early 2-0 Devils lead on goals by Sami Vatanen and Jack Hughes was erased as the Arizona Coyotes kept pace and then ultimately took the lead early in the third on their way to a 5-3 win at Prudential Center on Friday night.
The Devils have another break, this time four days before they face the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday at Prudential Center. The game can be seen on MSG+ and heard on the Devils Hockey Network, including right here at NewJerseyDevils.com. Puck drop is 7:08 p.m. ET.
"If you look at the overall game, we played a good hockey game. You can get into nitpicking here and there," said Devils head coach John Hynes. "Unfortunately, when we made a mistake it ended up in the back of our net. That was the difference in the game."
With 16.7 seconds to go in the opening frame and the Devils ahead 2-1, Nick Schmaltz wired a wrist shot off the post from the hashmarks to draw the visitors back within one and 32 seconds into the second period, the Devils went back on the power play after Carl Soderberg upended Blake Coleman but it was the Coyotes that would capitalize.
Michael Grabner grabbed a loose puck in the neutral zone and used his speed to break in alone. His backhand deke beat Blackwood to tie the game with a shorthanded goal.
"We did a lot of good things tonight but at critical moments we made big mistakes," Devils captain Andy Greene began.
"Sometimes we've got to make better decisions with the puck. Getting it in, getting it out and also knowing the time of the game."
With 6:53 to go in the second, Pavel Zacha took a stretch pass from Hughes and fired the puck past Raanta to put the Devils up 3-2 but only 31 seconds later, Ekman-Larsson tied the game once again.
After 40 minutes, shots on goal were 24-11 for the Devils.
1:45 into the final frame, Schmaltz fed the puck across to Barrett Hayton on a two-on-one and he didn't get a lot of wood on the shot but it found its way along the ice past Blackwood to put the Coyotes in front. The goal was Hayton's first of his NHL career.
Clayton Keller added an empty-net goal to ice the outcome.
"We played well enough to win. After six days, you're playing a team that's hockey ready and playing a lot. The game didn't go perfect but I thought we looked pretty good tonight," said Taylor Hall.
The Devils carried the play early in the game, outshooting the Coyotes 8-3 through the first 11 minutes. Coyotes starting goaltender Antti Raanta had to be sharp on a number of sequences, most notably at point-blank range on Wayne Simmonds with about nine minutes to go in the first.
Sami Vatanen took the first penalty of the game with 6:06 to go in the first but 28 seconds later, Derek Stepan clipped Andy Greene with a high stick to negate the Arizona man advantage.
After coming out of the box, Vatanen got to work immediately on the power play and it paid dividends. Seconds after the Stepan penalty expired, Vatanen's centering attempt went off the skate of Coyotes blueliner Alex Goligoski in front and in.
Less than a minute after the goal, Arizona found themselves in the box once again, this time Oliver Ekman-Larsson. And the Devils capitalized.
After getting an assist on the first goal, Hughes wired a shot from the right circle over the shoulder of Raanta to double the Devils' lead with 94 seconds to go in the first.
"We're nine games in and it's a big step for any first-year guy, especially an 18-year-old that came from playing with Tier I juniors. You can tell he's getting better each game, getting more comfortable," noted Greene.
Hall agreed with the captain and had praise for the 18-year-old's three-point night.
"It's starting to come. We're probably going to be a line that wants to play a lot off the rush but tonight we had some good end zone chances. The full 200 he was really good tonight and that's a good building block for him."