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Devils Postgame

Devils Takeaways: Daws Stellar Play Not Enough in 2-1 Loss to Kings

Despite Nico Daws showing incredible athleticism, the Devils couldn’t overcome special teams struggles and the Kings.

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New Jersey Devils
(AP Photo/John Munson)

Newark — The Los Angeles Kings got under the skin of Jack Hughes en route to their 2-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils.

After losing 7-0 to the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night, New Jersey knew the Kings were coming in as a desperate squad. The Devils and Kings engaged in a physical tilt that saw Hughes and Viktor Arvidsson nearly drop the mitts. Each was sent to the box, yet Hughes and Arvidsson continued jawing at each other in the sin bin.

The Devils played a frustrated game from that point on and couldn’t quite overcome a few mistakes and unfortunate bounces out of their favor.

Let’s dive into the Devils’ 2-1 loss to the Kings.

Devils Recap

The Kings swarmed with the puck on their stick in the first period, however, Nico Daws and the Devils’ defense did a good job of keeping Los Angeles off the board in the opening frame. Heading into the second period scoreless, the Kings opened the scoring after Anze Kopitar cashed in on a rebound chance. Later, Tyler Toffoli deposited a rebound on the power play to tie the game at one heading into the third period. With the clock winding down in the third period with just about six minutes left in the contest, Quinton Byfield scored the game-winning goal on the power play to secure the Kings’ 2-1 victory.

Daws stood strong yet again making making 27 saves in his third consecutive start.

Takeaways

Clearing the Crease

The first period wasn’t quite the start that the Devils had hoped to get off to. However, they escaped unscathed due to some stronger play in front of Daws.

A point of emphasis from Devils head coach Lindy Ruff this season has been that New Jersey needs to play stronger in front of their goaltender. That’s been happening since the Devils returned from the All-Star break, especially over the last three games heading into Thursday night.

The Kings did quite well pressuring the Devils off the rush. Most of LA’s scoring chances in the opening 20 minutes were created by entering the Devils’ zone and putting shots on goal.

Daws, as he has been for most of his tenure with the varsity squad this season, was strong making the initial saves.

What has been atypical for the Devils this season has been clearing their crease of rebound chances. However, that was the difference for New Jersey in the opening frame. Despite being outshot 13-6 and out-chanced 12-3, the Kings couldn’t convert on secondary scoring chances which kept the game scoreless after one.

Ride the Hot Hand

The Devils lost, but it’s becoming more clear that they have a goalie.

Nico Daws was fantastic for the Devils throughout the entirety of Thursday night’s game. On three or four occasions, the Kings set up scoring chances that probably should have found the back of New Jersey’s net.

However, Daws showed extreme athleticism on multiple saves and kept the game a lot closer than it should have been.

“He’s been spot on,” Brendan Smith explained after the Devils’ 2-1 loss. “He’s very spatially aware, he understands the game very methodically. I really like his game. He almost makes it look easy when it’s not.”

Daws made 27 saves on 29 shots registering a 1.82 GSAx in the process.

The Devils should absolutely remain in the goalie market. However, there just might be something in the making in Daws.

Special Teams Struggled

Of the three goals scored in Thursday night’s game, not a single one was scored at even strength. The Devils and the Kings scored a power-play goal each. However, when the Kings opened the scoring in the first period, they scored while short-handed. In the four Devils power plays that followed, New Jersey couldn’t respond.

According to the Devils’ head coach, the power play tried to be too cute in trying to make the perfect play.

“I think we waited for something better,” Ruff responded when asked what went wrong on the power play. “(The Kings) packed it in pretty tight. A lot of outside (play), and we were looking for that one (perfect) play. I think you saw it on the one power play, Toffoli to Nico (Hischier) in the hole where we didn’t quite connect.”

The Devils’ power play buoyed them to start the regular season but has significantly dropped off since then. In a close game such as tonight’s 2-1 loss, the special teams are what is going to get the Devils back into the playoffs.

Thursday night isn’t the worst setback. The Devils involved themselves in a tough, physical matchup with the Kings which likely prepared them for Saturday’s outdoor contest with the Philadelphia Flyers.

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