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Devils Takeaways: Lacking Goal Support, Jake Allen Superb in 3-1 Loss to Golden Knights

Jake Allen made 34 saves, stopping 1.14 goals above expected in loss to the Golden Knights.

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New Jersey Devils

The New Jersey Devils let Jake Allen down in this one.

The Devils’ new goaltender was superb in his start against the Vegas Golden Knights and unlike his first start, it was for the full 60 minutes.

However, it’s a tall order to keep the defending Stanley Cup champions off the board, and they found a way to beat Allen twice.

Lacking goal support, the Devils left another two points on the table.

Let’s dive into the Devils’ 3-1 loss to the Golden Knights.

Devils Recap

The Devils believed themselves to have scored first against the Golden Knights. Following Dawson Mercer’s goal, the NHL reviewed the goal for a kicking motion, but it was ultimately ruled a goal. However, Bruce Cassidy submitted a coach’s challenge for goaltender interference and won, taking Mercer’s tally off the board. It wasn’t until the third period that the game saw its first goal, and it was Nico Hischier who gave the Devils a 1-0 lead. However, William Carrier and Jack Eichel answered back to give the Golden Knights a 2-1 lead halfway through the third. William Karlsson scored an empty net goal for Vegas to seal a 3-1 victory for the Golden Knights.

Allen was fantastic despite the loss, stopping 34 of 36 shots he faced.

Takeaways

Prepared to Play

As opposed to Saturday’s contest against the Arizona Coyotes, the Devils came out in the first period against Vegas prepared to play.

Interim head coach Travis Green opted to load up his first line with Jack Hughes, Nico Hischer, and Jesper Bratt, flipping Bratt with Mercer from Saturday’s tilt.

The new-look top-line trio recorded a positive 3-1 scoring chance differential in the first period and was on the ice for two and a half minutes more than the remaining three lines.

Vegas won the shot differential in the opening frame, however, it didn’t feel as though the Devils were as suffocated in the first as they were against the Coyotes.

And when the Golden Knights turned it up a notch with the clock winding down, Allen was there to hold Vegas at bay. It’s a shame the only thing they were missing in this one was goal support for their goaltender.

Jake Freakin’ Allen

Speaking of Allen, the Devils’ goaltender turned in another fantastic performance, this time right from puck drop.

The Devils and Golden Knights went scoreless through the first 40-plus minutes of the contest, however, it certainly wasn’t for a lack of trying by Vegas.

The defending champs totaled 24 shots through the first 40 minutes of play and Allen stopped 2.18 goals above expected in that span, making big stop after big stop.

It wasn’t until early in the third when the Golden Knights muscled their way to their first goal. Eichel later gave them a lead on a skill play, however, the Devils didn’t give Allen the proper goal support he deserved in this one which ultimately led to a loss.

Although he allowed two goals, Allen still finished Sunday’s tilt with 1.14 saves above expected.

Outmuscled

The Golden Knights play a heavy game.

In fact, the Vegas’ average weight is a full 10 pounds heavier than the Devils, according to EliteProspects.

As a result, the Devils were certainly outmuscled by the defending Stanley Cup champions all game.

It wasn’t even about the Devils losing the hit differential 21-1o. Instead, it was more about the Golden Knights’ ability to knock bodies off pucks.

Whether it was Jake Hughes moving the puck in transition, or Nico Hischier — who is normally very strong on the puck — trying to maintain possession in the offensive zone, the Devils were no match for some of Vegas’ heavyweights such as William Carrier (220 lbs) and Anthony Mantha (234 lbs).

In fact, Carrier scored the Golden Knights’ first goal by pushing Kevin Bahl (6-foot-6, 230 lbs) out of his way in the crease, and backing John Marino out of the net front, deflecting home an Alex Pietrangelo shot from the point.

Still, the Devils hung in as long as they could with a heavy opponent who have high expectations in the impending playoffs.

Perhaps muscle is on general manager Tom Fitzgerald‘s shopping list this summer.

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