New Jersey had a bit of a special occasion before the start of this one, and honored the former Devil in Travis Zajac for playing 1,000 games for the franchise. Zajac was drafted by the New Jersey Devils in the first round (20th overall) of the 2004 NHL Draft; and the Canadian from Winnipeg coincidentally, made his debut with the team in 06-07 season. He would go on to play fifteen years for the Devils and scoring 550 points during his time here, before being traded away prior to the deadline last year to the rival Islanders. It wouldn't be for long though as Travis would only play thirteen games for them, and come back home in free agency to sign a one day contract to retire a Devil.
Scoring wouldn't start in the Devils favor here tonight as Winnipeg would draw first blood very early on just after the third minute. Mark Scheifele would carry the puck in the zone with a 2-on-1 advantage and feed Brenden Dillon with a cross-ice pass that Dillon ripped past Nico Daws for his 2nd goal of the season and a 1-0 game. Dillon would end up however, taking a costly cross checking penalty that would nullify the lead he got for his team early on in the game. Jack Hughes would be the one to tie the game on the powerplay making it his 18th goal on the season and 4th powerplay goal of the year. Hughes would absolutely unload on a one-timer from a laser cross-ice pass by Jesper Bratt to the right circle which Jack slammed off the crossbar and in to tie it up just before intermission.
Devils continued to pressure the Jets at the start of the second period constantly hammering shots on net against Eric Comrie but he was up to the challenge against one of his former teams. Comrie has had stints with three teams in the league Winnipeg (2016-19), Detroit (19-20), and New Jersey (20-21) though he only played one game for the Devils last year before returning to Winnipeg this year. Comrie would stand tall in net all period long turning away solid chance after solid chance before his team would take the lead in a controversial way. As Jesper Bratt was carrying the puck in the offensive zone from the boards to the slot; Pierre-Luc Dubois slashed Jesper's left glove off his hand, losing the puck as well. Kyle Connor would swoop in and take the loose puck at the blue line splitting the two defenders with his blazing speed and finishing on the breakaway with a backhand that beat Daws glove high for his 35th of the year. The missed call seemed to take the air out of the building as that was a bit of a theme for the Devils all night. Players and coaches won't make excuses with bad officiating however the Devils seemed to be on the short end of the stick in that department for the second and third periods.
Though the Devils lead in the shot department the first two periods (27-16), Winnipeg would use the momentum from the late second period goal by Connor and out-shot the Devils in the third (14-8). Yet Winnipeg wouldn't beat Nico Daws again for the rest of the night, however New Jersey wouldn't beat Comrie either though as Connor's goal would be the deciding one beating the Devils 2-1.
Tough One For Devils
This one was a tough one for New Jersey to swallow as they did pretty much everything right in this game other than the turnover that lead to Winnipeg's first goal with the 2-on-1. Despite the loss, there are positives to take away from this game going forward with the future. Nico Daws had a 93 save percentage and is showing that when Mackenzie Blackwood comes back, he has at least earned the backup role in Blackwood's absence. Daws' 6'4" 205 lb. frame makes his size ideal for any NHL goalie, which is also helped by the fact that he is only 21. Hopefully he continues getting starts while Blackwood is out and continues developing as the team finishes out the stretch. New Jersey will look to reset on Saturday 7 o'clock at home against the Anaheim Ducks.