Capital Gains (Devils in These Details; 01.18.18)

Robert Cole/ALOST


akoiki-passport2 – by Adesina O. Koiki
A Lot of Sports Talk editor-in-chief


NEWARK, NJ — Like a couple of his teammates before him during the game, New Jersey Devils forward Taylor Hall also had a breakaway chance – a one-on-one opportunity on goal against Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby. And, like those previous chances, Hall’s scoring opportunity produced the same exact result.

The only difference was that Hall’s outcome officially clinched a much-needed two points for the Devils.

Hall, after making a sly poke check in the neutral zone to create his game-winning opportunity, beat Holtby just 34 seconds into overtime as the Devils won their second consecutive game by beating the Metropolitan Division-leading Capitals 4-3 at the Prudential Center on Thursday night.

In the six games New Jersey has played this month, Hall has scored at least one point in each of those games, tallying 11 points while scoring a goal in five of the six contests.

Unfortunately for the Devils, the first four games of the month resulted in losses, part of a six-game losing streak that saw the team lose its grip on first place in the Metropolitan Division – a position currently occupied by the Capitals. But, after snapping that losing run in New York against the Islanders on Tuesday, the Devils got off to a flying start against the Caps, outshooting the Capitals 12-5 in a near-dominant first 20 minutes in terms of possession.

The possession and aggressive play was rewarded 8:01 into the opening period, as forward Drew Stafford found himself on a breakaway before beating Holtby with a backhand to give the Devils a 1-0 lead. Former Capital Marcus Johansson set up Stafford with the pass to set the latter in on goal alone.

Though Washington had only five shots in the period, they were able to tie the game four minutes after they fell behind, as Brett Connolly buried a shot in front from a deflected pass by teammate Lars Eller past New Jersey goalkeeper Keith Kinkaid to tie the score.

New Jersey responded by opening up a 3-1 lead in the second period, with Devils defenseman and captain Andy Greene pinching in and sliding a shot past the left arm of Holtby to give the Devils the lead back at the 3:33 mark. The Devils then doubled their lead at 10:55 of the second when defenseman Sami Vatanen, after a face-off win in the defensive zone, lobbed a pass high in the air to a set up a breakaway chance for a streaking Miles Wood, whose forehand caught a piece of Holtby between the legs before crawling behind him and into the net.

Like the first period, the Capitals were able to score in the second despite a paucity of shots (six in the second period), as Dmitry Orlov’s slapshot from the left point beat Kinkaid just 14 seconds after Wood’s goal to cut the Devils’ lead in half.

Connolly then tied the score late in the third after being set up by a pass by Evgeny Kuznetsov from behind the goal line. beating Kinkaid with a wrist shot with just 3:48 remaining in regulation.

Off to overtime the game went, and it took barely a half a minute to decide the game, as Hall smartly poke-checked the puck past Kuznetsov in front of the team benches, then moved in alone on Holtby before firing a shot above the goalkeeper’s glove to clinch the Devils’ first home victory since Dec. 27 against the Red Wings.

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