– by Adesina O. Koiki
A Lot of Sports Talk editor-in-chief
NEWARK, NJ — Taking the ice to a hero’s welcome after their opening-game conquest across the Atlantic, the New Jersey Devils put on a dominant display in their first game in front of the Prudential Center fans worthy enough for the team to be labeled an early championship contender.
That they thumped the defending Stanley Cup champions in the process only made the win much more impactful.
In an effort that was a near carbon copy of the season-opening win in Sweden, Devils forward Kyle Palmieri scored the team’s first two goals, the first at even strength and the second on the power play, in leading New Jersey to a 6-0 whitewashing of the Washington Capitals inside the sold-out Prudential Center on Thursday night.
Keith Kinkaid stopped all 21 shots in goal to put the bow on New Jersey’s second win in as many games to start the season, a victory that comes five days after the Devils’ 5-2 triumph over the Edmonton Oilers in the NHL Global Series game in the Swedish city of Gothenburg.
“I’m really happy for the players. There were a couple of days coming back from the trip where they had some time off and then they came in to practice on Tuesday,” said Devils head coach John Hynes. “They obviously took care of themselves the right way on their down time, and to be able to have a home opener like that and have the type of performances that we had throughout our lineup was gratifying.”
Palmieri, who scored just 58 seconds into the opener against the Oilers, waited just a bit longer this time around to give New Jersey the game’s opening goal. A shot from the point by Nico Hischier deflected off the glove of Capitals’ backup goalkeeper Pheonix Copley and fell to the feet of Palmeri, who inadvertently kicked the puck toward goal before stuffing it through Copley for a 1-0 lead at the 7:02 mark of the first.
“Nico put in a pretty good shot on net. I don’t know if the goalie made a save or it was blocked by the [defenseman],” said Palmieri. “It was a little helter-skelter. I kind of just spun around. I guess the soccer before the game paid off a little bit…I’m not sure how it snuck in or whether it was in his pads and he slid back, but we’ll take it.”
Right before the end of the first period, the Devils took advantage of their second power play opportunity, awarded after Washington defenseman John Carlson was called for a hooking penalty. Taking a pass from the point by defenseman Will Butcher, Palmieri fired a wrist shot near the right circle that beat Copley high to his glove to double New Jersey’s lead.
New Jersey carried its momentum into the second period and went up 3-0 when Marcus Johansson, who joined the Devils in free agency before the start of last season after playing his first seven seasons with the Capitals, scored on a wrist shot at the 2:54 mark.
Scoring against his former team was undoubtedly a special moment for Johansson, who is finally looking to make a long-lasting impact in New Jersey after he only played 29 games last season due to a myriad of injuries, including a bruised ankle and two concussions.
“Last year was a tough year. [I’m] just trying to put that behind me and not really think about it,” said Johansson, who scored his first goal in a regular-season game since last December. “It is what it is. It was frustrating and a tough year with all that was going on. I’m just happy to be out there and playing and feeling good and not really having to worry about that anymore. I’m having a lot of fun right now.”
New Jersey was dominant on both ends of the ice, limiting the Capitals, who played just 24 hours prior in defeating the Vegas Golden Knights at home in a Stanley Cup Final rematch from last season, to just 11 shots combined in the first two periods. By comparison, the Devils had 25 shots in the game’s first 40 minutes on their way to outshooting Washington 36-21 in the contest.
Blake Coleman, Jean-Sebastien Dea and Brian Boyle each scored goals in the third period to complete the rout. Dea’s goal was his first as a New Jersey Devil and his second-career NHL goal, as he played in just his eighth career National Hockey League game tonight.
Copley, who replaced regular keeper Braden Holtby, made 30 saves in his second-career NHL start. Seven-time NHL scoring champion Alexander Ovechkin was held to just two shots on goal, though he did lead all players with seven hits.
*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Thursday’s game, with all photos taken by ALOST senior photographer Robert Cole. After clicking on the first photo to enlarge the picture, make sure to press the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the rest of the pictures. There are currently 19 pictures in total.