NEWARK, N.J. — The rollercoaster nature of tonight’s much-anticipated contest was more than fitting given the emotions that Nashville Predators head coach John Hynes and many aligned with the New Jersey Devils brought in with them into the Prudential Center for a reunion many thought would not come for a while.
The erstwhile Devils skipper saw his Predators score two game-tying goals in the third period before Mattias Ekholm’s shootout winner gave Nashville a 6-5 victory over the Devils in Hynes’ first game against New Jersey as an opposing coach.
“It was good to come back here and see and compete against a lot of guys that you’ve coached, the coaching staff,” said Hynes, who was fired by the Devils on Dec. 3, 2019 before being hired on Jan. 7 to take over in Nashville. “It was a tough battle, but it feels good to be able to find a way to win the game. “
Hynes’ five seasons in the Brick City saw him oversee a rebuild of a once-powerful franchise that had cratered to the bottom of the league’s pecking order over the past number of years. After the first couple of years saw incremental improvements, New Jersey became the surprise team of the NHL in 2017-18, with Hynes’ team employing a young, fast-paced yet hard-nosed squad that earned a playoff spot and saw one of its players, Taylor Hall, win the Hart Trophy.
Less than two years on from the season that many thought was the catalyst in returning to the top, both Hynes and Hall — the latter via trade to the Arizona Coyotes — are gone, with Hynes trying to recreate the magic he made at the Prudential Center with a struggling Nashville team that’s scrambling to earn a playoff berth for a sixth consecutive season.
“I came into a team that was good and well-coached, so maybe you make slight tweaks,” Hynes said. “The biggest trend that I do like moving forward is our fortitude, toughness, belief and stick-to-it-iveness.”
*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Thursday’s game, with all photos taken by ALOST photographer Arturo Holmes. 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 27 pictures in total.