Devils ride second-period outburst to rout of Sabres
BUFFALO, N.Y. — The New Jersey Devils may be ahead of schedule with their rebuilding plan.
The Buffalo Sabres? Not so much.
A four-goal burst in the second period led the Devils to a 6-2 win over the Sabres on Monday afternoon. It was a dominant display for a team that has 10 goals in two games to open the season after finishing last year with the worst record in the Eastern Conference.
“It’s only two games but it’s encouraging that the whole training camp, all preseason, it’s led into this,” said goalie Cory Schneider, who made 23 saves. “These haven’t been fluky games, these last two games. They’ve been the result of the identity we’re trying to create and I think the people we’ve brought in here to help execute our vision. Everyone’s buying in and playing well.”
Marcus Johansson and Jesper Bratt each had two goals and an assist and Stefan Noesen and Brian Gibbons also scored for New Jersey (2-0-0).
The Devils repeatedly punished the Sabres for their defensive mistakes. Three of New Jersey’s goals came on 2-on-1 rushes in the offensive zone.
The key for New Jersey this season has been early contributions from their new players. Johansson was acquired in an offseason trade from Washington, while rookies Bratt and first overall pick Nico Hischier have been immediate standouts.
“To get good in the league you have to draft well and develop well,” Devils head coach John Hynes said. “And the fact that we have some younger guys coming into our lineup that can play the way that we want to play and having major impacts on the game I think brings energy to everyone.”
Evander Kane was the lone bright spot for Buffalo (0-2-1) with two goals. The Sabres have endured a difficult start under new head coach Phil Housley.
“I just think our effort was unacceptable,” Housley said. “This game is a game of mistakes and it just seems we’re making key mistakes at times in the game that are ending up in our net.”
Chad Johnson allowed six goals on 22 shots before being replaced by Robin Lehner to open the third period.
“Obviously not the way we wanted to start the season,” Kane said. “We have to have a harder mentality in terms of how we want to play. Our compete level needs to be harder ... the fortunate thing is we’re only three games into the season.”
Noesen opened the scoring at 6:28 on a fortunate deflection. After two shots on goal by Gibbons, his second attempt deflected off Noesen’s head and into the net to give the Devils a 1-0 lead.
Hischier picked up his first career point on a spectacular effort just before the end of the first period. Hischier avoided multiple Sabres while skating near the right wall before going behind the net. Hischier then found Gibbons, who beat Johnson with a shot to the far side with 1:04 left in the first.
Kane got the Sabres on the board with a breakaway goal 5:02 into the second, but the Devils went on an offensive explosion to put the game away.
Just 21 seconds later, Bratt buried a short-handed goal to give New Jersey a 3-1 lead. Center Adam Henrique showed patience before Bratt finished a 2-on-1 chance.
Another 2-on-1 New Jersey opportunity found the back of the net minutes later. Following a giveaway by Sabres defenseman Nathan Beaulieu, Taylor Hall fed Johansson to make it 4-1 at 7:49.
Bratt picked up his second of the afternoon with 7:41 left in the second. The left winger deflected Hall’s hard pass from the right circle to make it 5-1.
Johansson capped the period with 1:04 remaining on New Jersey’s sixth goal. This time, Bratt fed Johansson on a 2-on-1.
Kane got his second of the game with 2:57 remaining.
NOTES: Sabres RW Kyle Okposo changed uniforms midway through the first period; his initial jersey was misspelled “Okoposo.”. ... D Josh Gorges, C Jordan Nolan and Zach Bogosian (lower body) were scratched for the Sabres. Gorges and Nolan were healthy scratches. ... RW Drew Stafford, C Kyle Palmieri and D Dalton Prout were scratched for the Devils. Palmieri had two assists in New Jersey’s season opener but suffered a lower-body injury in the game. ... The next meeting between the two teams is on Feb. 6 in New Jersey. ... This was the first of three meetings between the teams this season.