Devils stay hot on road, defeat Avalanche
DENVER — Sami Vatanen didn’t have time to get comfortable with his new team, so the defenseman jumped right in.
He made a smooth transition and helped the New Jersey Devils continue their domination on the road.
Jesper Bratt had a goal and an assist, Corey Schneider had 22 saves, and New Jersey beat the Colorado Avalanche 2-1 in Vatanen’s debut.
Brian Boyle also scored for the Devils, who improved to 9-2-2 away from home. The road mark is the best in the NHL.
J.T. Compher had a goal and Semyon Varlamov stopped 19 shots for Colorado (12-10-2), which fell to 1-2 on its five-game homestand.
The Devils (15-6-4) were playing their first game since trading forwards Adam Henrique and Joseph Blandisi to Anaheim for Vatanen on Thursday. Vatanen joined the team in Denver later Thursday and his only practice was Friday’s morning skate.
He fit in seamlessly and logged a team-high 23:13 of ice time on 32 shifts, also the most on the Devils.
“It was very exciting and a fun game to play,” he said. “It’s a little bit different, but I tried not to think too much and play my game. We got the victory, so it’s a great way to start.”
New Jersey coach John Hynes was happy with Vatanen’s first game.
“He’s an experienced player and his hockey IQ is high, so he can play in all those types of situations,” Hynes said. “He deserved to be out there and he played well tonight.”
Boyle made it a successful debut when he got the go-ahead goal on the power play at 6:11 of the third. Varlamov made an initial save on Taylor Hall’s shot but couldn’t hold onto it, and Boyle banged it home for his fourth of the season.
“It’s a lot of responsibility (being on the power play),” Boyle said. “You have to contribute.”
It was New Jersey’s only power-play goal in six chances.
“Our (penalty kill) did a good job tonight,” Avalanche forward Blake Comeau said. “We just couldn’t get that last one.”
Varlamov came off for an extra skater with 1:40 left, but Colorado couldn’t score.
The game was scoreless until a turnover led to the first goal of the night. After New Jersey sent the puck into the Colorado zone, Varlamov stopped it behind the net and left it for defenseman Nikita Zadorov.
He sent a backhand pass blindly to the left side, and Bratt got to it first and put it in the wide-open net to give the Devils a 1-0 lead at 13:58 of the second.
“He went back, he had time, he checked his shoulder early and then he didn’t look again, he just threw it out there and put it right on the guy’s tape and it ends up in the back of our net,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said of Zadorov.
“We’ve got to back him up, stick together. Guys make mistakes all over the ice. That just happened to be a glaring one.”
Zadorov took the blame for the goal and the loss.
“Cost us the game,” he said. “I think I made a bad play on the second goal as well. I’m taking all the responsibility, it’s on me.”
The goal woke up Colorado, which pressed in the New Jersey zone and drew a hooking penalty on defenseman Ben Lovejoy. The Avalanche cashed in with Compher’s fourth goal of the season at 17:11.
NOTES: New Jersey LW Brian Gibbons took a shot to the right knee early in the third period and limped to the locker room but returned later. ... Colorado LW Gabriel Landeskog served the second of his four-game suspension for a hit to the head of Calgary’s Matthew Tkachuk. ... Devils RW Marcus Johansson returned to the lineup after missing 13 games with a concussion sustained against Vancouver on Nov. 1. He played on the second line with C Travis Zajac and LW Pavel Zacha. ... Avalanche C Nathan MacKinnon was named the NHL’s first star for November. MacKinnon had five goals and 15 assists and tied Edmonton’s Connor McDavid for the most points in the month. He had seven multi-point games in 12 games, including five points (1g, 4a) in a win over Washington on Nov. 16.