Hopes this season for the Devils were sky-high, especially after they dealt for star defenseman P.K. Subban, drafted a generational player, first overall, in Jack Hughes, and made a deal with the Golden Knights for Russian star Nikita Gusev.
But Subban was not the player they thought he was, Hughes has struggled like plenty of rookies do as 18-year-olds, and Gusev was a non-factor early on, but has really come on of late.
The Devils were expected to challenge for not only a playoff spot, but possibly the Metropolitan title. That did not happen and they were forced to deal pending UFA Taylor Hall as contract talks went nowhere.
The Devils are near the bottom of the NHL standings (thankfully for them, Detroit has been even worse) and after firing head coach John Hynes on December 3, there was little else to do except go in another direction and get rid of Shero.
Tom Fitzgerald will take over the GM duties and will be considered for the permanent job in New Jersey. Perhaps they should not have been so hasty in ridding themselves of Lou Lamoriello five seasons ago as he was a major factor in rebuilding the Toronto Maple Leafs as well as the New York Islanders since his departure from New Jersey.
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NASHVILLE 1 WINNIPEG 0
Juuse Saros stopped all 28 shots sent his way as the Nashville Predators shut out the Winnipeg Jets 1-0 Sunday afternoon. Saros picked up his first win in almost a month (December 16 against the Rangers) and is 6-7-4 with a 3.09 GAA and a .897 save percentage. It was his first shutout of the season.
Kyle Turris was the lone goal scored for Nashville and it was his first in 17 contests.
Roman Josi had his 12-game points streak come to an end as he was held off the scoresheet.
Tucker Poolman suffered a lower-body injury in the first period and did not return.
Connor Hellebuyck stopped 31-of-32 shots but it was not enough as his record falls to 20-13-4 with a 2.64 GAA and a .920 save percentage.
VANCOUVER 4 MINNESOTA 1
Bo Horvat scored a pair of goals including his 15th, as the Vancouver Canucks defeated Minnesota 4-1.
Jacob Markstrom was stellar in net as he turned aside 23 shots to give him a 17-12-3 record and his eighth win in his last nine starts.
Devan Dubnyk was in the Minnesota net and made 26 saves on 29 shots. Dubnyk is having a tough time of things as his wife is ailing and he has missed significant time taking care of her. Dubnyk is 8-11-2 with a 3.16 GAA and a .898 save percentage. Look for a comeback season from Dubnyk once his wife is healthy again.
Marcus Foligno was the only Wild player to put one past Markstrom.
J.T. Miller had a pair of assists.
Jonas Brodin had five blocked shots.
BUFFALO 5 DETROIT 1
It took Evan Rodrigues 25 games and 2:38 of Game 26 to score his first goal of the season but it only took him another 2:22 to score his second as he led the Sabres to a 5-1 win over lowly Detroit.
Linus Ullmark stopped 21 shots for the win, his 14th against 12 losses and three in extra time. He has a 2.81 GAA and a .911 save percentage.
Zemgus Girgensons scored an unassisted shorthanded goal, to give Buffalo a 3-0 lead after one period.
Madison Bowey scored the only goal of the second period to break up Ullmark’s shutout bid but Zach Bogosian with his first, and Rasmus Ristolainen on the power play, scored in the third to make the final 5-1.
Poor Jimmy Howard picked up the start and made 22 saves in taking the loss. Howard was one of the better goalies when the Red Wings were annually in the playoffs but the years and the team, have not been kind to him. Howard is 0-10-1 in his last 11 games with a 4.79 GAA and a .856 save percentage. He had better not be in your fantasy lineup, unless you are trying to tank.
Curtis Lazar had a pair of assists.
PITTSBURGH 4 ARIZONA 3 (Shootout)
Teddy Blueger scored in the eighth round of the shootout to give the Penguins a 4-3 win and up their record to 28-12-5, good for second place in the Metropolitan division.
They did it again without captain Sidney Crosby, who is nearing a return and was thought to have a chance to play Sunday, but he didn’t and the Penguins still prevailed.
The Penguins had a couple of power play goals from Jared McCann and Patric Hornqvist but needed an even-strength goal from Brandon Tanev with 3:02 left in the third period, to tie it up and send the game into extra time. Tanev has been a great off-season signing by the Penguins as he has provided the Penguins with a perfect bottom-six forward who also knows his way around the net as Sunday’s effort was his 10th of the season.
Tristan Jarry stopped 24 shots for the win as he is 15-6-1 with a 2.08 GAA and a .932 save percentage.
Adin Hill took the shootout loss, despite making 31 saves in the Arizona net. He has been the starter of late with injuries to Darcy Kuemper and Antti Raanta and is 1-1-1 with a 2.52 GAA and a .921 save percentage.
Evgeni Malkin had a pair of assists for the Penguins.
FLORIDA 8 TORONTO 4
The Panthers managed all eight goals on only 29 shots while Toronto fired 47 at Florida netminder Chris Driedger.
Driedger has taken over the Florida net with Sergei Bobrovsky currently suffering from an upper-body injury. He is 5-2-0 this season, his first five wins in his NHL career and has a 2.40 GAA and a .931 save percentage.
Huberdeau became the all-time leading point-getter in Florida Panthers history as he passed Olli Jokinen for first with 420 points. Congratulations to Huberdeau on the feat.
It was not a good night for Toronto goalkeepers as Frederik Andersen got the start and was pulled 49 seconds into the second period after he gave up four goals on 12 shots. Michael Hutchinson came on in relief and also gave up four goals, albeit, on 17 shots. As I said, it was not a great night for Leaf goalies.
Brett Connolly had a pair of assists for Florida.
William Nylander had nine shots on goal for Toronto and was a team-worse minus-four.
It was 18’s are wild for the Panthers as they had 18 hits, 18 blocked shots and 18 giveaways.
NEW JERSEY 3 TAMPA BAY 1
So the Devils fire their GM before the start of the game after firing their head coach almost six weeks earlier. They are entertaining the hottest team in the NHL, the Tampa Bay Lightning, who have won 10 in a row while New Jersey is near the bottom of the standings and in turmoil.
Of course the Devils win! Who would have thought or bet otherwise.
Louie Domingue got the start for New Jersey and beat his former team who let him go after signing Curtis McElhinney to a contract on free agent frenzy day (that’s July 1 for novices). Domingue stopped 26-of-27 shots for the win, his second in a row on the weekend as he also beat Washington on Saturday night, giving up one goal on 34 shots. He is 3-4-0. He was backed up by Cory Schneider who was recalled from the minors earlier in the day after being in the AHL for the past two-plus months.
McElhinney gave up two goals on only 19 shots to take the loss as he evened his record at 5-52.
Tyler Johnson opened the scoring for Tampa Bay after a scoreless first as he potted his 150th NHL goal, 37 seconds into the second period. The Devils fought back as Andy Greene with his first of the season, and Travis Zajac with his sixth, scored for New Jersey.
There was no scoring in the third period until Miles Wood scored with one second remaining, into an empty Lightning net.
Jack Hughes had an assist in his return to action after missing five games with an upper-body injury.
Evan Rodrigues – 2
Mitch Marner – 2
Mike Hoffman - 2
Bo Horvat - 2
Curtis Lazar – 2
J.T. Miller – 2
Brett Connolly – 2
Vincent Trocheck – 2
Zach Hyman – 2
Evgeni Malkin – 2
Shots on Goal
William Nylander – 9
John Tavares – 6
Auston Matthews – 6
Elias Pettersson – 6
Givani Smith – 8
Mike Green – 6
Neal Pionk - 6
Yanni Gourde – 7
Connor Carrick - 5
Zach Bogosian - 4
Mike Green – 4
Jason Zucker – 4
Antoine Roussel - 4