New head coach John Hynes was trying to become the first Devils’ head coach since Claude Julien in 2006 to win in his coaching debut on Friday. Michael Hutchinson and the Winnipeg Jets had other arrangements though, defeating New Jersey 3-1 in their home and season-opening game.
The Devils long preaching edict of: fast, supportive and attacking was started to take some form in the opening minutes of the first period, out-shooting the Jets 3-0 and testing second-year Jets’ goaltender Hutchinson, who stopped 20 of 21 shots.
The ‘relentless’ attack was short lived and the Devils registered just one shot in the final 17:02 of the first period, being out-shot 30-21 on the evening.
Unscathed by a Jets early onslaught, that included two power plays, the Devils headed into the second period with a chance to correct some of early miscues and shake off the any jitters, facing a Jets team that downed Boston 6-2 on Thursday to open their season.
At 1:13 of the second Jets’ Mark Scheifele, who notched the Jets’ first goal on Thursday, broke the scoreless tie with a shot from the left circle to beat Cory Schneider. Nikolaj Ehlers picked up the primary assist on the opening goal to give him his first NHL point in just his second game.
The Jets would add to the lead less than three minutes later with another shot from the left circle by Blake Wheeler that took several moments before being confirmed to give Winnipeg a 2-1 lead.
On their first power play of the night, former Jet Jiri Tlusty got some help from Jacob Trouba who deflected his shot at 12:53 of the second period to cut the Devils’ deficit in half. Tlusty played 20 games with the Jets last season and all four of their playoff games after being acquired in a trade from Carolina in February.
Andrew Ladd regained the two-goal lead for the Jets at 16:21 of the second on the power play. Both teams went 1-for-4 on the man advantage.
Wheeler, who added an assist on the Ladd goal made an impression on the ice–but might have above the ice too with John Tortorella in company to begin scouting for next summer’s world cup of hockey. A native of Plymouth, Minnesota, Wheeler will be in strong consideration, especially after playing for the United States in the 2014 Winter Olympics from Sochi.
The Devils battled in the third, outshooting the Jets 10-7, but had trouble solving Hutchinson who matched them every inch of the way, helping Winnipeg start 2-0 on the season.
For the Devils, dropping the home opener isn’t new. In their last five home openers the team has gone 1-3-1, the only win coming in the shortened-2013 season, when they defeated Philadelphia 3-0 on Jan. 22.
The Devils will travel to Washington to take on the Capitals on Saturday night. They’ll look to try and do what was done to them on Friday to a Caps’ team that has not played yet this season and could be shaking off some rust with a team of fresh faces including Justin Williams and T.J. Oshie.
Neal McHale began contributing to The Hockey Writers in 2015, covering NHL hockey and the New Jersey Devils. He also writes for Inside Hockey. Previously, he’s served as a correspondent to the Big East Conference and a staff writer for The Setonian. He graduated from Seton Hall University in 2015 with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Public Relations.