The Devils had not won a game at Prudential Center since January 14 when they clobbered the Chicago Blackhawks. Today they were facing the Carolina Hurricanes, a team that could move into a playoff position today with a win, as the Penguins had lost already to put them into a tie for the last wild card spot in the East. But the Devils perservered, weathering a few Carolina comebacks to win 3-2.
The injury-depleted Devils have seen a lot of turnover in their lineup this year so far. Today, they welcomed forward Nick Lappin, making his NHL Devils season debut and defenseman Ryan Murphy making his Devils debut period. Murphy was acquired last week from Minnesota (where he had played a few games at the NHL level this season) and was originally drafted by Carolina. He wore number 32 today and was paired with Mirco Mueller on the blue line. With those guys in, Joey Anderson, Eric Gryba and Steven Santini were the healthy scratches.
The goaltending matchup featured Keith Kinkaid making his return to the net since the LA game last Tuesday. He stopped 33-of-35 for a .943 save percentage and had a great game, coming up big when the Devils needed him most. He was also named the game’s second star. Petr Mrazek faced him and stopped 18-of-21 for an .857 save percentage. The fact that the Devils were out shot 35 to 21 should not surprise. The Canes lead the league in shots for per game with 35.5 while also leading the league in least shots given up per game. They shoot a lot and do not give up many chances.
The game got going with a bang. Just 1:05 into the opening frame, Kurtis Gabriel and Micheal Ferland threw down in a spirited scrap. You would have to give the win to Gabriel with the takedown in his second fight in two nights.
The Devils got the goal scoring going on the power play when Pavel Zacha scored from Murphy and Nico Hischier at 11:35 of the first. It came after the Devils had killed off a 5-on-3 power play for the Hurricanes, an excellent kill where they really limited Carolina’s chances. Following that kill, the Canes’ Brett Pesce took a holding call against Jesper Bratt. On the ensuing power play, Murphy found a seam up the left wing, making a nice backhanded pass to Zacha who was able to finish for his tenth of the season. It was a pretty play and made it 1-0 Devils.
Before the first period was up, the Devils would take the 2-0 lead when Marcus Johansson scored his first of two on the afternoon with 57 seconds remaining the frame. Hischier went point-to-point with Kyle Palmieri, who got a shot on net with Johansson on the doorstep. When Mrazek could not handle the rebound, Johansson was right there to put the puck home. Johansson would go on to score twice today and be named the game’s third star while Nico would assist on all three Devils goals and be named the first star of the game.
In the second period, Carolina would cut the lead in half when, on a delayed penalty, Dougie Hamilton threw the puck through a screen in front that beat Kinkaid to make it 2-1 at the 7:22 mark. Justin Williams and Nino Niederreiter had the assists on that goal.
We talked about Carolina’s shot suppression and that was no more evident than in the second period when it took the Devils until 6:07 remaining to get their first shot on goal. They ended the second with just two shots.
The game winner for the Devils would be a pretty one. It came at the 15:56 mark of the third and saw Bratt poke the puck to himself up the left wing wall and then use his speed to just blow by the Carolina defender. He then made a no-look pass to a trailing Johansson who finished to make it 3-1 late in the game. Hischier had the secondary assist.
Carolina would get one more at the 18:33 mark when they were on a power play and pulled the goaltender for a 6-on-4 man advantage. Niederreiter made a good pass on a 2-on-1 down low with Teuvo Teravainen. Teravainen put the puck in to make it 3-2 and set up a dramatic finish. Sebastian Aho had the secondary assist on the play.
On the power play, the Devils were 1-for-4 with four shots and two shorthanded shots. The Canes were 1-for-5 with the man advantage with a huge nine shots on goal. They also had two shorthanded shots. This just further illustrates how many shots the Hurricanes take in the course of a game.
Following a tense finish with multiple icings and faceoffs deep in the Devils’ zone while the Canes had Mrazek pulled, New Jersey held on and won the game 3-2.
The Devils won 56-percent of the game’s faceoffs and out hit the Hurricanes 21-19. They also had more blocked shots at 15 to the Canes’ nine. Each team had seven giveaways.
As for the individual stats, Andy Greene led all Devils skaters in ice time with 23:08 TOI. That includes eight seconds on the power play and 8:29 on the PK. Travis Zajac, although third on the team in ice time (behind Greene and Lovejoy – a byproduct of the team being shorthanded for much of the game), led all forwards with 22:04. That includes 4:05 on the PP and 5:42 on the penalty kill. Shots were led by Johansson with five, hits by Lovejoy with five, blocks by Lovejoy with five and takeaways by Hischier and Zajac with two each.
It was a hard fought and well-earned win for the Devils and hopefully will jumpstart them as they take to the road for a western swing this week. They have the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday with an 8 PM puck drop. We will have that for you right here and hope you join us then. In the meantime, please feel free to drop us a line in the comments section below.