In a what has been a rough patch for the Devils, tonight was a bit of a bright spot in another loss. Mackenzie Blackwood, the rookie goaltender who made a relief appearance on Tuesday night against the Maple Leafs, got his first career NHL start tonight against the Columbus Blue Jackets and played very well. The difference between the Jackets and the Devils in a 2-1 Columbus victory was a penalty shot goal by one of the Blue Jackets’ best offensive threats. Otherwise, the rookie went virtually toe-to-toe with defending Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Brobrovsky.
Devils coach John Hynes called the loss to Toronto on Tuesday “unacceptable” and promised some changes. Some of those changes included defenseman Steven Santini making his return to the lineup tonight. He had not played in exactly two months, having broken his jaw getting hit by a puck in a game at Philadelphia on October 20. He was back in the lineup and Mirco Mueller and Egor Yakovlev were out on the blue line. Drew Stafford was out up front.
Santini played 12:25 total TOI – including 11 seconds on the power play and 45 seconds on the penalty kill – registering a shot on goal, four hits and a blocked shot.
The other changes were to the lines. Taylor Hall dropped down to the second line, playing with Travis Zajac and Blake Coleman while Marcus Johansson moved up to the top line in his place. Of course, hockey being as unpredictable as it is, Johansson ended up getting hurt in the second period and did not return. Hall then moved back up to the top line with Kyle Palmieri and Nico Hischier.
We talked about Blackwood making his debut tonight, he stopped 36 of 38 Blue Jacket shots and was named the game’s third star. He made a nice stop on Alexander Wennberg after Wennberg gathered the puck off of the end boards and Blackwood had to move side-to-side to make the save, stopping the puck just on the goal line. That play, which occurred early in the third period, would warrant a review from Toronto, but the replay showed that it did not completely cross the line and was no goal. Bobrovsky was his opponent and made 29 saves on 30 shots in being named the game’s second star.
Nick Foligno scored the opening goal of the game, putting a layup into the net after being left all alone on the side of the goal cage. He took a pass from Pierre-Luc Dubois and Seth Jones had the other assist. This goal came after Columbus just created complete chaos in the Devils’ end. Only 4:17 into the game, it was 1-0 Blue Jackets.
The Devils would not register their first shot of the game until a mid-first period breakaway by Miles Wood. It was a slow start for the Devils to say the least.
New Jersey seemed to be down 2-0 when, late in the first, the officials checked to make sure a puck did not go into Blackwood’s net before the goal was dislodged. The replay from Toronto showed that the net was knocked off of its moorings first and it was no goal.
A scrap at the 17:45 mark saw Brett Seney take on the much-larger Brandon Dubinsky. Brian Boyle stepped in to stick up for Seney at the end of the play and ended up taking a roughing penalty against David Savard. The Devils would have to kill that off and they did, keeping Columbus 0-for-4 on the man advantage with ten shots. They also had two shorthanded shots. The Devils were 0-for-2 on the power play with five shots. They had three shorthanded shots too.
The game winning goal came on a penalty shot just 1:15 into the second period. Cam Atkinson had his hands hooked on a clean breakaway by Andy Greene and the penalty shot had to be called. Atkinson then converted, scoring his 20th of the season and making it 2-0 Blue Jackets. Atkinson was named the game’s first star.
The Devils would finally cut the deficit in half at the 10:39 mark of the second when Hall was sprung on a breakaway by a nice pass from Palmieri. Bobrovsky went down very early as he was out of his crease and Hall scored to make it 2-1. This goal was Hall’s 200th career NHL goal, congratulations to him on that milestone.
And that would be it for the scoring. The Devils did seemingly tie things 20 seconds into the third period when Coleman one-timed a pass from Zajac that hit the crossbar and bounced out of the net. Toronto reviewed the goal to see if it did enter the net and come out very fast. Replays showed that it did not, it simply hit the post and came right out. The call on the ice of no goal stood and the Devils were back to the drawing board.
Blackwood would make a nice save to keep the Devils in the game late when he stopped Anthony Duclair with a quick left pad save. He would be pulled with about 2:04 remaining in the game. With the extra attacker (but minus an injured Johansson) the Devils had some chances, including a Palmieri one-timer that, after a scramble in front on the rebound, was reviewed by Toronto to see if it did enter the net. But much like the Coleman review, the call on the ice stood at no goal. Bobrovsky just had a fantastic game.
The Devils were out shot 38 to 30, but won 55-percent of the game’s faceoffs, had 22 hits to the Jackets’ 15 and blocked more shots than Columbus (15 to nine). The Devils also had more giveaways than the Blue Jackets, four to three.
Individually, Will Butcher led everyone in ice time with 23:45 (including 2:01 of PP time) and Zajac led the forwards at 21:14 (2:01 on the PP and 3:39 on the PK). The shots on goal category was led by Palmieri with six, hits were led by Santini’s four, blocks were led by Hall, Ben Lovejoy and Damon Severson with two each and takeaways saw Pavel Zacha net three to lead the team there.
Next up, it’s the second half of a back-to-back as the Devils return home tomorrow to take on the Ottawa Senators. New Jersey has not won the second half of a back-to-back so far this year. Will the seventh time be the charm? That game is at 7 PM tomorrow night and we will have it for you right here.