The Devils opened the 2019 preseason tonight with a split squad set of games. Half of the team was in Newark playing the Bruins, winning in overtime 4-3 while the other half was up in Montreal and lost 4-2.
We’ll start with the Montreal loss. The Devils sent some relatively weaker star power north of the border, as Jack Hughes and PK Subban were making their Devils debuts at Prudential Center.
Artturi Lehkonen and Nate Thompson scored in the first period while Will Butcher (from Michael McLeod and Damon Severson) added a power play goal for the Devils to make it 2-1 after one.
Michael McLeod tied things just 1:55 into the third at two apiece. He got assists from Brett Seney and Dakota Mermis. But Jake Evans scored shorthanded for the Canadiens and Nick Cousins scored with less than a minute remaining to ice it 4-2 for the Habs.
Carey Price made eight saves on nine shots faced while Cayden Primeau stopped 16 of 17 for Montreal. The Devils had a total of 26 shots. For the Devils, Mackenzie Blackwood stopped 11 of 13 while Evan Cormier was equal to 11 of the 12 he faced. Montreal also had 26 shots on net.
Special teams-wise, the Devils were 1-for-6 on the power play and held the Canadiens 0-for-2 with the man advantage.
Montreal won 57-percent of the game’s faceoffs and the Devils outhit the Habs 30-28. Both teams had 14 blocked shots.
For the Devils, Seney, Colton White and Matt Tennyson were all a plus-1 to lead the plus/minus, Kyle Palmieri led in shots with four. John Hayden, in his Devils debut, led in hits with six and Tennyson led in blocks with three. Kevin Rooney, Brandon Gignac, White and Severson each had one takeaway.
Total ice time was led by Severson with 24:06 while Blake Coleman led the forwards with 21:41.
Meanwhile, back in New Jersey, we mentioned that some Devils stars were appearing at The Rock. Who was missing was Wayne Simmonds (out with a lower body injury, day-to-day according to Matt Loughlin) and Taylor Hall. Simmonds was likely a precautionary measure while Hall has already stated that he will likely play in only one or two preseason games – most definitely the final one or two. Ryan Schmelzer was in for Simmonds tonight.
The Devils thrilled the home fans by pulling this one out in OT. Oskar Steen got the Bruins on the board first. He snapped a shot by Cory Schneider just as he was gaining entry into the Devils’ zone early in the second period.
Midway through the second, Boston switched their goalies out, as Kyle Keyser (who stopped all 17 shots he saw) gave way to Dan Vladar.
But it was number one overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, Jack Hughes, who would tie things up. Hughes scored on the power play late in the second to make it 1-1. Ty Smith made a nice play to keep the puck in the Boston zone and Hughes sniped a shot from the far circle. Sami Vatanen and Smith had the assists.
For the third period, Gilles Senn came on in relief for Schneider. Jesper Bratt would give the Devils the early 2-1 lead. He shot off the rush, coming up the right wing boards and beat Vladar. Vatanen had the lone assist on the goal, his second of the night.
Senn made a nice save on Steen right after the goal on, but Boston would end up getting their equalizer. Chris Wagner scored through a mass of players in front of the Devils’ net. The Devils got caught in their own end with some sloppy defensive play and they paid for it here.
So with the score tied at two, we would get some 4-on-4 play as Miles Wood and a Boston player went off with matching minors.
On the ensuing 4-on-4, Jesper Bratt faked a shot from the shot, making a nice slap pass to Connor Carrick along the far boards. He fired from the top of the circle and beat Vladar to make it 3-2 Devils.
Almost immediately following that goal, PK Subban had his pocket picked along the Bruins’ blue line and Senn had to stop a breakaway.
He turned that aside, but Boston would tie it up with less than a minute left when they pulled their goaltender for the extra attacker. Jack Studnicka scored to make it 3-3 and force an overtime period.
The Devils started OT with Jack Hughes, PK Subban and Nikita Gusev: firepower that they did not possess prior to this offseason. Just mere moments into the extra session, the Devils gained control of the puck, as Hughes grabbed it and was off to the races with Gusev.
Hughes made a drop pass to Gusev just inside the Boston blue line and Gusev shot as Hughes cut to the net. Jack then grabbed the rebound and put it home for the game-winner.
Although it was the Devils’ big guns playing against a weaker Bruins’ lineup, this was a nice win. Also nice to see Hughes come away with a pair of goals.
Splitting the night was a great result for the Devils and we will see you again on Wednesday as the Devils travel to the Garden to take on the Rangers. This one is on traditional TV, as the game is being broadcast by MSG Network rather than streamed like the Boston game was.