The Devils rolled into Anaheim looking to extend their five-game point streak. They succeeded with a 3-0 shutout win over the Ducks. The shutout was goaltender Cory Schneider’s first such clean sheet since February 21, 2019 versus Ottawa.
March kicked off the final full month of the 2019-20 season and the Devils got it off on the right foot. Jesper Boqvist joined the team in Southern California today as he was recalled from Binghamton yesterday but did not play tonight due to the travel involved and because all of the forwards for the team were healthy. Josh Jacobs did play tonight, making his season debut for the Devils and playing in his second-ever NHL game. He wore number 40 and skated on the third defensive pairing with Connor Carrick.
Jacobs slotted in for Fredrik Claesson, who was “a bit banged up” according to Erika Wachter on the MSG pregame show. Will Butcher also remained out and did not make the trip west with the team.
In net, Schneider, as mentioned, earned his first shutout of the year, being equal to all 34 shots the Ducks threw his way. Facing him was John Gibson who made 31 saves on 34 Devils shots for a nightly save percentage of .912. Gibson also took a penalty, an interference penalty against Kevin Rooney on a weird play at the very end of the second period.
The Devils earned a goal in each period. In the first, Pavel Zacha, who would go on to be named the second star of the game, notched his first of two on the power play. It was set up when Anaheim’s Sonny Milano, recently acquired from the Columbus Blue Jackets, was called for tripping Miles Wood. At 17:08, Zacha scored when PK Subban sprung Jesper Bratt and Bratt skated up ice. He fed Zacha, who was cutting backdoor, with a nice backhanded pass. That made it 1-0 Devils.
Zacha struck on the power play in the second period when the Ducks’ Carter Rowney was caught for a hold on Nico Hischier at 3:11 to give the Devils another advantage. On this one, Zacha and Bratt again combined when Bratt grabbed the puck, beat an Anaheim defender, stopped and passed cross-ice to Zacha who was camped out at the far faceoff circle. He scored to make it 2-0 Devils. Nikita Gusev kept his point streak alive, moving it to six, with the secondary assist. Bratt also made it eight points in seven games with the two assists. As MSG’s Ken Daneyko pointed out, this goal was made possible by Bratt’s amazing edge work allowing him to get through the defense and stop on a dime to pass to Zacha.
Anaheim nearly got the goal back when Cory had to stop Ryan Getzlaf on a breakaway soon after.
Zacha would be injured in the third period and left the game. He did not return and we should find out more about him in the coming days.
On special teams, the Devils were 2-for-3 on the power play for the night, scoring on both shots they took. They also had a shorthanded shot. The Ducks were 0-for-2 with four shots on the power play and had a single shorthanded shot as well.
The third period saw Cory make a few nice saves on a mad scramble in front of his net midway through. He had some help from the Devils’ defenders around him as well as it was just a nice all-around defensive sequence by the Devils.
Minutes after the Devils killed off two penalties (the Ducks had a 5-on-3 for two seconds), Nico Hischier broke his nine-game goalless drought when the Devils won a faceoff back to Connor Carrick at the point. Carrick shot and Nico batted down the shot into the Ducks’ net at 13:56 gone by in the third to make it 3-0. The goal was briefly reviewed in the Situation Room in Toronto to look for a high-stick, but Nico’s was below the crossbar when he batted the puck down and the goal stood.
And that was it. Both teams had 34 total shots on goal. The Devils won 49-percent of the game’s faceoffs with Travis Zajac winning an astonishing 72-percent of his to lead all Devils’ centers. The Devils edged the Ducks in hits with 27 to Anaheim’s 26. New Jersey also had more blocks at 21 to Anaheim’s 16. The Devils finished with less turnovers at nine to 12 giveaways.
Individually, Jacobs had a penalty (a high-sticking penalty at 9:53 of the third), two shots on goal, a hit and two blocked shots in 17:12 (including 41 seconds on the penalty kill) in his season debut.
Mirco Mueller had 21:36 to lead everyone in ice time (just beating his defensive partner by about 13 seconds in that department). He played 20 seconds on the power play and 2:43 on the penalty kill. Zajac led the forwards with 17:16 (including 1:06 logged on the power play and 2:11 on the penalty kill).
Zacha (named the second star of the game – Dakota Mermis was the third and Cory Schneider the first) and Bratt led the team in points with two each – two goals for Zacha, two helpers for Bratt.
Zacha also led in shots on goal with five, Subban in blocks with three, Mermis and Kevin Rooney in hits with five each and Zajac, Zacha and Jack Hughes in takeaways with one apiece.
Next up, the Devils will be in Las Vegas on Tuesday to take on the Golden Knights. Puck drop for this one is 10 PM ET. This will begin a series of games the Devils will be playing against playoff contenders or teams currently in a playoff position. We will, of course, have coverage for you right here.