Devils Fall in Halloween Shootout to Blue Jackets

So, my older nephew woke up sick this morning, so Halloween was canceled. Instead, I get to write up my game report on Devils-Blue Jackets earlier than expected.

The Devils went to their first shootout of the season against the Columbus Blue Jackets and fell 4-3. They do pick up the point in-division, though.

Happy Halloween everyone! This afternoon tilt was the first time the Devils had played on the holiday since 2015 – a 3-2 shootout win over the New York Islanders at Prudential Center, for those wondering. In the present day, this is the quickest turnaround the Devils will face this year, having played at 7 PM in Pittsburgh last night, and at 5 PM in Newark today. That’s 22 hours between games. This was the first of 13 back-to-backs the Devils will have this season as well.

For the record, the Devils were 6-4-1 on Halloween coming into today.

And speaking of last night’s victory over the Penguins, Andreas Johnsson’s two goals in that game was his first multi-goal game as a Devil. Also, the 40 shots the Devils peppered Tristan Jarry with was their season high for the year. They ended up with 39 tonight (including overtime) so that remains.

The only change to the lineup was in goal for the Devils. Mason Geertsen and Christian Jaros remained the Devils’ healthy scratches. Steve Cangialosi mentioned on the broadcast of the game that he asked head coach Lindy Ruff if he considered dressing seven defensemen in order to take the load off of the defense on the penalty kill. He said no and reasoned that the Devils were rolling four lines in Pittsburgh on Saturday and he did not want to take from that.

With the quick turnaround, New Jersey went back to Scott Wedgewood in nets. He made 23 saves on 26 total Columbus shots for an .885 save percentage. He stopped two of the Jackets’ three power play shots (the Blue Jackets were 1-for-2 on the power play) and 21-for-24 at even strength.

Columbus went with Joonas Korpisalo in goal and he was equal to 36 of the Devils’ 39 shots for a .923 save percentage. He got 35 of their 38 shots at even strength and all four of the Devils’ power play shots. The Devils ended up 0-for-3 on the power play.

In a fun note mentioned by play-by-play man Steve Cangialosi on MSG+, today was the Devils’ 3,000th game since arriving in New Jersey in 1982. October 5, 1982 was the first – a 3-3 tie against the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Meadowlands.

This was the first meeting between these teams, however, since February of 2020-20 days before the 2019-20 season was ended due to the COVID pandemic. The Blue Jackets were in the Central Division last season, so the Devils did not face them last year.

Also, the Blue Jackets were dressing Eric Robinson, a forward and a native of Belmar, New Jersey.

The Devils kept the momentum from last night going by scoring the first goal of the game just 1:07 in. It came off of the stick of, who else? Andreas Johnsson – his third goal of the weekend.

PK Subban put the puck down low and Jesper Bratt got it behind the Columbus net. Bratt made a forehand pass Johnsson at the far faceoff circle. Johnsson was able to set and shot upstairs shortside to make it 1-0 Devils. This goal came off of the second shot of the game for New Jersey.

Columbus would tie things at the 11:55 mark of the first when Devils-killer Oliver Bjorkstrand tied it. The Danish exorcist scored on the power play as Dawson Mercer was off serving a tripping penalty against Zach Werenski.

Patrik Laine got the puck down low to Jakub Voracek, who skated back up high towards the blue line and passed cross-ice to Bjorkstrand. Bjorkstand stepped up and shot through Boone Jenner in front of the net as a screen. The puck went in and the game was tied up at one.

Before the end of the frame, the Jackets would grab their first lead of the afternoon, however. It came at 14:54 of the first when Columbus had numbers going the other way on the Devils. Voracek fed Laine, who was streaking up the left side. He took the pass and fired a bomb that went in and out under the crossbar. It seemed like the shot had hit the crossbar, but the call on the ice was the correct one, it was a goal and the Jackets had a 2-1 lead going into the second period.

The second would see the Devils retake the lead.

The climb began when Mercer scored 8:37 into the new period. Just after the Devils had killed off a Jonas Siegenthaler holding penalty, Siegenthaler came out of the box and negated a Devils’ icing in the Columbus zone. The Jackets tried to clear, but PK Subban kept it in at the blue line and threw it back in. Mercer got it behind Korpisalo’s net and cut back in front, stuffing it in behind the Columbus netminder to it the game at two.

A little over a minute later at the 9:54 mark, Dougie Hamilton gave the Devils back the lead.

Pavel Zacha took the puck at the end boards in the Jackets’ zone, passing from the corner to Nico Hischier, who was also at the end boards, on the other side of the Columbus net. He fed a pass to Hamilton, who was at the far faceoff dot. Hamilton blasted a shot that beat Korpisalo to make it 3-2 Devils.

But that was it as far as Devils scoring would go on the afternoon.

The Devils played a great third period largely, but Columbus would tie the game at three at the 14:35 mark anyway.

It was then that Ty Smith tried to flip the puck out of the Devils’ zone when he had time. He could have run it up the boards or even gone D-to_D with Damon Severson. Instead, he rushed and tried to flip the puck over the blue line. Jenner intercepted it, knocking it down and skating in with a Devils defender all over him. He made a nice individual effort to fight through the check and get a shot off as he was falling to the ice. The shot beat Wedgewood to tie the game at three apiece.

The Devils would have chances. At the 16:27, Vladislav Gavrikov was called for cross checking Johnsson to put the Devils on the power play. That was improved to a 5-on-3 when Scott Harrington was nabbed for high-sticking Mercer at 17:53.

The Devils would have 33 seconds of 5-on-3 to retake the lead, but Columbus did a good job of killing it, including generating a shorthanded 2-on-1 that Wedgewood stopped.

When the Jackets ended the Devils power play bid, we were off to OT. This was the third overtime game for both teams, with both going in 2-0 in the extra frame.

Despite a tremendous showing by the Devils and Bjorkstrand hitting the post for Columbus late, neither team could break through. The Devils would then play their first shootout of the season.

Jesper Bratt was first up, but Korpisalo stopped him as he tried to shoot five-hole. Bjorkstrand rounded out the first round and shot wide of the net.

In the second round, Dougie Hamilton shot for New Jersey and was stopped. Laine went for the Jackets and his shot missed the net as well.

In the third round, Dawson Mercer was up for the Devils – his first NHL shootout try – and Korpisalo made a pad save on him. Voracek went for Columbus and scored, getting the Blue Jackets the full two points on the afternoon and spoiling the Devils’ homecoming.

The Devils are now 4-2-1 with a 1-1-1 record within the Metropolitan Division.

New Jersey outshot Columbus 39-26 and won 45-percent of the game’s faceoffs as a team, with Nico HIschier winning 60-percent of his personal draws to lead the Devils forwards.

Columbus had more team penalty minutes at six to the Devils’ four. They also outhit the Devils 14-12. Both teams logged 19 blocked shots and the Devils ended up with more giveaways at 11 to Columbus’ eight. Yegor Sharangovich led the Devils in that dubious category with four.

Hamilton played the most minutes with 26:35 logged, including 3:21 on the power play and 38 seconds on the penalty kill. Hischier led the forwards with 19:41 logged (includes 3:21 on the power play and 1:29 of PK time).

Subban led in points with two (both assists) while Hamilton led in shots on goal with a whopping ten. Ryan Graves led in hits with three while Hamilton also led in blocked shots with four. Takeaways were led by Zacha with three.

Next up, the Devils begin their first real road trip of the season when they travel out west to California. They will play on Tuesday, November 2 at the Anaheim Ducks. That game is at 10 PM and will air exclusively on ESPN+. I will be watching and will try to get a post up in a timely fashion.

And before we go, I would be remiss if I did not mention that former NHLer Tie Domi was in attendance at Prudential Center to watch his son Max play for the Blue Jackets today. MSG+ showed him and his Montreal Expos cap on the broadcast, which I just though was cool enough to warrant a mention here. The Expos cap, not necessarily Tie’s presence.

Until then, Happy Halloween everyone!

Johnsson Scores Twice, Bratt Converts Penalty Shot as Devils Defeat Pens

The Devils finally played their first road game of the season, following a three-day layoff (the loss on Tuesday versus Calgary at home) and traveled to Western Pennsylvania to take on the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Devils won the game, 4-2 and improved to 4-2-0 on the season. It was a big Metro Division matchup and victory for the Devils.

To begin with, a roster move as the Devils sent goaltender Nico Daws back down to Utica of the American League on Thursday, October 28.

The reason for this was that Jonathan Bernier was back from his lower body injury, getting the start tonight. Mackenzie Blackwood remains out, recovering from heel surgery. He could be back in as soon as a week. Blackwood did travel with the team to Pittsburgh.

Mason Geertsen and Christian Jaros were the Devils’ healthy scratches.

For the Penguins, a team that has been playing well despite their superstars being out with injury, they got someone back. Sidney Crosby played his first game of the season tonight, after recovering from wrist surgery that he had back in September. He finally began his 17th season as a Pittsburgh Penguin, equaling Mario Lemieux’s record for seasons played with the franchise. They also got Jeff Carter back into the lineup. He was on COVID Protocol.

As for the Devils’ superstar center, we got an update on Jack Hughes yesterday. His dislocated left shoulder suffered in the Seattle Kraken game back in early October, is stable following his one-week evaluation. The Devils’ head orthopedic surgeon and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jonathan L. Glashow had a meeting with Hughes. According to the press release put out by the team, Jack “is on course with his rehabilitation program” and will be re-evaluated in five weeks. They said that adjustments will be made accordingly.

In goal, Bernier got the nod for the Devils in his return. He improved to a personal 3-0-0 record with this win and had 33 saves on 35 Pittsburgh shots for a .943 save percentage. Bernier turned aside all eight Penguins’ power play shots and stopped 25-of-27 at even strength.

Pittsburgh went with Tristan Jarry, who stopped 36-of-40 total Devils shots. The Devils did not register a power play shot, curiously, but did have six shorthanded shots, of which Jarry got five. He ended up with a .900 save percentage and was equal to 31 of 34 shots at even strength.

The Penguins ended 0-for-5 on the power play as the Devils penalty kill played very well. The Devils were 0-for-2 with no shots on the man advantage.

Of note, because I happen to notice stuff like this, the Devils did not have their Prudential sponsorship logo on their road white helmets. Instead, they had the team logo stickers and a special sticker on the back for their Buy Black initiative. Later in the year, they will be featuring a Buy Black business’ logo as their sponsorship logo for a series of games.

This was game six of an eight game homestand for the Pens, following a loss in their previous game to the Calgary Flames.

Also of note is that the Penguins had a forward in their lineup tonight by the name of Drew O’Connor, a Chatham, New Jersey native who played high school hockey at Delbarton and college hockey at Dartmouth.

They seemed to be back on their horse too. At the 12:23 mark of the first, Pittsburgh took the lead when Danton Heinen scored. Zach Aston-Reese centered the puck to the slot and it pinballed off a few Devils’ skates before finally landing to Heinen in front. He scored to make it 1-0. Juuso Nikola had the secondary assist.

It would remain that way for the rest of the frame, until, with less than 30 seconds to go, at the 19:23 mark, Andreas Johnsson notched his first of the game to tie it at one. Jesper Bratt cut wide on the left side and it got swept off of his stick, but he was able to still guide it to Johnsson at the near faceoff circle. Johnsson had no shot, but saw Dawson Mercer in front, battling with Evan Rodrigues. He threw it towards Mercer and it ended up going in off of Rodrigues’ skate. Mercer celebrated initially as if the goal was his, and it seemed that he got a piece of the puck as it was being redirected in.

However, it did go in off of Rodrigues, so Johnsson got the credit for it. Dougie Hamilton had secondary assist on Johnsson’s second goal of the year.

That took us into the second period.

Things got a little frustrating for the Devils early on, as Jarry denied both Michael McLeod and then Tomas Tatar on breakaways early on in the new period.

However, the Devils would eventually breakthrough in a slightly different situation.

At the 17:36 mark, Tatar took a tripping penalty against Heinen, putting Pittsburgh on the power play.

At 17:57, Bernier made a big save, directing the puck towards the far corner in the Devils’ zone. Kasperi Kapanen tried to direct the puck to the point, but the pass had no steam and Jimmy Vesey jumped on it. The Penguins’ player at the point went down, trying to dive and sweep the puck back into the zone. Vesey skated around him and was off on a breakaway of his own. Jarry did not stop this one, as Vesey went backhand-forehand and scored. This gave the Devils a 2-1 lead.

It was the Devils’ first shorthanded goal of the season and came unassisted. New Jersey would end up killing the rest of the penalty as well.

That goal took us into the third period where things would turn for the Devils.

It did start with the Penguins tying things up at two.

Just 2:02 into the third, Brock McGinn scored when Teddy Blueger was going towards the end boards in the Devils’ zone and gathered the puck. As he was falling down, he made blind pass, behind-the-back pass to McGinn in the slot. McGlinn was all alone and beat Bernier one-on-one to make it 2-2. Aston-Reese had the secondary assist.

The Pens were back into things, but the game was about to get very interesting.

With exactly three minutes to go in regulation, Crosby pushed Bratt from behind and hauled him down on a scoring chance.

Bratt was awarded a penalty shot but seemed injured and went to the bench to catch a breather. He decided to take the shot and made a move to freeze Jarry. Jarry went down and Bratt went around him and put the puck in behind him. Bratt came into the game 0-for1 on penalty shots, so this was his first NHL penalty shot goal.

The goal would go down as the game-winner and made it 3-2 Devils.

The Devils would add one more at 18:17 as the Penguins were trying to pull Jarry for the extra attacker. Jarry never made it to the Pittsburgh bench as PK Subban jarred a puck loose at the Devils’ blue line. He poked it up to Johnsson, who skated around Jarry at the Pittsburgh blue line and put it into the empty net. That made it 4-2 Devils.

The Pens would pull Jarry for real with about a minute left in the game.

Then, with 40 seconds to go, the Devils were assessed a bench minor for too many men on the ice. The Devils would finish the game killing a penalty.

But they would hold on and got the two points over a division rival.

The Devils outshot Pittsburgh 40-35. They won 48-percent of the game’s faceoffs with Michael McLeod winning 59-percent of his draws to lead the Devils’ centers. The Devils finished with ten penalty minutes to the Penguins’ four. The Pens outhit the Devils 29 to 27 and narrowly blocked more shots at 14 to the Devils’ 13. The Devils had less giveaways at six to the Pens’ eight. Mercer had two giveaways to lead that category for New Jersey.

Ice time saw Ryan Graves lead the Devils with 24:31 (including 5:26 of PK time). Dougie Hamilton led the Devils’ defensemen in power play ice time with 2:16. Nico Hischier led the forwards in TOI with 17:17 total time (including 2:16 on the power play and 2:25 shorthanded). Bratt also played 2:16 on the power play and Vesey spent the most time killing penalties amongst the forwards with 4:36 logged on the PK.

Johnsson (two goals) and Bratt (a goal and an assist) led the Devils in points with two each. Vesey ended up leading everyone in total shots on goal with six – with Hamilton logging five. Hits were led by Freddie Gauthier with five. Blocks were led by Damon Severson and Graves with three each. Pavel Zacha and Marian Studenic both led in takeaways with two apiece.

Next up, the Devils return home tomorrow night for a Halloween afternoon tilt against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Puck drop for that game is 5 PM. I will be a little bit late in getting a report up as I will be spending time with family seeing my nephews trick or treating. I am recording the game and should have something up a bit later in the day.

Until then, stay safe if you are taking your kids out for trick or treating tomorrow and Happy Halloween!