The Devils rolled into the home of the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning and came away with two points, winning 5-3 in a thrilling third period comeback.
First off, congratulations to the Utica Comets, who set a new American Hockey League record with their 12th win to start the 2021-22 season. They defeated the Charlotte Checkers 4-1 at home last night to set the new record. The future of the Devils is bright and it is deep.
Now on to this game. The game ended up airing on MSG2 as the New York Red Bulls were taking on the Philadelphia Union in the first round of the 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs on MSG+, where the Devils-Lightning game was originally supposed to air. They ended up falling short, losing 1-0 to the Union.
The MSG+ Red Bulls broadcast also poached Devils play-by-play man Steve Cangialosi, who also performs the same duties for the Red Bulls. With Cangi unavailable for the Devils, Matt Loughlin made his return to television from the radio side and called the game with Ken Daneyko.
In roster news, Alexander Holtz made his return to the Devils’ lineup as he slotted in for Jesper Boqvist (who is dealing with a slight injury as per Erika Wachter on the pregame show). Boqvist joined Colton White and Mason Geertsen as scratches for this game.
In goal, the Devils went right back to Mackenzie Blackwood. Blackwood had either been relieved or pulled in his last two starts. He was relieved due to injury in the game at the Rangers last Sunday and pulled in his start at the Panthers on Thursday.
He got off to a rocky start against the champs but ended up coming through with a big game in the end. He made 31 saves on 34 total Tampa shots for a .912 save percentage and stopped the Bolts’ lone shorthanded shot. He turned aside three of the four power play shots the Lightning peppered him with and was 27-for-29 at even strength.
In net for the Lightning was their all-world goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy. Vasilevskiy was equal to 22 of the Devils’ 26 total shots for an .846 save percentage. He saved both Devils power play shots and 20 of their 24 shots at even strength.
The Lightning finished 1-for-4 on the power play and the Devils were 0-for-3.
Tampa had recorded a point in their last nine games, going 7-0-2 in that span. The Devils were finishing up their two-game Florida road trip hoping to register a win after the shellacking they took in Sunrise against the Panthers.
The Lightning were in their all-black alternate uniforms today.
It would only take the Bolts a short bit to get on the board. At the 5:49 mark of the first period, PK Subban got the puck to Holtz, who on the near half wall and tried to clear it out of the zone. He could not, trying too hard to finesse it out. The Bolts’ Jan Rutta intercepted it and walked in with time on Blackwood, shooting and scoring unassisted to make it 1-0 Lightning. It was a rough mistake for Holtz, who should have just chipped it up the wall and gotten the puck out, but it is something that he will hopefully learn from.
The Devils would respond before the end of the first period, however.
At the 13:58 mark, Holtz dug the puck out of the near corner in the Tampa zone and centered to Yegor Sharangovich near the near faceoff circle hash marks. Sharangovich sniped the puck between Vasilevskiy’s arm and the post to tie the game at one.
It was Sharangovich’s first goal of the season, as it has taken him some time to get going this year. It would not be the end of his offensive output for the night.
The Lightning would retake the lead at the end of the first on the power play.
Damon Severson was called for hooking Ondrej Palat at 17:31 and, at the 18:15 mark, the Lightning worked the puck around the perimeter as Mikhail Sergachev found a seam to Ross Colton near the near faceoff circle. Colton fired a shot with Blackwood making the save. The rebound came right out to Pat Maroon at the doorstep. He tapped the rebound in to make it 2-1 Tampa to take us into the second period.
Things would get a little bit deeper for the Devils in the second period.
Just 6:17 into the new frame, the Devils were unable to clear the puck from their own zone. Boris Katchouk made a cross-ice pass to a pinching Victor Hedman. Hedman got plenty of time and space to shoot, picking a spot and beating Blackwood to make it 3-1 Lightning. Rutta had the secondary assist on the goal to record his second point of the afternoon.
At the 7:36 mark of the second period, a near catastrophe for the Devils Nico Hischier took a high hit to the head from the Bolts’ Corey Perry in the Devils zone.
Perry took an illegal check to the head penalty as Ryan Graves stepped in and let Perry know that the play was unacceptable but did not take a penalty to negate the Devils’ power play.
It was a little thing but showed discipline on the part of Graves. Nico would go down the tunnel but returned later on in the second. The Devils did not score on the power play, however.
Visible frustration began to set in for the Devils when Michael McLeod hit the post on a late 2-on-1 in the second period.
However, while Tampa would take their two-goal lead into the third period, the Devils were on the verge of breaking out.
It began 1:12 in when Dawson Mercer electrified the place.
Sharangovich made a cross-ice pass to Mercer in the neutral zone and Mercer gained the Tampa blue line. He went wide up the right wing side. He appeared to be going for a wraparound as he went wide around Vasilevskiy’s net. Instead, all in one motion, he reached back and tucked the puck between Vasilevskiy’s left skate and the post while sort of cutting back.
It was a beautiful goal, a highlight reel one for certain. Jonas Siegenthaler had the secondary assist as he again had a quietly good game. Sharangovich’s primary assist was also his second point of the night. That goal made it 3-2 Tampa.
The Devils would tie things up at the 5:39 mark of the third when Jimmy Vesey scored on a breakaway.
Blackwood had just before stopped Alex Killorn on a 2-on-0 with Steven Stamkos.
A few moments later, PK Subban hit Vesey with a huge stretch pass that allowed Vesey to get behind the Tampa defense and in all alone on Vasilevskiy. Vesey made a nice shoulder fake to get Vasilevskiy to go down and then roofed the puck over him to tie the game at three apiece. Siegenthaler again had the secondary assist.
The Devils were not done here either.
At the 9:34 mark, Sharangovich notched his second of the game – and of the season – when Jesper Bratt carried the puck, going wide and shooting on Vasilevskiy from the right side of the Tampa Bay goal. His rebound came right back to Bratt and he centered to Sharangovich who was in front and Sharangovich got a very quick shot off, beating Vasilevskiy for what would go down as the game-winner to make it 4-3 Devils. Hischier had the secondary assist on the goal, recording a point after nearly being put out of the game.
The game hung in the balance with 9:54 remaining in the third period. Tampa is a high-powered offensive machine and can score in bunches.
It was at that time that Brayden Point was hauled down on a breakaway by Graves. The referees awarded a penalty shot.
Point had gone hard into the end boards and had a rough time getting up but did gain a reprieve when referees Francois St. Laurent and Tom Chmielewski checked the play via replay to make sure that the puck had not actually crossed the goal line on the initial play. The call on the ice was no goal and that was upheld when replays did not show the puck entering the net.
So Point got to take his penalty shot. He skated in on Blackwood and had the Devils goaltender dead to rights as Blackwood went down. Point, however, rang the puck off of the crossbar and the Devils miraculously remained up by one.
The Lightning would pull Vasilevskiy with a little over a minute to go in regulation for the extra attacker.
With the net empty at the 18:33 mark, Tomas Tatar worked hard to negate a Devils icing and got to a puck deep in the Tampa zone. He then potted it into the empty net to give us our final of 5-3 Devils and put the game on ice. Graves had the lone assist on the empty net goal.
Tampa would pull Vasilevskiy again following Tatar’s goal, but the final horn sounded and the Devils had the win.
The Lightning outshot the Devils, 34-27. The Devils won 43-percent of the game’s total faceoffs with McLeod winning 63-percent of his to lead the Devils centers.
The Devils ended up with eight total penalty minutes as a team, still playing a bit too undisciplined overall, while the Lightning had six PIMs as a team. The Bolts edged the Devils in hits with 26 to New Jersey’s 25. Tampa had seven blocked shots to the Devils’ five.
Turnovers were at a premium in this game as the Devils only had two as a team and the Lightning had one.
Time on ice saw Graves led the Devils with 23:36 total logged – he had six seconds on the power play and 4:32 on the penalty kill.
For the first time this season, Mercer led the forwards with 19:29 total ice time which included 3:07 on the power play. McLeod led the forwards in PK time with 3:55 killing off power plays.
Sharangovich led the Devils in points with three on the afternoon – his two goals and one assist. Vesey led in shots on goal with four. Hits were led by Vesey, Tatar, Dougie Hamilton and Damon Severson who each had three. Blocks were led by Pavel Zacha, Fabian Zetterlund, Bratt, Ty Smith and Graves who each had one. Hamilton and Siegenthaler each had one giveaway to lead in that category while Holtz, Andreas Johnsson, Mercer, McLeod, Severson, Graves and Subban each had one takeaway to lead the Devils in that category.
So following this great come-from-behind victory birthday present to me from the Devils, we will get three days without Devils hockey. The team will return north to Newark to face the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday, November 24 (the night before Thanksgiving) as their next game.
We will see you then. In the meantime, enjoy this win and have a great beginning of the week everyone!