The Devils returned home following their Florida road trip that saw their big comeback win over the Tampa Bay Lightning last Saturday.
Tonight, in a wild one, they were the Comeback Kids again as they took on the Minnesota Wild at Prudential Center. They clawed back in the third period to tie a game that they had fallen behind in early and earned a point before ultimately falling 3-2 in a shootout.
The evening began very strangely as the Wild were late in arriving to the building. They played on Sunday in Tampa (losing in a shootout there) and stayed in New York City before taking a team bus into Newark for this game.
They got stuck in traffic going through the Holland Tunnel and, according to Erika Wachter of MSG+, it took them two and a half hours to make the trip across the Hudson River.
When they did arrive, the teams hit the ice at around 7 PM for a 7 PM game. With that, puck drop was delayed until 7:31 PM. All in all, there ended up being a 24-minute delay to start the game.
It was a weird situation, but with pre-Thanksgiving traffic, plus usual New York Metro area traffic, you can easily see how it could happen.
But there was good news for the Devils. The team is reporting that Jack Hughes has been on pace to return from his dislocated shoulder and practiced yesterday morning. The Devils will be happy to have him and his scoring touch back without a doubt.
Who Devils fans did see tonight, for the first time, was Wild phenom Kirill Kaprizov. It was the Devils’ faithful’s first look at him since the Devils and Wild did not meet during his rookie season last year due to the pandemic. In fact, the last time these teams had met was November 26, 2019 – almost two years to today. That was a Devils loss.
Devils fans also saw Mackenzie Blackwood as he got the nod in net for this fourth straight start. He made 25 saves on 27 Wild shots for a .926 save percentage. He let in Minnesota’s only shorthanded shot but got all five of their power play shots (Minny was 0-for-3 on the power play for the night). He stopped 20 of the 21 shots the Wild threw his way at even strength. This game was Blackwood’s first start against the Minnesota franchise.
The Wild countered with Cam Talbot. Talbot ended up seeing a lot of rubber. He stopped 40 of the Devils’ 42 total shots for a .952 save percentage. This included all nine of the Devils’ power play shots – the Devils were 0-for-4 – and 31 of their 33 shots at even strength. His 40 saves ended up being a season high for him so far this season.
The Devils did make a pretty major lineup change, scratching defenseman Ty Smith in favor of Colton White. White played primarily with Damon Severson on the third pairing. He joined Mason Geertsen and Jesper Boqvist as scratches. Hughes was also present in the press box with them.
The Devils came out flying in the first period. They got through to Talbot a lot, but he was equal to each chance and kept the Wild in the game early.
The Devils nearly lost Jonas Siegenthaler as well, as he took a big hit early on and seemed shaken up. He was none the worse for wear, though, and ended up playing 19:36 total ice time (including six seconds on the power play and 2:51 killing penalties).
With Talbot keeping Minnesota in things, the Wild would end up jumping in front in the first period, notching two goals in the opening frame.
The first one came at the 12:10 mark when former Devil Dmitry Kulikov took the puck from Mats Zuccarello and skated into the Devils zone. The Devils defense backed off of Kulikov a bit, giving him some time and space. Kulikov had a ton of time and space and blasted a shot that ricocheted off of a Devils players’ skate and was put back in by Minnesota’s Ryan Hartman.
Blackwood had been sharp for the Devils, and after the sheer amount of chances the Devils had at the other end, to go down 1-0 was a bit demoralizing.
They would be down 2-0 before the period was over.
At the 17:38 mark, the Devils went on the power play as Matt Dumba was called for a high stick against Janne Kuokkanen.
However, at the 19:06 mark, the Wild got a clear from Jonas Brodin that took a fortuitous bounce and allowed Fredrick Gaudreau and Nico Sturm to break into the Devils zone on a 2-on-1. Gaudreau passed to Sturm, who was able to lay the puck in as he is a left hand shot and was facing the net on the odd man rush. Blackwood got a piece of the shot but could not get all of it and the puck went in for a 2-0 lead for the Wild to take into the first intermission.
The second period was a parade of the Devils hitting the post and missing great scoring chances.
Severson hit the post early when he had a clear shot on Talbot with Jimmy Vesey in front as a screen.
Talbot stopped Andreas Johnsson after Dawson Mercer made a beautiful saucer pass that cleared two Wild players sticks to get to Johnsson.
Following that, Severson again hit the post as he took a pass from Tomas Tatar after the Devils killed a Nico Hischier tripping penalty. Severson took the pass and made a nice move around a Wild defender at the point to get clear and wrist a shot towards net. That shot hit the post, negating yet another glorious Devils chance.
However, the Devils have been nothing if not resilient this season and were about to do it again.
In the third period, they finally got on the board just 2:08 in.
Tatar dug the puck off of the end boards behind the Minnesota net. Hischier took it from him behind the net and curled around to get free from his check. He then centered to Pavel Zacha in front. Zacha snapped it top shelf stick side by Talbot to cut the Wild lead in half at 2-1.
Late third, Severson set up Dougie Hamilton with a chance, but his pass rolled on end to Hamilton at the far side of the Wild net and Hamilton ended up shanking the shot wide.
The Devils would get another opportunity when Hartman was called for tripping PK Subban at 12:48 gone by in the third. At the 13:38 mark, Dumba was called for cross-checking Zacha to put the Devils on a 5-on-3 power play for about 1:08.
They would fail to score and, in the end, Hischier and Joel Eriksson Ek took matching roughing minors at 14:53 to eventually kill off the Devils’ momentum.
But the Devils were not done yet. With about 1:30 to go in regulation, Blackwood was pulled for the extra attacker.
At the 18:53 mark, or about just over a minute to go in regulation, Jesper Bratt took a shot from the near wall. The puck was collected by Hischier at the near side of the Wild net. Hischier then made a slick pass to Yegor Sharangovich, who was in the slot. Sharangovich got a shot off and buried his chance, tying the game at two.
It was clutch Sharangovich and clutch Devils as the team scored for the sixth time this season with the Devils scored with the goalie pulled and the extra attacker on.
When time expired, we were off to overtime.
OT ended up being a slightly frustrating experience for the Devils and their fans.
The Devils controlled most of the play, keeping the puck for the majority of the five minutes. The Wild controlled the puck for about a minute or so late in the OT, keeping the Devils in their zone and switching up and cycling, trying to get a good shot on Blackwood. This followed Blackwood stopping Minnesota on a 2-on-1 late in the extra time.
However, they ultimately did not get a shot on goal (the Devils outshot the Wild four to one in overtime) and the Devils took over on a turnover and got a change. In the end, though, New Jersey could not covert on the great chances that they had in OT and we were going to a shootout.
In the shootout, Hamilton was up first in round one and made a nice move on Talbot. He cut to his right and tried to reach back against the grain and tuck the puck by Talbot but could not.
Zuccarello went for the Wild and hit the post.
In round two, Jesper Bratt also made a nice move, deking around Talbot, who made the save.
Kevin Fiala rounded out the second inning, scoring on Blackwood.
It was then up to Sharangovich in round three to keep things alive for the Devils. He could not as his shot went right into the chest of Talbot and the Wild got the two points.
The Devils ended up outshooting the Wild 42-27 on the night, nearly doubling them up. The Devils also won 55-percent of the game’s faceoffs.
Hischier won 71-percent of his faceoffs to lead the Devils centers. Michael McLeod, one of the Devils’ top faceoff men, won 67-percent of his draws.
The Devils took eight total penalty minutes to Minnesota’s ten. The Devils were outhit 35 to 27 by the Central Division leaders. The Wild also had more blocked shots at 19 to the Devils’ ten. Minnesota had one more giveaway at nine to the Devils’ eight.
Ice time saw Hamilton led all Devils skaters with 24:32 of total time (including 4:02 on the power play). Bratt led the forwards with 21:04 of total TOI (which included 3:18 on the power play and four seconds of shorthanded time).
Hischier led the Devils in total points with two (both assists – the primary ones on both Devils goals) and penalty minutes with four. Bratt led the Devils in shots on goal with seven. Hits were led by Zacha with five. Chase DeLeo (who was, as reported previously, just called up from AHL Utica yesterday when Alexander Holtz was sent back down) was second with four in his sixth NHL game.
Siegenthaler led the Devils in blocks with three. Bratt and Hamilton led in giveaways with two each while Kuokkanen led in takeaways with two as well.
Next up, the Devils will travel to Nashville on Friday to take on the Nashville Predators. That game begins at 6 PM and will be on ESPN+. We will have a recap for you right here Friday night.
And, in one final note, the Utica Comets were finally taken down tonight. They lost 4-2 to the Rochester Americans tonight in Utica to halt their AHL-record season-starting win streak at 13 games.
The Comets, like all AHL teams, needed to deal with players coming and going up to the big club in New Jersey all during their streak. This makes their achievement even more impressive. What they accomplished was an amazing feat and good luck to them the rest of the way.
And that’s it for me. Have a great Thanksgiving Day tomorrow to all of those in the United States!