It is more than safe to say that Andreas Johnsson just played his biggest game as a New Jersey Devil.
Johnsson four points tonight, two goals and a pair of primary assists, to help lead the Devils over the Philadelphia Flyers 5-2 at Prudential Center tonight.
The win by the Devils over the Flyers came just hours after the New York Giants defeated the Philadelphia Eagles 13-7 at MetLife Stadium earlier this afternoon.
This was the first meeting of the season between these longtime division rivals – one of only three that they will have this year. The two teams split the season series at 4-4 last year.
It was also Hockey Fights Cancer Night at the Rock. The Devils wore their lavender warmup jerseys for the occasion and honored a young cancer survivor Lucas Files from Manahawkin, New Jersey.
Lucas dropped the ceremonial faceoff between Devils captain Nico Hischier and Oskar Lindblom of the Flyers. Lindblom is a cancer survivor himself and that choice made for a great symbolic moment on Hockey Fights Cancer Night.
Lucas, whose favorite Devil is currently Mackenzie Blackwood, got to design a custom mask for Blackwood that the goaltender wore for warmups.
Ty Smith also made his return to the lineup having been a healthy scratch over the last two games. He l ast played in the November 20 win at the Tampa Bay Lightning. Mason Geertsen also slotted back in, meaning Colton White and Chase DeLeo were the two scratches.
Smith played on the third pairing with PK Subban while Jonas SIegenthaler moved up to the second pairing with Damon Severson.
In goal, Blackwood was back in the starting role for the Devils. He turned aside 23 of the Flyers’ 25 total shots for a .920 save percentage. Philly did score on their only shorthanded chance while Blackwood got all three of their power play shots and 20 of their 21 at even strength.
Blackwood, with this win tonight, is now 7-0-2 all-time in his career versus Philadelphia.
The Flyers would counter with Martin Jones, who had 30 saves on 34 total New Jersey shots fpr an .882 save percentage on the night. He stopped the Devils’ lone shorthanded shots and all four of their power play chances. He was equal to 25 of the Devils’ 29 even strength shots. With an empty netter, the Devils finished the game with 36 total shots.
Both teams went 0-for-3 on power play opportunities on the night.
In two other bits of roster news for the Devils – they are even closer to getting Jack Hughes back from injury. He has been skating for nearly a week. He suffered a dislocated shoulder back in the second game of the season for the Devils against the Seattle Kraken. He is now at or even slightly ahead of his timeline to return as per MSG+’s Erika Wachter on the Devils pregame show.
And that brings us to our final note as Nathan Bastian made his return to the Prudential Center for the first time since being claimed off of waivers from the Kraken. The fan favorite would go to play a big role in this game for the Devils.
The Devils struck early when Dougie Hamilton made his presence known.
It began when he pinched up into the Devils attack and hit the crossbar on a chance. Moments later, at the 5:07 mark, Hamilton would hit his mark.
Johnsson got the puck at the far wall from Jesper Bratt. Johnsson then threw the puck towards the slot where Hamilton was still hanging out. Hamilton then redirected Johnsson’s pass into the Flyers net to make it 1-0 Devils early.
As MSG+ analyst Ken Daneyko pointed out that the reason this goal was scored was because of Hamilton’s defensive instincts. He was comfortable enough to stay up in the Devils’ attack and not retreat back to the blue line once he hit the crossbar earlier in the play. That created the chance and, effectively gave the Devils another attacker on the ice at the time.
The lead created by Hamilton’s goal, however, would not survive the first period.
At the 15:53 mark of the first period, Philly’s Joel Farabee was called for hooking Severson. This put the Devils on their first power play of the evening.
But at 17:03 gone by in the first, the Flyers were able to move the puck up to Scott Laughton at their own blue line. The Devils did not actually have control of the puck, but no one was back supporting the play defensively. This allowed Laughton to get the puck from Ivan Provorov and he was off to the races.
Laughton cut in on Blackwood with Subban desperately trying to backcheck on him. Laughton shielded the puck from Subban with his right leg. He fought off the check and slid the puck past a sprawling Blackwood to tie the game at one heading into the first intermission. Sean Couturier had the secondary assist on this goal.
The second period saw some action beginning when Johnsson notched his first goal of the night – and second point – 1:47 in.
Johnsson had been stopped on a breakaway moments before the goal, as Jones got the initial shot and Johnsson shot the rebound over the net.
Bratt would recover the puck for the Devils and make a nice move along the far wall to cut away from the Philly defense and get himself some time and space. He then made a slick pass to Johnsson in the slot and his fellow Swede did not miss that one.
He deposited it top shelf as Jones got a piece of the shot with his blocker, but no more. That made it 2-1 Devils. Dawson Mercer was originally awarded an assist on this goal, but the scoring was later changed, taking him off the scoresheet on this one.
Fireworks hit at the 6:06 mark of the second when Geertsen made his presence known to Zack MacEwen and the Flyers.
Coach Lindy Ruff mentioned in his postgame presser that Geertsen was reinserted into the lineup so that opposing teams could understand that they could not push around the Devils’ smaller stars. This includes Hughes, who was injured on a borderline dirty hit and will be making his return soon.
Geertsen did not disappoint. His scrap with MacEwen was a spirted affair that largely ended in a draw for both men. It was also Geertsen’s first scrap as a Devil. He ended up with a small cut on his nose that was bleeding for his troubles and MacEwen ended up going to the Flyers’ locker room for some repairs.
The second period ended with Bratt being stopped late on a breakways and the Devils drawing a penalty as time expired in the frame.
Philly’s Justin Braun was called for hooking Jimmy Vesey at the 20-minute mark of the second, so the Devils would open the third period on the power play.
They would not score on that opportunity, but there were plenty of goals to be had in the final stanza.
It began with the Flyers striking 3:04 in. Philly would tenaciously keep the puck in the Devils’ zone, forechecking to keep the Devils pinned in.
Pavel Zacha finally recovered the puck, having a great chance to clear, but his attempt would end up hitting the referee’s skate and going right to Laughton in front. Farabee crossed towards him ad got a pass from Laughton, beating Blackwood right on the doorstep to tie the game up at two.
It was bad luck for Zacha as he had a great chance to get the puck out of the zone and allow the Devils to reset. However, the officials are in play and when the puck hit the ref, where it ended up was out of everyone’s hand. It was just a bad break for the Devils.
The 2021-22 New Jersey Devils, however, have been nothing, if not resilient. They would claw back in the third period.
It began courtesy of Bratt – who ended the night with three points: a goal and two assists. At the 11:57 mark of the third, Provorov bobbled the puck at the Flyers blue line and Johnsson stole it. He broke into the Philly zone with Bratt on a 2-on-1, making a nice pass across to Bratt who finished nicely as he was crashing towards Jones.
That goal would go down as the game-winner, putting the Devils up 3-2 and add another point for Johnsson.
Johnsson, for his part, was not done yet, either.
But first, Bastian made his mark on the game at 14:14 gone by in the third.
Michael McLeod cut behind the Flyers net and passed in front to a pinching Hamilton. Hamilton made a nice pass to Bastian, who was crashing the net behind the play and he put the pass in backdoor. That made it 4-2 Devils.
Philadelphia would pull Jones with about 4:15 to go in regulation, trying to get the two equalizing goals with a sixth attacker.
The Devils would instead, though, ice the game instead. And it would come off of the stick of who else, but Andreas Johnsson?
Mercer got his assist on this goal as he recovered a turnover while the Flyers were controlling the play in the Devils’ end. He got it to the hot hand in Johnsson, who fired nearly the length of the rink and into the vacated Flyer net to make it 5-2, our final.
Overall, the Devils played a much better game than their outing Friday night at Nashville. As for Philly, the Flyers are now 0-4-2 in their last six games.
The Devils outshot the Flyers 35-25 while winning 46-percent of the game’s faceoffs. McLeod once again led all Devils centers with a personal winning percentage of 67-percent.
Each team ended the game with 11 penalty minutes while Philly outhit the Devils 26-21. The Flyers also had more blocked shots at 21 to the Devils’ 19. The Devils had six total giveaways to the Flyers’ five.
Severson led all Devils skaters in total ice time with 22:35 (including 3:25 on the power play and 3:13 on the PK). Jimmy Vesey led the forwards with 21:08 total (including 3:30 on the PP and 2:06 shorthanded).
In total points, several Devils ended up with multi-point games. Johnsson ended up with four points (two goals and two assists), Bratt had three points (a goal and two assists) and Hamilton finished with two points (a goal and an assist).
Hamilton also led in shots on goal with a whopping total of ten, far outpacing everyone else in the game – on either team – in that category. Nico Hischier led the Devils in total hits with four. Blocks were led by Bastian and Hamilton, both with a total of three. Giveaways were distributed through the lineup to Johnsson, Zacha, Bratt, Tomas Tatar, Severson and Ryan Graves, who each had one to co-lead in that category. Siegenthaler had two takeaways to led in that stat.
Next up, the Devils will try to keep the momentum going as they will host the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday to close out the season series with them. That game will be shown on ESPN+ and we will have a recap up for you following the game.
Until then, I hope everyone had a great holiday weekend and we will see you on Tuesday!