The Devils’ three-game win streak came to a halt as the team fell 5-3 in Boston to the Bruins.
Let’s get right to the point, though. The Devils were depleted big time.
As reported by Sam Kasan earlier today, team captain Nico Hischier (lower body injury) was out for tonight as he had blocked a key shot at the end of the second period of the game in Washington on Sunday. The good news is that it was reported by Devils TV play-by-play man Steve Cangilosi at the end of the MSG+ broadcast tonight that Nico will rejoin the team tomorrow and will likely practice with them.
Today was also Hischier’s 23rd birthday, so happy birthday to the captain!
In more sobering injury news, the team announced that goalie Jonathan Bernier had successful right hip surgery on Monday and will miss the rest of the season. In addition, defenseman Dougie Hamilton (broken jaw) will have surgery tomorrow – Wednesday, January 5 – and be place on Injured Reserve retroactive to January 2.
In COVID Protocol news Kasan also reported that the Devils got Tomas Tatar off of the list and back in the lineup tonight, but lost Yegor Sharangovich and Pavel Zacha to COVID Protocol. They join head coach Lindy Ruff and forward Jimmy Vesey already on the list.
Due to this major upheaval on the roster, the Devils slotted Mason Geertsen back in on the fourth line and had defenseman Christian Jaros in for Hamilton. Alexander Holtz also played in his first NHL game since November 20th for the Devils. Tatar played left wing on the top line with Jack Hughes and Jesper Bratt.
In goal, the Devils were back to Mackenzie Blackwood as he has to be a workhorse for the time being. He made 29 saves on 34 total Bruins shots for an .853 save percentage on the night. He stopped Boston’s lone shorthanded shot and their only power play shot. The Bruins were 0-for-1 on the power play. He made 27 saves on 32 shots at five-against-five.
The Bruins went with Linus Ullmark, who was equal to 23 of the Devils’ 26 to shots for a nightly save percentage of .885. He got both of the Devils’ shorthanded shots and 21 of their 24 at even strength. The Devils were also 0-for-1 on the power play in a game where very little was called against either team.
The Bruins were in their “non-spoked B” third jerseys tonight.
Boston took the early lead just 2:53 into the game when Holtz had the puck in the Bruins zone and tried to lightly bank the puck off of the boards instead of just getting it deeper in the zone.
Curtis Lazar recovered off of that turnover and was in on a partial 2-on-1. He elected to shoot himself off of the rush up the right wing and beat Blackwood 5-hole unassisted to give the B’s the 1-0 lead.
Then the scary moments began for the Devils beginning mid-first period when Brandon Carlo tried to flip a puck to Taylor Hall through the neutral zone and Andreas Johnsson got hit in the side of the helmet with the puck.
Johnsson skated off on his own power and did return right away, however.
The Devils were playing catchup and would get things tied up just 57 seconds into what would become a wild second period.
The Bruins were trying to go D-to-D and a pass to David Pastrnak, who had been winding up for a one-timer, was picked off by Nate Bastian with perfect timing. Bastian was then off on his own on Ullmark, scoring glove side on the breakaway following the perfect read. That tied the game at one. The goal was unassisted.
For 20 seconds.
At 1:17 gone by, one of the strangest goals you will ever see occurred. The puck ended up on top of the Devils net. The rule states that the puck is still in play for three seconds. If it sits on top of the netting for three seconds or more, the whistle can be blown and play called dead.
In a heads-up play, Boston’s Oskar Steen jarred it loose and the puck rolled down Blackwood’s back and into the net. When it was timed by the MSG+ video staff, it had sat on top of the net for 1.5 seconds. Derek Forbort (secondary) and Nick Foligno (primary) had the assists on Steen’s first NHL goal – one of the weirdest first NHL goals you will ever see.
It was now 2-1 B’s but the Devils would not sit back on that either. Their response came at the 3:05 mark when Jesper Bratt gained the Bruins zone and dished to Jack Hughes on the right side. He got the puck to the returning Tatar, who shot through a maze of legs in front to knot the game at two apiece.
Hughes, with the primary assist, now moves his point scoring streak to four games.
Things would settle down for a bit until the Bruins retook the lead at the 9:42 mark of the second.
This was another odd goal. Lazar got the puck deep into the Devils zone and Trent Frederic recovered down low. Frederic threw sort of blindly towards Blackwood’s net on the backhand. Blackwood could not seal off the far post fast enough and the puck snuck in between his arm and the post, making it 3-2 Bruins.
Right after the Frederic goal, Dawson Mercer was hit in the face with a puck and needed to leave for the locker room for repairs. He would return, however, as the Devils dodged another bullet.
That took us into the third period, which was another relatively wild ride.
The scoring began when Damon Severson was called for the Devils first penalty 5:28 into the frame. He received a two-minute minor for holding Frederic’s stick.
The Devils would kill that off with a very effective PK and, as Severson was coming out of the penalty box, Michael McLeod hit him with a high flip pass that sprung Severson on a breakaway. Severson cut in on Ullmark and made a nice forehand to backhand move and scored to tie the game at three. That goal came at the 7:36 mark of the third.
That goal moved Severson up to sixth in goalscoring for defensemen in franchise history and fifth in Devils history. Joe Cirella just ahead of him on the franchise list and actually scored seven of his goals with the Colorado Rockies, so that actually puts Damon at fifth on a Devils-only list.
Things seemed to be headed towards another late ending and that was just what we got, just not in the Devils’ favor this time.
At the 14:11 mark of the third, Hall had a shot blocked to the far corner by Blackwood. Pastrnak got it back and made a power move towards the front of the Devils net. Blackwood fended off his initial chance but Pastrnak was right there to put his own rebound in to give the Bruins back the lead at 4-3. Erik Haula had the secondary assist on the goal.
Blackwood was pulled for the extra attacker with about 1:46 left to play. The Devils could not score and, when a faceoff brought the play back down out of the Boston zone, Blackwood was back in the Devils net.
And here was where the Bruins would ice things.
With less than thirty seconds to go in regulation, Tomas Nosek passed to Carlo, who got just inside the Devils blue line. He took a long-range shot that deflected off the inside of Mercer’s leg and by Blackwood to make it 5-3 Boston, our final.
Hughes, who had his stick broken on a not-called-slash on the play had a gripe, but the goal counted and the Devils’ bid for their first four-game winning streak since the 2018-19 season was done.
The Devils were outshot 34 to 26. Boston absolutely annihilated them in the faceoff circle, winning 64-percent of the game’s draws. Jesper Boqvist led the Devils centers with a 50-percent personal winning percentage.
The Devils were outhit 29 to 25. They did have more blocked shots than the Bruins with 13 to Boston’s nine. The Devils have 15 team giveaways to the B’s ten.
Time on ice saw PK Subban led everyone with 26:07 (including 47 seconds on the power play and 1:28 shorthanded). Severson led the d-men in power play time with 1:13 of that included in his 25:08 of total ice time.
For the forwards, Hughes totaled 20:08 of ice time to lead there – which included 1:13 of PP time. McLeod led the forwards in PK time with 1:32 worked into his total of 17:16 of total TOI.
Ryan Graves led in shots on goal with five. Nate Bastian led in hits with six. Blocks were led by Mercer, Graves and Jonas Siegenthaler with two each. Mercer led in individual giveaways with four. Takeaways were led by Subban with three.
Next up, the Devils will kick off a home-and-home series with the Columbus Blue Jackets beginning on Thursday with the first game at Prudential Center in 2022. Puck drop for that game is 7 PM and the game will be aired on MSG+.
We will have coverage for you right here following that game. In the meantime, enjoy the rest of your week everyone!