The Devils returned home from their loss in Boston that snapped a three-game winning streak to face a team that they have had some trouble with in recent years: the Columbus Blue Jackets.
It was the Devils’ first home game of the 2022 calendar year and they got the victory over a Metropolitan Division foe, 3-1.
The Devils were fortunate to have Nico Hischier back in the lineup as he missed Tuesday’s game in Boston with a lower body injury. He told head coach Lindy Ruff (who was also back from his stint in COVID Protocol) that it is something he could work with and push through on his own.
Jimmy Vesey also returned from COVID Protocol tonight.
The team did, however, subtract Andreas Johnsson from the lineup for the first time this season, as he was placed into COVID Protocol along with Pavel Zacha and Yegor Sharangovich, who were already in protocols.
Add Jon Gillies and Mason Geertsen as healthy scratches and the lineup saw the addition of Nolan Foote, making his season debut for the big club, from the Taxi Squad. Christian Jaros was also playing on defense, the first time this season that he has gotten into consecutive games.
Mackenzie Blackwood got the nod between the pipes again tonight as the Devils has said that he is “the man” right now so to speak. He made 31 saves on 32 total Columbus shots for a .969 save percentage on the night. He had a strong game as he turned aside the Jackets’ two shorthanded shots and all five of their power play shots. He got 24 of their 25 shots at even strength.
Columbus was held 0-for-4 on the power play.
For the Jackets, Joonas Korpisalo was in the crease and made 25 saves on the 27 total shots he saw for a .926 save percentage. He was equal to two of the three Devils’ power play shots he was peppered with (the Devils finished 1-for-3 on the man advantage) and got 23 of the Devils’ 24 shots at five-against-five. The Devils finished with 28 total shots on goal with an empty net goal later on.
Some other notes saw Jesper Boqvist playing his second NHL game against his younger brother Adam Boqvist – who is now with Columbus. They previously faced each other when Adam was a Chicago Blackhawk, a game that Jesper got injured in.
The Jackets’ Jakub Voracek was playing in his 1,000th NHL game tonight with the team that drafted him originally. Congrats to him.
And finally, the Devils were playing their third game overall (and second home game) in their black third jerseys.
This was the opener of a home-and-home series against the Blue Jackets and the Devils wanted to get off on the right foot.
And they would do just that when Tomas Tatar scored just 51 seconds into the game. Jack Hughes battled for a puck off of a faceoff deep in the Columbus zone, a partial win for him, that he was able to get to Jesper Bratt, who was jumping in to support.
Bratt quickly got it to a wide-open Tatar, who walked in on the doorstep with time and drew Korpisalo down, then roofed it over the Columbus goalie to make it 1-0 Devils.
The assist for Hughes continued his point streak as it now stands at five games.
The Devils would have that lead for a little over four minutes until Max Domi tied it at 4:54 gone by. On this one, Vladislav Gavrikov fluttered a shot in on Blackwood from the point. Blackwood had trouble handling the shot and Domi followed it in and was all alone to put the puck in when Blackwood bobbled it. Cole Sillinger had the secondary assist on the goal that got us right back where we started, tied.
For those keeping track of the unofficial stat of Devils taking pucks to the face: late in the first period, Janne Kuokkanen got a Damon Severson clearing attempt to the face and left down the tunnel. He would return for the Devils for the second period.
If the first period belonged to Blackwood, with the Blue Jackets outshooting the Devils 18-5 in that frame, then the second was all Korpisalo.
The Devils threw 12 shots towards the Columbus goaltender and he was equal to all of them. The Jackets mustered only seven shots in the middle frame by comparison, so Korpisalo needed to be big for them.
Of course, he got some help. Midway through the second, Dawson Mercer hit the post on a shot off of the rush. Ryan Graves followed up with a chance and missed the net all together. Patrik Laine would return the favor a few minutes later when he hit the post on a clear-cut chance as well.
New Jersey would break through finally in the third, just 1:16 into the new period, when they scored on the power play.
It was set up by Garikov taking a holding penalty against Nate Bastian 54 seconds into the third. Just 22 seconds into penalty time, Hughes and Bratt teamed up to give the Devils back the lead.
The two played give-and-go through the neutral zone. Once in the Columbus zone, Hughes tried to chip the puck up the wall to Bastian, but caught up to the puck himself, got it back and passed to Bratt in front. Bratt finished for his first power play goal of the season and his eighth point in five games. Bratt also became the first Devil to double digit goals this season with ten. Bastian was awarded the secondary assist on the goal that made it 2-1 Devils.
It was a dynamic goal and fully created by Hughes’ speed and skating and Bratt’s finishing.
Mercer would get another chance late on a partial breakaway as he cut in behind the Columbus defense, made a beautiful move to his backhand and tried to go over top of Korpisalo, but ended up hitting the post.
Instead, the Jackets got the chance to pull Korpisalo with about 1:45 left in regulation for the extra attacker.
At the 18:40 mark, Hughes would make it a three-point night when he scored into the empty net vacated by Korpisalo. Graves made a huge block in the Devils zone, well-timed on a shot and it got to Tatar. He got it to Hughes, who skated it just outside the Devils zone and threw it down the length of the rink and into the empty net to ice the game.
The Blue Jackets pulled Korpisalo again with about a minute to go in the game and Michael McLeod ended up being denied on an empty net chance. However, the final horn sounded and we had our final of 3-1.
The Devils were outshot 32 to 28 by Columbus. Each team split the game’s faceoffs at 50-percent each. McLeod was back to leading Devils centers with a 53-percent winning percentage personally. The Devils had eight team penalty minutes to the Blue Jackets’ six. New Jersey outhit the Jackets 11-6 and also had 11 blocked shots to the Jackets’ six. As a team, the Devils had 11 giveaways to Columbus’ two.
Time on ice saw Severson lead the Devils with 26:38 (including 2:13 on the power play and 3:53 killing penalties) as he, Jonas Siegenthaler and Graves will be getting more and more minutes with Hamilton out for the time being.
Hughes led the forwards with 19:00 logged (including 2:44 on the PP). McLeod led the forwards in PK time with 5:25 spread over his 13:57 of total ice time.
Three Devils logged multi-point nights: Tatar (one goal, one assist for two points), Bratt (one goal and one assist for two points) and Hughes (a goal and two assists for three points). Hughes had his third three-point game of the season tonight.
Graves led in shots on goal with five. Bastian led in hits with four. Tatar and Graves led in blocked shots with two apiece. McLeod and PK Subban each had two giveaways to lead there while Vesey had six takeaways to lead in that category – three more than Severson, who had the next most at three.
Next up, the Devils will travel to Ohio to finish the home-and-home with the Blue Jackets at 7 PM on Saturday. That game will air on MSG+. Be with us as the Devils try to silence those cannons and sweep two from the Blue Jackets.
Coverage will be here immediately following that game on Saturday night. Until then, have a great (and safe, depending on how the weather turns out) Friday everyone!