Hurricanes Finish Playoff Jockeying with 6-3 Victory Over Devils

Well, I’m still a game behind here, but here is the recap of the game from Thursday. As mentioned, I was at the New York Giants Draft viewing at MetLife Stadium on April 28 and, thus had to record the Devils’ visit to Raleigh.

I put this off for as long as I could (and got to see the Mets’ combined no-hitter on TV on Friday to boot!) but now is my reckoning: the final two games of the Devils’ 2021-22 season.

The Devils roster shuffles continued as the season wound down. Alexander Holtz was recalled from the Utica Comets and played tonight mainly on the top line with Jesper Boqvist centering and Jesper Bratt on the left side of an all-Swedish line.

Holtz had played seven games at the NHL level already this season in his callup earlier in the year.

Another player returning to the lineup was Jimmy Vesey, who had not played since suffering a bone bruise in his leg against the Rangers back on April 5. He was a game-time decision as per Erika Wachter was was out due to Andreas Johnsson coming out of the lineup due to injury.

Colton White, Mason Geertsen and Reilly Walsh were the healthy scratches (Nikita Okhotiuk slotted back in on defense in his place – Walsh was simply given the night off) while Johnsson, PK Subban, Nico Hischier and Tomas Tatar were all out with the flu bug that has been rampaging again throughout the Devils locker room.

The Devils started Andrew Hammond tonight and he played 47:32 before being pulled in favor of Jon Gillies after giving up Carolina’s sixth goal. Mackenzie Blackwood, who got the start the prior game at Ottawa, should start the final game of the season versus Detroit, so Hammond and Gillies were the tandem for this game.

Hammond made 24 saves on 30 total Hurricanes shots for an .800 save percentage in the game. He did not let in Carolina’s lone shorthanded shot against him and was equal to all five of their power play chances. At even strength, he stopped 18 of 24.

Gillies came in and played the final 12:28 of the game and pitched a shutout, stopping all six shots he faced, including a shorthanded shot and all five at five-against-five.

Carolina finished the game with five power play shots and two shorthanded shots and were 0-for-3 on the man advantage. They ended the game with 36 shots on Devils goaltending.

The Canes countered with Antti Raanta as they are dealing with some goalie problems of their own heading into the playoffs. Frederik Andersen has been injured which means that Raanta has been pretty much auditioning for the starting goalie position.

Raanta stopped 27 of the Devils total of 30 shots for a save percentage of .900 in the game. He stopped the Devils’ lone power play shot and 26 of the 29 he was peppered with at even strength.

The Devils finished the game 0-for-2 on the power play team-wise.

The Hurricanes were playing their final game of the season: number 82 before they begin the playoffs this coming Monday. Thus, they were sitting and resting some key players like Andrei Svechnikov and Jaccob Slavin.

The Canes had already clinched the Metro Division with a win over the Rangers earlier in the week at Madison Square Garden and are looking to do some damage once the postseason begins.

For the Devils, this was their final road game of the year as they will close out with one more game (already played on Friday) against the Red Wings at Prudential Center.

This was also Dougie Hamilton’s first game back in Carolina since signing as a free agent with the Devils last offseason.

The Canes, even while sitting some of their best, wasted no time in getting on the board and piling on against New Jersey.

They notched their first 4:44 into the game when Damon Severson was taken down hard on Carolina’s hard forecheck. No penalty was called on the play (which could have borderline been a trip) and the puck was turned over to Jepser Kotkaniemi. He got it back to Brendan Smith at the near point. Smith went D-to-D with Ethan Bear and Bear shot from the far point. His shot deflected in off of a Devils player and by Hammond to make it 1-0 Carolina.

The Hurricanes made it 2-0 less than a minute later with 5:33 gone by with a nearly mirror image of the first goal.

The Canes came in on a hard forecheck and the Devils were not able to clear. Kotkaniemi forced the puck on a turnover and got it to Ian Cole at the far point. He then gave it to Martin Necas at the near point. Necas’ shot then deflected in off of Dougie Hamilton’s stick and by Hammond to double up the Carolina lead.

Almost the exact same goal as the first one, just flipped around.

The Canes were not done in the first period either.

They continued their onslaught with 12:53 gone by in the first when Ty Smith turned the puck over to Necas in front of the Devils net. Necas just waited and passed to Kotkaniemi at the far post. Kotkaniemi dunked it in to make it 3-0 Carolina.

Things were already looking dire for the Devils. But Fabian Zetterlund made sure they would at least end the first period on a somewhat positive note.

A little over a minute after the Kotkaniemi goal, at 13:55 gone by, Pavel Zacha cut through the middle of the ice and dished off to Zetterlund on the right-wing side as they entered the Carolina zone.

Zetterlund cut back towards the middle to use Zacha as a screen and scored. Damon Severson had the secondary assist.

The Devils actually continued their assault at the midpoint of the second period. Zetterlund hit the crossbar on a breakaway where he had Raanta beaten. This had come just after Hammond had come up with a big right pad save on Brett Pesce at the other end.

A few moments after Zetterlund hit iron, Vesey clanged one off the post following a faceoff win by the Devils in the Carolina zone.

But it was still the Hurricanes who would get the only marker of the second period.

At the 17:27 mark, the Canes won a faceoff in the Devils zone with Vincent Trocheck winning the draw and the Devils’ Yegor Sharangovich inadvertently pushing the puck to Teuvo Teravainen after he tied Trocheck up.

Teravainen simply walked to the middle of the ice all alone, picked a spot and beat Hammond to make it 4-1 and take us into the third period.

The first half of the third period was completely dominated by the Canes.

Just 3:14 into the frame, Sebastian Aho gave to Seth Jarvis, who walked into the Devils zone, briefly losing the puck at the blue line, but beating Kevin Bahl to the puck in a foot race.

He then skated up the right side and deked Severson out of his skates before passing to Steven Lorentz, who finished for the Hurricanes to make it 5-1.

Jordan Martinook make it 6-1 at 7:32 gone by in the third when Derek Stepan wound the puck around the wall to Brady Skjei at the near half wall. He just threw the puck towards Hammond’s net and Martinook was there to tip it by the beleaguered Devils goalie.

It was following that goal that Hammond’s night was done and Gillies came in for what would likely by his last action of the season.

That might have sparked the Devils a bit, as Jesper Bratt scored at the 14:17 mark to make it 6-2.

It came Zacha gained the Carolina zone and dished to Nolan Foote. Foote then fed Bratt for a one-timer off the rush. The primary assist was Foote’s first NHL assist and the goal was Bratt’s 26th of the year – tying him with Jack Hughes for the team lead for 2021-22.

The Devils still had one more in them at the 15:44 mark of the third when the puck came down low to Nathan Bastian behind the Canes’ net. He came out from behind and centered to Vesey on the doorstep. Vesey was able to chip the puck over Raanta’s shoulder and score in his first game back for the Devils.

A too many men on the ice bench minor called on the Devils at 19:25 meant that New Jersey was going to finish the game killing a penalty. Time then ran out and that was that.

The Devils were outshot 36 to 30 and won 49-percent of the game’s faceoffs. Zacha won 75-percent of his faceoffs to lead Devils skaters in the faceoffs won category.

The Devils wound up with six penalty minutes in the game while the Hurricanes accumulated four PIMs. The Devils outhit Carolina 19-11 and the Hurricanes had 14 blocked shots to the Devils’ ten.

Team giveaways saw the Devils end up with four while the Canes had eight.

Hamilton led in total ice time by one second with 21:28 logged (including 2:05 on the power play and 1:46 on the penalty kill). Severson had 21:27 of total ice time (including 1:48 of PP time and 2:37 of PK time) while Ryan Graves led in PK time with 2:44 out of his 19:30 of total TOI (he also had six seconds on the power play).

Among the forwards, Zacha led in total ice time with 18:25 logged (including 2:09 on the power play and 1:50 shorthanded). Janne Kuokkanen had more shorthanded time with 2:17 out of his 15:09 of total TOI while Bratt had more power play time at 2:12 out of his 15:51 of total ice time.

Zacha – with his two assists – was the only Devils with a multi-point night. Vesey, Sharangovich, Bratt and Boqvist all had three shots on goal to lead there. Hits were led by Michael McLeod with four. Bahl led in blocks with three. Personal turnovers were led by Severson and Bratt with two each while personal takeaways were dominated by Dawson Mercer with five.

Next up, the final game of the 2021-22 season for the Devils (which was played last night) as the Devils hosted the Detroit Red Wings in Newark.

As I am again behind, I did record that game and should have it up sometime later today or so.

Devils and Sens Play Crazy One as Ottawa Prevails in Overtime

I said I would get to this game and have a post written!

Anyway, the Devils traveled up to Canada’s national capital to begin their last road trip of the season and fell in a strange one, 5-4 in overtime to the Ottawa Senators.

For New Jersey, the game saw a new addition and some returns to the lineup.

First, the highly anticipated debut of defenseman Reilly Walsh. Walsh was recalled from Utica and finally got to make his National Hockey League debut tonight, wearing number 8. Walsh was supposed to make his NHL debut earlier in the season in Detroit against the Red Wings along with Nikita Okhotyuk, but that was put aside when COVID hit the team and the two got sick.

He was healthy tonight, though, and got the nod as he was on a blue line that saw the return of Ty Smith to the lineup as well. PK Subban and Okhotyuk were healthy scratches along with Tomas Tatar, Colton White and Jon Gillies.

Nico Hischier remained out of the lineup up front while dealing with a stomach bug. Mason Geertsen and Fabian Zetterlund slotted in with the forwards. This game was Geertsen’s first appearance in the Devils lineup since March 31 at Boston and played on the fourth line with Michael McLeod centering him.

Another return to the lineup was between the pipes.

Mackenzie Blackwood made his long-awaited return following an extended layoff with the heel injury that has given him trouble all season long. He said in his postgame presser that his foot did feel a lot better than it had, although, basically, work needs to be done this summer on it. This was his first start since January 19 against the Arizona Coyotes.

He made 29 saves on 34 total Senators shots for an .853 save percentage. Special teams remained a problem as he let in the single shorthanded shot he saw (the 14th shorty the Devils have let in this season) and two of Ottawa’s four power play shots. The Sens went 2-for-3 on the power play as a team. He stopped 27 of 29 at five-against-five.

Facing him was Anton Forsberg for the Sens. He had a bigger workload, making 37 saves on 41 total Devils shots for a .902 save percentage. He nabbed all three Devils power play shots – with New Jersey going 0-for-2 as a team on the man advantage. At even strength, he made 34 saves on 38 shots.

Utica Comets head coach Kevin Dineen was special guest on the MSG+ pregame show with Erika Wachter and Bryce Salvador. He discussed his players making the jump from the AHL to the NHL this season as well as how the Comets feel their chances will be heading into the Calder Cup Playoffs after they clinched the American League’s North Division last week.

The Devils were trying to stop a three-game losing skid and notch a rare victory North of the Border tonight.

But it was Ottawa that jumped out to the lead. It came very late in the first period – with 17 seconds remaining the frame to be precise.

Just prior to this, with the Devils on the power play, Ty Smith had hit the post on a sequence that saw Yegor Sharangovich right in front ot put the rebound off of the post in, but he was unable to get to the puck in time.

At 19:13 gone by in the period, Janne Kuokkanen was called for holding Erik Brannstrom, a call which was made following a missed Devils too many men on the ice call. It was a make good call for the Sens, but the Devils did dodge a bullet initially anyway.

So, at the 19:43 mark and still on the power play, Tim Stutzle passed from the point to Brady Tkachuk, who was camped at the post to Blackwood’s left. He made a one-touch pass to Thomas Chabot at the other post and Chabot just tapped the puck right in to make it 1-0 Ottawa.

That set the stage for a wild second period.

The Sens would take a two-goal lead 11 seconds into the second frame when Drake Batherson scored his first of two on the night.

Tkachuk was behind the Devils net and went down to his knees, still able to make a pass to Bahterson cutting in front of Blackwood. Batherson gathered the puck with his skate and got it to his stick blade, shooting and scoring to double the Ottawa lead.

Travis Hamonic had the secondary assist and the goal, though separated by the first intermission, was scored 28 seconds after the first Ottawa goal back at the end of the first period.

The Devils would take another nine or so minutes, but they would get on the board, cutting the Senators lead in half at 2-1.

The Devils won a faceoff in their own zone and Walsh moved the puck ahead to Fabian Zetterlund, springing him up the right side. He broke into the Ottawa end with Nolan Foote. Zetterlund faked a shot and made a slick pass to Foote. Foote received the pass and just whipped a shot by Forsberg to make it 2-1.

Zetterlund had fought for the puck through the neutral zone after getting the pass from Walsh – who got his first NHL point on the play, so congratulations to him!

Ottawa retook their two-goal lead at 16:41 gone by on the power play due to Tim Stutzle.

Damon Severson was called for a high-stick against Josh Norris to give the Sens the man advantage for two minutes and Stutzle converted Norris passed from the far half wall to Tkachuk, who was cutting through the crease in front of Blackwood. Blackwood stopped his chance, but the rebound came right to the German rookie and he scored to make it 3-1 Sens.

Tkachuk now had the primary set up on all three Senators goals.

The Devils were still hanging around, however, and would cut the Ottawa lead to one once again before the period was over.

With six seconds left in the second period, Smith dished the puck to Pavel Zacha cutting in front towards the doorstep. Forsberg stopped his backhand shot, but Foote was sneaking around by the far post and just tucked the rebound in past Forsberg to make it 3-2.

This all set up a dramatic third period.

The drama built when Stutzle scored his second of the game – a shorthanded goal – to put the Sens up 4-2.

Ottawa’s Scott Sabourin was called for cross-checking Walsh at the 5:12 mark of the third to put the Devils on the power play (which could be just as dangerous of late for the Devils than their opponents).

Sure enough, at 6:34 gone down on the big clock, Stutzle picked off a Sharangovich pass at the Ottawa blue line while Sharangovich was attempting to help the Devils gain entry into the Senators zone. Stutzle was then off to the races, cut in alone on Blackwood and went to his backhand. He beat Blackwood unassisted to give the Sens a 4-2 lead.

The Devils would then storm back for the next two to tie the game and send it off to overtime.

At 7:29, a little less than a minute than the Ottawa goal by Stutzle, Jesper Bratt had recovered the puck and moved towards the middle of the ice in the Sens zone. He dished aside to Zacha, who ripped a shot from off the right-wing and by Forsberg to make it 4-3.

The Devils would fight back fully to tie things at the 10:15 mark of the third. On this one, the Sens turned the puck over to Severson at their own blue line and he was able to keep play alive in the Ottawa zone.

Severson made a heads up pass to Sharangovich down low, who then cut in towards Forsberg from the near side. He backhanded the puck in between Forsberg’s five-hole to tie the game at four each.

The Devils then gave two major indications that they may be able to hang on and win the game.

The first was late in the third when Dylan Gambrell was stopped on a breakaway by Blackwood.

The second sign extended between the latter part of the third period and into the OT session.

With 54 seconds to go in regulation, Dawson Mercer was called for cross-checking Norris. This put the Devils down a man to end the game and for a little more than a full minute should the game get to OT.

It did and the Devils would wind up killing the whole thing.

What it took was an amazing individual effort from Batherson to win the game for the Senators.

With 3:17 gone by in OT, Batherson skated one-on-one with Smith isolated in the Devils zone. Batherson made a toe drag move on Smith as the Devils defenseman lost his edge and fell down. Batherson then beat Blackwood in close on his backhand to win the game for the Sens 5-4.

Stutzle and Brannstrom had the assists on Batherson’s beauty of a game-winner.

The Devils outshot Ottawa 34 to 41. The Devils won 49-percent of the game’s draws with Michael McLeod leading in personal percentage with 62-percent (winning eight of his 13 faceoffs) and Zacha winning 11-pf-22 (50-percent) of his.

The Devils accumulated six penalty minutes while the Senators had just four minutes.

It was a hard-hitting game with the Sens outhitting New Jersey 32 to 24. Ottawa also had 17 blocked shots to the Devils’ eight. Team giveaways saw the Devils with seven to the Sens’ 11.

Zacha (a goal and an assist) and Foote (two goals) each had multiple point nights for the Devils.

In terms of ice time, Ryan Graves led all Devils skaters with 25:06 (which included 3:27 of time killing penalties). Dougie Hamilton spent the most time amongst Devils blue liners on the power play at 3:01, out of his total ice time of 22:12, spent on the man advantage.

Dawson Mercer led the forwards with 19:47 of total TOI (including 2:22 on the PP – tied with Bratt for most power play time for the forwards – and 28 seconds on the PK). McLeod led the forwards with 1:51 of PK time out of his 12:13 of total time on ice. He also played ten seconds on the PP.

Foote and Zetterlund tied in most shots on goal for the Devils with five each. Severson and Nathan Bastian led in hits with three each. Smith and, in his first career NHL game, Walsh, led in blocks with two each. Personal giveaways were led by Sharangovich, Foote, Zacha, Janne Kuokkanen, Walsh, Smith and Severson all with one while forced turnovers were led by Sharangovich with one.

Next up, the last Devils road game of 2021-22 as the Devils visit Raleigh, North Carolina to take on the Hurricanes tomorrow in a rematch from last Saturday.

Early news for that game is that Alexander Holtz has been recalled from AHL Utica and will join the team down in Carolina. Also, the Canes clinched the Metropolitan Division regular season championship with their win over the Rangers on Tuesday at the Garden.

I will be late on this one as well, as I actually have tickets to the New York Giants Draft Party up at MetLife Stadium and will be attending that tomorrow. I will be recording the game and will try to have a recap up as fast as possible.

The game will be broadcast on MSG (not MSG+ as the Devils website and app insist) – at least that is what I am hoping since that is what my DVR is set for. We shall find out. Puck drop is 7 PM.

In the meantime, enjoy your Thursday everyone!