It’s been a long time.
The Devils had not strung together back-to-back wins since November 13 and 15. Back then, they beat Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Today, they notched their second straight win after beating Boston on Thursday. They beat the Carolina Hurricanes 2-0 on Kid’s Day at Prudential Center behind a spectacular performance from goalie Mackenzie Blackwood, a shorthanded goal from Pavel Zacha and a timely bit of luck.
The Devils are still without Taylor Hall, which makes this run of two games even more improbable to an extent. They are also missing Marcus Johansson and Cory Schneider, who according to Erika Wachter of MSG+, have started skating but remain on injured reserve. Joey Anderson remains on IR but has started off-ice workouts.
Mirco Mueller and Egor Yakovlev were the healthy scratches for New Jersey.
One other bit of business from the Boston game on Thursday is that the Bruins’ David Backes has received supplemental discipline for his illegal check to the head of Blake Coleman. Because he is a repeat offender, he was fined over $200,000 and will be banned for three games. That will include the New Year’s Day Winter Classic game for Boston as well.
That win in Boston was the Devils’ first since October 26, 2013 according to an MSG+ graphic and the Devils were looking to build on that game. One of their stars from that contest was Mackenzie Blackwood. He made a back-to-back start in this game, going today as well. He was brilliant. He stopped all 37 shots Carolina threw his way. But he also got some luck. The Canes had seemingly tied things up at one with an extra attacker on with 1:58 to go in the game. However, the goal was immediately waved off on the ice with the explanation of incidental goalie interference by Carolina’s Justin Williams. The contact through the crease was negligible, but he did bump into Blackwood’s stick.
Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour used his coach’s challenge to have this one overturned but the call was upheld when Toronto looked at it. It was just too much contact (albeit, as I said, negligible) to overturn the call. The Devils would get through that “storm” and Andy Greene emphatically slapped the puck into the empty net with 32 seconds left in the game to make it 2-0 Devils, which was our final.
For the Canes, journeyman Curtis McElhinney was between the pipes. He was equally good and stopped 28 of 29 Devils shots. With the empty netter, the Devils finsihed the game being outshot by Carolina 37-30.
The game winner came shorthanded off the stick of Zacha unassisted. That was set up when John Quenneville took a penalty for tripping Trevor van Riemsdyk at 17:26. With 36 seconds to go in the second period and two on the penalty, Zacha scored when he chipped an intercepted pass up ice and chased it. He shot and McElhinney made the initial save before Zacha chipped the rebound over McElhinney’s shoulder and top shelf to make it 1-0 Devils.
Special teams-wise, the Devils kept the Hurricanes 0-for-5 on the power play with five shots. Carolina also had two shorthanded shots. On the Devils’ side of the ledger, they went 0-for-3 on the power play with seven total shots but also added three shorthanded shots, one of which they scored on, as noted.
One scary moment was early in the game when linesman Tim Nowak was hit in the elbow by a puck and seemed injured enough for the Devils’ trainer to come out and look at him. He stayed in the game and continued officiating, showing that it takes the toughest of the tough to make a hockey game go.
For the Devils, statistically, they won 52-percent of the faceoffs but got out hit 20 to 11. The Canes also had more blocked shots (16 to 13) and less giveaways (nine to three).
Greene led all Devils’ skaters in ice time (25:13) which included 8:44 killing penalties. Travis Zajac led the forwards with 21:33 total (3:39 on the PP and 5:13 on the PK). Kyle Palmieri and Zacha led in shots with four each, Miles Wood and Will Butcher led in hits with two each, Sami Vatanen led in blocked shots with four and Ben Lovejoy led in takeaways with two.
Next up, the Devils will have a 1 PM matinee on New Year’s Eve at Prudential Center against the Vancouver Canucks. We will see you then and hope you join us later for a little bit of World Junior update. See you then!