Two days ago, Mackenzie Blackwood got his first NHL shutout. He became the sixth Devils rookie goalie to record a shutout joining the likes of Sean Burke and Martin Brodeur (the only two younger goalies to do it, respectively). Today, he upped the ante, earning his second consecutive shutout and in doing so becoming the first Devils goalie to do so since Marty Brodeur in April of 2010 and the first ever Devils rookie to record back-to-back shutouts. He also became the first NHL rookie goalie to turn this feat since John Gibson on December 29 and 31, 2015 – three years to the exact days. His shutout streak now stands at 125:55 as the Devils notched the 4-0 win at Prudential Center over the Vancouver Canucks.
And with all of that, the Devils have won three straight for the first time since the first three games of the season.
On this New Year’s Eve, Vancouver came in having gathered 15 points in their last ten games, going 7-2-1. The Devils stopped them cold, weathering a storm in the second period where the Canucks dominated. It was a good game for New Jersey and one where ten different Devils recorded points.
The Devils were still without Taylor Hall (day-to-day, lower body) and Marcus Johansson (who is skating but remains on injured reserve). The team also made the decision to assign defenseman Egor Yakovlev to Binghamton of the AHL. Mirco Mueller was the lone healthy scratch for the Devils.
As for the goaltending matchup, Blackwood made his third consecutive start for the Devils after it was announced earlier today that he was the NHL’s third star of the week for the week ending yesterday. He was also this game’s first star come the end of the night. He saw 25 Vancouver shots and turned them all aside. Opposing him was Anders Nilsson. He made 19 saves on 23 Devils shots.
While the big story for the Devils has been goaltending, there was another aspect of their game that, not coincidentally since goaltending plays a big part in it, has been great of late. That is their penalty killing. They held the Canucks 0-for-4 on the man advantage with just three shots. The Devils themselves went 2-for-3 with five power play shots and also added two shorthanded shots.
The Devils’ goals came in bunches: two in the first period and two in the third. The first goal was scored 12:03 into the game by Brian Boyle from Drew Stafford and Brett Seney. It happened when Boyle found Stafford’s rebound on the doorstep and buried it five-hole to record his tenth of the season for the game winner. It was 1-0 Devils and that was all they needed.
It became 2-0 on the power play when Miles Wood scored on the power play at 18:12 of the first from Sami Vatanen and Jesper Bratt. Vancouver’s Bo Horvat went off for tripping Seney and the Devils had their first power play opportunity of the afternoon. Bratt passed out of the near corner to Vatanen at the far point. Vatanen gave to Wood near the top of the near circle and he rocketed a shot upstairs to double the Devils’ lead.
New Jersey had to brace themselves for an attacking Canucks team in the second period, but Blackwood was there to close the door when needed. The third goal of the game came just 1:31 into the third period also on the power play when Vatanen scored from Wood and Damon Severson. This had been setup the previous period when Markus Granlund tripped up Nico Hischier leading to a Devils power play that would commence after a period of 4-on-4 (Vancouver was already on the PP) and carry over to the third.
On this goal, Wood broke into the Canucks’ zone on the rush and dropped the puck for a trailing Vatanen. He one-timed a shot from just inside the blue line that beat Nilsson stick side. It may have been deflected by Canucks defenseman Alexander Edler. It was now 3-0 Devils.
Pavel Zacha would put a bow on 2018 when he scored 2:05 later from Stefan Noesen and Steven Santini. Zacha, as per the coaching staff, has been shooting more of late and using his offensive weapons. This has translated into goals like the one he scored today when Noesen criss-crossed through the neutral zone, gained the offensive zone and dropped to Zacha just inside the Canucks’ blue line. Zacha fired the puck by Nilsson and made it 4-0 in what would be our final. That was also the final Devils goal of the 2018 calendar year.
A strange play late in the game as Vancouver’s Antoine Roussel pushed Severson into Blackwood with Severson’s skate going into Blackwood’s midsection. Blackwood was okay, but Roussel then proceeded to drop his gloves and attack Severson with Severson not being ready to fight. For his efforts, Roussel was given a two minute roughing minor that put New Jersey on the power play and a ten minute misconduct penalty.
Statistically, the Devils were out shot by Vancouver 25-23, won 49-percent of the game’s faceoffs, had a whopping 32 hits to the Canucks’ 18, blocked ten more shots than the Canucks (18-8) and had 11 giveaways to Vancouver’s three.
Individually, Sami Vatanen, who was named the game’s third star, led the team in ice time with 22:27 (1:56 on the power play and 2:23 shorthanded) while Travis Zajac led the forwards (19:27, including 2:38 on the PP and 3:22 on the PK). Wood, who was the game’s second star, led in shots with four, Blake Coleman led in hits with five, Andy Greene led in blocked shots with four and Kyle Palmieri and Vatanen each registered a takeaway to lead there.
Next up for the Devils, they hit the road to begin 2019. They will be in Dallas to take on the Stars on January 2, Wednesday at 8:30 PM eastern. We will have coverage right here then but will also continue coverage of the 2019 World Junior Championship here tonight. Until then, Happy New Year and everybody have a safe and healthy 2019!