Devils Crowned by Kings 3-2

And it continues.

The Devils fell to the lowly Arizona Coyotes to kick off their four-game homestand last Wednesday. Then they proceeded to lay an upset at the hands of the powerhouse Carolina Hurricanes last night.

Tonight, in the backend of a back-to-back against a Los Angeles Kings team that has been having trouble winning on the road? They lost 3-2.

You can’t always explain these things, you just go along for the ride.

Last night’s game against Carolina saw the Devils put up a touchdown and the extra point for only the second time this season. The only other team that they scored seven goals on, strangely enough, was the Atlantic Division-leading Florida Panthers. They beat the Cats on November 9, 2021 7-3 at home.

Ironically, their win over the Hurricanes last night knocked the Canes out of the top spot in the Metropolitan Division. By virtue of the Rangers’ win over the Coyotes last night at the Garden, it was the Blueshirts who took over the division lead. The Devils inadvertently put their hated rivals in first place in the division by playing a game well!

Anyway, that aside, they kept the lineup exactly the same for tonight’s game against the Kings with Mason Geertsen, Marian Studenic and Jesper Boqvist as the healthy scratches.

That lineup uniformity extended to the crease as well. Jon Gillies made his first NHL back-to-back consecutive starts. Part of this is that the coaching staff was intending to go back to Mackenzie Blackwood, but the trainers indicated that Blackwood “is not quite ready yet.”

Gillies made 34 saves on 37 total Los Angeles shots for a .919 save percentage on the night. He stopped all four of LA’s power play shots as the Kings went 0-for-3 on the power play as a team. He got 30 of the Kings’ 33 shots at five-on-five play.

For the second time this season, the Devils faced the right-handed catching Cal Petersen (the second time this week that the Devils have faced a right-handed catching goalie as well). Petersen had gotten an overtime victory over the Devils in Los Angeles earlier in the season.

Petersen made 23 saves on 25 shots total by the Devils for a .920 save percentage on the night. He turned aside the two shorthanded shots that the Devils peppered him with and one of their two power play shots. The Devils ended the night 1-for-2 on the man advantage. He was 20-for-21 at five-on-five.

Also, a correction to Andreas Johnsson’s goal scored last night as he ended a 17-game goal drought. I believe I identified it as an 18-game goal drought in last night’s post.

One player that the Kings had tonight that they were without when the teams met earlier this season in LA is Quinton Byfield. Byfield was the second overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft and was playing just his second game of the season this year in the NHL. He was injured in this year’s preseason after only playing six NHL games last season. This might have been many Devils fans first look at him.

The Devils got on the board first 2:37 into the game when Damon Severson hit Jesper Bratt with a perfect tape-to-tape saucer stretch pass from the Devils zone that sprung Bratt behind the Kings defense.

Bratt deked backhand-forehand and beat Petersen, going right around the LA goalie to make it 1-0.

It was an electrifying pass from Severson and an even better finish by Bratt to give the Devils the early lead.

Of course, following last night’s lead, the Kings quickly had an answer for the Devils.

It came at 5:47 gone by in the first period at four-on-four play.

Both LA’s Dustin Brown and the Devils’ Michael McLeod had gone off the ice at the 4:53 mark of the first. McLeod for cross checking Brown and Brown for embellishment on the penalty.

At the aforementioned 5:47 mark, Alex Iafallo read a pass by Jack Hughes to Severson at Kings’ blue line well. He took the puck practically off of Severson’s stick and skated into the Devils zone on a partial 2-on-1 with Hughes backchecking hard to catch up to help out the lone Devils defenseman back.

Iafallo raced up the right-wing boards and unleashed a well-placed shot off of the rush himself, beating Gillies. The goal was unassisted and tied the game at one.

Bratt would make himself an assist away from a Gordie Howe hat trick when he got into his first NHL scrap at the 8:04 mark of the first.

Carl Grundstrom had laid a big, though clean, hit on Jack Hughes just before. Bratt then came to Hughes’ rescue and, though it was not a big heavyweight brawl, both Bratt and Grundstrom did pull roughing minors out of the tussle.

Bratt ended up with a double minor for roughing, as a matter of fact for his eagerness to get at Grundstrom. That put the Kings on a power play that would ultimately last three seconds.

Following the faceoff putting the puck back in play, Dustin Brown tripped Severson to take a minor and pretty much cancel out the LA power play. All of this was killed off.

However, it was the Devils who would retake the lead heading into the first intermission when Bratt scored his second of the night at 17:34 gone by in the first on the power play.

Grundstrom was called for slashing Tomas Tatar at the 16:33 mark of the first to put the Devils up a man.

At the time of the goal, just about a minute into the man advantage, the Devils moved the puck around the Kings zone tic-tac-toe. They eventually got it to Severson, who gave it to Hughes up top on the far of the rink. Hughes walked it up a bit and faked like he was going to shoot, freezing the Kings penalty killer and Petersen as well.

Hughes had scored from that spot in last night’s versus the Hurricanes so the Kings needed to respect his shot. Unfortunately for them, Hughes was able to pass through an open seam that opened up for him to Bratt located at the near side. Bratt then sniped a finish into a wide open goal cage since Petersen was leaning to one side respecting Hughes’ ability to shoot.

Bratt’s goal, his 13th of the year (a new career high for him) eclipsed his previous high in a fewer amount of games played in a season.

In addition, the Devils now had a 2-1 lead to take into the second period.

But the Kings would not go anywhere.

In the second period, the Devils had trouble getting the puck deep into the Kings zone before trying to make a change. Kings forward pushed the puck back out and sprung Viktor Arvidsson up the right-wing boards and into the Devils zone all alone on Gillies. He scored at 15:59 gone in the second period to tie the game at two in the second.

That tie was taken right into the third period.

The Kings would put the hammer down in the third when, at 11:05, Brown was able to get a nice pass to Grundstrom while Brown was being squeezed along the far half wall in the Devils zone. Grundstrom took the pass in the slot, spun around and got a shot off that beat Gillies stick side to give Los Angeles the 3-2 lead. Tobias Bjornfot had the secondary assist on the game-winner.

Gillies was pulled by New Jersey with a little over 1:37 left to go in regulation.

The Devils actually forced overtime when they were in LA earlier this season when they pulled the goaltender and scored with the extra attacker.

Tonight, they put the kibosh on that themselves before they were able to finish.

The Devils took a too many men on the ice bench minor with a little over 30 seconds left in the game and would finish the game killing a penalty. They had muffed a change and it was very briefly 7-on-5.

Head coach Lindy Ruff used his timeout just after the penalty was called. When the Devils regained possession of the puck with about ten seconds left in the game, Gillies headed to the bench again to even the attack at five-on-five.

But it was too late. The Kings held on and won the game 3-2.

The Kings outshot the Devils 37 to 25 while the Devils won 53-percent of the game’s faceoffs. Michael McLeod again led the Devils centers with a 71-percent faceoff winning percentage on the night.

Other team stats saw the Devis with ten penalty minutes total and the Kings rack up eight. The Devils were outhit 31 to 29. The Kings also had 11 blocked shots to the Devils’ nine. LA ended up with five team giveaways to New Jersey’s nine.

In terms of ice time leaders, Severson led everyone with 25:13 total time. This included 1:04 on the power play and 1:40 killing penalties. For the forwards, Nico Hischier led in total ice time at 18:40 logged (including 1:01 of PP time and 1:13 of PK time). McLeod led in shorthanded time for the forwards with 1:27 out of his 13:28 of his total time spent on the PK. Jack Hughes played the most power play time for forwards at 1:04 (out of 18:09 total TOI). He also played 13 seconds on the penalty kill.

In terms of scoring, Jesper Bratt (two goals for two points) and Damon Severson (two assists for two points) led there. Jack Hughes (one assist) was the only other Devil to record a point tonight.

Hischier led in shots on goal with four. Nathan Bastian led in hits with six. Defensemen Christian Jaros and Ryan Graves led in blocked shots with two. Hughes, Severson and Graves led in giveaways with two each and Hischier led in takeaways with two.

Next up, the Devils will welcome the Dallas Stars to Prudential Center on Tuesday in the homestand finale.

That game – the second straight the Devils will play against historic Stanley Cup Final rivals – will begin at 7 PM and will air over ESPN+. We will have coverage for you right here following the game.

In the meantime, I would like to take a moment to address the recent news about an incident in the ECHL involving PK Subban’s brother Jordan of the South Carolina Stingrays.

Jordan’s Stingrays were paying the Jacksonville Icemen on Saturday night when Jacob Panetta of the Icemen made a racist and reprehensible taunt towards Jordan following a scrum by the two teams.

The Devils made their support of both Jordan and PK and their family known with a statement. Both Jordan and PK responded to the incident on Twitter – which included video of the disgusting gesture made as Jordan was skating away with his back to Panetta.

Panetta has since been released by the Icemen and suspended indefinitely by the ECHL according to Erika Wachter on the Devils’ postgame shot on MSG+ tonight.

Jordan was being led away from the on-ice altercation by an official when, with Subban’s back to him, Panetta began to make monkey gestures towards him. Subban then raced back and confronted Panetta, as did a good many of Jordan’s Stingray teammates. This includes Nico Blachman, who came off of the South Carolina bench to attack Panetta according to Greg Wyshynski of ESPN.

It should be noted that, in the video, no player from the Icemen came to his defense, a fact that PK pointed out in his Twitter post.

The really sad and scary part is that the second such incident to occur in professional hockey this month.

On January 21, the AHL suspended Krystof Hrabik of the San Jose Barracuda 30 games for making the same gesture towards Boko Imama of the Tucson Roadrunners (who is also a Black player) in a game on January 12.

In Hrabik’s case, ESPN’s Wyshynski reported that Imama was held back by one of the linesmen while Imama’s teammate Travis Barron confronted Hrabik.

Hrabik, who will be banned for the three games that he missed during the AHL’s investigation of the incident in addition to 27 other games, will be able to reapply to the AHL for reinstatement after 21 games.

Hrabik will be able to work with the NHL’s Player Inclusion Committee. The Players Inclusion Committee is run by NHL executive Kim Davis. PK Subban is a co-chairman along with Anson Carter, who now works as an on-air TV analyst for TNT.

In both instances, there were apologies. The Icemen made an apology when they announced that Panetta had been released from the team. The Stingrays and the Devils came out in support of the Subban brothers. The American Hockey League made an apology for the incident directed at Imama. Both Hrabik and Panetta apologized publicly as well, for what its worth.

Not to get too much on a soapbox here, because I understand fully that, not being Black in professional hockey, I will never understand the kinds of things that the Subbans and Imama and men like them have and will go through on a near-constant basis and it would be disingenuous to pretend that I do.

What I can say is that this should not be something that you resort to “in the heat of the moment.” Both Panetta and Hrabik backtracked on what they did and insisted that they did not mean anything racial by their intentions.

The problem is that the gestures were very much meant in a racial way and the thinking that went into them is what needs to change.

If your first reaction to a “heated moment” with an opponent who is Black is to go and make, not only racial slurs, but to pantomime gestures that the fans in the stand can either easily understand as, or at the very least, misinterpret as, racist, it may be time to reevaluate your underlying thinking there.

I wholehearted applaud the efforts that the NHL and men like Subban, Carter in addition to pioneers like Willie O’Ree and Bryce Salvador have made to make the game more inclusive and accepting.

However, for every effort there will always seem to be a segment of pushback. This will require just continuing to putting in the hard work – no matter how disheartening the setbacks – both by people like the Subbans and Kim Davis, and also everyday fans.

It starts at the grassroots. If we the fans can make it known that we will not tolerate racist or hateful speech in the stands, as chirps on the ice in our own hockey experiences (no matter the level you play at, or whom it is aimed at), then “Hockey is for Everyone” will continue to be just a pipedream.

As Devils fans, stand with PK Subban and his family and just do the right thing when you can and do what you can not to tolerate racism anywhere in any form. The smallest gestures can sometimes make the biggest ripples, I feel and it starts with us. Let’s try to be better as a whole.

Devils Weather the Storm, Beat Hurricanes

Following Wednesday’s complete meltdown against the Arizona Coyotes, you can forgive Devils fans for not expecting a whole lot tonight when the top team in the Metropolitan Division, the Carolina Hurricanes, visited Prudential Center.

The Devils won 7-4 over the high-powered Canes, because of course they did.

The Devils made some roster moves today when defenseman Ty Smith was placed on Injured Reserve with an upper-body injury. With that, defenseman Colton White was recalled from the Taxi Squad and placed in the lineup. Defenseman Dougie Hamilton remains on IR with a fractured jaw. He has resumed skating and will be evaluated week-to-week.

Mason Geertsen, Marian Studenic and Jesper Boqvist were the Devils’ healthy scratches for the night as they had a full group of rosters to go.

In net, the Devils gave Jon Gillies his third start as member of the team, as Mackenzie Blackwood finally got a rest. And, it was Gillies’ 28th birthday, to boot.

And it was a birthday that he will remember. He got his first win with his new team under his belt by stopping 28 of Carolina’s 32 total shots for a nightly .875 save percentage. He also turned the Canes’ lone shorthanded shot and their only power play chance. Carolina was 0-for-1 in limited power play opportunities. At five-on-five, he got 26 of Carolina’s 30 shots.

He got his first win in the NHL since April 7, 2018, when he was a member of the Calgary Flames. That night, he beat the Vegas Golden Knights back then.

The Hurricanes were starting rookie Jack LaFontaine – making his first NHL start as a matter of fact. LaFontaine just turned pro last week after being signed from the University of Minnesota. He got 31 of the Devils’ 38 total shots for an .816 save percentage. He stopped New Jersey’s only shorthanded shot and let in their only power play shot. At even strength, he stopped 30 of the Devils’ 36 shots. The Devils went 1-for-3 on the man advantage as a team.

Tonight was Pride Night at Prudential Center as the Devils wore warmup jerseys with a rainbow theme to the logo pregame.

It was also the first time the Devils and Hurricanes had met since February 14, 2020 – before the COVID pandemic knocked out the rest of the 2019-20 season and put the Canes and Devils in different divisions for the 2020-21 season. That night back in 2020, the Devils won 5-2.

Also, on a historical note, it was mentioned on the MSG+ broadcast by Steve Cangialosi and Ken Daneyko that tonight was the 35th anniversary of the “334 Club” game.

On January 22, 1987, a major snowstorm dumped two feet of snow on the New Jersey area. The Devils’ scheduled game against the Flames was delayed and only 334 fans were able to make it out to the Meadowlands Arena to witness the Devils’ 5-2 victory over Calgary that night.

More than three decades on now, how would the current Devils fare tonight?

As it turned out, not too well to begin with.

Carolina took the early lead just 2:20 into the game. Brendan Smith dished to Vincent Trocheck just inside the Devils blue line and he immediately played give and go with Andrei Svechnikov. Svechnikov got it back and took a quick, seeing eye shot from along the left-wing boards that ended up just under the crossbar behind Gillies.

Svechnikov was just attempting to get the puck on net and it ended up in to give the Hurricanes the 1-0 lead.

And the Canes are a strong offensive team, so these things come in bunches for them.

Sure enough, at the 5:44 gone-by mark of the first, and just after Derek Stepan had hit the post for Carolina, the Devils were unable to clear the puck initially from their own zone. It got lost in some skates and Martin Necas eventually got the puck back to Ian Cole at the point. Cole ripped a shot right by Gillies as the Devils paid for not being able to clear.

Svechnikov had the secondary assist on the goal that doubled the Canes’ lead.

The Devils stick around, though down two, with Nathan Bastian helping to dig them out of their hole.

At the 17:26 mark of the first, the Devils had been pressing for a couple of shifts. Here, Janne Kuokkanen got the puck to Ryan Graves at the point.

His shot hit the end boards and popped into the air in front of the Hurricanes net. Nathan Bastian had fought for good positioning in front and used great hand-eye coordination to bat the puck out of the air and behind LaFontaine to cut the Carolina lead in half to 2-1.

Bastian struck again with less than a minute to go in the first period (the 19:06 mark) when Michael McLeod (Bastian’s Mississauga SuperBuddy) faked a shot from the far half wall and passed to Graves at the point after getting the Carolina defender to commit to his shot.

Graves now had an open shooting lane and let loose a bomb that Bastian – again camped in the hard area in front of the opposition’s net – got a stick on to redirect past LaFontaine to tie the game at two.

This was Bastian’s second career two-goal game at the NHL level.

The game was tied going into the second period as the Devils were keeping up with the Canes.

But Carolina is a very good team (to say the least) that can strike almost immediately.

Just 3:25 into the second, they retook the lead by one when Josh Leivo scored his first of season.

Jesperi Kotkaniemi swept the puck up to Leivo through the neutral zone and Leivo cut into the Devils zone. He made a power move on Gillies to score and put the Hurricanes up 3-2. Tony DeAngelo had the secondary assist.

The Devils kept fighting, however and got rewarded at the 8:47 mark of the period.

The other half of the Mississauga Connection struck here when Michael McLeod scored.

Andreas Johnsson shot from the point, just getting the puck in on LaFontaine and McLeod, who got free in front of the Carolina net, was there to push the rebound by the Hurricanes goaltender. PK Subban had the secondary assist. It was again tied, this time at three.

And it would continue back-and-forth through the middle period with momentum slowly changing.

At 11:16 gone by, Johnsson ended a personal 18-game goalless drought when he scored.

Pavel Zacha – also ending a point scoring drought here – fought off a check in the Devils zone and was off with Dawson Mercer and Johnsson. Zacha gave the puck to Mercer at the far wall in the Canes’ zone.

He immediately spotted Johnsson trailing the play and all alone in the middle of the ice. Mercer connected to him and Johnsson finished to give New Jersey their first lead of the night at 4-3.

Carolina was still there, though and we were all reminded of that with 15:34 gone in the second.

The Hurricanes were in on a partial 2-on-1 on Gillies with Brady Skjei trailing to make it a 3-on-1. Derek Stepan dropped to Skjei, who beat Gillies to tie the game at four apiece. Leivo had the secondary assist.

Things were starting to get wild and the Devils were not done, they would retake the lead prior to the second intermission.

With 1:41 left in the second period, Jesper Bratt padded his team-leading goal tally when he scored his 11th of the year.

Graves collected his third assist of the night when he took a shot from the near point. Yegor Sharangovich redirected the shot as a pass towards Bratt, who was stationed near the far post. The pass was put in under LaFontaine in one move by Bratt and the Devils had an unlikely 5-4 lead as we were going into the second break.

That would also end up as the game-winning goal. The third period belonged to the Devils on the scoresheet.

New Jersey began to put the game away 11:51 into the third. Cole was given a holding penalty to put the Devils on the power play and it took Jack Hughes exactly one minute to score.

With 12:51 gone by in the period, Hughes went to work on the half wall. He played give-and-go with Damon Severson, who was set up at the point. With Severson briefly in control of the puck, Hughes got himself into position for a clear shot. Severson got the puck back to him and he shot, beating LaFontaine to make it 6-4 Devils.

Nico Hischier chalked up the secondary helper.

Zacha put the game on ice at 13:55 gone by in the third when the Devils recovered a turnover and Johnsson got the puck to Mercer. Mercer was into the Carolina zone and shot off the rush. He hit the inside of the near post and it came right out to Zacha, who was trailing. He potted it to give us our final of 7-4.

It almost was not the final though.

With 2:57 remaining left in regulation, Mercer was crashing the net, causing a mad scramble in front. LaFontaine seemingly kept the puck out and the call on the ice was no goal. The Situation Room in Toronto did a review of the play to determine if the puck had crossed the line prior to the whistle stopping the play. The review upheld the referee’s call and there was no goal.

Play would continue to tick down. The Devils had the win in the bag when Leivo was called for a high stick with 4.9 seconds to go in the game, putting New Jersey on the power play to end what little of regulation was left.

Johnsson (one goal, two assists, three points), Bastian (two goals, two points), Mercer (two assists, two points), McLeod (one goal, one assist, two points), Zacha (one goal, one assist, two points) and Graves (three assists, three points) were the Devils who ended up with multi-point nights.

As a team, the Devils outshot Carolina 38-32. They won 41-percent of the game’s faceoffs with Hischier won 59-percent of his personal draws to lead Devils centers.

The Devils did outhit the Hurricanes 35 to 31 and had 15 blocked shots to the Canes’ 12. The Devils also ended with 25 team turnovers to Carolina’s 12.

Severson led all Devils skaters in time on ice with 26:34 total (including 2:11 on the power play and 1:01 shorthanded). Jonas Siegenthaler led the defensemen on the PK with 1:33 out of his 23:48 of total time spent killing penalties.

Among the forwards, Hischier led in total time with 18:13 (2;11 on the PP and 58 seconds on the PK). Hughes led in power play time with 2:17 logged out of his 15:32 total while McLeod led in shorthanded time with 1:08 out of his 16:11 of total TOI.

Hughes led in shots on goal with five. Jimmy Vesey, Bastian and Siegenthaler each had five hits to lead in that category. Siegenthaler also led in blocks with three. Siegenthaler and Hughes had the most personal giveaways with three while Mercer led in takeaways with two.

Next up, the Devils will continue their homestand when they welcome in the Los Angeles Kings tomorrow. The Kings are already in town as they practiced at Prudential Center this morning.

Puck drop for that game is at 7 PM and it will be televised on MSG+. We will have coverage for you here following the game. Please note that, due to a family commitment, I may be a little behind on the game. I am recording it so as to not miss anything. I will try to get a recap post up as soon as I can though.

See you tomorrow as the Devils try to keep a little bit of momentum going forward.