It was the final game of the year, and thus, the decade, and the Devils battled back from a 2-0 deficit to beat the Boston Bruins 3-2 at home in a shootout. The Devils actually finished the decade the way they started it: with a win.
Back on January 2, 2010, the Devils picked up a 3-2 victory at the Minnesota Wild to kick off the 2010’s right. They won their last of the 2010’s as well. In between there were a lot of ups and downs, we will see how the 2020’s will fare for New Jersey.
The big news over the last few days for the Devils has been that Kyle Palmieri was named to his second NHL All-Star game. Nico Hischier is on the NHL’s Last Men In voting that starts on NHL.com/vote on January 1. Fans have the chance to vote Nico in as the final member of the Metropolitan Division team.
For the Devils, there was a roster move and a milestone. The roster move saw Will Butcher be a game-time decision and play. He missed the last game against Ottawa with an undisclosed injury. Connor Carrick was scheduled to play if Butcher could not go, but was a scratch instead. He joined Kevin Rooney as the Devils’ healthy scratches.
The milestone saw Damon Severson playing in his 400th NHL contest. Severson would go on to play a major role in the shootout win and it is well deserved for him.
The goaltending matchup in this final game in the season series between these teams saw the Devils go with Mackenzie Blackwood who made 28 saves on 30 shots plus five in the shootout. He had a .933 save percentage on the night. The B’s had backup Jaroslav Halak who made 42 saves on 44 shots in regulation and overtime plus four in the shootout. He finished with a .955 save percentage.
The Bruins got on the board first just 2:03 in on the power play. PK Subban had gone off for interference against Sean Kuraly at 1:17 and Boston made the most of their opportunity. Jake DeBrusk got the puck to Matt Grzelcyk at the point. He made a touch pass to David Pastrnak at the near faceoff circle. He one-timed a shot on Devils’ goalie Mackenzie Blackwood who made the initial save. The puck then squeaked by him and Brad Marchand tapped it behind him to make it 1-0 Boston.
The power play numbers saw the Bruins go 1-for-3 with three shots, plus a single shorthanded shot. The Devils were 0-for-4 with seven shots.
In the second period, the Devils began to play much better, but fell behind by two when Joakim Nordstrom scored at 4:27. The Bruins got the puck down low and there was a scramble in front of the Devils’ net. Blackwood could not get control of the puck and it went in off of Nordstrom’s skate to make 2-0 Boston. Kuraly and Brandon Carlo had the assists.
The Devils, as mentioned, were playing better, but things seemed bleak down two goals to one of the best teams in the league.
But they finally broke through to cut the lead in half at the 8:58 mark of the second when Blake Coleman scored his 12th of the season. Coleman sped over the Boston line, catching the Bruins in a line change, and dropped to a trailing Nikita Gusev. Gusev gave it right back to him and he fired it in to make it 2-1. Sami Vatanen had the secondary assist.
The Devils had some great chances in the second but could not break through.
They finally got things going in the third when Jesper Bratt scored to tie the game up at two. Nico Hischier got the puck in to the Boston zone and set things up. He gave to Subban at the point and Subban faked a slap shot, waited for the Bruins’ player to go down, stepped around him and quickly got the puck on net. Bratt tipped the shot by Halak to knot the game up at two.
When time expired, the Devils were going to their third straight overtime game and Boston had earned at least a point in their eighth straight game.
OT was a fast and furious affair that ended with Bratt having to take a hooking penalty against Kuraly. Boston would finish with an 11 second power play to end the game.
But the Devils endured and we were headed to a shootout.
In the first round, Gusev was stopped by Halak trying to go five-hole and Boston’s Charlie Coyle losing the puck on his attempt.
In the second round, Jesper Boqvist’s shot was stopped by Halak and Pastrnak was stopped on a pretty glove save by Blackwood.
In round three, Palmieri was turned aside by Halak and Marchand hit the post.
The fourth round saw Halak made a left pad save on Wayne Simmonds and DeBrusk stopped by Blackwood.
Finally, the teams broke through in the fifth and sixth round. In round five, Jack Hughes skated up the ice, bobbled the puck a few times, but still was able to beat Halak to put the Devils up in front. Chris Wagner was Boston’s last hope and he scored, beating Blackwood upstairs.
With things back even, Damon Severson was up and he scored, going up top, backhand, over Halak. Blackwood finished up making another nice glove save on Patrice Bergeron to put it away for New Jersey.
Statistically, faceoffs were even at 50-percent won for both teams, the Devils outhit the Bruins by six, 19-13 and had 14 blocks to the Bruins’ 16. The Devils also had 14 giveaways to the tidy Bruins’ mere five.
Sami Vatanen led the Devils in ice time with 26:47 (4:14 on the power play and 12 seconds on the penalty kill) while Nico Hischier led all forwards with 20:03 (3:14 on the PP and 37 seconds shorthanded).
Shots on goal were led by Coleman, Vatanen and Subban with five, hits were led by Miles Wood with four, blocked shots by Mirco Mueller with three and takeaways by Palmieri and Hischier with two apiece.
So now the Devils will begin the new year and decade on Thursday, January 2 at the Islanders. This game is on NBCSN and we will have coverage for you right here. We will also have today’s recap of World Junior Championship action for you later on today.
Have a happy, healthy and safe new year everyone! And here’s to a great fifth decade of Devils hockey.