Today Mackenzie Blackwood and Carter Hart, both highly touted rookie goaltenders with their respective clubs, met up for the first time. It was the first time (as per the trivia question on MSG+ today) since 1987 that two rookie goalies had played each other in a Devils-Flyers game – the last time it happened it was Craig Billington and Ron Hextall. It does not happen often (this was the 211th regular season meeting between Philly and New Jersey) that you see what could be the future of two franchises faceoff with one another. Today was worth the price of admission, though as the Devils won the game 3-2.
Blackwood was not the only one the Devils were getting back from injured reserve. Marcus Johansson was back from his upper body injury suffered on December 21 at Columbus. In addition the Devils called up Kevin Rooney from Binghamton and he was a healthy scratch today along with Stefan Noesen and Steven Santini. Mirco Mueller slotted back in on defense.
The goalie matchup saw Blackwood, making his seventh save of the year, make 32 saves on 34 Philly shots for a .941 save percentage on the afternoon. Hart stopped 23 of 26 for an .885 save percentage. Both goalies played pretty well and, although it is always tough to say, could be meeting up many times in the future. The two actually met up once before this season, as per Steve Cangialosi. They faced each other back on October 27 in the AHL when Hart (playing for Lehigh Valley) beat Blackwood, who was suited up for Binghamton at the time. Hart and Blackwood were also connected in that they were both called up from the American League on the same day.
This was the third meeting of the year between these teams already, but the first in Newark. And the hometown fans were treated to early action. Damon Severson got the Devils on the board early (6:32 into the first period) off assists from Drew Stafford and Pavel Zacha. It occurred when the Devils cycled down low, getting it to Stafford at the point. He saw Severson at the bottom of the far faceoff circle and passed. Severson one-timed it from the odd angle and beat Hart to make it 1-0 Devils. Severson now leads all Devils defensemen with 21 points.
New Jersey made it 2-0 when Nico Hischier came out of the penalty box after serving a hooking penalty and was sprung on a partial breakaway. He cut in on Hart and went backhand, through the five hole to put the Devils up 2-0 at the 5:08 mark of the second period. The goal was unassisted. Nico would go on to be named the game’s first star (Blackwood was the second star and Severson the third).
The Flyers would catch a break on their first goal of the evening as Bryce Salvador pointed out during the second intermission report. It came when the officials missed that the Flyers had made a late change to swap Radko Gudas off for James van Riemsdyk. It was simply a snafu as the defenseman Gudas was caught having to play forward on the faceoff in the Devils zone. But the Devils had the last change as the home team and the officials simply missed it. Off the faceoff, the Flyers would get a 2-on-1 where van Riemsdyk would chip the puck over Blackwood’s stick-side shoulder. That made it 2-1 Devils. The goal came at 15:51 of the second period off assists from Sean Couturier and Ivan Provorov.
But the Devils would get that one back just 1:18 into the third period. It came when Blake Coleman jumped on a loose puck in the Philly zone and threw it in on Hart. Hischier crashed the net and jolted the puck free. Miles Wood slipped in backdoor and finished, putting the loose puck in the net to make it 3-1 Devils. Nico would end the game with a goal and an assist.
Philadelphia would get a 6-on-4 advantage late when Severson was called for hooking at 16:56 and Hart was pulled with about 2:40 left in the game. They would not score on this (only mustering one shot on goal here) and the Devils penalty kill remained strong. The Flyers were 0-for-3 with four total power play shots, plus one shorthanded shot.
The Devils power play, on the other hand, was not strong, going 0-for-5 with four shots. The Devils added a shorthanded shot on special teams.
Following that penalty, Hart would remain out of the net and Couturier scored off of a stretch pass from Jakub Voracek that sprung him for a breakaway. The Devils were making an ill advised change and got caught in it. His goal came with 2 seconds remaining in the game and van Riemsdyk had the secondary assist. That one made it 3-2 which was our final. A much needed two points for the Devils.
The Flyers out shot the Devils 34 to 26 and won 54-percent of the game’s faceoffs. They also out hit the Devils 17 to 10 and had less giveaways at four to the Devils’ ten. Both teams blocked 14 shots.
Individually, Blake Coleman led in shots with six, Coleman and Sami Vatanen led in hits with three each, Andy Greene led in blocked shots with six and Severson led in takeaways with two. Time on ice was led by Travis Zajac with 21:38 (5:36 on the PP and 4:38 on the PK). Vatanen led the d-men with 21:15 (3:34 on the PP and 40 seconds shorthanded).
Next up for the Devils, Monday features a date with the Chicago Blackhawks. The Hawks come in with a similar record to the Flyers and Devils. We will see if the Devils can knock off another struggling opponent. We will, of course, have coverage right here for you. In the meantime, if you would like, please feel free to leave some feedback down in the comments section. It is always appreciated.