It was a battle of the irresistible force meeting the immovable object as something had to give.
The Philadelphia Flyers came into Prudential Center having lost nine straight games and making a coaching change on Monday. Coach Alain Vigneault was relieved of his duties in favor of new interim Mike Yeo. Philly still lost their first under Yeo, a 7-5 loss to the Colorado Avalanche at Wells Fargo Center on Monday.
The Flyers have the worst record in the NHL since mid-November and things are starting to get a little rough in Philly.
The Devils, by comparison, have not had it as bad. They were winless in their last four – their last win coming at the Rock on November 28, a 5-2 victory over these same Flyers. Since then, they’ve been hit hard by the Sharks, Wild and Jets and only fell to the Senators in a shootout on Monday.
But tonight, the Devils were the ones who got off the schneid with a 3-0 shutout win over the Flyers as Philly was dealt their tenth straight defeat in return.
The Devils were in some new threads for this game. The much-discussed “Jersey” jerseys made their on-ice debut as a full uniform. They really do not look bad in their entirety as the whole uniform comes together and really does look pretty sharp against the contrast of the white ice. The dash of red on the numbers’ drop shadow and the “Jersey” wordmark make things pop just a little bit more as well.
This will be the first of 13 games that the Devils wear these uniforms this season.
The Devils went with the same lineup from the other night against Ottawa with Mason Geertsen, Jesper Boqvist and Christian Jaros all sitting.
Back in net for the Devils was Mackenzie Blackwood. Blackwood has the hot hand against the Flyers, remaining unbeaten against them with an 8-0-2 career record versus Philly. Tonight marked his second all-time shutout against the Flyers as well.
He stopped all 25 total shots he saw from the Flyers, including their two power play shots and all 23 even strength shots.
Facing him was the Flyers’ Carter Hart. He was equal to 24 of the Devils 26 total shots for a .923 save percentage. He stopped two of the three Devils power play shots and 22 of their 23 shots at even strength.
The Devils went 1-for-3 on the power play for the night while the Flyers were 0-for-2.
In a humorous note, Blackwood wore a recolored version of his regular mask with more emphasis on black and white in the color scheme. On the backplate was the word “mask” written in the same style script as the “Jersey” wordmark on the third jerseys.
Just poking a bit of fun at the Devils new duds, something they have certainly not shied away from as an organization.
With both teams coming in desperate and looking for a win, how would things shake down?
The game got off to a physical start. Just 9:06 into the contest, James van Riemsdyk cross checked Michael McLeod into the boards in front of the Philly bench. McLeod was about a foot off of the boards and went hard into them. It was a dangerous hit and van Riemsdyk would go off for a cross checking minor.
McLeod got up and thought about retaliating but realized that the Devils were about to go on the power play. He let off in a smart move while still making his displeasure known to van Riemsdyk.
The Flyers would kill that penalty, but the Devils showed that they were willing to play a more disciplined style.
The Devils finally broke through on the scoresheet in the second period 5:30 into that frame.
Jesper Bratt took an outlet pass from Damon Severson and carried the puck into the Philadelphia zone. He fought off a check along the far boards and passed cross-ice to Nico Hischier. Hischier was running out of room with the puck as he approached the Philly goal line and passed back to Bratt. Bratt took the pass and fired a shot from an incredibly sharp angle as Hart had lost his stick. The puck went in and the Devils had the 1-0 lead.
That goal would go down as the game winner, but the Devils would double their lead midway through the second period.
The Flyers’ Travis Konecny was called for goalie interference at the 9:55 mark of the second, putting the Devils on the power play again. Konecny bumped into Blackwood as he was cutting through and play was moving up the other end of the ice.
Konecny arguing vehemently that Blackwood was out of his crease when the two made contact, but there was enough leeway that the referee made the call and the Devils had the man advantage.
It was on this advantage that the Devils would make it 2-0 at 11:35 gone by.
Bratt got the puck up high to Ty Smith at the far point. Smith snapped off a quick wrist shot with Dawson Mercer in front of the Flyers’ net. The Devils had been able to get a partial change on for fresh legs as they were being kept to the outside perimeter by the Flyers PKers. Mercer tipped Smith’s shot past Hart to score his first goal in eight games and his first career NHL power play goal.
Dougie Hamilton was originally credited with the secondary assist; however, it was later changed to Bratt, who ended the game with two points – the goal and the assist.
With 1:53 left in the second, Pavel Zacha seemed to have ended his goal drought as well.
Severson took a quick shot on net and Hart made the save, popping the puck up in the air and watching it fall into the slot. Zacha poked at it and it went end-on-end over Hart, upstairs. Zacha had his first goal in six games and the Devils had the 3-0 lead.
Philly coach Yeo would use his coach’s challenge, alleging that the Devils were offside when they initially entered the zone. The replay showed that Zacha was a step over the Flyers blue line before the puck went was brought in by the Devils.
The call on the ice of good goal was reversed and the goal was taken off of the board. It was frustrating, no doubt for Zacha, who has been a bit snakebit of late, hitting a lot of posts and such, but it was the right call.
Philly’s Sean Couturier was nabbed for a trip on Mercer with six seconds remaining in the second period, setting the Devils to be on an almost-complete power play to begin the second. The Flyers would kill that off, however.
With the disappointment of the Zacha reversed goal still fresh in the Devils’ minds, the third period saw Hischier hit the post early in the period just after the power play ended.
With about 8:30 remaining in regulation, a Smith shot trickled behind Hart and simply sat on the goal line. It never fully crossed and was waved off before Flyers defenseman Travis Sanheimn carried it away to safety.
No Devil was there to put it in as New Jersey was in a full change with the unit on the ice being largely exhausted.
Blackwood would need to make a big save on Sanheim following that, helping his own cause in preserving the shutout.
The Flyers pulled Hart with roughly four minutes left in regulation. The Devils fought off the extra attacker for Philly and, with about 30 seconds to go in the game, Yegor Sharangovich grabbed the puck.
Sharangovich moved it to Jack Hughes in the neutral zone and broke in on a 2-on-1 with McLeod. McLeod made a nice move around the Philly defender who was back and deposited the puck into the empty net for the 3-0 lead and to ice the game for New Jersey.
The Devils outshot Philly 27-25. They had a rough night in the faceoff circle, winning only 32-percent of the game’s draws. Zacha led the Devils centers with a 50-percent winning percentage on faceoffs. McLeod won just 44-percent of his.
Contrast that to the Flyers’ Couturier winning 85-percent and Derick Brassard winning 88-percent of their faceoffs and you can see that Philly’s best faceoff men won while the Devils did not.
The Devils logged only four team penalty minutes while the Flyers had six. The Devils ended up with 21 hits to the Flyers’ 20, edging Philly in that category. The Flyers had 15 blocked shots to New Jersey’s eight but Philly ended up with ten giveaways to the Devils’ seven as a team.
Hamilton led all Devils skaters with 21:07 of total ice time (including 3:44 on the power play and 24 seconds of shorthanded time). That narrowly beat out Severson who logged 21:01 of total time (including 1:56 on the PP and 2:00 on the PK).
Hischier led the forwards in ice time with 19:38 of total time logged – which includes 2:45 on the power play and 1:07 killing penalties.
Nate Bastian and McLeod led in shots on goal with three each. The Super Buddies (Bastian and McLeod) also led in hits with four apiece. Smith and Jonas Siegenthaler led in blocks with two each. Jimmy Vesey led in giveaways with two while takeaways were led by Hughes with three.
Next up, the Devils will conclude their three-game homestand by welcoming the Nashville Predators to Newark. That will conclude the Devils and Predators’ season series as they met played in Nashville the day after Thanksgiving last month.
Puck drop for that game is 7:30 PM and the game will be broadcast on ESPN+. We will have coverage for you right here following the game.
Until then, continue to have a great week everyone!