The Devils traveled down to Carolina to take on the Hurricanes in what they knew would be a tough task: defeat a Canes as they battled for a playoff spot. The Devils could not complete that task, but did put up a good fight as they lost 5-2.
Some roster notes to get to before we begin as the Devils inserted Colton White into the defense to sit Connor Carrick. Up front, they slotted in recently recalled Nick Merkley for John Hayden. Merkley was making his New Jersey Devils debut tonight. He was not, however, making his NHL debut, as he played in one game for Arizona back in 2017. Merkley was on the fourth line which was centered by Kevin Rooney with Joey Anderson on the other wing. White skated on the third D paring with Mirco Mueller.
Nico Hischier remained out with his injury as well.
The goaltending matchup saw Louis Domingue go for the Devils, as the coaching staff tried to loosen some of the workload on Mackenzie Blackwood. Domingue stopped 26 of the 31 shots he faced for an .839 save percentage. It was also a decent roll of the dice since Domingue, coming into tonight’s game, was 3-0-1 lifetime against the Hurricanes. Facing him was Petr Mrazek, who turned aside 35 of the Devils 37 shots against for a .946 save percentage.
The special teams saw the Devils go 0-for-4 on the power play, including a 5-on-3 try late in the game, with 12 shots. Carolina was 0-for-2 on the man advantage with no shots. They did have three shorthanded shots, however while New Jersey did not record one.
The Canes were in their black alternate uniforms for tonight’s game.
Nino Niederreiter kicked off the scoring 3:43 into the game. Martin Necas took the puck down low and got it up high to Haydn Fleury at the point. Fleury went point-to-point with Niederreiter, who shot from the blue line and beat Domingue through a screen.
Things, however, looked up when Mueller scored at the 7:07 mark of the first on a beautiful goal. Nikita Gusev made a cross-ice pass to Travis Zajac. Zajac skated into the Carolina zone and drew the goalie out of his crease a little. Mueller jumped up in to the play and took a pass from Zajac. It was an easy tap in for him to tie the game at one apiece.
But Carolina would get the lead back (a lead they would not relinquish) before the first period was up.
At 11:23 into the first, Jordan Staal won a faceoff back to Brett Pesce at the point. Pesce shot and Warren Foegele was able to jump on the rebound and put it in to make it 2-1 Carolina.
From there, the wheels began to fall off for the Devils. At the 13:46 mark of the second period, the Canes had a partial 3-on-2 odd man rush led by Sebastian Aho. He played tic-tac-toe with Teuve Teravainen who found Andrei Svechnikov cutting across the goal mouth. He scored to make it 3-1.
Later in the period, while the Devils were killing off a Wayne Simmonds tripping penalty, Zajac hit the post on a shorthanded breakaway.
The third period iced things for Carolina when a shot from the point was swept into the Devils net by Damon Severson as he was trying to clear the rebound. Necas got credit for the goal unassisted. This was the second time this season that this has happened to Severson. Severson also had his eight-game point streak broken in this game. This goal made it 4-1 Hurricanes.
At around the 12:28 mark of the third, PK Subban made a nifty stretch pass to Miles Wood. Wood was hauled down on a breakaway by Joel Edmundson that led to Edmundson taking a slashing penalty.
Carolina killed it off, but after being stopped by Domingue on two shorthanded breakaways, Edmundson scored when he took a pass from Niederreiter coming out of the penalty box. He broke in all alone on Domingue and scored when he tapped his own rebound in after Domingue made the initial save. Pesce had the secondary assist on the goal that made it 5-1 Carolina.
The Devils added one more to make it 5-2 when Merkley found a loose puck in deep in the Hurricanes’ zone and found Anderson by the goal mouth. He put it in and Nick Merkley had his first NHL point (an assist on the goal).
Late in the game, Carolina got into some penalty trouble when Pesce was called for a trip at 15:17, then Staal went off for a trip as well at 16:05, putting the Devils on a 5-on-3 power play for 1:13.
The Canes killed the first penalty and the Devils pulled Domingue to make it 6-on-4, but failed to score. They kept Domingue on the bench, but it was too little too late as New Jersey just could not get anything going and the Hurricanes won 5-2.
The Devils outshot the Canes, 37-31. They also, again lost more faceoffs than they won, going 44-percent. Rooney was the centerman with the best personal percentage at 67-percent.
The Devils were also outhit 17-8, but had more blocked shots at 17-4. Carolina, for all of the Devils’ loose play, had double the turnovers as New Jersey at 14-7.
Subban led all New Jersey skaters by racking up 21:00 of ice time. He played 2:51 on the power play and 51 seconds on the penalty kill. Gusev led the forwards with 19:50 while playing 5:08 on the power play.
Shots on goal were led by Kyle Palmieri and Gusev, who both had five. Blake Coleman, Merkley and Subban led the hit parade with two each. Blocks were led by a wide margin by Andy Greene with seven. Coleman, Pavel Zacha, Jack Hughes, Mueller and Severson each had a takeaway to lead there.
Next up, the Devils briefly return home to host the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday. That game starts at 6 PM ET. Until then, I hope everyone had a good Valentine’s Day and we’ll see you Sunday!