Devils Limp into All-Star Break; Clobbered by Maple Leafs

The Devils completed their home-and-home back-to-back with the Toronto Maple Leafs with the New Jersey portion of the two games and, while last night was the two points that got away from the Devils, tonight was the two points that never were.

The Devils found themselves down 4-0 after one period of play and the Leafs never looked back, defeating New Jersey 7-1 at Prudential Center.

Roster-wise, the Devils again sat Mason Geertsen, Marian Studenic and Christian Jaros, going with the same lineup as last night except who started in goal.

Jon Gillies was back between the pipes for the first two periods for New Jersey. He stopped 22-of-28 Toronto shots for a .786 save percentage tonight while also helping to stymy the Leafs’ special teams. He stopped their lone shorthanded shot and both of their power play chances. The Leafs were 0-for-2 on the man advantage. At five-on-five, he got 19 of Toronto’s 25 shots.

Akira Schmid came on in relief in the third period to play the final 20 minutes and let in one goal, making seven saves on eight shots for an .875 save percentage. All of those shot attempts and the goal came at even strength as Schmid did not face the Leafs’ power play unit.

The Maple Leafs were back to Jack Campbell, who got pulled in last night’s game but fared much better tonight. He made 31 saves on 32 total Devils shots for a .969 save percentage. He turned aside the Devils lone shorthanded chance and all four of their power play shots – the Devils went 0-for-3 on the power play as a team. At even strength, Campbell was equal to 26 of the Devils’ 27 shots.

This is largely a quick and dirty recap of the game as it’s now late as I write this and, having witnessed this travesty live, do not wish to subject myself to even more nightmare fuel.

The Devils did wear Chinese Lunar New Year jerseys during warmups as well as make a pretty cool presentation during the first intermission. A traditional dragon dance made its way around the rink with a group of musicians playing music on Chinese instruments. Mascot NJ Devil wore one of the warmup jerseys with his name written in Chinese characters on the back for the entire game and all in-game graphics on the big board showing Devils player names were presented transliterated into Chinese characters.

Also, head coach Lindy Ruff missed his second game behind the bench while mourning the loss of his father Leeson.

The game got out of hand early for the Devils as the Leafs accumulated a 4-0 lead before the end of the first period.

It began 2:13 into the contest when Pierre Engvall cut off Gillies playing the puck behind the Devils net and forced a turnover on the forecheck.

He was able to quickly center to Jason Spezza in the slot and Spezza scored to make it 1-0 Maple Leafs. It was a miscue by the Devils that ended up in the back of the net. A sign of things to come no doubt. It was also Spezza’s second goal in two nights against the Devils.

And speaking of multiple goals against the Devils in two nights. Auston Matthews, who had a hat trick against New Jersey in Toronto on Monday, would notch his fourth in two nights with 8:39 gone by in the first period.

The Devils were unable to clear their zone as the Leafs kept the puck in. A hard around on the boards led to Michael Bunting winning a board battle along the far half wall and Mitchell Marner picking it up as support.

Marner passed to Matthews, who was drifting into the high slot and was all alone. He took the pass, set and sniped a shot top shelf past Gillies to make it 2-0 Maple Leafs.

Goal number three came less than 30 seconds later when Justin Holl’s breakout pass is tipped by Ilya Mikheyev into the Devils zone. It went into the far corner and Mikheyev chased it in, recovering it, turning around and passing to David Kampf, who was drifting all alone to the top of the far faceoff circle. He had enough time and space to set and shoot and beat Gillies to make it 3-0 Toronto.

Goal number four came with about 5:29 to go in the first period when Marner and Matthews teamed up again.

This time, the Leafs’ forecheck forced a turnover behind the New Jersey net that Matthews grabbed, making a backhand pass to Marner in the slot. Marner walked in on Gillies and scored his 13th goal of the year to make it 4-0 Leafs going into the first intermission.

The onslaught did not let up in the second period.

The Leafs made it 5-0 8:25 into the middle period when Kampf forced a Jack Hughes breakout attempt to pop up into the air. Marner gloved it down and broke in with Michael Bunting on a partial 2-on-1 with Ryan Graves the lone Devils back. Marner and Bunting played give-and-got and Bunting scored to up the score to 5-0 and the rout was officially on.

And still the Leafs were not done.

At the 15:12 mark of the second, Wayne Simmonds stole the puck just inside the Devils blue line. He made a slick move around the Devils defense and dished to Engvall, who scored to make it 6-0 Maple Leafs.

The Leafs had put up a touchdown on the Devils with 20 minutes still to play.

The Devils would finally get on the board 3:31 into the third period.

Jesper Bratt intercepted a Toronto dump in and made a quick breakout pass to Yegor Sharangovich. Sharangovich made a rink-wide pass to Hughes. Hughes then skated into the Toronto zone and fired a shot past Campbell to score the only Devils goal of the night.

Of course, the Leafs got that one back about 2:30 later with 5:57 gone by in the third.

The Devils had won control of the puck behind their own net. Damon Severson pushed it up to Janne Kuokkanen, whose clearing attempt was grabbed by Marner. Marner took a shot from the top of the near faceoff circle past Schmid (who had taken over the Devils crease for the third period). This gave Toronto the extra point and made it 7-1, which went down as our final.

The Devils were outshot 36 to 32 and won 45-percent of the game’s faceoffs. Dawson Mercer and Pavel Zacha each took up the slack in the faceoff circle, winning 50-percent of their personal draws, although I believe Zacha spent time on the wing.

In terms of total team penalty minutes, the Leafs racked up six while New Jersey had four. The Devils outhit the Leafs 12 to nine. Toronto had 12 blocked shots to the Devils’ six while in team giveaways, the Devils finished with ten and the Maple Leafs had six.

Ty Smith led all Devils skaters with 21:45 logged (which includes 1:51 on the power play and nine seconds shorthanded). Also, amongst defensemen, Jonas Siegenthaler led the blue liners in PK time with 2:15 out of his 19:20 of total TOI. Severson led in power play time with 2:26 out of his 20:32 of total time.

Hughes led the forwards with 18:51 of total ice time (which included 2:35 of PP time and nine seconds of PK time). Nico Hischier led the forwards in special teams time in both power play time (2:37 logged) and shorthanded time (1:45 logged) among his 16:34 of total ice time.

Jimmy Vesey led the Devils in shots on goal with five. Nate Bastian led in hits with three. Andreas Johnsson, Hischier, Kuokkanen, Colton White, Severson and PK Subban each logged one blocked shot to lead in that category. Hughes led in personal giveaways with five while Vesey and Bratt each had one takeaway to lead the Devils in personal takeaways.

And with that horror show over for the Devils, the team will move on into the All-Star break.

Jack Hughes will represent the team this Friday and Saturday in Las Vegas for the Skills Competition and the All-Star Game.

We will have coverage of the All-Star Weekend later this week as well as the Devils’ return to action on Monday, February 7 when the Devils travel to Ottawa to take on the Senators to begin the home stretch. That game is at 7 PM next Monday and will air on MSG+.

In the meantime, congratulations to Alexander Holtz, who Catherine Bogart of the “Inside the Devils Blog” is reporting was named the AHL Rookie of the Month for January 2022.

The announcement was made yesterday by the American Hockey League.

According to Bogart, Holtz compiled five goals and eight assists totaling 13 points over the month over ten games for the Utica Comets.

She said that he has 11 goals and 12 assists (23 points) over 21 games in the AHL in 2021-22 total.

He has also played seven games at the NHL level, where he has logged two assists. Bogart noted that his last game in the National Hockey League came on January 4 of this year against the Boston Bruins.

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