They were close.
Although this 4-3 shootout loss technically snaps their nine-game regulation losing streak and they will not join the 1983-84 Devils in the club record books in the futility category, they still could not hold a lead with the game falling apart late in the third period for them.
This is the first of four straight against the Flyers. The next two will be in Newark.
Rosters-wise, not much changed, Mikhail Maltsev remains out with injury. Ty Smith was thought to be back tonight, but he is not progressing the way the staff wanted and was held out again. In his place was Colton White – playing in his third straight pro hockey game in three nights (Friday for Binghamton, Saturday in his season debut for the New Jersey Devils in Pittsburgh and tonight for New Jersey in Philadelphia). PK Subban and Jonas Siegenthaler remain on the COVID protocol list and Aaron Dell was the healthy scratch.
Janne Kuokkanen was also back in while Marian Studenic slotted out.
On the second half of a back-to-back, the Devils went back to Mackenzie Blackwood (who was 3-0-1 all-time coming into this game against the Flyers). Blackwood made 33 saves on 36 Philly shots for a .917 save percentage. He stopped an incredible four shorthanded shots by the Flyers and was 29-for-32 at even strength.
Facing him was Brian Elliott who made 29 saves on 32 Devils shots total for a .906 save percentage. He stopped one shorthanded attempt by the Devils and three power play shots. He was 25-for-28 at even strength.
The Flyers were 0-for-1 on the power play while the Devils were 0-for-3 (including a chance in the overtime period that they did not capitalize on.
Philly were in their black alternates with the comically large numbers (great for a stadium, not so much for an arena) tonight.
The Devils had not had a lead in eight games but that was about to change as they came out flying (no pun intended). Pavel Zacha was stopped on an early breakaway.
And then, just 4:56 in, Michael McLeod scored. It came when Miles Wood, against the boards near the benches, chipped the puck to McLeod, springing him on a 2-on-1 with Nate Bastian. Bastian took a pass and then returned it to McLeod, who finished to make it 1-0 Devils.
The Flyers, however, would have an answer before the period was out. At 11:45, Sean Couturier scored when Claude Giroux won a faceoff in the Devils zone back to Ivan Provorov who went D-to-D with Philippe Myers. Myers took a shot from the point and Couturier redirected it by Blackwood to tie things headed into the first intermission.
The second period saw Wood give the Devils back the lead when he scored his 16th at 7:07 of the second. Bastian, with two Flyers defenders on him, fought them off and slid a pass to Wood as he was falling down. Wood then finished at the near side of the net.
Wood is the Devils’ best hope for a 20-goal scorer this year. The Devils have had a 20-goal scorer every year since the lockout shortened 2012-13 season when David Clarkson led the team with 15 goals.
In the second, the lead was preserved when Connor Carrick sacrificed himself on a mad scramble in front of the Devils’ net. He blocked a shot with Blackwood down in the snow angel and helped keep the puck out of the net.
So the Devils took a 2-1 lead into the third and Pavel Zacha would add to that 9:16 into the frame. Nico Hischier got the puck up to Jesper Bratt, who bobbled the puck, settled it and made a no look pass to Zacha in the slot. Zacha finished and the Devils had an insurance goal.
But, as we shall see, it was not enough.
First, a scary moment as late in the period, Andreas Johnsson was cross-checked into the boards by Scott Laughton. He was a about a foot off the boards and fell awkwardly into them, favoring his left leg when he was helped up.
Philly would pull Elliott with about 2:33 left in regulation and it would pay off for them. It began at the 18:34 mark when Giroux took a backhanded pass from James van Riemsdyk that went through the legs and skates of a few Devils on the way to Giroux. Giroux got it at the near side of the net and tapped it in to make it 3-2 Devils. Jakub Voracek had the secondary assist.
Twenty-two seconds later, Giroux struck again when Voracek passed to van Riemsdyk in the slot. The Devils’ defense went to van Riemsdyk and he passed to Giroux, all alone at the far side of the net and, again, he tapped it home to tie the game at three.
That goal came at 18:56, so as the final minute wound down, we were off to overtime.
OT saw the Devils with a power play opportunity that the Devils could not convert on and we were off to a shootout.
The Flyers went first and in the first round, Giroux continued his hot streak by scoring five-hole on Blackwood. Jack Hughes finished out round one for the Devils and Elliott stopped him.
In round two, Couturier also beat Blackwood five-hole and Yegor Sharangovich scored.
Blackwood stopped Travis Konecny in round three while Jesper Bratt deked and converted to tie things up.
In round four, Scott Laughton and Jesper Boqvist were both stopped with Blackwood making a nice right pad save on Laughton.
Round five saw Blackwood get a piece of a Provorov shot with his glove while Zacha was stopped by Elliott.
Round six decided things when Kevin Hayes deked and scored on his backhand around Blackwood leaving the game up to Hischier. Nico was stopped by Elliott and the Flyers had the comeback shootout victory.
Team stats saw the Devils outshot 36-32 by Philly. The Devils won 47-percent of the game’s faceoffs with Hischier leading all Devils’ centers with a 71-percent winning clip. The Flyers had 18 hits to the Devils’ 15. The Devils led in blocked shots with 19 to the Flyers’ ten. The Flyers had 12 turnovers to the Devils five.
Time on ice saw Damon Severson led with 26;18 while Hughes led the forwards with 21:37. Hughes also led in power play time with 4:36.
Shots on goal were led by Yegor Sharangovich with five. Hits were led by Bastian and McLeod with four each. Blocks were led by Carrick with four (including that big one in the second period). Takeaways were led by Zacha, Wood and Ryan Murray with one each.
Next up, the Devils return home to take on these same Philadelphia Flyers and hopefully to try to get in the win column again. Puck drop for that one is 7 PM on Tuesday as Colton White finally gets some much-deserved time off.
Until then, stay safe everyone!