It was not a blowout and it was not lopsided. The Devils played a much better game today, narrowly suffering loss number nine when the Pittsburgh Penguins defeated them 4-2.
The Devils lost some more players as Jonas Siegenthaler joined PK Subban on the COVID Protocol list and Janne Kuokkanen joined Mikhail Maltsev and Ty Smith as injured. Kuokkanen blocked a shot on Thursday with his hand. Nolan Foote also did not play. Aaron Dell was the healthy scratch as Scott Wedgewood served as the backup.
And with that, Mackenzie Blackwood was back from injury. He stopped 33 of the 36 Pens shots thrown at him for a .917 save percentage. He stopped both of Pittsburgh’s shorthanded shots, let in their only power play shot and was 31-for-33 at even strength.
Facing him, Pittsburgh put out Casey DeSmith, who stopped 34 of the Devils’ 36 shots for a .944 save percentage. He got all five of the Devils power play shots and was 29-for-31 at even strength.
The Devils were 0-for-2 on the man advantage while the Penguins were 1-for-1.
The Pens got on the board first as the Devils have now allowed the first goal in their last eight games. The goal came off the stick of Jeff Carter at 9:41 of the first when a puck bounced to Jason Zucker and he was off to the races. He skated through traffic in the Devils’ zone and gave to Carter who was with him. Carter then snapped the puck by Blackwood to make it 1-0. Mike Matheson had the secondary assist.
Jared McCann made it 2-0 at 12:50 on the power play when Kris Letang fired a wrist shot from just inside the Devils’ blue line and Jake Guentzel – who was providing the screen in front – guided the rebound to McCann who was at the far side of the net. He shoveled it in while falling down to double the Pens lead.
In the second period, Bryan Rust made it 3-0 at the 7:30 mark when Sidney Crosby who a faceoff back to Cody Ceci. He went D-to-D with Guentzel and Guentzel shot. Rust was in front of the net and tipped the shot by Blackwood with the puck actually going wide until it hit Matt Tennyson and then went in off of Rust.
Although the Devils were down, they were not out.
At the 8:45 mark of the second, Jack Hughes made it 3-1 when Will Butcher thew a shot on net from the near boards. It went to Yegor Sharangovich at the far side of the net and bounced off of his stick to Hughes at the near side of the net. Hughes put it in and suddenly the Devils were back into things.
In the third period, Miles Wood scored 10:58 cut the Pittsburgh lead to one on a nice one.
Damon Severson gave the puck to Ryan Murray who faked a shot at the near faceoff circle and passed to Wood at the far faceoff circle for the one-timer. He shot through a Michael McLeod screen and scored.
Later in the game, Nick Merkley fought Zucker following Zucker’s hit on a vulnerable Marian Studenic. It stood to fire the Devils up and get them going in what would be a wild finish.
Blackwood was pulled with just over 1:30 remaining in regulation and the Devils had a few great chances, none greater than Nico Hischier’s chance with seconds left from point blank that just got pushed wide of the Penguins’ net.
Crosby would add an unassisted empty net goal, a desperation clear more than anything with 0.01 seconds remaining in the game. That gave us our final of 4-2.
The Devils have now dropped nine straight in regulation, one shy of the club record of ten straight set in 1983.
The Pens outshot the Devils 37-36. New Jersey won just 39-percent of the game’s faceoffs – with Hischier leading the centers with a personal 67-percent winning clip. The Devils outhit the Pens, 29-26 and had less giveaways at three to Pittsburgh’s nine but the Pens blocked one more shot at nine to the Devils’ eight.
Will Butcher led all Devils in time on ice with 25:07 while Hughes led the forwards with 22:19. Pavel Zacha led in power play time with 3:02.
Shots were led by Wood and Jesper Bratt with six each, hits by Nate Bastian with six, blocked shots by Yegor Sharangovich and Wood with two each and takeaways by Sharangovich and Hughes with two apiece.
Next up, the Devils will try to snap their losing streak in Philadelphia when they take on the Flyers at 6 PM tomorrow. That is the beginning of four straight against Philly with the middle two games of the series taking place at Prudential Center and the first and fourth in Philly.
We will see you then with coverage of course. Stay safe everyone!