If the Devils did nothing else tonight, they showed heart. The team was officially eliminated from qualifying from the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs earlier today when the Columbus Blue Jackets defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 3-0. Yet the Devils did not just roll over for the Vancouver Canucks. They went down early but fought back to win 3-2 in a shootout.
This was the final stop on the team’s Western Canada trip and they were looking for a winning record, having lost to Calgary and defeated Edmonton. The Devils last three games prior to the one in Vancouver have been good: they have gone 2-for-8 on the power play over those games and have scored a total of 12 goals – ten of those coming in the last two games. Their offense has really picked up a little bit and that is always a good thing.
The roster only saw one change toinght, as John Quenneville (who scored a goal in the Edmonton win) was out and Eric Tangradi slotted back in up front. He played on the fourth line centered by Michael McLeod and Kurtis Gabriel along the right wing.
The goaltending matchup saw Mackenzie Blackwood continue to go back-and-forth with Cory Schneider. He was up tonight and made 25 saves on 27 Canucks shots for a .926 save percentage. In the shootout, he only gave up one goal in seven rounds and it was a real beauty from a very talented Elias Pettersson. This was the bounce back game that Blackwood needed after the nine-goals-against debacle that was the Calgary outing.
Opposing him was Jacob Markstrom, who stopped 31 of 33 Devils shots for a .939 save percentage on the night. He seemed unbeatable early in the game, but the Devils were able to solve him eventually and ended up with the win.
On special teams, the Devils were 0-for-1 with their only chance coming early in the first period. They did, however, have three shots on that power play, but did not score. They also registered a shorthanded shot. The Canucks were 1-for-5 with three shots on the power play as well.
Vancouver would go down a defenseman early when Christopher Tanev was hurt blocking a Kyle Palmieri shot early in the game. He only played 3:07 and with him out, the Canucks were playing the majority of the game with only five d-men.
After a scoreless first period, rookie phenom Pettersson (who would end up being named the game’s first star) got the goal scoring going when he scored on the power play 3:18 into the second period. Drew Stafford was called for tripping Alexander Edler at 2:31 and Vancouver had the man advantage. Brock Boeser was able to swing the puck around to Pettersson who just snapped a shot off upstairs over Blackwood’s glove hand. Bo Horvat had the secondary assist and it was 1-0 Canucks.
A really strange one doubled up the Vancouver lead 1:42 into the third period. Tanner Pearson took a quick shot from just inside the Devils’ blue line that was headed wide of net. Blackwood tried to settle it and it redirected off of his stick blade and into the goal behind him. Horvat had the lone assist.
But from there, the Devils were on the comeback trail. First, Blake Coleman was stopped by Markstrom on a shorthanded breakaway early in the third period. That one, although Coleman could not finish, seemed to wake the Devils squad up.
At 5:41, Kenny Agostino went low-to-high to Connor Carrick at the point. He fired and Kevin Rooney tipped the shot by Markstrom to make it 2-1 Vancouver. The Devils had finally solved the Canucks’ goalie and that would set things in motion.
At the 13:34 mark of the third frame, Tangradi made a nice drop pass to Will Butcher at the point. Butcher let off a shot that Markstrom made the initial save on. Both Tangradi and Stefan Noesen were collapsing down low and Tangradi pounced on the rebound, making a nice pass to Noesen near the side of the crease. Noesen put it home and the game was tied. You could hear a pin drop at the Rogers Arena as the place was just deflated.
Noesen, who had a career-high seven shots on goal to go along with that goal, was named the game’s second star. Markstrom was the third star.
Overtime was a back-and-forth affair with Vancouver having a 3-on-1 odd man rush at one point late in the extra session. They could not get one past Blackwood and we were off to a shootout.
Pettersson scored on the Canucks’ first try, making a nice move around Blackwood and putting the puck in with a one-handed backhand shot. That put Vancouver up, but that was all Blackwood would give them.
Palmieri finished out the first round for New Jersey and he was stopped with a right pad save by Markstrom. In the second round, Boeser hit the post and Stafford banked one in off the back post past Markstrom to tie the shootout at one. In the third round, Tanner Pearson hit the post again for Vancouver and Coleman lost control of the puck. In the fourth round, Alexander Edler was stopped by Blackwood and Agostino hit the side of the net. The fifth round saw Horvat’s shot saved by Blackwood while Noesen’s shot was saved. That took us to round six where Nikolay Goldobin also hit the outside of the net for the Canucks and Travis Zajac’s shot fluttered over the net as Markstrom got his right pad on it.
Finally in the seventh round, Markus Granlund had his shot stopped by Blackwood, but Damon Severson beat Markstrom with a shot upstairs that he released while falling down. It wasn’t pretty, but it was effective. The Devils won 3-2 in a shootout.
New Jersey out shot the Canucks 33-27 and won 53-percent of the game’s faceoffs. They out hit Vancouver by ten 26-16. Vancouver blocked more shots at 17-13 but the Devils had less giveaways at five to the Canucks’ eight.
Individually, Severson led in ice time with 26:15 (1:05 on the PP and 6:59 on the PK) while Zajac led the forwards with 20:51 (54 seconds on the man advantage and 5:18 shorthanded). As mentioned, Noesen had a career-high seven shots to lead in that category. He also led in hits with five. Coleman and Steven Santini led in blocked shots with three each. Takeaways were led by Zajac with three.
Next up, the Devils will come back to the States, but stay on the road. They travel to Denver to take on the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday, St. Patrick’s Day, at 3 PM ET. We will have coverage for you here and do not hesitate to leave a comment if you wish, it is always appreciated.