Today the Devils began the second half of their season officially. It came with a rubber match in Pittsburgh at the PPG Paints Arena. The teams had split their two meetings in Newark and the Devils were going into a lion’s den where the Penguins rarely lose.
Instead after a hard-fought 60 minutes of regulation, the Devils came away with a 2-1 overtime victory.
The Devils made some lineup changes with Nikita Gusev slotting out in favor of Michael McLeod, who was recalled from the taxi squad, and Nick Merkley again playing for the injured Nate Bastian, who was placed on Injured Reserve.
Back from injury was also Mackenzie Blackwood, who got the start this afternoon and played phenomenal.
He made 35 saves on 36 Penguins shots for a .972 save percentage. He stopped one Pittsburgh shorthanded shot and all five of their power play shots. He was 29-for-30 at even strength.
Facing him was Tristan Jarry, who started the first game of this three-game series. He stopped 33-of-35 Devils shots for a .943 save percentage. The Devils did not register a shorthanded shot (although Pavel Zacha hit the pipe midway through the second period shorthanded). He stopped all three Devils power play shots and was 30-for-32 at even strength.
Both teams were 0-for-2 on the man advantage.
The Devils outplayed the Pens in the first period. Yegor Sharangovich hit the post very early in the game with Jarry gloving aside the puck to keep the rebound from the trailer.
Despite the hard Devils work, it was the Penguins who got on the board first when Sidney Crosby scored his twelfth at the 3:37 mark of the first. On the goal, Crosby gave to Brian Dumoulin just inside of the Devils’ blueline, he then passed to Bryan Rust who passed to Jake Guentzel who passed back to Crosby, who banked it off the post and off of Blackwood’s skate and in for the 1-0 lead.
And that is how it stayed until 4:48 into the second frame when Sami Vatanen and the Devils tied it. On this one, Travis Zajac dug the puck out of the corner. Janne Kuokkanen got it and passed to Vatanen at the point. Vatanen one-timed it by Jarry to tie the game at one.
And that all the scoring until OT.
It remained knotted at one until the 2:50 mark of OT. And this was a pretty one. Jesper Bratt gave ot Zacha just into the Pittsburgh zone. Zacha gave it back and Bratt tried a wraparound, coming in tight on the post, and sneaking it by Jarry’s skate and the left goal post. That gave the Devils the 2-1 OT win, dropping Pittsburgh to 7-2 in overtime this year. Ty Smith had the secondary assist on the winner.
Team stats-wise, the Devils were barely outshot 36-35, they won 52-percent of the game’s faceoffs. They were outhit 26-24, had nine blocks to the Pens’ 12 and had only three giveaways to the Pens’ ten.
Damon Severson led all Devils skaters in ice time with 24:49 while Jack Hughes led the forwards with 18:17. Hughes and Severson tied in power play time with 2:14 each.
Shots on goal were led y Kyle Palmieri, and Bratti with five. Hits were led by Miles Wood, Bratt and Severson with three each. Blocked shots were led by Vatanen with three. Takeaways led by McLeod, Palmieri, Zacha, Kuokkanen, Ty Smith and Vatanen each with one.
So, next up the Devils head tp Eastern Pennsylvania to take on the Flyers. That game is at 7 PM on Tuesday on NBCSN. We will, of course, have a recap here up after the game.
Until then, stay safe everyone!