The Devils suffered their first back-to-back losses of the season, falling in the second game of a two-game set to the Philadelphia Flyers at Prudential Center tonight, 3-1.
The Devils did get some good news roster-wise today. Jesper Bratt made his season debut after clearing the COVID protocol yesterday and skating with the team for the first time since returning to North America from Sweden. He skated on the top line with Jack Hughes and Andreas Johnsson.
With that, Nick Merkley was reassigned to the taxi squad. In addition, goalie Aaron Dell joined Mackenzie Blackwood on the COVID protocol list, this just a precaution as he goes into quarantine coming in from Canada – remember, he was claimed off of waivers from Winnipeg.
With Blackwood still out and Dell just getting into the fold, Scott Wedgewood got another start for the Devils. He made 14 saves on 17 shots (all at event strength as the Flyers got neither a power play or shorthanded shot) for an .824 save percentage on the night.
Facing him was Carter Hart. Hart had something of a chip on his shoulder after letting six goals in in his last start versus Boston. There, he went “full Hextall” on his stick, destroying it on the crossbar.
Tonight, he was better. Much better, making 33 saves on 34 Devils shots and getting 27-of-28 even strength shots. He got all six Devils power play shots. The Devils did not register a shorthanded shot. He finished with a .971 save percentage.
Before we begin, this game was Lindy Ruff’s 1,500th NHL career game behind the bench as a head coach. Congratulations to him on this remarkable milestone, as he becomes only the seventh coach in NHL history to reach that number.
Likewise, Travis Zajac, barring anything unforeseen, should be playing in his 1,000th NHL game on Sunday at Buffalo, so that watch is on.
The Devils actually got on the board first when Damon Severson notched his first of the season. It came at the 7:11 mark of the first when Severson picked up a puck just inside the Devils’ blueline, skated down the rink and snapped one top shelf over Hart’s stick side. Ryan Murray had the lone assist on the goal.
Unfortunately for the Devils, it would only take Philly about 2:12 to get that back.
At the 9:23 mark of the first, Nate Prosser scored in his first NHL game since January 2019. The Flyers won the faceoff and Erik Gustafsson shot from the point. Wedgewood made the initial save on James van Riemsdyk’s shot, but Prosser put the rebound over the goal line to make it 1-1 heading into the first intermission.
The second period saw the Devils with a great 4-on-1 chance when they caught Philly in a line change after the Devils had just killed a penalty. They did not score, however.
Going into the third period, the Devils were outshooting the Flyers 24 to eight and no Flyer had registered more than one shot.
Things were going to change, however.
It began 2:10 into the third when Philly dumped the puck into the Devils’ zone. Nicolas Aube-Kubel got it to Connor Bunnaman who hit the post with a shot. The puck trickled through the goal crease and came to Michael Raffl, who shoveled it in for the 2-1 lead.
Philly would strike again at the 6:26 mark when off of a faceoff win, the Flyers cycled the puck from Jakub Voracek to Gustafsson who eventually found Claude Giroux cutting backdoor. He scored and that made it 3-1, our final.
The Devils would try to pull Wedgewood with about 3:45 to go in regulation, but that would come to nothing and the Devils lost their second straight to the Flyers.
The Devils outshot the Flyers, 34-17 in the end while both teams put up an ofer on the power play: the Devils going 0-for-4 and Philly 0-for-2. The Flyers won 74-percent of the game’s faceoffs, giving the Devils a dismal 26-percent. Each team had 14 hits, the Flyers had 16 blocked shots to the Devils’ nine and the Flyers had one less giveaway at six to the Devils’ seven.
Individually, Severson led every Devil with 24:32 of ice time while Jack Hughes led the forwards with 23:04. Kyle Palmieri led everyone in the game, Flyer or Devil with six shots on goal, and PK Subban was close with five. Hits were led by Dmitry Kulikov with three and blocks were led by Ty Smith, Severson and Kulikov, who each had two. Takeaways were led by Michael McLeod with two.
Next up, the Devils shuffle off to Buffalo for two games this Saturday and Sunday where they will face Taylor Hall for the first time since the trade (they did not get to face Arizona last year after he was sent there).
I will be working both days this weekend, but I have the DVR fired up and will be trying to get both games versus the Sabres up in a timely fashion. Until then, be safe everyone!