Whew! That was quite a little hockey game there. The Chicago Blackhawks came to town and the Devils gathered two points as the offenses exploded for a combined 13 goals. The Devils came away with the 8-5 victory on home ice to notch their first back-to-back wins of the 2019 calendar year.
Before we begin, congratulations to former Devils broadcaster Mike “Doc” Emrick who was announced as a new member of the National Sports Media Hall of Fame as per an article on the Devils’ website. In addition, Devils radio play-by-play guy Matt Loughlin has been named the New Jersey Sportscaster of the Year by the same organization. Congratulations to both men for these well-deserved honors.
Roster-wise for the Devils, Stefan Noesen was placed on injured reserve (lower body) retoractive to January 12. Egor Yakovlev was recalled from Binghamton to take his place on the roster and was a healthy scratch today along with Steven Santini and Blake Pietila (who was sitting in favor of Kevin Rooney, who played primarily on a line with Brian Boyle and Drew Stafford).
The goaltending matchup saw New Jersey go back to Mackenzie Blackwood who stopped 27 shots of 32 thrown at him by Chicago for an .844 save percentage. The Blackhawks started with Cam Ward who made 19 saves on 25 shots for a .760 save percentage. Ward was pulled in the third period in favor of Collin Delia who went 14-for-15 for a .933 save percentage.
Now to the goals. The Devils kicked off this deal when Blake Coleman scored unassisted at 13:50 of the first period. It came after Coleman was done serving a hooking penalty and came out of the box on a breakaway. He went backhand-forehand using a head fake and beat Ward to make it 1-0 Devils. This extended his point scoring streak to four games.
If you are a hockey coach preaching good, solid defensive hockey, you might want to look away from the second period. If you are a fan who likes offense, this one was for you. Your mileage may vary, of course. Eight total goals scored in the second combined between the two teams. A graphic on the MSG+ telecast mentioned that this was the first time since April 6, 1996 that the Devils and their opponents combined for eight in a single period. That one came in the second period of a game versus the Hartford Whalers that the Devils eventually won 6-3.
The period kicked off at 3:07 when Patrick Kane scored his first of two for the Hawks to tie it up at one on the power play. Ben Lovejoy had gone off for tripping at 2:36. The goal was off a nice give-and-go from Jonathan Toews and Kane snapped it by Blackwood. Dylan Strome had the secondary assist on the goal.
The Devils then went on to scored five unanswered beginning with Kyle Palmieri giving New Jersey back the lead at 5:16. He scored on a partial breakaway on a delayed hooking call on the Blackhawks. He put one just underneath the crossbar. Sami Vatanen and Nico Hischier had the assists on the goal.
Palmieri would double up at the 8:27 mark when he scored his 22nd of the year from Will Butcher and Travis Zajac. Palmieri beat Ward through the legs on the power play – Chicago’s Brendan Perlini was caught for high-sticking at 8:08 – on a goal that was initially awarded to Boyle as he had seemingly touched it just before it went in. It actually looked like it went in off of the Blackhawks’ d-man’s skate, though. That goal made it 3-1 New Jersey.
Zajac made it 4-1 at 10:07 when Ward made a stop on a cutting Miles Wood but the puck just stayed in the crease and Zajac tapped it in. Coleman had the other assist on the goal. Palmieri, with two goals was the game’s first star while Coleman (two goals and an assist) was the second star and Kane (two goals, two assists) was the third star of the night.
The next goal came off of the stick of Sami Vatanen, who scored on the power play at 14:58 of the second from Jesper Bratt and Damon Severson. Toews was in the box for holding Zajac’s stick at 13:47. On this goal, Vatanen unleashed a rocket of a slapshot one-timer by Ward’s glove to make it 5-1 Devils. The Devils’ power play was 2-for-2 with three shots on net. They also had two shorthanded shots. The special teams were a battle of the Hawks’ second-ranked power play versus the Devils’ first-ranked penalty kill (both since the Christmas break). The Blackhawks were 1-for-4 on the power play, only striking once on two shots. The Devils PK won that battle.
While Palmieri was busy scoring goals 21 and 22 of the season, Kevin Rooney notched his first career NHL goal. He scored at 17:58 of the second from Stafford and Brett Seney. The Devils’ sixth goal and fifth unanswered came when Seney alley-ooped the puck to Stafford. Stafford cut in on Ward and shot and Rooney cleaned up on the rebound. Congrats to Kevin Rooney on his first career NHL goal.
The Hawks would finally stop the onslaught when Kane got his second of the game, ripping a one-timer by Blackwood from an odd angle to make it 6-2. Henri Jokiharju had the lone assist on that one at 18:19. Brent Seabrook then scored at 19:01 from Kane to make it 6-3. Kane had intercepted Blackwood’s clearing attempt in the corner and passed to Seabrook, who buried it to cut the Devils’ lead to three.
That was one hell of a period and either some of the most exciting or sloppy hockey you have seen, depending, again, on your point of view. But the teams were not done.
Seney kicked off the third by scoring from Bratt and Pavel Zacha at 8:10 to make it 7-3 Devils. This one was on Delia as he had come in at the very start of the third period. Seney took a centering pass from Bratt and tipped it by Delia in the slot.
Just 37 seconds later, Chicago’s Dominik Kahun snapped a pass from Carl Dahlstrom from the far faceoff circle to make it 7-4 New Jersey.
Things remained interesting when Brandon Saad scored a goal at 18:28 that went in and out of the net so fast, you could only tell via the overhead replay that it actually had entered the net. That goal, with an assist to Kane, made it 7-5 Devils. The Blackhawks pulled Delia after winning the ensuing faceoff with about a minute and a half remaining in regulation for the sixth attacker. Blake Coleman would cap the night off by scoring into the vacated cage with 34 seconds left in the game to ice it at 8-5.
According to MSG+, the last time the Devils had collected eight goals in a game came in December of 2008 – just about ten years ago – against the Rangers.
One note on that third period as Wood was injured and left the ice gingerly after taking a hit where his leg was wrenched. He would skate two more shifts, but eventually left the game and would not return. He will, however, make the trip to Columbus tomorrow as per John Hynes in his post game presser. Because of this, he ended up missing the fracas late in the period that did not lead to any penalties, but did see Ben Lovejoy drop the gloves to fight Drake Caggiula.
So when all was said and done, 13 Devils had registered at least a point. Six had multiple points on the night. The Devils out shot the Blackhawks 41-32 but only won 42-percent of the game’s faceoffs. They also out hit the Hawks (21-10) and blocked more shots (15-7). They did register more giveaways, however at eight to Chicago’s six.
Individually, Andy Greene led all Devils skaters in ice time with 23:24 total (including 5:32 on the PK) and Travis Zajac led all forwards with 20:14 (19 seconds on the power play and 5:08 shorthanded) as the Devils really leaned on the veterans in this game. Palmieri led in shots on goal with six, three players (Boyle, Nico Hischier and Rooney) led in hits with three, Greene led in blocked shots with seven and Wood led in takeaways with two.
Next up the Devils travel tomorrow to Columbus to take on the Blue Jackets in the second half of a back-to-back. We will have coverage right here for you. In the meantime, please feel free to leave a comment below as they are always appreciated.