Devils String Second Together Second Road Win in Arizona

For the majority of the 2021-22 season, the Devils have had the hardest of times getting wins outside of Newark. Road wins were few and far between.

Suddenly, they are two-for-two on their five-game trip out west. Following a 3-1 downing of the Dallas Stars on Saturday, they continued on to Glendale, Arizona where they won their second straight game 6-2 over the Arizona Coyotes.

The Coyotes are the only team below the Devils in the overall NHL standings at the moment and the Devils were actually avenging a loss earlier in the season in New Jersey where the Yotes won 4-1.

The Devils this season achieved having four 20-goal scorers on their roster. Jack Hughes, Jesper Bratt, Nico Hischier and Yegor Sharangovich have each notched at least 20 in 2021-22. This is the first time since 2011-12 that the team has had at least four. Back then, it was Zach Parise, Ilya Kovalchuk, Patrik Elias, David Clarkson and Petr Sykora as the five who topped that number. That certainly points the Devils in the right direction.

But back enough about the future or the past. Back to tonight. The Devils roster tonight saw Colton White, Mason Geertsen and Andreas Johnsson out as healthy scratches while Andrew Hammond was sitting while Jon Gillies was the backup on the bench.

Nathan Bastian was back in the lineup as he returned from his hip injury that was suffered last week against the New York Islanders.

In goal, the Devils were going with Nico Daws who made 19 saves on 21 total Arizona shots for a .905 save percentage. He stopped four of the Coyotes’ five power play shots and 15 of their 16 at even strength. The Yotes finished the night at 1-for-4 on the power play as a team.

The Coyotes went with their own rookie in Karel Vejmelka, who made 32 saves on 38 total Devils shots for a nightly save percentage of .842. He stopped New Jersey’s only shorthanded chance and all ten of their power play shots. At five-versus-five play, he made 21 saves on 27 shots. The Devils as a team went 0-for-5 on the power play.

Some random notes from the night include referee Cody Beach working his first NHL game tonight as per Devils play-by-play man Steve Cangialosi. The Coyotes also had two players making their NHL debuts tonight – including Nathan Smith – who this past weekend was playing in the NCAA Frozen Four for Minnesota State.

Arizona also have a rookie defenseman in Cam Dineen, who is a native of Toms River, New Jersey.

And finally, this might very well be the Devils final visit to Glendale as the Coyotes are scheduled to make their move to the new arena being built on the campus of Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona next season.

That arena will only seat about 5,000 for hockey which the team and the NHL generously terms as “intimate.” They are going to play there until at least the 2024-25 season as they attempt to get a new building erected in Tempe.

The Coyotes were, strangely, in their (alternate?) maroon “howling coyote” uniforms. I note this one mainly because I had thought that the Coyotes wee back to their “Kachina” logo uniforms full-time, so this one threw me for a loop initially.

It looked like those uniforms would be a good choice in terms of luck for the night initially, though.

Just 1:13 into the game, the Yotes took an early 1-0 lead. This goal saw the Devils unable to clear the puck from their zone and Nick Ritchie eventually got it behind the Devils net. He moved it to Nick Schmaltz, who got it to Travis Boyd in front, who scored from the slot to make it 1-0.

The Devils would equalize by the middle of the first period, though, and it was a big one.

At the 10:51 gone by mark, Nico Hischier skated through the neutral zone and into the Arizona end and used amazing hand-eye coordination to calmly settle a bouncing puck down. He then breezed past Phil Kessel and passed to Fabian Zetterlund, who finished for his first NHL goal.

Sharangovich had the secondary assist and the game was now tied as it would be heading into the second period.

From there, the Coyotes had a streak of bad luck as they just started to hit posts left and right. It began late in the period when Kessel hit the pipe while driving up the left side and would see Arizona hit another one even later on.

Early in the second period, with 16:40 to play, Dawson Mercer and Bratt poked away at puck in front of the Coyotes net and Vejmelka stopped Mercer on a nice glove save. Mercer and Bratt celebrated as if the puck had gone in, but the officials waved the goal off immediately on ice. There was a brief review done of the play – which seemed to show the Arizona goaltender actually catch the puck behind the goal line – but the call remained no goal and we played on.

The Devils, however, would get that 2-1 lead. With 5:24 gone by in the second, AJ Greer won a puck battle behind the Arizona net. It jarred loose to Bastian, who then banked it off the boards to Kevin Bahl at the point. It was put on a tee for him and he drove it by Vejmelka for his first NHL goal.

Bahl’s first NHL goal came against the team that drafted him and traded him to the Devils in the Taylor Hall trade back in 2019.

The Yotes would find another post midway through the second, but the floodgates were about to open on goals late in the frame.

It began when the Coyotes tied things on the power play at the 18:38 mark. This was set up by Ty Smith being sent off for slashing Barrett Hayton at 18:01 to set things up.

From here, Matias Maccelli got the puck to Shayne Gostisbehere at the near point. Gostisbehere then sent the puck to Schmaltz at the top of the far faceoff circle where the Devils had overloaded to the other side of the rink.

This gave Schmaltz all the time in the world to walk in, set and shoot the puck by Daws to tie the game at two.

This was an extremely short-lived tie, however.

At 19:14 gone by, Tomas Tatar dumped the puck into the Arizona zone and Vejmelka went behind his goal to play it. He tried to reverse it around the wall way from the oncoming Tatar and instead it was intercepted by Jesper Bratt at the far wall.

Bratt then threw the puck towards the near side of the net where Tatar collected the pass with his skate and shot into Vejmelka’s now-vacated net all in one motion to give the Devils back the lead.

And that would be the game-winner.

Jesper Boqvist would add an insurance goal 22 seconds later when PK Subban got he puck on net. Janne Kuokkanen got a shot on Vejmelka that bounced up and Boqvist was able to put in behind the Coyotes netminder. That made it 4-2 Devils.

The Devils added two more in the third period with both coming off of the stick of Sharangovich.

The first one came at 15:36 gone by in the third when Hischier took an outlet pass, broke into the Yotes’ zone and dropped a pass to Zetterlund just inside the Arizona blue line.

Zetterlund then passed up ahead to Sharangovich cutting towards Vejmelka’s goal cage and he finished the pass to make it 5-2 Devils.

Sharangovich notched his second goal of the night a the 17:05 mark when Bahl pinched in behind the Coyotes net and put a pass in front. The puck bounced off of an Arizona player’s skate and right to Sharangovich who promptly scored to make it 6-2. Hischier had the secondary assist on the goal that was Sharangovich’s 22nd of the year.

That second Sharangovich goal came at 4-on-4 play as the Coyotes Michael Carcone (tripping) and Ty Smith (embellishment) were off for coincidental minors at 16:03.

The Devils would actually finish the game on the power play as Ritchie was called for roughing Greer at 18:55. They would not convert, but when the final horn sounded, Daws became the first of the seven goalies used by the Devils this season to record ten wins – an amazing feat for a rookie who was not expected to play many, if any, NHL minutes this season.

The Devils finished with 38 shots to the Yotes’ 21. The faceoffs were nearly split in half with the Devils winning 49-percent of the game’s draws.

Michael McLeod led the centers in faceoff win percentage with 71-percent – although he only played 8:17 on the night.

Arizona finished the game with a dozen penalty minutes accumulated as a team while the Devils had ten. The Devils landed 30 hits to the Coyotes’ 23. Blocked shots saw the Devils with 14 and the Coyotes with 12. Team giveaways had New Jersey with just eight to Arizona’s whopping 20 on the night.

Dougie Hamilton led all Devils skaters with 21:23 of total ice time. This included 5:45 of power play time and 10 seconds of time on the penalty kill. That was by far the most time a Devils defenseman spent on the man advantage, but on the PK, Ryan Graves played 4:55 out of his total of 20:46 to lead there.

Up front, Hischier led in total ice time with 21:03 (which included 5:34 on the PP and 2:49 on the pK). On special teams, only Bratt (5:39 out of his 16:20 total TOI) had more power play time and only Sharangovich (3:40 out of his 19:34 of total TOI) had more shorthanded time entrusted to him. Sharangovich also logged 2:44 on the power play.

In terms of points, the Devils flexed their guns tonight. Hischier had three assists for three points, Sharangovich had two goals and an assist for three points, Zetterlund had a goal and an assist for two points and Bahl had a goal and an assist for two points as they all recorded multi- point nights.

In terms of shots on goal, Greer led with five. Hits saw Bastian, Greer and Bahl each lead with four. Blocks were led by Graves with six. Personal giveaways were led by Sharangovich and Mercer with two each while personal turnover recoveries saw Hischier and McLeod lead with two as well.

The Devils next stop is a little steeper of a climb. They travel to Denver to take on the Western Conference-leading Colorado Avalanche. That game will be at 9 PM on MSG and we will have coverage for you at the conclusion of action.

Until then, enjoy your week everyone!

Devils Fall to Coyotes After Return from Layoff

Ken Daneyko had the understatement of the season during tonight’s MSG+ broadcast of the Devils-Coyotes game when he said that this was certainly “frustrating” for the Devils and their fans.

While Dano’s restraint is applauded (he could have called tonight’s performance a few other, more choice, things) “frustrating” is an apropos word.

The Devils fell 4-1 to the Arizona Coyotes at Prudential Center this evening following a layoff of a little under seven days.

The Devils last played on Thursday, January 13 at the Islanders, falling 3-2 in that game. In the meantime, with two games postponed in Canada on Saturday (at Montreal) and Monday (at Toronto), the Devils had plenty of time to get healthy, completely clearing out their COVID list. Everyone who was in quarantine has now returned, including Dougie Hamilton – who will remain out with his fractured jaw.

The Devils had reinforcements for their ranks and almost all of them had gotten some practice time in as well. Mason Geertsen, Marian Studenic and Jesper Boqvist were the scratches for New Jersey. In other roster news, defenseman Colton White was placed on waivers today with the intention of sending him to AHL Utica.

With their available goaltenders back, coach Lindy Ruff went right back to the Mackenzie Blackwood well. Although this is a necessary evil at this point due to lack of depth between the pipes, Blackwood is clearly not 100-percent healthy (what with COVID, a concussion and his offseason heel surgery all catching up to him) and will now need to bear the load for the Devils going forward. It’s a dangerous game to play, but do not be surprised when things like this happen as a result.

Blackwood made 13 saves on 17 total shots against for a nightly save percentage of .765. He turned aside all four of Arizona’s power play shots (the Coyotes were 0-for-2 on the man advantage) while stopping nine of the Coyotes’ 13 five-on-five shots against.

Facing him was Karel Vejmelka – a right-hand catching goalie – who has been a bit of a story for the Coyotes. He was drafted by the Nashville Predators, never played for them and was signed by the Coyotes as a free agent last May. He played last year with HC Kometa Brno in the Czech Extraliga.

He’s been playing well for the Yotes and tonight he singlehandedly kept them in the game when the Devils came out flying in the first period. He ended up stopping 35 of the Devils’ 36 total shots for a .972 save percentage on the game. He turned aside both of the Devils’ shorthanded shots with the only goal he let in coming on the power play. He stopped four of the Devils’ five power play shots as the Devils were 1-for-2 with the extra attacker overall. He got all 29 of the Devils’ shots at full strength.

These teams had not met since December of 2019. That game was in Glendale and was resulted in 2-1 win for the visiting Devils. It was a few weeks before the trade that sent Taylor Hall to the desert as well.

Tonight’s game was kicking off a four-game homestand for the Devils at Prudential Center with things getting progressively more difficult for them from here.

In addition, it was Hispanic Heritage Night at the Rock with the Devils wearing special “Los Diablos de New Jersey” warmup jerseys that will be autographed and auctioned off to benefit the Devils Youth Foundation. For the game itself, the team was in black and white their third uniforms.

As mentioned above, the Devils came out flying. Nico Hischier hit the post just about 1:30 into the game as New Jersey pressed early on.

The Devils were further in business when Arizona’s Christian Fischer was called for holding Janne Kuokkanen 5:22 into the first period. Fischer ended up almost horse collaring Kuokkanen to the ice leading to referee Dean Morton being caught on an ice-level mic as joking that Fischer was making his first call of the night “an easy one.” It was the truth and pointed out by Devils play-by-play man Steve Cangialosi.

The Devils would capitalize on that power play at the 6:09 mark of the first when Jack Hughes got behind the Coyotes’ defense, cut in on Vejmelka. Hughes lost control of the puck and it drifted off to the far corner where Jesper Bratt recovered it and made a nice pass to Hischier in the high slot. Nico snapped off a quick shot that Vejmelka could only get a small piece of as it went into the Arizona net to make it 1-0 Devils.

The Devils scored on their first official shot of the game (and the first shot of the game for either team for that matter) and Nico had his ninth point in his last nine games on the goal.

The Devils would continue on through the first, getting chances but failing to finish. Vejmelka came up with save after save as the Devils outshot the Coyotes 12-1 in the first period. This performance by the Arizona goalie let the Yotes hang around and that would come back to bite the Devils later on.

And “later on” did not take that long to get here, all things told. Just 6:50 into the second period, Loui Eriksson would move the puck against the grain, banking it from behind the Devils net off the boards right to Dysin Mayo at the near side point. Mayo was able to tee up a one-timer from the perfectly placed pass and fired from just inside the Devils blue line. He scored, beating Blackwood cleanly and tied the game at one. Alex Galchenyuk had the secondary assist.

It was a little bit annoying that the Devils had had their chances, could not take advantage and the game was now tied, but there was still plenty of time remaining.

Then, what would go down as the game-winner for Arizona 11:32 into the second when Anton Stralman got the puck to Eriksson at the near point. Eriksson took a shot on Blackwood and Arizona was able to funnel down, collapsing on the Devils net. Devils defenseman Ryan Graves fanned on a clearing attempt with Lawson Crouse falling to his knees right in front of the Devils net. Crouse got the puck and took a shot from his knees that beat Blackwood to give the Coyotes the 2-1 lead. They would not relinquish that lead the rest of the night.

The Coyotes would pad their lead a little heading into the second intermission when Travis Boyd scored at 14:13.

That goal saw Jakob Chychrun move the puck to Clayton Keller at the point. Keller switched up with the other pointman to get a clearer shot and ended up just throwing a bit of a seeing eye shot towards net that was tipped by Blackwood by Boyd to make it 3-1 Arizona.

Now things were starting to look bad for the Devils. Vejmelka was playing well enough to keep the Yotes in things and they had build up a two-goal lead heading into the third period.

Only it would not stay a two-goal lead for long. The Coyotes made it a three-goal lead 8:27 into the final frame when Phil Kessel chipped the puck from behind the Devils net to Crouse in the slot. Crouse was not in a good position to shoot and made a nice backhand pass to a wide open Johan Larsson a little higher up the middle of the ice. Larsson was on his forehand and had a clear shot, snapping one by Blackwood to make it 4-1.

Jimmy Vesey bookended the night by beating Vejmelka cleanly glove side (being one of the few Devils who had seemingly solved a right-hand catching goalie) and hitting the post square on late in the game. It complemented Hischier’s hit post early in the opening minutes very well.

Blackwood was pulled with 3:05 left in regulation but to no avail. Our final score was 4-1.

How well did Vejmelka actually play? The Devils outshot the Coyotes 36-17 for the game, including 12-1 in the first period and 15-7 in the second. Things evened out in the third with each team logging nine shots apiece, but Vejmelka had a lot more work early in the game and was equal to the task. Blackwood, with a relatively lighter load tonight, was not.

Vejmelka was named the game’s first star as a result of this.

The Devils won 48-percent of the game’s total faceoffs with Hischier leading Devils centers with a 67-percent personal winning percentage.

Each team accumulated four penalty minutes as a team. The Devils were outhit 24-16 and Arizona also had 16 blocked shots to New Jersey’s nine. The Coyotes had three more giveaways as a team at 17 to the Devils’ 14.

Damon Severson again logged big minutes, leading Devils skaters in ice time with 24:06 (including 1:59 on the power play and 1:58 killing penalties). Graves spent the most time on the PK amongst Devils defensemen with 2:31 of PK time out of his 20:40 total ice time.

Hughes led the forwards in ice time with 21:04 (which included 1:52 of PP time). Vesey led in forward shorthanded time with 2:12 logged out of his 10:52 of total TOI.

Severson led the Devils in shots on goal with five. Nate Bastian was again the hits leader with four. Dawson Mercer had two blocks to lead in that category. Hughes led in personal giveaways with three while takeaways were led by Hischier, Mercer and Hughes, who each had three.

Remember how I said things would be getting tougher for the Devils on this homestand? Well, Saturday they go from the worst team in the Western Conference in the Coyotes to the second-best team in the NHL with the Carolina Hurricanes paying a visit.

(To put things a bit in perspective, tonight was just Arizona’s tenth win of the season. The Canes have not lost ten games yet. We are in mid-late January here.)

That game begins at 7 PM in Newark and will be televised on MSG+. We will have coverage for you here afterwards.

Until then, try to have a good rest of the week Devils fans.