Zacha Wins it in OT for Devils

Life and hockey came full circle as the Devils faced the Boston Bruins in their final home game of the 2020-21 season just as they faced them in the first game of the 2020-21 season.

The paths may have diverged since that game in January, the Bruins are going to the playoffs, the Devils not. But the Devils gave their fans something to remember as they finished the home schedule on top, winning 4-3 in overtime.

First, some contract info to get to as today (May 5) the Devils singed goaltender Nico Daws to an Entry Level Contract. The 84th overall pick (third-round) in 2020 will see his three-year contract kick in in 2021-22 as he just finished up his season in the DEL in Germany.

He had a 4-6-0 record over ten games with one shutout and a 2.90 goals against average for ERC Ingolstadt this season. Before playing in the German league, he went 23-8-3-3  with a 2.48 GAA and a .924 save percentage, according to the Devils’ press release on him, for the Guelph Storm of the Ontario Hockey League.

He was third in save percentage last year in the OHL and was an OHL First Team All-Star and the OHL Goaltender of the Year last year as well.

Internationally, he represented Canada (he has dual German/Canadian citizenship – as he was born in Munich) in the 2021 World Junior Championship where he won gold.

And now to yesterday’s game. Andreas Johnsson and Mikhail Maltsev remain out, as do PK Subban (who is working out, but has not skated yet) and Jonas Siegenthaler.

Ty Smith reaggravated an injury in Monday’s game against Boston and so Matt Tennyson slotted in for him. Marian Studenic drew in for AJ Greer as well.

Boston sat a few players in preparation for the playoffs, including goalie Tuukka Rask. In his place started Jaroslav Halak, who made 17 saves on 21 Devils shots for an .810 save percentage. He got three of the Devils’ four power play shots (New Jersey was 1-for-4 on the power play) and was 14-of-17 at even strength.

Starting for the Devils was Mackenzie Blackwood, who stopped 33-of-36 Bruins shots for a .917 save percentage. He stopped the Bruins’ lone shorthanded shot and got two of their three power play shots (Boston was 1-for-3 with the man advantage). He stopped 30 of the Bruins’ 32 shots at even strength.

The game began with Miles Wood hitting the post for the Devils on a power play. A power play would play a part in the first goal of the game, but not that one.

Pavel Zacha scored at 8:45 into the game while the Devils were on a 5-on-3. Nico Hischier won a faceoff in the Bruins’ zone and Jack Hughes got it to Zacha in the slot. He knuckle pucked it by Halak on a shot he did not get all of and scored to make it 1-0 Devils.

Following that was a lengthy review, but not to see if the goal counted. It was to review time. The replay showed that the first power play had expired during while the goal was scored. This meant that Charlie McAvoy, the second offender, was released from the penalty box, as his was the power play that the goal was actually scored on.

After all of that, we were back to play. Blackwood went down with an apparent injury with 7:41 left in the first. He was checked out by the trainer and continued on. It would not be the first scare the Devils would have on the night.

In the second, the Bruins came on as the team you knew that they are.

It began at 4:36 in when Patrice Bergeron scored on the power play to tie. The Bruins won a faceoff in the Devils’ zone. The puck was won back to Matt Grzelcyk who went across the point to David Pastrnak. Pastrnak took a shot and his stick broke. Luckily for Boston, the puck went right to Bergeron in front. He spun around and fired the puck by Blackwood to make it 1-1.

The Bruins took the lead at 14:02 when Taylor Hall scored his first against the Devils since leaving the team for Arizona last December.

David Krejci poked the puck loose from a Devils’ stick in the Devils zone and Grzelcyk grabbed it. He threw it on net and Hall, who was in front as a screen had the puck ricochet in off of him. The Devils used their coach’s challenge alleging goalie interference. But after review, the call on the ice (goal) stood and the Devils took a delay of game penalty. They would kill that off, but Boston took the lead into the second intermission.

Another scary moment for the Devils to end the second when Jack Hughes went crashing head-first into the end boards with 1:45 left in the frame. He got up on his own power and left for the locker room, but would return for the third.

And the Devils would fight back in the third. It began at 9:10 when Damon Severson threw the puck at the Bruins’ net from the point. It went through a maze of skates and finally hit McAvoy’s before landing on Jesper Boqvist’s stick. He was camped out in front and shoveled it in to tie the game at two. Studenic had the secondary assist.

But a little more than a minute later, saw the Bruins retake the lead. It came at 10:42 when Pastrnak, racing up the right wing, threw the puck to Sean Kuraly who was crashing the left side of the net. The puck went in off of his skate and made it 3-2 Bruins. Mike Reilly had the secondary assist.

But in another flash of lightning, the Devils would tie it again. At 12:41, Severson got the puck up to Yegor Sharangovich, who snuck in behind the Bruins’ defense and was all alone with Halak. He wristed a shot through Halak’s right arm that squeezed in to tie it at three apiece. Kevin Bahl had the secondary assist.

This was moments after a Zacha shot dribbled behind Halak but sat on the goal line without the Devils being able to sweep it over.

And when time ran out on regulation, it was off to OT.

The Devils would waste no time and got a little bit of luck to boot.

On a delayed penalty call, Will Butcher went to Hughes, who found Zacha down by the top of the far faceoff circle. He cut in on Halak and scored on his backhand to give the Devils the OT win just 2:42 into the extra session.

Team-wise, the Devils were outshot by Boston 36 to 21. They won just 36-percent of the game’s faceoffs – with Hischier winning 50-percent of his to lead all Devils’ centers.

The Bruins led in hits with 26 to the Devils’ 18. The Devils edged Boston in blocks with 11 to the B’s 10. The Devils had ten turnovers to Boston’s seven.

Individually, shots were led by Zacha and Jesper Bratt with three each. Hits were led by Nate Bastian’s five. Blocked shots by Tennyson’s two and takeaways by Wood’s two.

Next up, the Devils begin two with the Islanders tomorrow. Puck drop is 7 PM and this game and Saturday’s game at Nassau Coliseum may, or may not, be the Devils latest final games at that old barn. This all depends on construction schedules and whether or not the UBS Arena opens on time or not, of course.

We will see you then. Stay safe everyone!

Devils Blanked by Bruins 3-0

This was not the same Boston Bruins team that the Devils had success against earlier this season. This team was streamlined, stingy on defense and capable of scoring from anywhere at any time.

They were also playing for a playoff spot. One point earned against the Devils tonight, or a Capitals win over the Rangers in any form would guarantee that the Bruins became the fourth East Division team to punch their ticket.

As it is, they decided to do it themselves. They soundly defeated the Devils 3-0 tonight at Prudential Center in the Devils’ penultimate home game of the season.

Some roster news as PK Subban and Jonas Siegenthaler are off COVID protocol and Subban is, in fact, working out at the Devils’ training facilities. As COVID recovery is different for everyone, we do not know yet if either man will play in a game the rest of the season.

Mikhail Maltsev also joined Andreas Johnsson as injured when he blocked a shot on Saturday in Philly. He is out with a lower body injury and there was a new face filling in for him.

AJ Greer, acquired in the Kyle Palmieri/Travis Zajac trade to the New York Islanders, made his Devils debut tonight playing primarily left wing on the third line with Jesper Boqvist and Nick Merkley. Greer actually has NHL experience – 37 games with the Colorado Avalanche, the team that drafted him – but had not played since February 23, 2019 in the NHL. He wore number 42.

In goal, Scott Wedgewood got his first start in 18 days, since he was pulled in the game at Pittsburgh last month. He stopped 39-of-42 Bruins’ shots for a .929 save percentage. He was just under siege all night as he stopped 38-of-41 at even strength. He stopped the lone Boston power play shot as the B’s went 0-for-1 on the man advantage.

His backup tonight, Mackenzie Blackwood, deserves a bit of congratulations for passing Chris Terreri on the Devils’ all-time goalie list Saturday in Philadelphia. He still has a really long way to go to catch up to a certain other “MB” but it is certainly a nice start.

For the Bruins, Tuukka Rask got the nod and got the shutout. He stopped all 20 Devils shots with New Jersey not getting a power play shot off and going 0-for-1 on the power play.

Following a scoreless first period where the Boston outshot the Devils 17-4, it was off to the second and the game-winning goal.

It came off of the stick of Nick Ritchie when Jakub Zboril fed Ritchie at the far side of the Devils’ goal line. Ritchie, just above the goal line, shot from the hard angle an scored. Sean Kuraly had the secondary assist on the goal that gave Boston the 1-0 lead. The goal came at 9:08 into the second frame.

That goal ended the Devils’ streak of scoring first, achieved during the Flyers four-game series.

At the 17:54 mark, Patrice Bergeron made it 2-0 when Wedgewood made a big save on David Pastrnak and then the puck rattled around behind the Devils’ net. Brad Marchand won a puck battle there and gained control. He centered to Bergeron in front of the net all alone and Bergeron deposited it to double up the Bruins’ lead.

Early in the third, at the 6:43 mark, Greer laid a dangerous hit on Zboril that would result in a boarding call. New Jersey-native Connor Clifton came to Zboril’s aid and fought Greer. The two had a spirited bout and got their respective benches going.

But the Bruins would add one more for the road when, at 17:17, Matt Grzelcyk scored. Bergeron dished it to Marchand at the point. He shot and the puck kind of bounced around, bouncing off of Ryan Murray’s leg and off of Grzelcyk and in. Grzelcyk wa the last Bruin to touch it and so got credit in making it 3-0, our final.

The Bruins got their first regulation win over the Devils this season, as their other two wins came off of shootouts.

Team stats-wise, the Bruins more than doubled the Devils shot total with 42 shots to the Devils’ 20. The Devils actually won more faceoffs with a 51-percent winning clip. Michael McLeod led the centers with a 61-percent winning percentage. The Bruins had more hits at 18 to the Devils’ seven, more blocked shots at 12 to the Devils’ nine and less turnovers than the Devils at 12 to five for Boston.

Damon Severson led all Devils in ice time with 22:02. Jack Hughes led the forwards with 19:47 logged.

Shots were led by Pavel Zacha and Will Butcher with three each. Hits were led by McLeod and Nate Bastian with three each. Severson led in blocks with two and Nico Hischier led in takeaways with three.

Next up, the Devils do it again. Tomorrow night against the Bruins in the final home game of the season. Puck drop for that game is at 7 PM and I might be a little late on a recap due to personal reasons.

Until then, stay safe everyone!