Flames Double Up Devils 6-3

Although we are quickly approaching St. Patrick’s Day, you would be forgiven for thinking it was actually Groundhog Day that the Devils were being forced to relive over the last two nights.

After falling 6-3 to the Vancouver Canucks last night, they traveled to Southern Alberta to face the Calgary Flames tonight and lost 6-3.

Not only that, but like the game played 24-hours ago in British Columbia, this game featured the Devils going on a four-minute power play and being denied by the home squad as their power play completely faltered.

Add to that Nico Daws making the start before getting the hook in favor of Jon Gillies, and it was like stale leftovers from the night before in Vancouver.

Injury wise, the Devils got Jonas Siegenthaler back on defense as he was a game time decision due to his non-COVID illness that kept him out of last night’s game.

Mason Geertsen returned to the lineup as New Jersey was without Andreas Johnsson (who was also a game time decision based on the stitches he received following being cut on the Tyler Motte high stick from last night in Vancouver). In addition, Pavel Zacha did not play tonight following discomfort from his awkward fall into the boards last night.

Nico Daws was back between the pipes making his ninth consecutive start. This one saw him starting both ends of the back-to-back and had a stiff test against the offensively gifted Calgary Flames. He made 15 saves on 19 shots against for a .789 save percentage. All of those shots/opportunities/goals came at five-versus-five as Calgary did not have a power play on the night.

Jon Gillies was in on mop up duty again after the fourth Calgary goal. He stopped 19 of the Flames’ 20 total shots against him for a .950 save percentage on the night. He stopped three shorthanded shots against (Calgary’s only special teams attempts as, again, the Flames did not have a power play as a team). At even strength, he stopped 16 of the 17 he faced.

The Flames finished the game with 40 total shots against both New Jersey goaltenders.

Calgary countered with Jacob Markstrom in net. He got 30 of the Devils’ 33 total shots for a .909 save percentage on the night. This included all three of the Devils’ power play shots and 27 of their 30 shots at five-on-five. The Devils power play was 0-for-4 in the game.

The achieved at least a season split last night against the Canucks – with whom they have had their way. That loss snapped a 12-game winning streak the Devils had against Vancouver. Tonight, they were hoping to salvage a season split against the Flames, having lost earlier this season to them. The Devils had not won in eight previous meetings with Calgary.

Of note was that the Flames had announced before the game that they had acquired Calle Jarnkrok from the Seattle Kraken for three draft picks and with Seattle retaining 50-percent of Jarnkrok’s salary as the road to the NHL Trade Deadline next week begins. Jarnkrok was not eligible to play tonight for Calgary.

The Flames wasted no time in getting on the board. Brett Ritchie scored 9:43 into the contest – his first goal in 30 games – when Oliver Kylington and Dillon Dube moved the puck up high before getting it to Ritchie. Ritchie threw a shot towards Daws’ goal cage with Milan Lucic as the big screen in front. Ritchie’s shot beat Daws cleanly to make it 1-0 Calgary that early.

The Devils had a pretty quick response as Dawson Mercer answered back at the 16:21 mark of the first.

Mercer actually got the play going when he flipped the puck out of the Devils zone to Nico Hischier. Hischier fought for control of it along the near half wall in the Flames zone. He then passed to Tomas Tatar who quickly centered to Mercer, who had come back into the play. Mercer snapped a shot off with a laser quick release that beat Markstrom high and tied the game 1-1.

Things would not remain that way going into the break, though, when Andrew Mangiapane (who had completely victimized the Devils in the meeting earlier in the year at Prudential Center) struck again.

With a little over 1:30 remaining in the first period, Daws made a big save but the Devils were unable to clear. Christopher Tanev had a shot blocked in front by a Devils player and the puck came right back to Mangiapane, who was able to snap the puck past Daws to give the Flames the lead back at 2-1. Tyler Toffoli had the secondary assist on Mangiapane’s 30th goal of the year.

Calgary began the second period by nailing a post as they continued to apply pressure to the Devils in the offensive zone.

The Devils would break through, however, 6:01 into the frame when Hischier won a faceoff deep in the Calgary zone right back to PK Subban at the point. Subban quickly wristed a shot towards Markstrom with Tatar and Hischier in front providing screens. It was Subban’s shot that got by and through Markstrom, though, to tie the game at two.

The Flames would then answer with three straight of their own.

First, at 7:04 gone by in the second period, Noah Hanifin made a long outlet pass, cross ice to Matthew Tkachuk. Tkachuk hit Dube in stride with a pass as Dube was getting a head of steam. Dube gained the Devils zone and fired off the rush, beating Daws to score and give Calgary back the lead at 3-2.

The Flames doubled their lead at the 9:31 mark when Erik Gudbranson hit Tkachuk with a headman pass down the middle of the rink. Tkachuk bobbled it in stride, but gathered and shot, beating Daws at the far post.

Gudbranson was able to connect on such a risky pass because he recognized that the Devils were caught in the middle of a change and took advantage.

Either way, at this point, Devils coach Lindy Ruff felt that Daws had been put through enough and replaced him with Jon Gillies for the second straight game. Daws had also been pulled when he started against the Flames in their defeat of the Devils in Newark earlier in the year.

Unfortunately, the change in personnel in net did nothing to help the Devils.

At 10:33 gone by in the second, Rasmus Andersson skated the puck up the right-wing boards and shot off the rush.

Milan Lucic was camped out in front and Andersson’s shot redirected in off of his skate or stick as he was tied up in front by a Devils defenseman. The goal was awarded to Lucic and it was now 5-3 Calgary heading into the second intermission.

The Devils started the third period on the power play when the Flames were assessed a too many men on the ice bench minor with a little over 30 seconds to play in the second period.

Calgary would kill that one off, but the Devils did get one back at even strength.

At 3:51 gone by in the third, New Jersey got the puck deep into Flames territory on what seemed to be a bit of a broken play off of a failed stretch pass.

Instead, Jack Hughes recovered the puck behind the Flames net and very quickly passed to Jesper Bratt in front. Bratt played tic-tac-toe right to Yegor Sharangovich – hitting him with a touch pass on the doorstep. Sharangovich scored to make it 5-3.

Initially, Hughes was not given an assist on the goal, but that was rectified immediately following the goal announcement over the PA when Hughes was awarded the secondary helper.

The Devils were now down two goals. Could they come back from being three down at the beginning of the third and win the game? They did so eight days ago against the Colorado Avalanche and they were about to receive a lot of help to that end.

At the 9:38 mark of the third, Ritchie was given a double minor for high sticking Colton White as White was cut on the play. The Devils would again – for the second consecutive game – have a 5-on-4 advantage for four minutes.

But again, the Devils came up empty.

Gillies stopped former Devil Blake Coleman on a shorthanded try as he snuck in behind the Dougie Hamilton on a chance about halfway through the Calgary penalty kill.

When the Flames ultimately held the Devils off the board for those four minutes, Ruff attempted to get things going when he pulled Gillies with about 3 minutes remaining in regulation for the extra attacker.

Cue Johnny Hockey.

With exactly 2:30 left in the game, Johnny Gaudreau scored into the empty net from Tkachuk (secondary assist) and Elias Lindholm (primary assist) to ice the win for the Flames. That made it 6-3, the same score as last night and our final tonight as well.

The Devils were outshot 40 to 33 in the end. New Jersey did win 56-percent of the game’s faceoffs as Michael McLeod was again strong on draws. He won 85-percent of the faceoffs that he took, although his total ice time as come down a bit (he only played 11:37 tonight).

Calgary accumulated eight penalty minutes total as a team while the Devils played a penalty free game and had no team penalty minutes on their ledger. Calgary outhit New Jersey 22-10. The Devils had more blocked shots than the Flames at 17 to Calgary’s 11 but the Devils had 16 team giveaways to the Flames’ seven.

Tonight’s ice time leader was actually a forward for probably the first time all season (typically defensemen will log more ice time in a game – but the Devils were down a forward due to Johnsson and Zacha’s injuries) as Hughes led all Devils skaters with 20:17 of total time.

This includes 4:44 of power play time for him – also the leader for everyone in that category.

As far as the defensemen, Damon Severson led in both total ice time (19:56) and power play time (4:28).

Hischier led the Devils in points for the game with two assists. Sharangovich led in shots on goal with five. Hits were led by Nathan Bastian with four. Blocks were led by Hischier with three as the captain continues to sacrifice his body for the team. Personal giveaways were led by Siegenthaler with three while Hischier, Mercer, Hughes, Tatar and Severson all had one personal takeaway to co-lead in that category.

Next up, the Devils will take a few days and then travel up to Northern Alberta to take on the Edmonton Oilers at 3 PM ET on Saturday. That game will be broadcast on MSG.

We will have coverage for you here as the Devils attempt to sweep the season series with Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and the Oilers – who are still fighting for their playoff lives.

Until then, enjoy the rest of your week!

Devils Burned by Flames Early, Fall 5-3

The Devils ran into the red-hot Calgary Flames tonight as they completed their five-game season opening homestand at the Prudential Center. They fell behind in a poorly played first period and ultimately lost, 5-3.

Following the overtime win on Saturday against the Buffalo Sabres, head coach Lindy Ruff decided to shake up the lineup up and down. All line combinations were reshuffled with Janne Kuokkanen moving to play the left side on the top line centered by Nico Hischier and Yegor Sharangovich on the right wing.

The top two defensive parings were redone with Ty Smith moving up to play on the top pairing with Dougie Hamilton, with Ruff’s thought process being to put their top two offensive defensemen together to kickstart an anemic offense. Ryan Graves was moved to a pairing with Damon Severson and PK Subban and Jonas Siegenthaler remained together on the third pairing.

Jonathan Bernier, Marian Studenic and Christian Jaros were the scratches for the night for the Devils.

In injury news, Mackenzie Blackwood got closer to a return as he skated yesterday for the first time since the preseason. He also received his first COVID-19 vaccination shot yesterday, meaning that he will be allowed to play when the team goes to Canada. They first travel north of the border in December when they go to Winnipeg.

His decision to get vaccinated may have been partly spurred on by the fact that TSN and The Athletic both reported that Blackwood is a possible candidate to play for Team Canada at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. He should receive the second shot within a few weeks.

With Blackwood and Jonathan Bernier still out of action at the moment, Nico Daws – fresh off of his big first NHL win (he became the first Devils goaltender to get his first win in OT on Saturday), got the nod again tonight.

Things did not go as smoothly against Calgary for him. He gave up three goals in 12:10 of duty. Stopping only four of the seven shots he faced. He let in one of the Flames’ two power play shots that he faced and was equal to only three of their five shots at even strength. He finished with a .571 save percentage for the night.

Following the third goal – a power play goal by Elias Lindholm – Scott Wedgewood came on in relief and stopped 20 of their 22 shots against him. He stopped the two shorthanded shots against him, one of their two power play shots (they had four total) and 17 of the 18 shots he faced at even strength. Calgary ended up with 29 total shots on goal on the night. He finished with a .909 save percentage.

For the Flames, Dan Vladar started. He was equal to 27 of the Devils’ 30 total shots, four of their five power play shots and 23 of their 25 shots at even strength. He had a .900 save percentage for the night.

This was the first time in almost two years between these two teams (with Calgary wearing their beautiful retro-80’s inspired white road uniforms) and the Flames’ Blake Coleman’s first return to Prudential Center as an opponent.

Coleman was traded on February 16, 2020 to the Tampa Bay Lightning. The teams were supposed to meet at the end of the 2019-20 season, but the game was canceled as a part of COVID wiping out the end of that regular season.

Last year, with Tampa in the Central Division and the Devils in the East and no inter-divisional play, the Devils did not play the Lightning either. Therefore, it took Coleman moving on as a free agent to Calgary for him to return. He did get a video tribute on the big board and the fans got to salute the former Devils fan favorite.

The Flames were playing the second half of a back-to-back as they faced the Rangers last night in Manhattan, winning 5-1.

And they picked off right where they left off tonight.

It began just 6:35 into the game when Milan Lucic scored. It was actually a nice play where Oliver Kylington made a stretch pass that was redirected to Lucic by Erik Gudbranson. Lucic was behind the Devils’ defense, took the redirected pass and was all alone in on Daws. He shot low on the ice and beat him before he could get set to make it 1-0 Calgary.

The Flames would double up their lead at 10:08 of the first period when Andrew Mangiapane scored his first of two in the period. Calgary won the puck off of a board battle in the neutral zone. The puck was lost in the Devils’ zone and Siegenthaler misplayed the loose puck flat footed. Mangiapane recovered the puck and shot as he was falling down, beating Daws to make it 2-0. The goal was unassisted.

Calgary kept the onslaught up as, at 12:10, Lindholm scored on the power play (Subban was off for a pretty egregious trip on Lucic at 11:48) Johnny Gaudreau moved the puck from along the half wall to Rasmus Andersson at the point. He shot and Lindholm got a piece of it in front, redirecting it by Daws to make it 3-0. It was after this goal that Daws was chased in favor of Wedgewood.

The Flames would end the night 2-for-3 on the power play while the Devils were 1-for-4.

For the Devils, the nightmare of a first period was not over.

Mangiapane notched his second of the night at 12:58 of the first. Jesper Bratt lost his edge playing the puck in the Calgary zone. He turned over the puck to Dillon Dube, who gave it to Mangiapane, who was off to the races. He broke in on Wedgewood and went backhand/forehand to beat Wedgewood. It was Mangiapane’s second straight two-goal game (he had a pair versus the Rangers last night at Madison Square Garden). It also put the Devils in a hole, giving the Flames a 4-0 lead. Bratt would see his ice time limited in the first period because of his gaffe on this play and some other poor play.

The Devils would get on the board at the 7:01 mark of the second period when Pavel Zacha scored his first of two on the night. It came technically unassisted, but with a lot of help from a forechecking Nico Hischier. Hischier’s hard forecheck put pressure on Vladar, who tried to reverse and wrap the puck around the far side of the boards. It never got up the boards as Zacha intercepted it. With no one covering in front and Vladar unable to get back to his net in time, Zacha shot from a sharp angle into what was an empty net and scored to make it 4-1.

That was the only scoring of the second. And it would be a steep climb, as according to Steve Cangialosi of the MSG+ broadcast, the last time the Devils overcame a four-goal deficit was November 2, 1985 when Mel Bridgman would end up scoring in overtime against the Rangers and the Devils won 6-5.

In the third period, the Flames got another to make it 5-1 at the 11:18 mark. It came on the power play. Mason Geertsen had gone off for a high stick on Sean Monahan and Monahan would make the Devils pay.

Monahan centered the puck from the far half wall, making a nice spin pass in the process. The puck got to Matthew Tkachuk at the near hash marks. He had the time to pick where he wanted to shoot and beat Wedgewood five-hole to make it 5-1.

The Devils, however, would score the last two goals of the game.

It started at 11:51 of the third when Dawson Mercer scored in his last game before his 20th birthday. Mercer shot on Vladar while the Devils were in the Calgary zone. His shot hit Vladar in the mask, loosening it. Vladar wanted a whistle from the officials but did not get it. The Flames cleared the zone and the Devils recovered it. Andreas Johnsson got it and found Mercer behind the Flames’ defense. He beat Vladar, who argued about the non-whistle, but got no satisfaction. Hamilton had the secondary assist on the goal that made it 5-2 Calgary.

At 16:30, Johnsson and Juuso Vlaimaki squared off to fight, with Johnsson immediately dropping his gloves on the play. They were separated immediately and did not scrap, but both went off for unsportsmanlike conduct.

However, the reason Johnsson reacted so vehemently on the play was because Valimaki had impeded him during in the corner prior to the two squaring. Valimaki would end up taking an extra two minutes for holding Johnsson’s stick, putting New Jersey on the power play.

The Devils would pull Wedgewood for a 6-on-4 advantage during the power play, and it paid off.

At 16:58, there would be a scramble in front of the Flames’ net as Calgary was not able to clear the puck previously. Vladar made the initial save on Mercer, but Zacha put in the rebound to make it 5-3. Zacha had two goals on the night and Hamilton had the secondary assist – his second of the night.

But the Devils could not get another. Wedgewood was pulled with a little under two minutes left in regulation but time simply ran out on the Devils.

The Devils, as team, outshot Calgary by one: 30-29. The Devils won just 48-percent of the game’s faceoffs, with Mercer leading with a 57-percent personal winning clip. The Flames had 12 penalty minutes to the Devils’ ten. The Devils did play the more physical game, with 29 hits to the Flames’ 17. The Devils also had 17 blocked shots to Calgary’s 13. The Devils, however, ended up with 15 giveaways to the Flames’ eight. Siegenthaler led the Devils with four giveaways.

Personally, Hamilton led all Devils’ skaters in ice time with 24:23 (including 5:11 on the power play and 57 seconds on the penalty kill). Hischier led the forwards with 22:35 of total ice time (including 4:44 on the power play and 1:24 on the PK).

Mercer (one goal, one assist), Zacha (two goals) and Hamilton (two assists), each led the Devils with two points each. Mercer led in shots on goal with five. Tomas Tatar led in hits with five laid on the Flames. Jimmy Vesey, Smith and Subban all led in blocks with three. Takeaways were led by Vesey with three.

Next up, the Devils will play their first road game of the season as they travel to Pittsburgh on Saturday to take on the Penguins, who just keep on rolling. The Devils will try to bounce back as they suffered their first regulation loss in the Calgary game.

The game in the Steel City on Saturday is at 7 PM. We will see you then!

Also, before we go, a big congratulations to former Devils defenseman Ben Lovejoy, who was inducted into the New Hampshire Legends of Hockey Hall of Fame this past Sunday. He played his college hockey at Dartmouth. He won the Stanley Cup with the Pens in 2016 and the Cup was actually present at his induction. Congrats again to The Rev!