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!