Devils Face Ups and Downs in Chi-Town

The Devils continued on to Chicago to faceoff with the Blackhawks following their win in Pittsburgh last night.

This second half of the back-to-back in United Center did not… go as well as the game in Pittsburgh for the Devils.

They fell 8-5 to a Blackhawk team that has roughly been on the same par as the Devils this season.

The Devils were concluding the season series with the Hawks, having defeated them in overtime on opening night back at Prudential Center on October 15. A long time ago, to be sure.

Colton White, Mason Geertsen and Christian Jaros remained the healthy scratches with the only change to the Devils lineup coming between the pipes.

Jon Gillies got the start in something that was already determined prior to the back-to-back and how Daws had played in Pittsburgh the night before.

He stopped 29 of 35 Chicago shots for an ,829 save percentage. The Hawks actually ended the game with 37 total shots as they would add two empty net goals later on – obviously more on that later on.

Gillies was equal to both Blackhawks shorthanded shots and three of their six power play shots. Chicago went an insane 3-for-4 on the power play as a team as the Devils’ special teams just had a complete breakdown. At even strength, Gillies made 24 saves on 27 shots.

The Blackhawks made a surprise change in net as well, going with Kevin Lankinen. Lankinen was just coming back from a hand injury suffered on January 22. With that, the Devils thought they would be getting Marc-Andre Fleury but saw Lankinen instead because he was available.

Lankinen stopped 31 of 36 total New Jersey shots for an .861 save percentage on the night. He stopped the Devils’ lone shorthanded chance and their only power play shot as the Devils were 0-for-2 on the man advantage as a team. At five-on-five play, Lankinen stopped 29 of 34 New Jersey shots.

Tonight was a milestone for Yegor Sharangovich as he was playing in his 100th NHL game. He would play a role in the scoring as well.

The last time the Devils were in Chicago was December 23, 2019. The result was a 7-1 victory for New Jersey.

Chicago got the scoring started 7:34 into the game when Gillies tried to move the puck up to PK Subban and banked it accidentally off of the side of his own net instead. Ty Smith recovered and tried to get it to Jack Hughes on the breakout, but it was intercepted by the Hawks’ Brandon Hagel right in the middle of the zone. He scored unassisted to make it 1-0 Blackhawks.

But as we would see many times in this game, momentum would shift on a dime.

A little over two minutes later, at 9:41 gone by, Hughes skated the puck from the Devils end and gained the Blackhawks zone. He lost an edge at the Chicago blue line but was able to push it to a supporting Ryan Graves.

Graves kept it in and passed back to Hughes. Hughes took the pass and made a move the Hawks defender to score on Lankinen and tie the game at one.

He followed that up by hitting the post just moments later, in one that he told Erika Wachter of MSG+ that he thought was a sure goal and one that he really wanted.

The Devils would take the lead prior to the first intermission when Sharangovich, playing in his 100th NHL game, as mentioned, scored at 18:55 gone by to extend his personal six-game point streak.

Jonas SIegenthaler threw the puck down low to Hughes, who tried to redirect it by Lankinen. The rebound off of the end boards came back to him and he passed to Sharangovich in front. Sharangovich took the pass and snapped off a quick release of a shot by Lankinen to make it 2-1 Devils.

Thirty seconds into the second period, Michael McLeod laid a big hit on Blackhawks’ defenseman Connor Murphy. Chicago’s Ryan Carpenter stepped in to take on McLeod and the two scrapped.

With McLeod getting the extra two minutes for boarding on Murphy, the Hawks were on the power play.

At 1:34 gone by, Patrick Kane would begin a run of three unanswered power play goals by the Blackhawks when Alex DeBrincat and Seth Jones played catch with the puck at the far half wall and the point. When DeBrincat got it back at the half wall, he made a cross-ice passing seam to Kane. Kane got the puck in close to Gillies and roofed the shot short side to tie the game at two.

That was not the end of those three teaming up with the extra attacker.

Ty Smith had gone off for hooking DeBrincat at 10:52 to put Chicago back with an extra man. At 11:24 gone by, Jones fed Kane at the near side where he was all alone along the wall. He picked stick side to shoot and the shot tipped in off of Damon Severson’s stick as Severson was trying to redirect the puck and sweep it to the corner. DeBrincat had the secondary assist on this goal that gave the Blackhawks the 3-2 lead.

But the Hawks had one more trick up their sleeve this period.

Graves was sent off for tripping Henrik Borgstrom at 12:16 to put Chicago on their third power play of the frame.

The Blackhawks took advantage of this one at 14:09 when Kane made a pass to Hagel from the far wall to the high slot where Hagel buried it to make it 4-2 Hawks. DeBrincat had the secondary assist on this one too.

The Devils had been bitten for three power play goals in this period alone (a season high).

They would get one goal back before the second intermission when Jesper Bratt continued his torrid pace and scored his third goal in two nights.

At the 17:43 mark of the second period, the Devils won a faceoff in their own defensive zone. Siegenthaler banked it around the boards to Severson, who made a saucer pass tape-to-tape from the Devils goal line to Bratt, who was in behind the Chicago defense and on his way to scoring a breakaway goal five-hole.

He had seen Dawson Mercer stopped in close on Lankinen early in the second and Nico Hischier try too many moves on a breakaway midway through the second only for both to be stopped. Bratt decided to just shoot and ended up beating Lankinen to make the score 4-3 Blackhawks.

And so it was on to the third period.

Things began with Siegenthaler scoring his first goal as a New Jersey Devil 8:36 into the period.

Tomas Tatar got it back to Siegenthaler at the Chicago blue line. Siegenthaler pinched in to keep the puck in the zone and simply threw it towards net, ending up roofing it over Lankinen. Dougie Hamilton had the secondary assist on the goal that tied the game at four and ended up being Siegenthaler’s third point of the game (he notched that goal and two assists).

But once again, momentum.

At the 14:04 mark, Kirby Dach scored for the Blackhawks when Graves attempted to pinch into the Chicago zone and got caught with Murphy chipping it over his stick and to Dach, who was off to the races. Dach went to his backhand and scored on Gillies to give Chicago back the lead at 5-4. Jones had the secondary assist on the goal.

Just 11 seconds later, the Blackhawks struck again. Carpenter this time took a pass from Mackenzie Entwistle, who had been hauled down on the left side after gaining the Devils zone. Entwistle still managed to move the puck to Carpenter, who made a nice move around Gillies in front and scored to make it 6-4 Chicago. Jones again had the secondary assist.

Things were beginning to fall apart for the Devils.

They had one more left in them, however, at 15:45 of the third when Bratt scored his second of the contest.

The Devils won an offensive zone draw and the puck got back to Hughes at the point. He found Severson down low and hit him with a pass. Severson then made a heads-up pass to Bratt camped out at the near faceoff circle. Bratt scored to cut the Chicago lead to 6-5.

Then all hell broke loose.

Gillies was pulled with just over two-minutes to go in regulation. At the 18:37 mark, Kane completed his hat trick by scoring into the empty net unassisted. That made it 7-5.

After the ensuing faceoff at center ice put the puck back in play, Gillies vacated his net again and this time, Hagel scored the empty netter to complete his hat trick at the 19:32 mark from Sam Lafferty and Jones.

Hagel had been tripped up as he was cutting in on the empty cage by Subban. Hagel scored the goal, falling into the net along with the puck – his first NHL hat trick – but the Blackhawks took offense to Subban pulling him down to try to prevent the goal.

Dach went after Subban and both men received roughing penalties. Hagel then stepped in with Subban and a few punches were exchanged. Both Hagel and Subban took roughing penalties and Subban was also given a ten-minute misconduct.

It was a strange end to a strange game with Chicago claiming the 8-5 victory.

The Devils were outshot as a team 37-36. They did win 58-percent of the game’s faceoffs with Sharangovich leading the way with a personal 67-percent winning percentage.

As a team, the Devils finished with 27 penalty minutes while Chicago had 13 total penalty minutes. The Devils outhit the Blackhawks 26 to 19 while the Hawks had 18 blocked shots to the Devils’ 15. On team giveaways, New Jersey had 12 while the Blackhawks had 15.

Severson again led all Devils skaters with 22:59 of total ice time (including 2:10 of power play time and 3:09 of time on the penalty kill). Siegenthaler logged 3:37 on the PK in his 22:08 of total time to lead in that special teams category while Severson’s 2:10 led the d-men on the power play.

For the forwards, Jack Hughes led everyone with 19:23 of total ice time which included 2:10 of PP time – which tied him with Bratt for power play time (Bratt logged a total of 18:25 of TOI). Shorthanded, Sharangovich led with 2:30 of PK time out of his 18:25 of total TOI (which also included 41 seconds of power play time).

Hughes and Siegenthaler each had three points for the Devils with Hughes notching his goal and two assists while Siegenthaler had a goal and two assists as well. Bratt (two goals) and Severson (two assists) also had multi-point nights.

Hughes also led in shots on goal with five. Nathan Bastian had five hits to lead in that category. Blocks were led by Siegenthaler with three. Personal giveaways were led by Smith with two while Tatar and Severson each had two personal takeaways to lead there.

Next up, Monday is Hughes Battle Bowl II as Quinn Hughes and the resurgent Vancouver Canucks with visit Prudential Center to take on Jack Hughes and the Devils at 7:30 PM.

That game will be shown on MSG+ and we will have coverage for you right here following the game.

Until then, enjoy your weekend everyone!

Hughes Wins it in OT for Devils in Season Opener

The 39th season of Devils hockey in New Jersey finally kicked off tonight after a nine day wait. It resulted in two points for the home team as the Devils defeated the visiting Chicago Blackhawks in overtime, 4-3.

To begin with, some roster news as Tyce Thompson came off of the Injured Reserve list today and was assigned to the Utica Comets of the American Hockey League.

Mackenzie Blackwood (recovering from a heel injury), Ty Smith (lower body), Damon Severson (lower body) and Miles Wood (lower body) all remain on Injured Reserve. Severson could be back as quickly as Tuesday versus the Seattle Kraken.

It had been 584 days since a full house of fans last witnessed the Devils play. In the ensuing two years or so, the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the rest of a season, kept fans out of the building and then restricted the amount of fans that could be in the building.

The Devils wore special jerseys for warmups with “Broadway 10” on the back and the Blackhawks likewise wore ones with “Haysey 39” on the back. Those were nicknames for – and the numbers worn by – Jimmy Hayes. Hayes tragically passed away this past offseason and had spent time playing for both franchises. It was a fitting tribute for a man who was beloved in both locker rooms.

The Devils were kicking off a five-game homestand to begin the season for the first time since 2018-19. Those five games tied a franchise record for longest homestand to begin a season.

In net, the Devils started Jonathan Bernier – one of seven players making his Devils debut tonight, including Dawson Mercer, who was making his NHL debut as well. Bernier stopped 24 of the 27 Hawks shots he saw for an .889 save percentage. Of those 27 shots, he got 18-of-19 at even strength, five of seven power play shots and Chicago’s lone shorthanded shot. Chicago was 2-for-5 on the power play.

The Blackhawks, who have already played a game this season, went to Kevin Lankinen for his first start of the year. He turned aside 25 of the Devils’ 29 shots for an .862 save percentage. He got 21-of-25 at even strength, all three Devils power play shots and their single shorthanded shot. The Devils finished the night 0-for-2 on the man advantage.

With the in-division only games last season, this was the first time the Devils and Blackhawks had played each other since December of 2019, almost two years.

Of note was that linesman Jonathan Deschamps was making his NHL debut tonight.

And the Devils wasted no time in getting things kicked off. Just 17 seconds into the new season, Dougie Hamilton, the highly touted big-time free agent the Devils landed this off-season, made his presence felt. Pavel Zacha created a turnover just inside the Chicago blueline and found Hamilton trailing. Hamilton skated to the slot and snapped off a wrister, beating Lankinen to make it 1-0 Devils. That goal was not only the fastest goal to start a season by a Devil in franchise history (besting Zach Parise, who scored 26 seconds into the 2006-07 season, but also the fastest goal in NHL history by a defenseman making his debut for a new team.

It would remain 1-0 until 51 seconds into the second period. Here, with Janne Kuokkanen going into the box for high sticking at the end of the first period, Alex DeBrincat passed to Tyler Johnson at the far side of the Devils’ net. Johnson passed back to DeBrincat through the slot, where it was tipped by Patrick Kane back to DeBrincat, who got it at the side of the net and laid it in to tie the game up at one.

However, before the end of the second, Jack Hughes would score his first of two on the night to give the Devils back the lead. It came at 17:58 when Hughes cut in on the forecheck and stole the puck from Chicago defenseman Connor Murphy. He attempted to center the puck, but it came back to him, he then grabbed it and skated towards the middle, spinning around and whipping it past Lankinen to score. Yegor Sharangovich had the primary assist on the goal and Kuokkanen had the secondary.

The Devils built on their lead 6:34 into third when Andreas Johnsson scored. Mercer threw the puck towards the net from up high. Johnsson beat Murphy to the puck, which had hit Lankinen in the back of the leg. It came to Johnsson and he put it behind Lankinen to make it 3-1 Devils. Mercer, with the primary assist, had his first NHL point. Congratulations to him on this achievement. Tomas Tatar had the secondary assist – his first point as a Devil.

From there, things got a little bit dicey for the Devils as Chicago began to mount a comeback.

At the 12:49 mark, Mercer took a double minor for high-sticking Tyler Johnson as Johnson was cutting through neutral zone. It was a freak play and one of those where Mercer just needed to be in control of his stick.

With the Devils down a man, Chicago pulled Lankinen for the 6-on-4 advantage. The Devils did a good job of killing the penalty and it was quite a gamble for the Blackhawks to pull the goalie with the Devils on the penalty kill and so much time remaining.

At 16:07, the gamble paid off. Kane went D-to-D with Johnson, who fired off a one-timer. Bernier fought off the initial shot, but it came right to Kirby Dach at the side of the Devils’ net. He put it in to make it 3-2 Devils.

The Hawks would pull Lankinen again with about two minutes to go in regulation. This too would pay off for them as, with 25 seconds left, Seth Jones threw it towards net. It was grabbed in the slot by Brandon Hagel, who passed down low to Dominik Kubalik at the side of the net. He scored to tie the game at three apiece with less than a minute to go.

With that, time expired and both teams had earned a point. It was a bit disappointing for the Devils, but something that they will need to go through on their way towards improving and learning how to win.

And speaking of winning.

Just 57 seconds into the OT period, the Devils recoved the puck in their own end, with Ryan Graves getting it to Hughes and then jumping up with him in a 2-on-1.

Jack decided to use Graves as a decoy, waiting for the Chicago defenseman to go down to his belly, leaving his feet when it was not totally necessary. Hughes simply skated around him, got Lankinen to commit to one side and then cut back, depositing the puck in the open side of the net.

He celebrated by happily throwing his stick into the crowd as the Devils had the 4-3 victory on opening night.

The Devils outshot Chicago 29-27, winning 48-percent of the game’s total faceoffs. Nico Hischier led the centers with a 60-percent personal winning percentage. The Devils also outhit the Blackhawks, 17-15, had double the amount of blocked shots at 14 to the Hawks’ seven, but had 18 giveaways to Chicago’s nine.

The top defensive pairing of Dougie Hamilton and Ryan Graves led the team in ice time – Hamilton with 25:54 of total ice time and Graves with 24:55. Sharangovich led the forwards with 18:50 of TOI. Jack Hughes, Kuokkanen and Hamilton led in power play time with 2:25. Graves led in time killing penalties with 5:55 as the Devils spent a good deal of time in the box.

Hughes led in points with his two goals on the night. Shots on goal was led by Johnsson, Hischier, Michael McLeod, Zacha, Hughes and Hamilton with three each. Hits wee led by Hamilton and Christian Jaros with three each. Blocks were led by PK Subban with four while Subban also led in giveaways with five. Hughes led in takeaways with a whopping six, with Jimmy Vesey coming in second with three.

So, with this great win and two points under their belts, the Devils will next welcome the Seattle Kraken to town in the first meeting between the teams on Tuesday.

Players and coaches interviewed tonight talked about how the fans really showed up for this game and made the atmosphere special. Hopefully, fans can do the same on Tuesday for the second of five home games to kick off the season and the first time we will welcome Seattle to Newark.

See you then!