Devils Edged Out in Columbus 4-3

The Devils kicked off the new month of March by finishing up a back-to-back pair of games. They knocked off the Vancouver Canucks last night in a blowout 7-2 win at home.

Tonight, they traveled to Ohio to face Metro Divisional rivals the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Hoping to silence the cannon at Nationwide Arena, the Devils ended up getting taken out, falling narrowly to the Jackets 4-3.

The Devils went with the exact same lineup from last night in Newark. Ty Smith remained scratched with Colton White still dressed. Smith joined Mason Geertsen and Christian Jaros again as healthy scratches for the Devils.

The lineup non-changes extended to the goal as Nico Daws got the back-to-back starts for the Devils, having played well last night.

He made 27 saves on 31 total Blue Jackets shots for a nightly save percentage of .871. He stopped both Columbus shorthanded shots and four of their five power play shots as the Jackets were 1-for-3 on the man advantage. At full strength, Daws made 21 saves on 24 Blue Jackets shots.

Columbus countered with Elvis Merzlikins who stopped 30 of the Devils’ 33 total shots for a .909 save percentage. He turned aside the Devils’ lone shorthanded shot and four of their five power play shots – the Devils were 1-for-4 as a team on the power play. Merzlikins had 25 saves on 27 even strength Devils shots.

The Devils got off to a flying start as Jesper Bratt, off the opening faceoff, charged towards the Columbus net and drew a tripping penalty on Vladislav Gavrikov just eight seconds into the game.

The Devils would convert right away too. Just 54 seconds into the opening period, Jack Hughes scored off of a mad scramble when the puck went behind Merzlikins. The puck was pinballing around the Columbus crease. Initially it looked like Nico Hischier or Nathan Bastian would get credit for the goal. It went to Hughes unassisted on the power play, eventually to make it 1-0 Devils.

It was as if the Devils were shot out of a cannon.

The Jackets would begin to respond following the Devils goal.

Boone Jenner shot wide on a partial breakaway moments later when Jenner stole the puck at the Columbus blue line. Yegor Sharangovich made a nice effort backchecking to break the chance up and help force Jenner’s shot wide.

Bastian and Gavin Bayreuther got into a scrap midway through the first after Bastian and Jimmy Vesey had crashed into Merzlikins’ net and the Jackets took exception. That tilt went down at the 10:58 gone by mark of the first.

Columbus would tie things while those guys were serving their five-minute fighting majors.

At the 13:08 mark, Justin Danforth laid a big hit on White deep in the Devils zone on the forecheck which began a series of events that saw the puck eventually kept in by Max Domi.

Cole Sillinger moved it to Jake Christiansen through a cross-ice seam that allowed Christiansen to score from the far faceoff circle to tie the game for the Blue Jackets and gave Christiansen his first NHL goal.

Before the end of the first period, Columbus would take the lead when, who else? Noted Devil-killer Oliver Bjorkstrand scored at 17:35 gone to make it 2-1.

Once again, the Jackets used their aggressive forecheck to keep the puck hemmed into the Devils zone. Jack Roslovic got the puck to Jakub Voracek at thet near wall. He centered to Bjorkstrand who was camped in the slot. The pass was perfectly teed up for him to launch a one-timer by Daws to give the Blue Jackets the 2-1 lead going into the first intermission.

The Devils would get into some penalty trouble towards the end of the first period and the beginning of the second.

Domi took a high-sticking penalty against Dawson Mercer at the 17:39 mark of the first to give the Devils a man up. That was canceled out at the 18:47 mark when Dougie Hamilton was called for a trip against Jenner to give the teams 52 seconds of 4-on-4 until the Jackets went on the power play.

That was changed to ten seconds of a 5-on-3 and then a 5-on-4 when Damon Severson got two-minutes for slashing 38 seconds into the second frame.

Columbus capitalized 46 seconds into the second period with a goal – with one second left on the Hamilton penalty.

On that goal, the Jackets won an offensive zone faceoff and quickly moved the puck around up high. From Voracek to Patrik Laine at the far faceoff circle. He hit the post on his initial shot and Jenner was there as Johnny-on-the-spot to slide it home and make 3-1.

The Devils got that one back later on in the second when Hischier scored an amazing goal.

At the 16:00 mark of the second, Severson hit Hischier with a stretch breakout pass that he banked off of the boards to Nico from behind the Devils net.

Hischier gained the Columbus zone and shot himself as he had another Devils attacker with him. He roofed the puck off the 2-on-1 to make it 3-2 Blue Jackets.

Severson had gotten the puck off of a clean faceoff win by Michael McLeod in the Devils defensive zone. McLeod was awarded the secondary assist on the goal.

As amazing as the play that led to the Nico goal was, nothing much was going to top Laine’s goal 1:18 into the third period that put the Blue Jackets up 4-2.

Laine took a pass from Jenner in the neutral zone and used his slick hands to make a beautiful move through two Devils defenders, splitting the defense and cutting in on Daws. He finished one of the prettiest goals you will see all year – almost Mario Lemieux-esque – and Columbus had doubled their lead once again. Gabriel Carlsson had the secondary assist on the goal.

The Devils seemed to be breaking down again early in the third again when Hamilton kicked the puck up and over the glass just inside the New Jersey defensive zone.

No delay of game was called with ESPN’s “Rules Analyst” Dave Jackson explaining that the delay of game penalty only pertains to shooting the puck out of play with your stick.

In reality, it was a pretty heads up play by Hamilton by allowing the puck to clear out off of his skate. And yes, there was a distinct kicking motion.

The Devils would make things interesting from there. At the 7:07 mark of the third, New Jersey was just coming off of a power play – with Gavrikov called for tripping Tomas Tatar at 5:06 of the period.

The Devils had numbers coming into the Columbus zone after Mercer was able to corral a loose puck just before the Blue Jackets blue line.

Sharangovich kind barreled towards Merzlikins’ net, giving space to Pavel Zacha, who took a feed from Mercer. Zacha was trailing and scored. Hamilton got the secondary and the Devils had cut the lead to 4-3.

Head coach Lindy Ruff would pull Daws with just over two-minutes to go in regulation for the sixth attacker.

When Gavrikov was called for high-sticking Mercer with less than a minute to go in the game, putting the Devils on the power play to finish the game, the Devils kept Daws out and were up two men.

But the Devils could not even the score. They kept the Jackets from scoring into the empty net, despite Columbus having a shooting gallery while killing Gavrikov’s penalty, but the Blue Jackets got the full two points out of the game.

The Devils outshot Columbus 33-31 but won only 41-percent of the game’s faceoffs. McLeod led all Devils regular centers with a 50-percent personal winning clip in the faceoff circle.

As a team, the Devils took 11 penalty minutes while the Blue Jackets accumulated 13. The Devils were badly out played physically, being outhit by a margin of 30 to five for the game. Columbus also had 24 blocked shots to the Devils’ six. Each team only had one team giveaway.

In terms of ice time, Severson led all Devils skaters with 23:27 of total ice time logged – which included 3:37 of power play time (which led the defensemen) and 2:34 of shorthanded time. Ryan Graves led in PK time with 3:32 on the penalty kill out of his 21:35 of total time.

Hughes led the forwards with 22:56 of total ice time (which included 3:37 of power play time and one second pf shorthanded time). Special teams-wise, Bastian led the forwards with 3:41 of power play time out of his 13:19 of total TOI. McLeod led the forwards in shorthanded time with 2:50 out of his 13:42 of total ice time for the night.

Hughes led in shots on goal with five. Hits were led by Andreas Johnsson, Bastian, Sharangovich, Tatar and White who each had one. Graves led in blocks with two. Personal giveaways were led by Sharangovich with one and personal takeaways by Jimmy Vesey with one.

Next up, the Devils come back east and travel to Manhattan to take on their arch-rival New York Rangers on Friday.

Puck drop for that one is 7 PM and the Devils television feed will be shown on MSG+. We will have coverage for that rivalry game for you following the conclusion on Friday.

See you then and enjoy the rest of your week everyone!

Devils Edged in Columbus as Jackets Take Second Half of Home-and-Home

The Devils completed their home-and-home series with the Columbus Blue Jackets in Ohio tonight with a severely shorthanded lineup. Despite this, they were able to stay in the game until the end, but ultimately lost 4-3.

Roster issues to start with. Dougie Hamilton is still out for the foreseeable future with a broken jaw that he had successful surgery for last week. However, he was also added to the team’s COVID Protocol earlier today. He was not alone.

Hamilton, Yegor Sharangovich and Pavel Zacha (the latter two of which were already on the list) were joined on the COVID list by Nate Bastian, Mason Geertsen and Devils leading scorer Jesper Bratt.

Losing Bratt is obviously especially hard for the Devils to overcome. He and Jack Hughes had been rolling and this just completely kills momentum for them. Bratt was missing just his second game of the season.

Columbus saw the opposite end of the COVID list issue. They got defenseman Zach Werenski back out of Protocol, a player the Blue Jackets did not have for the game at New Jersey on Thursday.

With the chunk taken out of the Devils lineup, some creative changes were in store for fans. Forward AJ Greer and defenseman Colton White slotted into the lineup with Greer making his season debut with the Devils. They had been available on the Taxi Squad. The Devils would go with 11 forwards and seven defensemen which would lead to some mixing and matching along the way.

Dawson Mercer moved up to the first line, playing right wing with Jack Hughes centering and Tomas Tatar at left wing.

Greer played left wing on a line with Michael McLeod centering and Marian Studenic at right wing.

Goaltender Jon Gillies was the Devils’ lone healthy scratch.

And with that, the one place that things have stayed pretty consistent for the Devils has been in net. Mackenzie Blackwood made his sixth straight start tonight and made 30 saves off of Columbus’ 34 total shots. He finished the night with an .882 save percentage. He stopped the Jackets’ one shorthanded shot and four of their five power play shots. The Blue Jackets were 1-for-3 on the man advantage. At even strength, Blackwood stopped 25 of the Jackets’ 28 shots.

Joonas Korpisalo went for the Blue Jackets again tonight and was equal to 27 of the Devils’ 30 total shots he had thrown at him for a .900 save percentage on the game. This included saving both New Jersey shorthanded chances and all six of their power play shots. The Devils went 0-for-3 on the power play.  At five-on-five, he saved 19 of the Devils’ 22 shots.

The Jackets had a pregame ceremony tonight honoring Jakub Voracek, who played in his 1,000th NHL game against the Devils on Thursday at Prudential Center.

The Devils have also dropped their last five visits to Nationwide Arena – including their last trip there, January 18, 2020, a 5-0 Blue Jackets win. The Jackets were in the temporary Central Division last season and did not play the Devils.

The Blue Jackets wasted no time in getting on the board.

Just 42 seconds into the game, Damon Severson was called for a hook, which put the Jackets on the power play early.

And, though the Devils dodged this particular bullet at Prudential Center on Thursday, Oliver Bjorkstrand, who has become a true Devil killer, would put Columbus up in front.

It happened with 2:01 gone by in the first when Patrik Laine recovered a save made by Blackwood on Boone Jenner. Laine passed to Voracek (who had drawn the penalty in the first place) on the right side. He quickly moved it to Bjorkstrand at the left side of Blackwood’s net and Bjorkstrand tapped the pass in to make it 1-0 Columbus.

Jenner did not get a point out of that goal but would notch the Jackets’ second one. This came 2:02 after the Bjorkstrand goal and it was a weird one.

Jenner was behind the Devils net and threw it in front sort of out of desperation. Hughes was coming back, back checking through the slot and the puck deflected off of his right skate and in past Blackwood. Adam Boqvist (secondary) and Gustav Nyquist (primary) had the assists on the goal and it was now 2-0 Blue Jackets.

The Jackets had taken control of the early part of the period and jumped out to the quick 2-0 lead.

The Devils, however, would come roaring back at the end of the period and tie things before the intermission.

At the 14:41 mark, the Devils won the puck out of the far corner and Jimmy Vesey guided back to Severson at the point. Severson found Nico Hischier in the middle of the ice wide open. Nico’s shot snuck through Korpisalo’s arm and in as the Columbus goalie could not squeeze it and hold on. That cut the Jackets lead in half at 2-1.

And the Devils’ come back was in full force. With 20 seconds to go in the first, Vesey struck again. A Blue Jacket player knocked down a Devils pass and inadvertently kept the puck in his zone. Mercer grabbed it and passed through a seam to Vesey, who got off a quick shot that defected and changed direction on Korpisalo and went in. The Devils had tied the game up at two heading into the second period.

For Vesey, this was his first multi-point game since March 3, 2021 according to MSG+ and Steve Cangialosi. At that point, he was playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs and accomplished the feat at the Edmonton Oilers.

In a back-and-forth game, the momentum would shift right back to the Blue Jackets in the second period.

At 9:31 gone by in the new period, the Jackets dumped the puck into the Devils zone. It went into the near corner and Sean Kuraly, on the forecheck, hit the Devils’ defenseman hard, taking him off the puck and out of the play for a second. Kuraly then centered to Bellmawr, New Jersey-native Eric Robinson, who sept the puck towards Yegor Chinakhov, who then scored into the empty side of Blackwood’s cage to put the Jackets back in front 3-2.

The Devils would respond on this one, though, when Marian Studenic scored at the 13:32 mark. That one came when Jesper Boqvist cut up the right side and into the Blue Jackets zone. He shoveled it on net with a backhand with Studenic driving to the front of the net, fighting through a check. Studenic would hammer the puck home after one or two hacks at it. That would tie the game again, this time at three apiece.

The second period would end on a deflating note for the Devils.

While on the power play, with Max Domi having gone off for hooking Greer – a power play for the Devils that would finish out the second period and continue on to the third if the Devils did not score – Hischier had a chance stopped by Korpisalo as the Columbus goaltender made an amazing glove save on him, going right to left across his crease.

It was a great save and the Devils were visibly knocked out by it. Columbus would eventually kill the rest of the power play in the third.

They probably did not lose the game because of that save, but it sure did not help the Devils’ mentality for sure.

And then the dagger, brought down by, who else? Oliver Bjorkstrand.

With five minutes gone by in the third, the Devils won a faceoff deep in their defensive zone. The puck, however, instead of going back towards the corner, the Devils’ defense and safety, went forward to Adam Boqvist at the near point. Boqvist moved it to Voracek at the near half wall. Voracek quickly found a seam across to Bjorkstrand, set up at the far side of Blackwood’s net. Bjorkstrand blasted a shot that went in and made it 4-3 Blue Jackets.

With the puck being pushed forward off of the faceoff, the draw actually functioned as a faceoff win for Columbus for all intents and purposes, despite the Devils officially winning it.

The Devils would pull Blackwood with just about over two minutes remaining in regulation. They would fight hard but just could not get the equalizer and 4-3 was our final as the final horn (and cannon shot) fired.

It was another normal Devils-Blue Jackets game as Bjorkstrand ended up victimizing New Jersey with two goals in the end.

Columbus outshot the Devils 34 to 30. The Devils won 46-percent of the game’s faceoffs with McLeod leading personally with a 52-percent win percentage.

Each team ended the game with six total penalty minutes while the Jackets outhit the Devils 24-13. Columbus also edged the Devils in blocked shots with ten to New Jersey’s nine. Team giveaways saw the Jackets with 12 while the Devils only registered one.

Severson led all Devils skaters with 26:42 of total ice time (which included 4:38 of power play time and 2:17 of shorthanded time). Ryan Graves led the defensemen in PK time with 3:25 of shorthanded time out of his 20:10 of total ice time. He also played 19 seconds on the power play.

Hughes led the forwards with 25:48 of total ice time – including 4:59 on the PP and eight seconds on the PK. Hischier led the forwards in penalty kill minutes with 2:42 out of his 21:35 of total time. He also played 3:57 on the man advantage.

Vesey led the Devils in points with two (one goal and one assist) as Jack Hughes’ point scoring streak ended at five games. He did not register a point tonight.

Hughes did lead the Devils in shots on goal with five. Defenseman Christian Jaros led the Devils in hits with three. Severson, Graves and Jonas Siegenthaler led in blocked shots with two each. Vesey had the Devils’ only giveaway with one to lead there while Janne Kuokkanen had two takeaways to lead in that category.

And with that, the Devils will try to get back to their winning ways while also hoping to get relatively healthy again next week.

This will be another tall order as their next game comes Monday at home in Newark against the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning. Puck drop for that game is 7 PM at Prudential Center and the game will be shown on MSG+.

We will have coverage of that game for you right here then. In the meantime, have a great end of the weekend everyone!