On today, the 40th anniversary of the Miracle on Ice in Lake Placid, the Devils had a little bit of a miracle of their own up their sleeve.
For Alex Ovechkin, history was on his doorstep. He notched his 700th career NHL goal, but his Washington Capitals could not come out of Newark with the victory. The Devils won 3-2 on a late Damon Severson goal. With the win, goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood won his sixth straight start. It was also the Devils’ fourth straight win at Prudential Center for the first time since December of 2017 (they also won four straight “home games” to start last season, however one of those games was in Sweden at the Global Series).
For the Devils, only one major lineup change as Miles Wood was out with an illness and Nick Merkley (wearing a full-face shield because of the stitches by his eye) slotted back in up front in his place. Will Butcher remains out with an injury.
In goal, Blackwood stopped 33 of 35 for the Devils with a .943 save percentage. The Caps threw out Ilya Samsonov who made 26 saves on 29 Devils shots for an .897 save percentage. For Samsonov, this loss was his first road loss in his 11th road game, the first such loss of his NHL career.
The Devils got on the board first when Jesper Bratt scored his second in two games. The goal was a lot similar to the one on Thursday against the Sharks, as well. Severson intercepted a Capitals pass in the Devils’ defensive zone and spotted Bratt coming off the bench. He hit Bratt with a stretch pass and Bratt was in on a breakaway. He froze Samsonov with a leg pump, then went backhand-forehand and scored to make it 1-0 Devils early (12:55 into the game).
The Devils had some chances to begin the second, as Nico Hischier deflected a shot up and over the crossbar early in the frame.
They finally broke through again on the power play at 12:12 of the second. Brendan Dillon was off for hooking at 10:14 which set this up. Nikita Gusev was camped at the far wall and passed to Bratt near the center of the ice. Bratt then shoveled it to Wayne Simmonds, who was camped out at the side of the net. Simmonds simply tapped the puck in to make it 2-0 Devils.
Just over two minutes later, however, the Caps responded, also on the power play. At 14:03, Colton White was called for a trip on TJ Oshie. This put Washington on the power play and there, Nicklas Backstrom set up at the near half wall and passed to John Carlson. Carlson took a one-timer and it was tipped by Blackwood by Tom Wilson in front. That cut the Devils lead to one at 14:44.
In the third period, the inevitable happened when Alex Ovechkin scored his 700th career NHL goal. He had 29 previous goals against the Devils and number 30 was quite sweet.
It came 4:50 into the third when, off a scramble in front of the Devils’ net, Evgeny Kuznetsov got the puck and, as he was falling down, passed to Ovi. Ovechkin took the puck and absolutely roofed it over Blackwood to become the eighth player in NHL history to record 700 goals. Nick Jensen had the secondary assist.
According to MSG Network’s Steve Cangialosi, Travis Zajac, who was on the ice when Ovi scored his goal, was also present for Jaromir Jagr’s (the last player prior to Ovechkin to score 700 goals) 700th. In fact, as a teammate of Jagr’s, he recorded an assist on the goal.
So now things were knotted at two and things began to get a little bit desperate. Washington had 14 seconds of 5-on-3 but the Devils killed off both penalties.
Then, at 15:44, things began to break for the Devils.
Kuznetsov took a hooking call on Kyle Palmieri to put the Devils on the man advantage. Then, at 16:55, Michal Kempny was called for a slash against Palmieri. This put the Devils up 5-on-3 for 50 seconds or so.
The Caps killed off the first penalty, but with the Devils still up a man, Palmieri passed to Severson, who played catch with Gusev. When Severson got the puck back, he ripped it and, although Samsonov got a piece of the puck, he could not get the whole thing and the Devils had the late 3-2 lead at 18:01 gone by in the third.
Washington pulled Samsonov and the Devils got the better of some non-icing calls to win their fourth straight at home and even the season series with the Caps at two wins apiece.
On special teams, the Devils were 2-for-3 with four shots and three shorthanded shots. The Capitals were 1-for-6 with 15 shots on the power play. The Devils nearly shot themselves in the foot on penalties, but a good PK allowed them to escape with the victory.
The three stars of the game were Ovechkin at three, Blackwood at two and Severson, with the game-winner at one. Severson was one of three Devils with two points. Bratt had a goal and an assist for two, Gusev had two assists and Severson had a goal and an assist.
The Devils were once again outshot, but had the great goaltending of Mackenzie Blackwood to help them out. The teams each split the faceoffs 50-50 with Hischier winning 53-percent personally to lead the centers. The Devils were outhit 29-20, but had more blocked shots at 18-12 and less turnovers at six to Washington’s ten.
Severson led all Devils skaters in ice time with 26:07 (including 3:21 on the power play and 4:37 on the penalty kill) while Pavel Zacha led the forwards with 20:02 (54 seconds on the PP and 6:26 killing penalties included).
Shots were led by Kevin Rooney, Gusev, Severson and PK Subban who each had three. Hits were led by John Hayden, Palmieri, Zacha, Dakota Mermis and Subban with two each. Blocks were led by Hayden and Subban with three apiece. Takeaways saw Rooney with two leading in that category.
Next up, the Devils hit the road for a long Western stretch which begins in Detroit on Tuesday. The Red Wings – in the throes of a disastrous season – have already been eliminated from playoff contention. We will, of course, have coverage for you right here. Until then, enjoy the rest of your weekend everyone!