Ovi Gets Number 700, But Devils Prevail

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!

Blackwood Earns Shutout, Point in Win Over Philly

Mackenzie Blackwood had a personal game for the ages tonight. He blanked the Philadelphia Flyers, one of the hottest teams in the Eastern Conference, making 46 saves. This was the most saves made by a Devils goalie in a shutout against the Flyers since Martin Brodeur made 36 against them in 2008 and the second most saves in a shutout by a Devil against any team in franchise history period. To boot, he also had an assist on a second period Damon Severson goal.

The Devils changed some things in their lineup from the shootout loss to Montreal on Tuesday. PK Subban was back from illness and inserted back into the lineup in place of Colton White. Subban was back on the top defensive pairing with Andy Greene. Nico Hischier and Sami Vatanen remained out with injuries suffered on Saturday against Dallas.

Facing Blackwood tonight for Philly was Brian Elliott, who had been on a personal hot streak of late. He has been playing for Carter Hart, who is out currently with an injury. He made 13 saves on 17 Devils shots for a .765 save percentage. He was relieved of his duties in the third period following the fourth Devils goal by Alex Lyon. He stopped just one of the two shots he saw for a .500 save percentage.

The game-winner for the Devils came just 13 seconds into the game when the Devils got the puck into the Philadelphia zone and Travis Zajac grabbed it in the corner. He centered to Blake Coleman. Coleman collected the puck with his skates and got it to his stick. He got a shot off and beat Elliott to make it 1-0. Subban had the secondary assist on the goal that would go down as the game winning goal.

With that goal, Coleman became the first Devils player this season to reach the 20 goal plateau.

Despite the fact that the Devils only mustered a total of 19 shots this game, there was plenty of action. In the first, Connor Carrick hit the post and Blackwood needed to stop Kevin Hayes on a partial breakaway right after.

In the second, the Devils doubled their lead 1:38 in when Severson scored on a power play opportunity. Hayes had gone off for tripping Jesper Bratt at 1:19 setting this up. Blackwood got the puck to Severson, who sped up the right wing and fired a shot by Elliott to make it 2-0. With this assist, his first NHL point, Blackwood became the first Devils goalie since Brodeur in 2000 to gain a point and a shutout win in the same game.

The Devils finished the game 1-for-3 on the power play with four shots. They also had a shorthanded goal on four shots down a man. The Flyers were 0-for-4 on the man advantage with six shots. They also had five shorthanded shots, just to illustrate how difficult a shutout it was that Blackwood got.

Miles Wood took a big hit in the corner in the second period that required stitches to close a cut on his face. His helmet came down on the hit and the visor cut his face. He would return for the third and this would be a very good thing.

Because the Devils exploded for three goals in the final frame and it was Wood who contributed two of them.

The period began with Pavel Zacha scoring 1:10 in. This was a shorthanded goal while Subban was off for a trip just 46 seconds into the new period. It was the Devils who capitalized when Zacha intercepted an errant Flyers pass just inside the Devils’ blue line. Zacha got the puck to Kevin Rooney, who was off on a 2-on-1 with Zacha. Rooney gave it back to Zacha and he ripped one five-hole on Elliott to make it 3-0.

The Flyers not being able to make crisp passes would be a theme throughout this third period. At the 4:23 mark, the puck bounced off of Shayne Gostisbehere’s stick and came to Wood. He grabbed it and was off to the races. He beat Elliott to make it 4-0. The goal came unassisted and Wood was not done.

After this goal, Elliott was chased in favor of Lyon. At the 11:16 mark, Wood victimized him too.

Following a turnover at the Devils’ blue line, Mirco Mueller fed a speeding-up-the-left-wing Wood and he made a nice move around the Philly defender and beat Lyon for his second of the game to make it 5-0.

Fittingly, Blackwood was named the game’s first star and Zacha the second while Wood was the third.

The Flyers dominated almost everything in this game, with the Devils winning just 32-percent of the game’s faceoffs and being outhit 18-16. Rooney led all Devils centers in faceoff percentage, winning 43-percent of his draws. The Devils had more blocked shots with 16 to the Flyers’ 11 and each team had nine turnovers.

However, though the Flyers were dominant on paper, it was the Devils who had the goaltending and took advantages of the Flyers’ miscues.

Time on ice was led by Severson with 23:24 (including 2:41 on the power play and 5:10 killing off penalties). Zacha led the forwards with 19:36 (including 1:31 on the power play and 4:27 shorthanded).

Blake Coleman led in shots on goal with four. Of note was that Wood finished with two shots on goal in the game and scored on both of them. John Hayden led in hits with three while Greene and Subban each had three blocks to lead that category. Travis Zajac, Coleman, Kyle Palmieri, Zacha, Bratt, Mueller and Severson all tied for most takeaways with one apiece.

So after this exhilarating win over a big rival, we now return home as the Devils take on the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday. We will see you then as the Devils try to make it points in six straight games.