Devils Swept on Three-Game Western Canada Road Trip

The Devils traveled to Western Canada to play three games. They lost all three of them and all by the same score of 6-3.

Today it was a trip to Rogers Place in Edmonton and lost to the Oilers… 6-3.

And while the Devils have been trending down, the Oilers are trending up at the right time. With this win over the Devils, Edmonton completed a five-game homestand sweep for the first time since 1987.

The Devils did have a flu bug that had been going around the locker room and kept a bunch of players out of practice yesterday. There were some game-time decisions for coach Lindy Ruff, especially with Pavel Zacha still out and the team thus playing without a forward available to them.

Zacha joined defensemen Colton White and Christian Jaros watching from the press box but Andreas Johnsson, who had missed the previous game at Calgary with an eye injury after being high sticked in the Vancouver game on Tuesday, was back in up front.

Still, the Devils went with 11 forwards and seven defensemen with Mason Geertsen officially getting some time on the blue line.

The Devils decided to end Nico Daws’ streak of nine consecutive starts tonight with Jon Gillies getting the nod between the pipes.

He stopped 34 shots on 39 total Edmonton shots for a save percentage of .872. He turned aside both Oilers shorthanded shots and four of their five power play shots (the Oilers were a perfect 1-for-1 on the power play as a team). At even strength, Gillies made 28 saves on 32 Edmonton shots. The Oilers finished with an even 40 shots on net with an empty net goal added late in the game.

Mikko Koskinen started for the Oilers and made 25 saves on 28 total New Jersey shots. He had a .893 save percentage on the afternoon. The Devils had three power play shots, all of which were gobbled up by Koskinen as New Jersey went 0-for-3 on the man advantage as a team. At five-versus-five he made 22 saves on 25 shots against.

Although the Devils defeated the Oilers in overtime back on December 31, 2021 at Prudential Center, they have not fared too well in Canada itself. Their only win coming last month (the 7-1 trouncing of the Canadiens in Montreal).

It was the Devils first trip to Edmonton since November 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The contest did not start out well for the Devils either.

Just 1:11 into the game, Leon Draisaitl scored his 41st of season when Jesse Puljujarvi shot off the rush and the puck slipped through Gillies’ arm and got behind the Devils net. Gillies had no idea where the puck ended up, thinking he had squeezed it between his arm and his body. Draisaitl was then able to recover the shot behind the net and stuff it in near side. Gillies never recovered and did not get across his goal mouth in time. Just like that it was 1-0 Edmonton.

Cody Ceci had the secondary assist.

From there, the two teams traded some chances back and forth beginning with Warren Foegele being stopped by Gillies on a breakaway following Draisaitl’s goal. Just minutes after Foegele was turned aside, Nico Hischier and Johnsson went the other way on a 2-on-1 and were stopped by Koskinen when Koskinen inadvertently knocked the net off of its moorings with his right skate.

The Devils were denied there but would get on the board to tie the game at 4:50 gone by in the first.

This goal was a nice play from start to finish. It began with Dougie Hamilton moving the puck quickly out of the Devils zone up the middle to Hischier. Hischier then, just as fast, hit Jesper Bratt with a pass up the middle as he entered the Edmonton zone and split the Oilers defense. He was then in alone on Koskinen, went from his backhand to his forehand and beat the Edmonton goalie with his lightning-fast hands to make it 1-1.

That goal gave Bratt his 20th goal of the season as his career year just continues to pay off quietly for him.

And that was how things were going into the second period and would remain for the majority of the frame.

Things started off with a bang when Geertsen threw down with Zack Kassian 2:44 into the frame in a spirited fight.

Then a strange goal to give the Oilers back the lead at the end of the period.

With 2:12 remaining in the period, Evander Kane attempted a wraparound on Gillies that the Devils goalie seemed to get his left skate on and kick out.

Play continued on as no goal was signaled on that sequence.

Then, with 1:49 to go, the horn sounded in the arena – the game clock horn, not the goal horn – to stop play.

In the ensuing time between Kane’s wraparound and the horn sounding, the Situation Room in Toronto had gotten a look at the play and realized that, per the overhead camera angle, the puck had completely crossed the goal line and Gillies had actually kicked it out after it was fully in the net.

Referees Reid Anderson and Brian Pochmara were brought over to the scorers table and given a look at the replay. Everything was confirmed that it was a good goal. About 30 or so seconds were restored to the game clock and the Oilers had a 2-1 lead.

Darnell Nurse (primary) and Connor McDavid (secondary) had the helpers.

The goal, coming very late in the second period, might have given Edmonton some momentum, but it was actually the Devils, who came out flying for the third.

Just 26 seconds into the final stanza, Bratt became a 21-goal scorer when Hischier gained the Oilers zone and made a quick drop pass to Johnsson. Johnsson played tic-tac-toe with Ryan Graves, who jumped up into the rush and took a shot on net. That shot missed target, but the puck came right out to Bratt who buried his second of the game, not missing on this chance to tie the game at two.

Bratt would be majorly instrumental in the Devils go-ahead goal scored a little under three minutes later at 3:14 gone in the third.

On this one, Draisaitl tried to beat Bratt with a make a shifty move on Bratt in the neutral zone to get by him. Bratt made and alert defensive play and straight up stole the puck from the big German.

Bratt then carried it back into the Oiler zone. He got his own shot off on Koskinen, who made the initial save. Bratt then subtly guided the rebound to a trailing Nico Hischier coming up the middle of the ice. Hischier tapped the puck into the empty cage with Koskinen down and the Devils had a 3-2 lead, their first of the afternoon.

But they were not to hold on to it.

It became when the Oilers tied the game at three with 9:04 gone by.

Devin Shore got the puck up to Kris Russell at the Devils blue line. Russell actively moved around, drawing Devils defenders towards him and opening up space for Tyson Barrie.

Barrie took the pass from Russell, skated the puck down low but shot from the sharp angle, with the puck sneaking between Gillies’ left arm and the left post. The puck just squeezed through and Edmonton had the game tied at 3-3.

Kane would then notch the game winner on the power play.

When PK Subban was called for tripping Draisaitl at the 10:32 mark of the third period, it was the first time in nearly five periods that the Devils would go on the penalty kill – they did not take a penalty in Calgary and in the first period, Ty Smith took a coincidental cross-checking penalty along with the Oilers’ Josh Archibald, making it four-on-four for two minutes.

But now the Devils would be shorthanded at five-on-four and would need to kill this off.

They would not.

At 12:03 gone by in the third (and with less than 30 seconds left in the man advantage), Kane got his second of the game when a McDavid pass was blocked by Devils penalty killer Michael McLeod in front. The pass was intended for Draisaitl near the far faceoff circle, but instead, caromed right to Kane right on the doorstep.

Kane switched to his backhand and put the puck behind Gillies to restore the Edmonton lead at 4-3. Barrie had the secondary assist.

From there, the Oilers added some window dressing.

Just 49 seconds following Kane’s power play goal, Zach Hyman notched his 21st of the year for the Oilers when the Devils failed to clear and Edmonton kept the puck in the New Jersey zone.

A Puljujarvi shot pinballed around near and around the Devils goal cage as Draisaitl got it towards Gillies and Hyman put it behind the goaltender eventually to make it 5-3 Oilers.

A scary moment late in the game as an errant Draisaitl shot hit referee Anderson in the face and he crumpled to the ice, bleeding. He left for repairs as Pochmara took over as the lone referee for the remainder of the game.

Gillies would be pulled by Ruff with just about two minutes to go in regulation in an effort to get the game tied up.

The Devils would win an offensive zone faceoff at around the 18:34 mark, getting the puck back to Hamilton. Hamilton would attempt to go D-to-D at the Edmonton blue line.

Unfortunately, McDavid read the play perfectly, picking off the pass and speeding away. No one is going to catch Connor McDavid in a footrace, and he deposited the puck into the empty net to give us our final of 6-3 (again) unassisted.

That was McDavid’s 35th goal of the season.

The final stats, team-wise, saw Edmonton outshoot the Devils 40 to 28. The Devils won 41-percent of the game’s faceoffs with Mikey McLeod winning 50-percent of his personally to lead the Devils forwards who regularly took draws. McLeod was also facing his brother in this game in Oilers centerman Ryan McLeod.

As a team, the Devils accumulated nine penalty minutes while the Oilers had 13. Edmonton narrowly outhit the Devils 28 to 23. Each team recorded 13 blocked shots and the Devils had 21 team giveaways to the Oilers’ 15.

Damon Severson was back to being the workhorse, logging 23:48 of total ice time in the game (including 3:38 on the power play – of which he was quarterbacking the first unit – and 1:04 on the PK). Those numbers were tops for the Devils defensemen, except for the shorthanded time, as Jonas Siegenthaler had 1:31 of penalty killing time logged out of his 20:27 of total ice time.

Of the forwards, Jack Hughes logged a total of 20:53 with four minutes on the PP. Jimmy Vesey led the forwards in PK time with 1:04 logged along with his six seconds on the man advantage out of his 17:30 of total time on ice.

Bratt, with three points (two goals and an assist) and Hischier with two points (a goal and an assist), were the scoring leaders for the Devils on the afternoon.

Bratt and Severson each led in shots on goal with four apiece. Siegenthaler led in hits by landing seven of them. Hamilton led in blocked shots with three while Hamilton and Siegenthaler tied for the team lead in personal giveaways with four each. Personal takeaways were led by Hischier, Vesey, Yegor Sharangovich and Bratt, who all had two.

Next up, the NHL Trading Deadline on Monday. Prior to any discussion about that, I do want to get some news up about Devils defensive prospect and University of Michigan phenom, Luke Hughes and some updates about he has been playing as the NCAA Men’s Hockey Tournament begins soon.

After that, the Devils will play the Rangers on Tuesday at Prudential Center as both teams could look a little different following the Trade Deadline on Monday.

That game is at 7 PM and will be shown from a Devils point of view on MSG+2.

Until then….

Devils Outlast Oilers in Crazy New Year’s Eve OT Thriller

Well, you stick around long enough and you’re bound to see everything eventually, I guess.

In a nutty one at Prudential Center to end the 2021 calendar year, the Devils won, no survived is probably the better word, the Edmonton Oilers to take an overtime win 6-5 and string together a two-game winning streak.

The game started with the announcement that head coach Lindy Ruff tested positive for COVID this morning – just about an hour before game time – and would be replaced behind the bench by assistant coach Alain Nasreddine for the game. Assistant coach Chris Taylor came down from the press box and behind the bench to coach the defense.

MSG+ pregame host Erika Wachter reported that Ruff may have been able to stay at the building in a private room to communicate with the coaching staff on the bench.

Other than that, no changes to the lineup occurred. Goaltender Jon Gillies remains in COVID Protocol and Mason Geertsen and Christian Jaros were the healthy scratches.

In goal, the Devils were back to Mackenzie Blackwood, who they are going to have to lean on going forward with the turmoil and injuries/illnesses that they have endured with the goaltending this season.

Blackwood made 32 saves on 37 total Edmonton shots for an .865 save percentage on the afternoon. He stopped both Oiler power play shots as the Devils were able to hold the high-powered Edmonton power play unit to 0-for-1 on the day. He stopped 30 of the Oilers 35 shots at even strength.

For the Oilers, Mike Smith (who just came back from an ankle injury and played his first game of the season last week in St. Louis) made 35 saves on 41 total Devils shots for an afternoon save percentage of .854. He was equal to three of the Devils’ four power play shots – New Jersey was 1-for-2 on the man advantage – and made 32 saves on 37 Devils shots at five-versus-five.

Of note in this game was Michael McLeod facing his younger brother Ryan for the first time in the NHL. The two were teammates in the Ontario Hockey League for two years with their hometown Mississauga Steelheads. Their parents were in attendance, one wearing an Oilers jersey and Devils cap and the other in a Devils jersey and an Oilers cap.

Things began with a bang in this game.

Just 1:27 into the contest, Edmonton’s Jesse Puljujarvi was called for holding Marian Studenic putting the Devils on their first power play of the afternoon very early.

It would only take 11 seconds for Jack Hughes to respond.

Jesper Bratt got the puck from Nate Bastian down low. Bratt passed to Dougie Hamilton up high at the point. Hamilton made a pass to Hughes at the near faceoff circle, setting him up for a one-timer. Jack blasted a shot by Smith with Bastian providing the screen in front of the Oilers goalie to make it 1-0 New Jersey very quickly.

But in a sign of things to come, that lead would not last.

Exactly 1:10 later, Ryan McLeod would cut into the Devils zone and play give-and-go with Connor McDavid. McDavid went backdoor and took the puck back, scoring on Blackwood to tie the game at one. Cody Ceci had the secondary assist.

However, 17 seconds after the McDavid goal, Nico Hischier would give the Devils back the lead.

A Jesper Boqvist shot took a bounce towards Hischier, who was at the near side of the Edmonton net. Nico just threw the puck on net and Smith could not find the shot. The puck bounced off of his back as he kind of flailed at it and ended up pushing it over the goal line to make it 2-1 Devils. Ryan Graves had the secondary assist on the goal.

We had only played 3:05 of total elapsed time and the Devils now led 2-1. And things were not done yet.

The Oilers tied the game again at the 6:00 mark when the Devils turned the puck over in their own zone to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Nugent-Hopkins got it to Slater Koekkoek, who quickly got a shot on the Devils net. Kailer Yamamoto was cruising through the front of the crease and tipped Koekkoek’s shot past Blackwood to make it 2-2.

And still the scoring in the first period wasn’t done!

The Devils retook the lead beginning on a good defensive play by Jonas SIegenthaler in his own end. A well-timed poke jarred the puck loose from an Edmonton puck carrier to Damon Severson. Severson moved it to Andreas Johnsson, who hit Dawson Mercer with a beautiful saucer pass as Mercer was cutting behind the Oilers’ defense. Mercer got into the Edmonton zone alone and finished the play with a shot that trickled between Smith’s arm and the far post to make it 3-2 Devils at 11:10 gone by.

So, for those keeping score at home, by the time we got to the first intermission, the Devils had a 3-2 lead and nine different Devils players had recorded a point.

After all of that, the second period saw just one goal scored 7:57 into the frame on a play only an elite player like Connor McDavid could properly execute.

The Devils got caught in full change at that time as the unit on the ice was caught in a long shift. McDavid, knowing that it was the second period – the period of the long change for the Devils – was able to time himself getting on the ice from the bench so that he was alone behind the play at the moment the Devils changed. Duncan Keith made a long pass to him through the middle and McDavid split the Devils’ defense and walked in alone on Blackwood. There was no stopping him and he scored to the game at three. Yamamoto had the secondary assist.

As MSG+ analyst Bryce Salvador, who pointed all of this out after he reviewed the tape at the intermission, said, there was just nothing the Devils could do except throw their hands up at that one. McDavid simply beat them and they were too tired to do much about it.

And this took us to the final period as the combatants tried to get things settled.

The Devils found themselves back in front 5:14 into the third period off of another nice one.

Mercer hit Johnsson with a long pass at the left-wing boards. Johnsson gained the Oilers zone and found a trailing Janne Kuokkanen, who fired a shot and roofed the puck by Smith to make it 4-3 Devils.

A scary moment following that goal, however, when Hamilton blocked a Yamamoto one-timer and left the ice gingerly as it hit his foot in an unprotected place. He was okay and would return.

The tide turned once again at the 7:06 mark of the third when Ryan McLeod got into the Devils zone and chipped the puck towards the far corner through a Devils defender’s feet. He recovered the puck in the corner himself and made a nice centering pass to Devin Shore, who was in front and chipped the pass by Blackwood to tie the game again, this time at four. William Lagesson had the secondary assist.

Then, the game defining goal.

Just before the 8:18 mark of the third, a delayed tripping penalty was called on Graves in front of the Devils net. Almost immediately, Hamilton, as he was falling down, kind of swept the puck towards the blue line. It was kept in and Keith got it to Leon Draisaitl down low.

As the puck was going to Draisaitl, Hughes kind of briefly got a stick on the pass to him. Again, no whistle to stop play.

The Devils, however, had a collective brain fart and assumed that the whistle would blow there.

When it did not, Draisaitl got the puck and made a pass to Yamamoto cutting backdoor. With no one picking him up, he simply tapped the puck into the Devils cage for the go-ahead goal to make it 5-4 Oilers.

New Jersey argued that the play should have been whistled when Hamilton touched the puck following the referee’s arm initially going up for the delayed penalty. Eventually, Nasreddine decided to use his coach’s challenge to review if Hamilton had complete control of the puck at that point and if play should have been dead then.

The reasoning was that the Devils were going on the penalty kill either way. Either on the Graves penalty or the failed challenge.

After about a five-minute review by referees Francois St. Laurent and Dean Morton, the decision came down: there was no decision.

The Devils actually could not challenge the play because it was a call that could not be challenged! The NHL clarified that the only way the Devils could have challenged a touch up on a delayed penalty was if they were the offensive team in the Oilers zone. Since they were the defending team, there could be no challenge.

Strange, but true!

Because of all this, the Oiler goal counted and the Devils would not go on the PK. The delayed penalty on Graves was negated when the Yamamoto goal was scored and, since the Devils could not actually challenge, they could not get the challenge wrong and there was no delay of game if they were wrong.

And the game was still not done!

The Oilers now had a 5-4 lead and the Devils pulled Blackwood with just over a minute to play in regulation.

With 32 seconds to go, the Devils would score their fourth goal this season with the goalie pulled.

It came when Hischier won a faceoff deep in the Edmonton zone and Hughes nudged the puck to Hamilton at the point.

He got a shot on net that Yegor Sharangovich redirected past Smith and in to tie the game at five goals each.

The Devils had fought back from adversity to tie the game and force overtime. Therefore, we were still not done!

It was the Devils’ fourth OT game of the year as they came in at 2-1 and the Oilers’ second (1-0).

At the 2:55 mark, Jesper Bratt got the puck out of the near corner and skated it up top towards Hughes at the blue line. Bratt dished to Hughes and Jack took a few strides, moving to the top of the near faceoff circle.

Hughes stepped up and shot, handcuffing Smith, who fell backwards, and the puck trickled by him and in. For Hughes, his second OT winner of the season and his second straight three-point game. Damon Severson had the secondary assist.

And with that 6-5 win, the Devils had strung together a two-game winning streak for their first win streak since early November.

Whew! Deep breath.

The Devils outshot Edmonton 41-37. The Oilers won 55-percent of the game’s faceoffs with New Jersey taking 45-percent of the draws. Sharangovich won 75-percent of his personal faceoffs to lead the Devils centers.

The Oilers had four total team penalty minutes while the Devils only logged two. Both teams finished with 16 hits. The Devils had one more blocked shot at 16 to the Oilers’ 15. The Devils had more team giveaways at 13 to Edmonton’s six.

Severson led all Devils skaters in total time on ice with 26:19 (23 seconds on the power play and 1:07 on the PK included). Hughes led the forwards with 19:40 of total ice time (which included 1:48 on the PP). Kuokkanen led the forwards in shorthanded time with 1:10 logged out of his 15:32 of total ice time.

Six Devils had multi-point games with Hughes and his two goals and one assist for three points leading the way.

Hughes also led in shots on goal with seven. Bastian and Severson led in hits with three each. Blocks were led by Hughes, Hamilton, Graves and Siegenthaler with two each. Pavel Zacha and Hughes each had two giveaways to lead in that category while Severson led in takeaways with three.

And with that, we will finally wrap things up and tell you that the Devils’ next game is on Sunday when they travel down to DC to take on the Capitals in a 3 PM matinee.

This game – the Devils’ first in the 2022 calendar year – will be televised on MSG+ and will see the Devils try to string three wins together against improbable odds.

We will have coverage for you right here on Sunday afternoon and, in the meantime, have a great new year everyone!