The Devils returned home after salvaging the final game of their California road trip with a shootout win in San Jose. Waiting for them in Newark was a week of challenges: the Florida Panthers tonight and the New York Islanders and Boston Bruins on the rest of the slate.
All they did in the first game was defeat the league-leading Panthers while scoring a team season-high seven goals, winning 7-3 and handing the Cats just their second regulation loss on the year. Florida has now lost two in a row as they were defeated by the New York Rangers 4-0 at Madison Square Garden last night.
To begin with, we have some news on Miles Wood. Wood, who has been out with a right hip injury since the October 4 preseason game against the Washington Capitals, had surgery on it on Monday. The surgery was performed by Dr. Bryan Kelly at the Hospital for Special Surgery.
Amanda Stein reported that the Wood and the Devils had consulted with “team medical providers and external specialists” prior to the surgery. The Devils have also said tha they will make updates on his timeline and progress as the news becomes available.
In other roster news, Marian Studenic and Frederik Gauthier were both sent down to AHL Utica after both cleared waivers on Monday. Each had been playing on the fourth line with the Devils while also killing penalties.
With those two forwards sent down to the AHL, forwards Jesper Boqvist and Tyce Thompson were both recalled from the Comets today. Each were in New Jersey for the morning skate today and played in the game tonight.
The Devils were once again without Dougie Hamilton as he had skated this morning but was held out for the game tonight. Yegor Sharangovich and Mason Geertsen were the other Devils scratches.
In goal, the Devils started Mackenzie Blackwood as they seem to be going back-and-forth between Blackwood and Bernier for the moment. Blackwood stopped 35 of the 38 shots he saw for a .921 save percentage. He stopped Florida’s lone shorthanded shot and their one power play shot. The Panthers were held 0-fo-2 on the man advantage with the Devils’ penalty kill much improved. Blackwood stopped 33-of-36 at even strength.
For the Panthers, Spencer Knight got a rare back-to-back start, as he also started in their loss against the Rangers last night. Knight stopped 24 of the Devils’ 30 shots for an .800 save percentage. He also was equal to five of their seven power play shots – the Devils ended up 2-for-4 on the power play again, much improved from the California trip – and 19-of-23 shots at even strength.
Florida took the early lead as they seemed to get things right on track after their misstep last night.
At the 3:53 mark of the first period, Owen Tippett quickly got the puck back into the Devils zone and the Panthers began a hard forecheck. Ty Smith was unable to get to his check, Sam Bennett in time and Bennett retrieved the puck behind the Devils net. He came back in front on the wraparound, jamming it on Blackwood. Blackwood made the initial save, but Bennett put his own rebound in to make it 1-0 Florida. Bennett was a game-time decision for Panthers coach Andrew Brunette as he had missed the last four games. Carter Verhaeghe had the secondary assist on the Florida goal.
The Devils were behind early, but there was a little more in their step tonight. They seemed determined to stay in the game and not let things get out of hand.
Sure enough, at the 15:46 mark of the first, Andreas Johnsson tied the game on the power play.
Lucas Carlsson was called for tripping Thompson at 14:08 and the Devils went to work. Jesper Bratt got a shot off of Knight’s pads, looking to deflect a rebound to Johnsson in front. The rebound did got to Johnsson and he did not miss, burying it to tie the game at one apiece. Damon Severson had the secondary assist.
Before time was up in the first, the Devils would take their first lead of the night.
At the 17:45 mark, Smith threw a puck on net. Nico HIschier was in front and got a piece of his shot, making a really nice redirect by Knight to make it 2-1 Devils. PK Subban had the secondary assist on the goal.
Florida would come right back following that goal, peppering Blackwood with a few chances that the Devils goaltender was able to stand up to. It showed just how dangerous the Panthers were as a team. They could almost turn their offense on like a switch – a dangerous proposition for any opponent.
And they would continue that momentum at the beginning of the second period.
Just 24 seconds into the new period, Aleksander Barkov tied things at two. Off of a 2-on-1 with Verhaeghe, Verhaeghe shot and Barkov went towards the net. The rebound came to Barkov and he put it in to make it 2-2. Anthony Duclair had the secondary assist.
Barkov’s goal (the 189th of his Panthers career) made him the all-time goal scoring leader in Florida Panther history, so a bit of history on that tally.
The Panthers, of course, were not done. Tippett would score 1:05 later to give Florida the 3-2 lead. It came when the puck was banked up the boards to Jonathan Huberdeau. He got it to Gustav Forsling, who then sent it cross-ice to Tippett. Tippett was going towards the Devils net on the backside and tipped the pass by Blackwood to make it 3-2.
The Devils were again behind the eight-ball, having let a 2-1 lead slip away on them.
But from that point, New Jersey would take over the game.
At the 1:58 mark of the second, just about 28 seconds after the Tippett goal, Johnsson scored his second of the night to tie the game up.
It came off the rush as Dawson Mercer made the zone entry and played give-and-go just inside the Panthers’ blue line just after breaking in with Johnsson. Johnsson eventually got the puck again in close on the Florida goal. He beat Knight to make it a 3-3 game. Smith had the secondary helper.
The Devils would get one more before the second period was out. At the 18:15 mark, Mercer fed Subban at the point. The Devils blueliner wound up on a one-timer and his shot hit a Florida player in front, redirecting by Knight to make it 4-3 Devils. Jonas Siegenthaler had the secondary.
The Devils would pour it on in the third.
Pavel Zacha opened the party at the 4:44 mark of the third frame while on the power play. Bennett had gone off for a trip with Zacha drawing the penalty himself to set up the Devils power play.
This one actually came off of an odd man rush, a 3-on-2. Hischier got the puck from Alexander Holtz and carried the puck just inside the Panthers blue line. He passed to Zacha, the other player in the 3-on-2 for New Jersey, Zacha made a nifty move around Knight, stickhandling around him and banking the puck off of the Florida goalie’s right skate and in to make it 5-3 Devils.
The Devils doubled up the Panthers at 6-3 at the 5:13 mark – just 26 seconds after the Zacha goal. The Devils won a faceoff deep in the Florida zone. Boqvist won the draw and Tomas Tatar got it back to Smith at the point. Smith simply threw it on net and it hit the Panthers’ Eetu Luostarinen’s glove, redirecting by Knight to make it 6-3 Devils.
By now, the Devils had scored a season-high six goals against an opponent, the Florida Panthers, no less! Florida, meanwhile, had given up their season high goals against for the year with those six goals.
And the Devils were not done.
The Panthers pulled goalie Knight with about 5:15 to go in regulation. It was a gamble, to say the least, but down by three, they figured they could fluster the young Devils, score a goal or two and get back into things.
But, at the 16:11 mark, Jimmy Vesey would ice things with an empty net goal. He fired a shot from just inside the Devils’ own blue line and hit the net, making it 7-3 and giving us our final. Siegenthaler had the assist on the empty netter.
Johnsson (two goals), Hischier (one goal and one assist), Mercer (two assists), Smith (one goal and two assists), Siegenthaler (two assists) and Subban (a goal and an assist) each had a multi-point night with Smith and his three points leading the way.
For reference, the Devils had not scored seven goals in a game all last season over the shortened schedule.
Stats-wise, the Devils were outshot 38-31. They won 53-percent of the game’s faceoffs as a team with Hischier leading the way with a personal 69-percent winning clip. Team penalty minutes saw the Devils with four and the Panthers with eight. The Panthers outhit the Devils 28-21 while the Devils had more blocked shots at 14 to Florida’s ten. The Devils had two more team giveaways with nine to the Panthers’ seven.
Ice time saw Ryan Graves log 21:35 (including 22 seconds on the power play and 2:21 on the PK) to lead the team. He edged out Severson, who played 21:23 (but played in all situations – 2:36 on the power play and 2:11 on the PK). Michael McLeod led the forwards with 18:05 logged (including 38 seconds on the PP and 2:23 killing penalties).
Individual stats saw Graves lead in shots on net with five. Johnsson led in hits in addition to goals scored with three hits. Blocks were led by Siegenthaler with four. McLeod led the team with two turnovers. Takeaways were led by Mercer with two.
Next up, the gauntlet continues for the Devils as they welcome the Islanders to The Rock. The Isles never-ending road trip to start the season has not been overly kind to them, but they are still a dangerous matchup for the Devils. That game will be on MSG on Thursday and we will have that recap for you following the outcome of the game.
Until then, have a great week everyone!