Zacha Wins it in OT for Devils

Life and hockey came full circle as the Devils faced the Boston Bruins in their final home game of the 2020-21 season just as they faced them in the first game of the 2020-21 season.

The paths may have diverged since that game in January, the Bruins are going to the playoffs, the Devils not. But the Devils gave their fans something to remember as they finished the home schedule on top, winning 4-3 in overtime.

First, some contract info to get to as today (May 5) the Devils singed goaltender Nico Daws to an Entry Level Contract. The 84th overall pick (third-round) in 2020 will see his three-year contract kick in in 2021-22 as he just finished up his season in the DEL in Germany.

He had a 4-6-0 record over ten games with one shutout and a 2.90 goals against average for ERC Ingolstadt this season. Before playing in the German league, he went 23-8-3-3  with a 2.48 GAA and a .924 save percentage, according to the Devils’ press release on him, for the Guelph Storm of the Ontario Hockey League.

He was third in save percentage last year in the OHL and was an OHL First Team All-Star and the OHL Goaltender of the Year last year as well.

Internationally, he represented Canada (he has dual German/Canadian citizenship – as he was born in Munich) in the 2021 World Junior Championship where he won gold.

And now to yesterday’s game. Andreas Johnsson and Mikhail Maltsev remain out, as do PK Subban (who is working out, but has not skated yet) and Jonas Siegenthaler.

Ty Smith reaggravated an injury in Monday’s game against Boston and so Matt Tennyson slotted in for him. Marian Studenic drew in for AJ Greer as well.

Boston sat a few players in preparation for the playoffs, including goalie Tuukka Rask. In his place started Jaroslav Halak, who made 17 saves on 21 Devils shots for an .810 save percentage. He got three of the Devils’ four power play shots (New Jersey was 1-for-4 on the power play) and was 14-of-17 at even strength.

Starting for the Devils was Mackenzie Blackwood, who stopped 33-of-36 Bruins shots for a .917 save percentage. He stopped the Bruins’ lone shorthanded shot and got two of their three power play shots (Boston was 1-for-3 with the man advantage). He stopped 30 of the Bruins’ 32 shots at even strength.

The game began with Miles Wood hitting the post for the Devils on a power play. A power play would play a part in the first goal of the game, but not that one.

Pavel Zacha scored at 8:45 into the game while the Devils were on a 5-on-3. Nico Hischier won a faceoff in the Bruins’ zone and Jack Hughes got it to Zacha in the slot. He knuckle pucked it by Halak on a shot he did not get all of and scored to make it 1-0 Devils.

Following that was a lengthy review, but not to see if the goal counted. It was to review time. The replay showed that the first power play had expired during while the goal was scored. This meant that Charlie McAvoy, the second offender, was released from the penalty box, as his was the power play that the goal was actually scored on.

After all of that, we were back to play. Blackwood went down with an apparent injury with 7:41 left in the first. He was checked out by the trainer and continued on. It would not be the first scare the Devils would have on the night.

In the second, the Bruins came on as the team you knew that they are.

It began at 4:36 in when Patrice Bergeron scored on the power play to tie. The Bruins won a faceoff in the Devils’ zone. The puck was won back to Matt Grzelcyk who went across the point to David Pastrnak. Pastrnak took a shot and his stick broke. Luckily for Boston, the puck went right to Bergeron in front. He spun around and fired the puck by Blackwood to make it 1-1.

The Bruins took the lead at 14:02 when Taylor Hall scored his first against the Devils since leaving the team for Arizona last December.

David Krejci poked the puck loose from a Devils’ stick in the Devils zone and Grzelcyk grabbed it. He threw it on net and Hall, who was in front as a screen had the puck ricochet in off of him. The Devils used their coach’s challenge alleging goalie interference. But after review, the call on the ice (goal) stood and the Devils took a delay of game penalty. They would kill that off, but Boston took the lead into the second intermission.

Another scary moment for the Devils to end the second when Jack Hughes went crashing head-first into the end boards with 1:45 left in the frame. He got up on his own power and left for the locker room, but would return for the third.

And the Devils would fight back in the third. It began at 9:10 when Damon Severson threw the puck at the Bruins’ net from the point. It went through a maze of skates and finally hit McAvoy’s before landing on Jesper Boqvist’s stick. He was camped out in front and shoveled it in to tie the game at two. Studenic had the secondary assist.

But a little more than a minute later, saw the Bruins retake the lead. It came at 10:42 when Pastrnak, racing up the right wing, threw the puck to Sean Kuraly who was crashing the left side of the net. The puck went in off of his skate and made it 3-2 Bruins. Mike Reilly had the secondary assist.

But in another flash of lightning, the Devils would tie it again. At 12:41, Severson got the puck up to Yegor Sharangovich, who snuck in behind the Bruins’ defense and was all alone with Halak. He wristed a shot through Halak’s right arm that squeezed in to tie it at three apiece. Kevin Bahl had the secondary assist.

This was moments after a Zacha shot dribbled behind Halak but sat on the goal line without the Devils being able to sweep it over.

And when time ran out on regulation, it was off to OT.

The Devils would waste no time and got a little bit of luck to boot.

On a delayed penalty call, Will Butcher went to Hughes, who found Zacha down by the top of the far faceoff circle. He cut in on Halak and scored on his backhand to give the Devils the OT win just 2:42 into the extra session.

Team-wise, the Devils were outshot by Boston 36 to 21. They won just 36-percent of the game’s faceoffs – with Hischier winning 50-percent of his to lead all Devils’ centers.

The Bruins led in hits with 26 to the Devils’ 18. The Devils edged Boston in blocks with 11 to the B’s 10. The Devils had ten turnovers to Boston’s seven.

Individually, shots were led by Zacha and Jesper Bratt with three each. Hits were led by Nate Bastian’s five. Blocked shots by Tennyson’s two and takeaways by Wood’s two.

Next up, the Devils begin two with the Islanders tomorrow. Puck drop is 7 PM and this game and Saturday’s game at Nassau Coliseum may, or may not, be the Devils latest final games at that old barn. This all depends on construction schedules and whether or not the UBS Arena opens on time or not, of course.

We will see you then. Stay safe everyone!

Devils Win Second in a Row

The Devils did it! They defeated the Philadelphia Flyers for a second straight game to take two in a row on home ice no less – where wins have been hard to come by. They won tonight by a score of five to three.

The big news out of this one was yet another Devils rookie debut. The seventh such debut tonight was defenseman Kevin Bahl. Bahl slotted in for Matt Tennyson, who was a little bit banged up from Tuesday’s game.

Andreas Johnsson was a scratch for the second straight game while Jonas Siegenthaler and PK Subban remain on COVID Protocol. Aaron Dell was also a scratch as Scott Wedgewood served as the backup.

Bahl played primarily with fellow rookie Ty Smith but did move around. He got some time killing penalties and even helped set up a goal in the second period (although he did not record an assist on the goal).

In net, the Devils went right back to Mackenzie Blackwood who stopped 21 of 24 Philly shots for an .875 save percentage. He let in the Flyers’ only shorthanded shot and stopped one of two of their power play shots. He stopped 20-of-21 at even strength.

The Flyers made a change, turning to Alex Lyon who stopped 14-of-18 Devils’ shots for a .778 save percentage and let in three of the Devils’ five power play shots. He was 11-for-13 at even strength. Lyon was making his third start of the season and looking for his first win since February 1, 2020 when he defeated the Colorado Avalanche.

The Devils ended the night 2-for-4 on the power play while the Flyers were 1-for-2. For the Devils, not quite as efficient as Tuesday night, when they were perfect in killing both of the Flyers power play opportunities and scored on both of their power play chances. That was the first time this season that they had done that.

The first period was the Yegor Sharangovich show, simply put.

Sharangovich got his first on the power play at 8:10 when Damon Severson passed across to him at the near half wall. He played catch with Will Butcher and when he got it back, he just snapped it by Lyon to make it 1-0 Devils.

Sharangovich struck again at the 15:28 mark of the first, also on the power play, when Janne Kuokkanen made a pass to Severson who then found a cutting Sharangovich. Sharangovich scored on the backhand and scored to make it Yegor Sharangovich 2, Philadelphia Flyers 0. Kuokkanen made a nice zone entry to set up the opportunity for Sharangovich later in the play.

But if the Devils have learned anything, it’s to not count the Flyers out.

The second began with Connor Carrick getting under the skin of Travis Konecny and Joel Farabee challenging Carrick. Carrick answer the bell and the two fought at the 5:54 mark.

At 7:14 of the second, Scott Laughton scored unassisted and shorthanded. It happened when Smith lost a puck in the linesman’s skates while setting up the power play. Laughton jumped on the puck and was off to the races. He grabbed it just inside the Philly blue line and broke in on Blackwood, roofing it over him to make it 2-1 Devils.

Jesper Boqvist put the Devils back up by two at nine minutes into the second when Bahl won that puck battle on the boards just outside the Flyers’ zone. He got it to Mikhail Maltsev, who got it to Nick Merkley, who was sprung on a 2-on1 with Boqvist. Merkley set up Boqvist for the one-timer and he scored to make it 3-1.

But again, the Flyers would battle back, cutting the Devils lead back to one before the second period was up.

And it was Sean Couturier again. At the 12:17 mark, he got it to Justin Braun at the point himself from behind the Devils’ net and Braun fired a shot. Couturier cut back in front of the net and redirected the shot by Blackwood to make it 3-2. Jakub Voracek had the secondary assist.

So the Devils were up by one heading into the third a wild finish almost guaranteed.

At the 13:15 mark, Pavel Zacha restored the two-goal lead when Butcher got it to him in the neutral zone. Zacha gained the zone with Nico Hischier. Using him as a decoy, he shot and beat Lyon to make it 4-2.

About 2:30 later at the 15:53 mark, Jesper Bratt made it a two-goal lead when he scored into the net vacated by Lyon with 4:24 remaining in regulation. Zacha and Ryan Murray had the assist as Bratt scored from just above the Flyers’ goal line.

But the Flyers were not done. With about 3:30 to go in regulation, Smith was called for a slash. The Flyers were on the power play.

Konecny scored at the 18:10 mark just after Sharangovich hit the post at the other end trying to complete his hat trick while shorthanded.

Voracek grabbed the puck and gave it to Konecny. Konecny broke in on a 2-on-1 and elected to shoot. He beat Blackwood off the rush to make it 5-2 on the power play.

But the Devils held on when Lyon was pulled again with 1:32 to go in regulation. The final horn sounded and New Jersey had their second straight “W.”

The Devils were outshot 24-19, won just 40-percent of the game’s faceoffs (with Michael McLeod having the best percentage amongst Devils centers, by winning 57-percent of his draws).

Philly outhit the Devils, 19-14 and had less giveaways at six to the Devils’ 13. The Devils had more blocked shots at 15-12.

Individually, Severson led all Devils in time on ice with 21:30 played. Jack Hughes led the forwards with 18:54. Smith led in power play time with 5:28.

Shots were led by Sharangovich and Bratt with four each. Hits were led by Nate Bastian and Bahl with three apiece. Blocks were led by Bastian, Carrick and Smith with two each. Maltsev and Zacha led in takeaways with two each.

Next up, this four-game miniseries comes to its conclusion. The Devils travel down the Turnpike to Philadelphia to Wells Fargo Center for their penultimate meeting with the Flyers this season. Puck drop for that game on Saturday is 7 PM and we will have coverage for you right here following the game.

Until then, stay safe everyone!