Devils Win in St. Louis for First Time Since 2008

The Devils finished up a three-game road trip in St. Louis tonight, an arena that they had not won in since December of 2008.

And although this did not seem to be a recipe for the Devils coming away with a “W” (the Blues have not lost a whole lot in regulation at home this season), get that “W” the Devils did. They defeated the Blues 7-4 to put together their first two-game winning streak of the 2022 calendar year. They have also scored seven goals in back-to-back games.

The Blues were well-rested. They had not played since January 29, before the All-Star break. The lineup from Tuesday that got Montreal coach Dominique Ducharme fired, was completely intact. Lines largely stayed the same.

Janne Kuokkanen, Marian Studenic and Christian Jaros remained the Devils’ healthy scratches.

Jon Gillies got his second straight start, his first back in St. Louis after being traded to the Devils from the Blues back in December. Although his memories in St. Louis may not run that deep, getting his second win as a Devil still has to feel good.

He made 27 saves on 31 total Blues shots for an .871 save percentage. He stopped the Blues’ lone shorthanded shot and all four of their power play shots. St. Louis was kept 0-for-4 on the man advantage. At even strength, he stopped 22 shots out of 26.

Opposing him was Jordan BInnington, who made 22 saves on 27 total Devils shots. He finished the night with an .815 save percentage, stopping the Devils’ lone power play shot in the process. New Jersey went 0-for-3 on the power play as a team. At five-on-five, Binnington was 21-for-26.

The Devils, as mentioned, had not won in St. Louis since December 2008, but their last win over the Blues actually came in the team’s last meeting on March 6, 2020 at Prudential Center. That was a 4-2 Devils win that was, as per MSG’s Steve Cangialosi, Cory Schneider’s last game with the Devils and, to date, his last game in the NHL.

The Devils got the scoring started 2:12 into the game when New Jersey worked the puck down low to Andreas Johnsson, who took a shot at Binnington. Binnington made the save and the puck was partially cleared by a Blues player. He did not get all of it, however, and it made its way to PK Subban at the point. Subban stepped into the loose puck and blasted a shot that beat Binnington cleanly (albeit with Dawson Mercer acting as a screen in front).

Subban got the credit for the goal, unassisted, and it was 1-0 Devils.

New Jersey doubled up their lead later in the period at 15:07 gone by when Michael McLeod took a pass from Damon Severson in the Devils zone. He turned up ice, speeding up the left-wing side. As he cut in on the Blues’ net, he was hooked down by Robert Thomas. A delayed penalty was called, but McLeod stayed with it, moving slightly around Binnington to deposit the puck around him to negate the delayed penalty and give the Devils the 2-0 lead. Jimmy Vesey had the secondary assist.

Exactly 30 seconds after the McLeod goal, at 15:37 gone, St. Louis cut the Devils lead in half.

Their answer came when the Blues kept the puck in the Devils zone and worked it to Torey Krug at the point. Krug passed to Oskar Sundqvist down low, who quickly moved it to Klim Kostin, all alone in the slot. Kostin scored to make it 2-1, the score that would take us into the first intermission.

For the Devils, the second period looked like it may become their downfall again.

It began 5:13 into the middle frame when the Devils actually won a faceoff in their own zone. They were unable to move it out of the zone, however, and it was turned over to Ryan O’Reilly. O’Reilly passed back to Colton Parayko at the point. He shot and Gillies fought off the blast. The puck then just kind of plopped down next to the near side of the net with Gillies not aware of its position. Brayden Schenn won a foot race to tap it behind it Gillies and that tied the score at two.

The Blues would take the lead on a strange one about ten minutes later.

At the 15:03 mark of the second, Pavel Zacha tried to attempt a breakout for the Devils, passing the puck through the middle of the ice instead of just working it out past New Jersey’s blue line.

The puck was intercepted at the blue line by Justin Faulk and he shot on the Devils net. The shot hit the post and trickled behind Gillies. It was initially called a no goal on the ice as the puck did not seem to completely cross the goal line.

A review from the Situation Room in Toronto showed that it did, in fact, fully cross the line and the decision was overturned very quickly. The puck had gone over the goal line on its edge so most TV replays did not do a good job of showing it cross, but it did count. The goal came unassisted for Faulk. St. Louis now had a 3-2 lead to take into the third period.

In the third, the Devils came alive.

Just 9:08 into final period, Nico Hischier took a fast zone breakout pass from Ty Smith. Nico was hit in the very middle of the ice with Smith’s pass and broke in with Yegor Sharangovich on a 2-on-1. Hischier made a great backhand pass to Sharangovich, who finished the feed to tie the game up at three.

Hischier would notch one of his own at 11:34 gone by when the teams were playing at 4-on-4.

A few seconds before, at 10:59, the Blues’ Niko Mikkola had hit Jesper Boqvist along the left-wing boards in the neutral zone. It was not a dirty hit by any means, but Boqvist was rocked for a second.

Mercer stepped in to come to Boqvist’s aid and he and Mikkola tussled a bit but did not fight. Both went off for roughing and the teams were set to play at 4-on-4.

Sharangovich had given the puck to Subban, who carried the puck up the right side into the St. Louis zone. Sharangovich went towards the Blues net while Subban made a cross-ice pass to Hischier after PK sold his own shot to draw the Blues defenseman towards him.

Nico took the pass and finished, putting it behind Binnington, who could not get across his crease fast enough to stop Hischier’s shot. That gave the Devils back the lead at 4-3. It also extended Nico’s goal-scoring streak to three games.

Vesey would give New Jersey a two-goal cushion at 17:41 gone by in the third period. The Devils had just finished killing off a penalty a few seconds prior and Vesey took the puck from Jonas Siegenthaler in the Devils zone. Vesey then skated the length of the rink, making a nice move around the Blues’ defense, moving to his backhand as he moved to the right. He got a lot on the shot and it blew past Binnington to make it 5-3 Devils. Zacha had the secondary assist.

That Vesey insurance goal would prove to be very valuable as St. Louis scored at the 18:17 mark.

Krug got the puck to Pavel Buchnevich, who weaved the puck up the rink towards the Devils zone.

He took it himself deep and then centered to Schenn in the slot. Schenn reached out and tapped the the Buchnevich pass by Gillies to make it 5-4 Devils.

Things were getting tight and the Blues pulled Binnington right after play restarted off of Schenn’s second goal.

Jesper Boqvist iced the game here by scoring into the empty Blues net off assists from Severson and Gillies (the Devils goaltender’s first point in a New Jersey uniform). It was then 6-4 Devils.

Following that empty netter, Binnington was pulled a second time, allowing Hischier to score his second goal of the game on  a rare second empty netter to finally give us our final of 7-4. Sharangovich had the lone assist on the goal.

For the second game in a row, the Devils had scored seven goals on their opponent.

The Blues narrowly outshot the Devils 31-29. The Devils won 55-percent of the game’s faceoffs with Zacha leading the centers with a 62-percent personal winning percentage.

The Devils took ten penalty minutes total as team while the Blues amassed eight.

Although the reason Mason Geertsen was playing his second straight game – his first back-to-back games in the lineup since the end of December – was largely to counter the Blues as a “heavy” physical team, the Devils were still massively outhit 25 to four.

St. Louis edged New Jersey in blocked shots with 14 to the Devils’ 12. The Blues had 15 team giveaways while the Devils had seven.

Ice time saw Severson log 24:39 total (3:06 of power play time and 3:12 of PK time) while Ryan Graves led the defensemen in shorthanded time with 4:34 logged out of his 21:41 of total TOI.

For the forwards, Hischier led in total time with 19:07 logged (including 2:54 on the PP and 2:43 on the PK).

Hischier (two goals, one assist, three points), Vesey (one goal, one assist, two points), Sharangovich (one goal, two assists, three points), Severson (two assists) and Subban (a goal and an assist, two points) all achieved multi-point nights.

Shots were led by Siegenthaler who had five. Severson had two hits to lead in that category. Jesper Bratt had two blocks to lead that column. Personal giveaways were led by Graves with three while personal takeaways were led by McLeod with five.

Next up, the Devils return home for a game on Super Bowl Sunday with the Pittsburgh Penguins at 1:30 PM.

We will have a recap of that game for you up right after the MSG+ broadcast. After that, we’ll settle in to enjoy some football and, possibly, savor a Devils win over a legitimate Stanley Cup contender, just as they achieved tonight.

Until then, enjoy the rest of the week everyone!

Devils Bounce Back with Blowout Win in Montreal

The Devils needed this in the biggest way possible. Sure, it came against a team struggling arguably worse than they are, but it did snap their seven-game winless streak.

On the backend of a back-to-back against the Montreal Canadiens, the Devils finally got the monkey off their collective backs by winning 7-1 over the Habs at Bell Centre.

Something was going to break tonight as the Devils had lost seven straight while the Canadiens had dropped their last six games.

Following their 4-1 loss at Ottawa last night, some changes were in order to the lineup tonight. The main move, strangely enough, was slotting Mason Geertsen in for Janne Kuokkanen. Kuokkanen sat out with Marian Studenic and Christian Jaros while Geertsen played largely on the left-wing on a line centered by Michael McLeod with Nathan Bastian on the right-wing.

In goal, the Devils went with a little more “experience” tonight. Jon Gillies got the start and made 30 saves on 31 total Montreal shots for a .968 save percentage on the night in what was a stellar performance. He stopped 23 of the Habs’ 24 shots at five-versus-five and all seven of their power play shots. The Canadiens were kept 0-for-3 on the power play for the night.

Gillies also debuted a new, Devils-influenced mask tonight to take the place of his placeholder brought over from St. Louis.

The Canadiens started Cayden Primeau, who was equal to 27 of the Devils’ 34 total shots. He finished with a .794 save percentage on the night while stopping all three of the Devils’ three shorthanded chances, 24 of their 30 even strength chances and let in their one power play shot. The Devils ended the night at 50-percent on the power play, going 1-for-2 on their opportunities.

Tomas Tatar was making his return as a player to Montreal for the first time since leaving last summer as a free agent. Although he was a healthy scratch through most of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoff run that saw the Habs get to the Final – where they ultimately fell to the Tampa Bay Lightning – he was still looking forward to coming back to Bell Centre.

There were, however, no fans in attendance to witness it as Montreal is in the midst of city-wide COVID protocols that are restricting public gatherings. The Canadiens are not going to have fans in attendance through at least the rest of February.

What Habs fans missed was the Devils’ first road victory in more than a month. Also, this was the Devils’ first visit to Bell Centre since (American) Thanksgiving Night in 2019. For reference, Blake Coleman scored for New Jersey that night with Taylor Hall in the lineup as well.

The Devils needed to get going early and often if things were going to break in their favor tonight. And that things did.

Just 4:36 into the game, right after Ryan Graves had hit the crossbar, the Devils were able to keep the puck moving in the Montreal zone. Colton White recovered and passed back to Graves at the point, setting Graves up for a one-timer. Graves bombed his shot towards the Montreal net where Michael McLeod had fought to gain position. He got to the rebound and deposited his first goal since January 22 behind Primeau to make it 1-0 Devils.

McLeod’s last goal, coincidentally, came in the Devils’ 7-4 win over the Carolina Hurricanes, their last win of any kind.

Gillies showed that he was on late in the first period when he stopped the Canadiens on a 3-on-1 odd man rush.

That was followed up by Dawson Mercer scoring his first goal in 15 games at the 15:31 mark of the first.

Ty Smith hit Jesper Boqvist with a breakout pass and Boqvist, after gaining the Montreal blue line, dished to Mercer, who had gotten behind the Canadiens’ defense. He cut behind and scored. This was Mercer’s first goal of the 2022 calendar year and put the Devils up 2-0 going into the first intermission.

The Devils did falter a bit in the beginning of the second period beginning about 2:30 in when Montreal batted a puck down and through the Devils crease. The puck did not go in, but came within a sliver of cutting the Devils lead in half.

The Habs came close then and would break through at 5:54 gone by in the second when Ryan Poehling seemingly redirected a shot by Brett Kulak past Gillies with Joel Armia getting the secondary assist.

That was changed minutes later to Brett Kulak getting credited with the goal as it went in straight off of his shot. Armia now had the primary assist and Poehling, who had fed Armia initially, got the secondary assist.

Montreal had gotten on the board and things were starting to look competitive. Primeau stopped Jesper Bratt moments after the Canadiens goal on a partial breakaway.

From then on was when things turned.

The Devils would go on to score five straight unanswered from there.

The onslaught started 9:14 into the second period when Nico Hischier scored just moments after New Jersey killed off a Nate Bastian tripping penalty.

On this goal, Yegor Sharangovich was hit with a breakout pass and skated the puck through the neutral zone. Once he gained the Montreal zone, he passed over to Mercer, who was able to find a seam cross-ice to Hischier on the left-wing side and Nico finished to make it 3-1.

Hischier had now notched two goals in two games in two nights.

The Devils would add two more within the final two minutes of the second period as well.

At 18:53 gone by, an Andreas Johnsson redirect was kept in the Montreal zone by the Devils after going wide of the Canadiens net. New Jersey was able to work the puck back to Damon Severson at the point. Severson dished to Boqvist, who got a shot off with Johnsson back in front providing a screen. Boqvist’s shot went in, beating Primeau cleanly to make it 4-1.

Within 47 seconds, McLeod would have his second of the night and the Devils would have a 5-1 lead.

McLeod won an o-zone draw for the Devils and then immediately went to the front of the Montreal net. Geertsen nudged the puck towards the secondary assist (Ty Smith) at the far wall. Smith sent it to Ryan Graves at the point. Graves took a booming shot that saw a rebound pop out to McLeod, who was stationed in front of the Habs’ net and fought to get to the puck to put it behind Primeau.

The Devils now had a four-game lead for the first time since November 11, 2021 (a 4-0 victory over the Islanders) and their third of the season. The other was the night before that Isles game on November 9, 2021 when they defeated the Florida Panthers 7-3. And they would not let up in the third period tonight either.

Just 3:02 into the final frame, Montreal was put on the penalty kill when Jeff Petry was called for interfering with Boqvist.

With the Devils up a man at 3:19 gone by in the third, Severson got the puck from Bratt at the point, able to distribute to Pavel Zacha at the top of the right faceoff circle. Zacha took a slight step towards the middle of the ice and wristed a shot over Primeau’s glove hand to make it 6-1.

The Devils’ power play now had two goals in two games as well as they seem to be getting things going a little bit in putting up the touchdown on the Canadiens.

The extra point was tacked on at the 9:57 mark of the third period when Tomas Tatar, making his return to the city of Montreal, put the Devils in the lead 7-1.

This one saw Zacha intercept a reverse around the boards in the Montreal zone. He got it on the forecheck behind Primeau’s net and centered to Tatar on the doorstep. Tatar deposited it behind the Habs’ netminder for his first goal in 12 games.

Once time ran down and the final siren went off at Bell Centre, the Devils had put up seven tallies, equaling their season high output this season (the aforementioned 7-3 win over Florida on November 9 and their last win before tonight – the 7-4 win over the Hurricanes at home on January 22, 2022. This was the first time that they had done this on the road this season.

It was also Gillies’ second win in a Devils’ uniform and a more complete performance for him and the team, who finished chances and gave him a lot more goal support tonight.

As a team, the Devils outshot Montreal 34-31 and won 51-percent of the game’s faceoffs. It was Zacha who led the Devils centers with his faceoff winning percentage at a 71-percent personal clip.

The Devils took six total penalty minutes while the Canadiens took four. The Devils were still outplayed physically even with Geertsen back in the lineup, being outhit 21 to 11. New Jersey had 15 blocked shots to the Habs’ eight and 18 team giveaways to Montreal’s nine.

In all, 13 different Devils recorded at least a point on the night with seven notching two points. Mercer had a goal and an assist, McLeod had his second career two-goal NHL game, Boqvist recorded a goal and an assist, Smith had two assists as did Severson and Graves.

In ice time recorded, Jonas Siegenthaler logged the most total time with 22:29 (including 4:17 on the penalty kill). Smith had the most power play time amongst defensemen with 1:10 out of his 19:42 of total ice time.

For the forwards, McLeod led in total ice time with 16:37 logged (which included 3:17 of PK time to lead in shorthanded time on ice as well). Johnsson (who had 15:42 of total ice time), Sharangovich (who logged 15:54 of total ice time), Mercer (16:03 of total ice time) and Tatar (14:26 of total ice time) all led in power play time among the forwards with 1:10 on the man advantage.

Graves led in shots on goal with five. Geertsen registered four hits to lead in that category. Blocks were led by Colton White with four. Personal giveaways were led by White with three while personal Bratt and Boqvist led in personal takeaways with one each.

And with that, the Devils will play their next game on Thursday when they travel to St. Louis to take on the Blues. The Blues have not played since late January – before the All-Star break – so they, in theory should be pretty well rested and pose a challenge for the Devils.

That game will begin at 8 PM ET and is penciled in to be broadcast on MSG+ 2. We will have coverage for you right here following the conclusion of that contest.

Until then, savor tonight’s win and we will see you later in the week as the Devils are back in action!