The Devils, coming off of their first loss of the season, took on the Buffalo Sabres tonight on the second half of a back-to-back for them. It was a hard fought one, but the Devils took home the two points when they beat Buffalo 2-1 in overtime.
The Sabres were also coming off of their first loss of the year, having been defeated by the Boston Bruins last night. They won their first three of the year before running into the B’s on Friday.
The Devils also had some changes in goal as Jonathan Bernier is still out with a lower body injury and Mackenzie Blackwood remains on Injured Reserve. With that, Scott Wedgewood stepped aside as the backup and Nico Daws made his NHL debut. He became the third Devils’ starting goalie through their first four games.
He also became the third youngest goaltender at 20 years old to make his NHL debut in a start. Both Craig Billington and Martin Brodeur did it at 19 years old. Daws wore number 50.
Daws made 24 saves on 25 total Sabres shots. He let in the only power play shot he saw as the Sabres were 1-for-2 on the man advantage. He stopped all 24 shots he saw at even strength and finished with a .960 save percentage.
Buffalo countered with Dustin Tokarski. He stopped 37 of the Devils’ total 39 shots for a .949 save percentage. He let in one of the three New Jersey power play shots as the Devils finished 1-for-3. He stopped 35 of the 36 shots the Devils peppered him with at even strength.
In addition to Bernier, the Devils’ scratches included Mason Geertsen and Christian Jaros. Jaros slotted out of the lineup because Ty Smith returned and made his season debut tonight. Smith played 20:49 of total ice time (including 16 seconds on the power play and 49 seconds of penalty kill time) and registered three blocked shots, a giveaway and a takeaway. With him back, the Devils’ core defense was all healthy and intact.
In another note, former Devils defenseman Will Butcher was making his return to Prudential Center tonight as a member of the Sabres. He was wearing his traditional number 4, which he wore in college, but could (obviously) not wear in New Jersey.
The Devils looked a little shaky in the first period and fell behind very early.
Jonas Siegenthaler was called for holding Jeff Skinner just 1:57 into the game and Dylan Cozens would make them pay.
At 3:19, Cozens spun off the half wall and gave to Jacob Bryson at the point. Bryson gave the puck back to Cozens and Cozens stepped up to the far faceoff circle and shot, beating Daws to make it 1-0 Buffalo. Kyle Okposo had the secondary assist on the goal.
Things looked a little better for the Devils at the 4:07 mark of the first. On a delayed penalty to Buffalo’s Arttu Ruosalainen for hooking Nico Hischier, Hischier pushed Tokarski’s pad into the net with the puck. The red goal light did go on, but the referee waved the goal off, saying that he blew the whistle before the puck entered the net – which it had.
Devils head coach Lindy Ruff decided to use his coach’s challenge on that to review and see if the puck went in before the whistle blew. The review upheld the call on the ice of no goal.
The Devils were assessed a delay of game penalty for the unsuccessful challenge – putting the teams at 4-on-4 for the next two minutes. Coach Ruff later, during his postgame press conference, said that that this was “on him.”
The Devils came on and pressed during the middle second period, especially late when Tokarski stood on his head. He stopped Marian Studenic point blank and the Devils ended up hitting two posts on one scramble in front. On one, the goal horn even went off briefly, but the Devils did not score. They added one more post before the period was through.
Towards the end of the second period, Nico Hischier went down the tunnel, having favored an injury for most of the period.
But Nico would return for the third period.
And he would tie things up. At the 5:52 mark of the third, on the power play, Hischier scored to finally knot the game at one.
Rasmus Dahlin was called for interference against Andreas Johnsson at 4:24. On the ensuing man advantage, Dougie Hamilton got the puck at the point off of a broken play. Hamilton took a shot that went wide of the net. The puck caromed off the boards to Hischier in front and Nico directed the puck behind Tokarski to make it 1-1. Tomas Tatar had the secondary assist on the goal.
Time expired on regulation and the game was off to overtime. It was the Sabres’ first OT game of the year and the Devils’ second (they won on opening night against the Chicago Blackhawks in OT).
This one would go a little bit longer than the Chicago overtime. It took until the 3:09 mark for Pavel Zacha to gain the Buffalo zone. He dropped the puck for Damon Severson just at the top of the circles. Severson faked a shot to draw in the Buffalo D while Zacha went to the near faceoff circle. He got a pass back from Severson and wristed a shot by Tokarski to win the game for the Devils 2-1. Yegor Sharangovich had the secondary assist on the game-winner.
The Devils outshot Buffalo 39-25 and won 66-percent of the game’s faceoffs. Michael McLeod won 76-percent of his faceoffs to lead the team in that category. The Sabres accumulated eight team penalty minutes to New Jersey’s six. The Sabres outhit the Devils 30-25 and had more blocks at 13 to the Devils’ ten. The Devils also had more turnovers at 13 to the Sabres’ six, with Hamilton and Hischier having two apiece for the Devils. Dawson Mercer, McLeod, Tatar and Ryan Graves each had two takeaways to lead in that category.
Ice time saw Severson lead with 22:34 logged (including 2:11 on the power play and 1:11 of PK time. Hischier led the forwards with 20:06 (including 3:59 on the power play and 55 seconds killing penalties).
Hischier led in shots on goal with five, hits were led by McLeod with four and Smith led in blocks with three.
Next up, the Devils will welcome their first Canadian guests into the Prudential Center this season as the Calgary Flames come calling on Tuesday. They will be the first opponent from North of the Border since late 2020 as 2021 saw the Devils not cross over with the North Division at any point in the regular season. It will also see Blake Coleman return to The Rock for the first time as a Flame.
Puck drop for that game is 7 PM and we will hopefully see you then.