Busy, Important Day at Worlds

The final day of the round-robin portion of the 2019 IIHF World Hockey Championship saw five games involving Devils’ related players in action. Today would also set the seeding for the quarterfinals to begin Thursday.

First up, we have Finland taking on Germany. Germany won this one 4-2.

The Finns took the lead late in the first when Harri Pesonen scored on the power play at 15:05. Marco Nowak had been called for tripping at 13:54 to put Finland on the man advantage.

But the Finnish lead would not last long. At 17:04 of the first, Marc Michaelis tied the game up when he beat Finnish goalie Kevin Lankinen.

In the second, the Finns took back the lead just 4:07 in when Juhani Tyrvainen scored. Once again though, the Germans would tie it up before the period was out this time off the stick of Dominik Kahun at 13:13. The second period ended the way the first did: tied.

Early in the third, Finland’s Atte Ohtamaa was called for a trip and, just 41 seconds into the power play, Leon Draisaitl made it 3-2 Germany.

Finland would pull Lankinen with less than two minutes to go in regulation but Draisaitl scored into the empty net (his third point of the game) to give us our final of 4-2.

Lankinen stopped 39 of 41 German shots while Philipp Grubauer made 17 saves on just 21 FInnish shots. Kaapo Kakko had four shots on goal and was a minus-2 in 19:23 of ice time over 24 shifts.

Finland finishes with five wins and no overtime wins against two losses with 16 points and 22 goals for and 11 against. They will finish in a top four position in Group A with Canada, Germany and the USA.

Our next game sees Switzerland edged by the Czech Republic 5-4.

The Swiss scored early in the first to take a 1-0 lead. Lukas Frick put one behind Czech goalie Patrik Bartosak just 2:13 into the game. But a Swiss penalty would lead to the game being tied before the first intermission.

Switzerland’s Tristan Scherwey was called for cross-checking just after the Swiss had gotten off of the power play which the Czech killed. Jakub Voracek then scored at 12:21 of the first on the man advantage to make it 1-1.

The Czechs were the ones who got out of the gate fast in the second period. Dominik Simon scored just 38 seconds into the frame to make it 2-1. Michael Frolik made it 3-1 when he scored at the 6:20 mark for the Czechs. He also ended up chasing Swiss goalie Reto Berra, who was pulled in favor of Robert Mayer following that goal.

The Swiss responded just 29 seconds after the goalie change when Scherwey scored to cut the Czech lead to one, 3-2.

At 7:10 of the second, Switzerland’s Christoph Bertschy and Czech Republic’s Filip Hronek took matching roughing minors making it a 4-on-4 situation for the next two minutes. The Czechs would capitalize on the extra space when Dominik Kubalik made it 4-2.

Things would get tight early in the third when, just 1:47 in, Scherwey scored his second of the afternoon to make it 4-3 Czech Republic. The Swiss would tie it at four with less than four minutes to go in the game when Nino Niederreiter scored from Roman Josi and Nico Hischier. However, needing the win, Switzerland would pull Mayer with less than three minutes to go in the game. In a situation similar to yesterday’s Sweden-Latvia game, Jan Rutta scored the eventual game winner into the empty net at 18:33. That made it 5-4, our final.

Bartosak made 36 saves on 40 shots against while Berra and Mayer combined for 21 saves. The Czechs had a total of 26 shots with the empty netter. Hischier had the assist for a point, one shot on net and an even plus/minus in 18:26 spread over 26 shifts.

Switzerland finishes fourth Group B with a record of four wins, three losses and no overtime wins. They accumulated 12 points and scored 27 goals against their opponent’s 14.

Next, we take you back to Group A with an emotional game between the Slovaks and the Danes.

Slovakia’s Ladislav Nagy was playing in his final game for the Slovak national team. The Slovakia captain would go on to play a key role in this game.

After a scoreless first period, it would take the entire part of the second to get a team on the board. Martin Marincin finally broke the 0-0 tie at 19:04 of the second when he scored from Marian Studenic and Nagy.

It was also around this time that the hometown Slovakia crowd began to chant for late Slovak player and former NHLer Pavol Demitra. The chant began at the 38th minute of the game (18 minutes into the second period) for the jersey number he wore: 38. Demitra was one of the players killed in the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl plane crash in 2011 in Russia. It was a very touching gesture for a great Slovakian player.

The Danes would tie the game on a 5-on-3 situation in the third period when Marko Dano was sent off for cross-checking at 6:10 and Andrej Sekera at 6:22. Mikkel Boedker tied the game up at 6:41. That is how it would end at the final buzzer, 1-1 and we were headed for overtime.

When OT settled nothing, it was off to a shootout. Studenic went first and missed. Boedker’s shot was saved by Slovak goalie Dnis Godla to end the first round. In the second, Matus Sukel (Slovakia) was stopped by Sebastian Dahm and Peter Regin (Denmark) was stopped by Godla.

In the third round, Nagy gave Slovakia the lead when he scored and Godla stopped Nicklas Jensen. In the fourth round, Tomas Tatar’s shot was turned aside by Dahm and Frederik Storm’s shot was saved by Godla. The game was then on Michal Kristof’s stick. If he scored, Slovakia would win the game. He converted and Slovakia won 2-1, essentially giving Nagy the game winning goal in his send off game.

Godla made 13 saves on 14 shots (including the shootout) and Dahm stopped 27 of 29 shots – including the shootout. Studenic finished the game with the assist for a point, one shot on net and a plus-1 rating. He did this in 16:45 of ice time over 26 shifts.

The Slovaks finish Group A round-robin play with three wins and an overtime win for 11 points – good for fifth place. They had 28 goals for and 19 scored against them. They will not advance to the quarterfinals.

Now we get to one of the main events of the evening. Canada versus the United States. Despite a great effort by the US, it was the Canadians who won this installment of the rivalry, 3-0.

Canada got a goal from Pierre-Luc Dubois just 1:49 into the first frame, followed by one from Kyle Turris a little less than seven minutes later at 8:02. That made it 2-0 until Jared McCann made it 3-0 at 15:59 of the second. That gave us our final of 3-0.

The Americans had chances but could not solve Matt Murray, who stopped all 28 shots the US threw at him. Cory Schneider turned aside 33 of 36 Canadian shots. Damon Severson was a plus-1 in 20:07 of TOI over 24 shifts as he continues to get elite minutes on the blue line for the Canadians. Jack Hughes did not suit up for Team USA in this game, with the reinforcements arriving from teams eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

With that win, the Canadians win Group A with six wins and one loss. They had 18 points and finished with 36 goals for and 11 against. The US finishes in fourth place in Group A with four wins, two losses and an OT win for 14 points. Their goal differential was 27 for and 15 against.

We finish up this tour with Group B action as Sweden lost to the powerhouse Russian team, 7-4.

Gabriel Landeskog scored for the Swedes just 7:32 into the game, giving them a 1-0 lead. Then the second period happened.

Russia got a goal from Artyom Anisimov, then one from Yevgeni Dadonov, one from Alex Ovechkin, one from Kirill Kaprizov, one from Mikhail Grigorenko and one from Evgeni Malkin all in a span of 16:50. The Swedes, however, did respond with Patric Hornqvist taking an unsportsmanlike conduct 10 minute major after the Russian scoring frenzy was over. He would be missed for most of the third period.

Sweden got on the board again 12:02 into the third, putting aside the nightmare of the second period for them. The goal came off the stick of William Nylander to make it 6-2.

But Russia got that one right back, almost literally. It took 55 seconds for Dimitri Orlov to make it 7-2 Russia.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson added another for Sweden to make ti 7-3 and the Swedes seemed to be fighting back when John Klingberg scored on the power play. Ilya Kovalchuk was off for holding at 18:42 and Klingberg’s goal came at 18:49.

But it was too little too late. Russia cruised to the 7-4 victory.

In goal, Jacob Markstrom made 27 saves on 34 shots for Sweden while Andrei Vasilevski made 33 saves on 37 Swedish shots against. Jesper Bratt had two shots on goal and was a minus-1 in 9:35 of ice time over 18 shifts.

Russia now wins Group B with Sweden finishing third. The Swedes have five wins, two losses and no OT wins for 15 points. Their goal differential took a hit with this game, with 41 for and 21 against.

So in Thursday’s quarterfinals, Canada will play Switzerland, the US gets Russia, Finland and Sweden will square off and the Czechs will face the Germans. We will see you back here tomorrow as the Halifax Mooseheads continue their quest for the Memorial Cup against the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies.

USA Clinches Spot in Quarterfinals at Worlds

In one fell swoop, the American team at the IIHF World Hockey Championship got revenge on a foe for a loss earlier in the tournament and also punched their ticket to the next round, the quarterfinals. With a 3-1 win over Germany, the USA clinched a spot in the tournament semifinals and eliminated host country Slovakia from further competition. The Slovaks had upset the US in the first game of the tournament for both teams.

The Germans actually got off to a quick start, netting the first goal of the game when Frederik Tiffels potted one at 11:55 of the first from Leon Draisaitl.

But the Americans were quick to respond. Less than two minutes later at 13:47. James van Riemsdyk scored to tie the game. Clayton Keller and Alec Martinez had the assists, marking the first of two assists on the day for Martinez.

Following a scoreless, penalty-free second frame, Dylan Larkin gave the USA the lead when he scored 10:03 into the third period. Van Riemsdyk and Martinez had the assists, marking two points for both of them.

At 14:21 of the third, Germany took a bench minor for too many men on the ice and the US went on the power play. Jack Eichel scored with six seconds left on the man advantage to make it 3-1 USA, which was our final.

Cory Schneider made 24 saves on 25 German shots against while Mathias Niederberger was 26-for-29. Jack Hughes got limited playing time, just 9:19 of ice time over 14 shifts and was a minus-1 in that time.

The Americans finish off round-robin play on Tuesday against rival Canada.

In another game of interest to Devils fans, Finland defeated France by a score of 3-0.

The Finns got a goal 9:24 into the game from Joel Kiviranta, one in the second at 1:51 from Niko Mikkola and one 12:31 into the third period from Jere Sallinen to take the game 3-0.

\Florian Hardy made 44 saves on 47 shots for France while Kevin Lankinen turned aside all 21 French shots that he saw. Kaapo Kakko had four shots on goal and was a plus-1 plus/minus in 14:30 of time on ice over 22 shifts.

Finland plays next on Tuesday against Germany.

The final game of the day at the Worlds showed that three was the magic number today as Switzerland lost to Russia 3-0.

Russia scored at 3:36 into the first (Artyom Anisimov) to make it 1-0. In the second period, Nico Hischier took a delay of game penalty at 5:02 which led to Nikita Kucherov scoring at 6:20 to make it 2-0. Kucherov scored again 15:20 into the third for his second goal of the game to make it 3-0 Russia. Anisimov also had the primary assist on Kucherov’s second goal, which gave him two points in the game.

The Swiss would pull goalie Leonardo Genoni for an extra attacker late in the third period, but to no avail. The Russians came away with the 3-0 victory.

Genoni made 31 saves on 34 shots against while Russia’s Alexander Georgiev stopped all 31 he saw. Nico had the two penalty minutes plus four shots on goal and a minus-1 plus/minus in 16:51 of ice time (24 shifts).

The Swiss play Czech Republic on Tuesday in their next game.

Tomorrow’s slate includes two games for us here on the blog. Sweden will take on Latvia and Canada will do battle with Denmark.

We now move back to Nova Scotia for the 2019 Memorial Cup where Jocktan Chainey and the Halifax Mooseheads took on the champions of the Ontario Hockey League, the Guelph Storm. The Mooseheads won this one 4-2 to improve to 2-0 in the Memorial Cup round-robin stage.

Antoine Morand got Halifax on the board first 5:10 into the first period. Chainey had the primary assist on a goal that would give them the 1-0 lead. They would hold that 1-0 lead until, with just 50 seconds to go in the frame, Sean Durzi scored for Guelph to tie it going into the first intermission.

In the second period, Halifax jumped out to a two goal lead when Raphael Lavoie scored shorthanded at 6:48 and Maxim Trepanier scored at even strength at 10:34. It was now 3-1 Mooseheads as we headed off to the third period.

Just 1:07 in to that period, Durzi scored his second of the night to make it 3-2 Halifax That goal came on the power play and, in fact, while the Mooseheads were 0-for-6 on the man advantage, Guelph did capitalize once, going 1-for-6.

At 7:20, Samuel Asselin would score for the Mooseheads to make it 4-2 and restore the two goal lead. But a late penalty to Jared McIsaac of Halifax would put the Storm on the power play to end the game. Luckily for the Mooseheads, they would kill that off and go on to preserve the 4-2 win.

The stars of the game were Halifax goalie Alexis Gravel (first), Nick Suzuki of Guelph (second) and Morand of Halifax (third). Gravel made 33 saves on 35 Storm shots. Guelph goalie Anthony Popovich stopped 38 of 42 Halifax shots.

Chainey had a stat line of the assist for a point, a plus-1 plus/minus and six shots on goal.

Halifax next plays on Wednesday in a rematch of the QMJHL Final against the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies. We will have that for you right here then.

Four Devils-Related Games at Worlds

Four games took place at the IIHF World Hockey Championship today that were of interest to Devils fans.

In the first game, the USA and Cory Schneider defeated Denmark by a score of 7-1. With this win, the United States moved past Canada into second place in Group A.

Frank Vatrano opened the scoring for the Americans 10:34 into the first period. Alex DeBrincat quickly made it 2-0 when he scored on the power play at 11:03. Julian Jakobsen had been called for delay of game 14 seconds after the first US goal.

Clayton Keller put the US up 3-0 when he scored at 14:24 and Chris Kreider made it 4-0 going into the break when he potted one at 18:49. The Kreider goal was notable because Jack Hughes had the primary assist on the goal. For Hughes, this was his first point of the tournament. This had been a major talking point throughout the tourney as the comparisons (no matter how unfair or non-grounded it may be) between Hughes and Kaapo Kakko were in full force. At least he can get that monkey off of his back.

At the start of the second period, Denmark made a goaltending change, switching out Simon Nielsen for Patrick Galbraith. The team would respond as Nick Olesen scored 4:50 into the second frame to make it 4-1.

But DeBrincat restored the four goal lead by making it 5-1 with his second of the night at 11:55 of the second. Less than two minutes later at 13:17, Dylan Larkin scored to make it 6-1 USA.

Jack Eichel capped off the scoring when he notched one at 11:19 to make it 7-1 USA. DeBrincat had the secondary assist on this goal, giving the young Blackhawks star three points (two goals and an assist) on the evening.

Cory stopped 21 of 22 Danish shots while Galbraith stopped 19 of 26 American shots. Hughes had the assist for a point, two shots on net and a plus-1 plus/minus. He did that in 12:33 of ice time over 16 shifts.

The Americans next take on Germany tomorrow.

In our second game of interest, Canada defeated Germany 8-1 to give the Germans their first loss of the tourney so far.

Germany went on the penalty kill early when Marco Nowak was called for holding just 1:19 into the game. Thomas Chabot took advantage by notching one on the power play for the Canadians. Canada’s Mark Stone then made it 2-0 less than twenty seconds after a Canadian penalty was up when he scored from Damon Severson and Darnell Nurse. It was 2-0 Canada going into the first intermission. Not a bad deficit for the Germans to overcome.

Then they began to let Mark Stone loose.

The Vegas Golden Knight scored 6:02 into the second to make it 3-0 Canada. Germany’s Yasin Ehliz would notch one on the power play at 18:01 to make it 3-1 Canada. Then Stone would complete his hat trick by scoring 48 seconds after the German goal to make it 4-1. Things were starting to get out of hand for Germany.

Just 42 seconds into the third, Germany’s Patrick Hager took a boarding penalty and was assessed a ten minute misconduct to go along with it.

At 3:01, Anthony Mantha made it 5-1 Canada unassisted. He scored again 1:54 later this time with an assist to Kyle Turris to make it 6-1.

Sam Reinhart followed the pair of Mantha goals by making it 7-1 at 5:28 and Anthony Cirelli finished off the Canadian day by scoring shorthanded at 13:10 while Chabot was in the box for hooking.

In nets, Matt Murray made 15 saves on 16 German shots while Niklas Treutle made 41 saves on 49 Canadian shots for Germany.

Damon Severson had the assist for a point, two shots on goal and was a plus-3 in 17:43 of ice time over 23 shifts.

Canada’s next game is Monday against Denmark.

At this point I would like to stop and alert everyone that Italy finally scored a goal! They had been shut out all throughout the first round of Group B play but finally notched one today against Norway. They did, however, still lose the game 7-1.

Speaking of a 7-1 score, that was the final in our next game between Slovakia and Great Britain.

The Slovaks jumped out to a very quick 2-0 lead when Andrej Sekera scored 2:04 into the game and Tomas Tatar scored 21 seconds later. At the 7:43 mark of the first period, Britain’s Colin Shields was called for a trip and Martin Marincin made them pay. He scored at 9:02 to make it 3-0.

The Brits made a goaltending change at the 16:32 mark when Ben Bowns was pulled for Jackson Whistle and they immediately responded. Mike Hammond scored 1:12 after the goalie change to make it 3-1 Slovakia. That was our score as we headed into the first intermission.

The Slovaks would pick up right where they left off in the first period (despite the blip of the British goal). Michal Cajkovsky scored 4:33 in to make it 4-1. Marian Studenic scored from Michal Kristof at 9:09 to make it 5-1. At 15:11, Matus Sukel scored to make it 6-1 and that mercifully ended the period for the Brits.

Both teams were held off the scoresheet for the majority of the third period until there were two minutes remaining and David Bondra hit paydirt for the seventh Slovak goal of the game to give us our final of 7-1.

Bowns and Whistle combined to make 31 saves on 38 Slovak shots against. Denis Godla made 16 stops on 17 British shots in the game. Marian Studenic had the goal for a point and four shots on goal and a plus-1 plus/minus in 16:42 of ice time over 19 shifts.

Slovakia’s next opponent is Denmark on Tuesday, the final day of the round-robin portion of the tournament.

Our final game of the evening saw Sweden edge out Switzerland 4-3.

The Swiss got on the board first when Sven Andrighetto scored 4:09 into the contest. But Sweden would tie things before the first period was out.

At 18:41, Simon Moser took a hooking minor and Alexander Wennberg converted for the Swedes just three seconds into the man advantage. That made it 1-1 going into the first break.

Sweden took the 20-1 lead when William Nylander scored 5:20 into the second. Then, at 6:40, Adam Larsson was called for a delay of game giving the Swiss the power play. But Vincent Praplan was sent off for a hold just 23 seconds into the man advantage to make it a 4-on-4. And this is where Switzerland would strike to tie things at two. Joel Genazzi scored at 7:58 to knot the game.

But the Swedes would retake the lead when Erik Gustafsson scored with about 2:30 remaining in the second period. That made it 3-2 Sweden and that was where we were headed into the second intermission.

In the third, Switzerland’s Gaetan Haas tied things at three on the power play. Sweden’s Anton Lander was called for a cross-check at 8:27 and at 10:27, the puck crossed the line to tie the game at three.

But Sweden had one more effort left in them. One minute and twenty seconds after the Swiss tied things, Oliver Ekman-Larsson gave Sweden the 4-3 lead that they would never relinquish.

In goal, Henrik Lundqvist let in three of the 24 shots he faced while Swiss goalie Reto Berra stopped 25 of 29 Swedish shots against. Nico Hischier had a shot on goal and was a minus-3 plus/minus in 18:54 of time on ice over 22 shifts. Jesper Bratt was back in the Swedish lineup and was an even plus/minus in just 1:09 of ice time (two shifts).

Sweden will now play Latvia on Monday while Switzerland will play Russia tomorrow.

So tomorrow, we will have coverage of Germany versus the USA, France versus Finland and Switzerland versus Russia in addition to the Memorial Cup where the Halifax Mooseheads will be taking on the OHL champion Guelph Storm.

Round Robin Continues at World Hockey Championship

The IIHF World Championship continued with three games featuring Devils players or prospects on tap for the day.

First off, we begin with Group A action in Kosice where the US took on Great Britain. The Americans won the game, doubling up the Brits 6-3.

Britain has had a rough go of it in the tournament after fighting their way up from the lower levels of the IIHF to get here. They only had one goal for through the round robin so far. They notched three against the USA, but it was not enough to win the game.

Britain’s Mike Hammond set up the first US goal when he took a holding minor at the 10:51 mark of the first. James van Riemsdyk scored on the ensuing power play to give the USA the 1-0 lead at 12:17.

But Hammond would redeem himself by scoring the tying goal at 15:08 of the first. We headed into the first intermission knotted at one.

Hammond was involved in the go-ahead goal for the US as well, as he took a hooking penalty that set up a Clayton Keller power play goal 9:07 into the second period. Chris Kreider followed up at 11:20 to give the US the two goal lead and Alex DeBrincat scored at 17:54 to make it 4-1 USA.

But with just six seconds to go in the second frame, Brett Perlini cut the US lead in half when he scored unassisted for Great Britain to make it 4-2.

The US would restore a three goal lead when Patrick Kane scored just one minute into the third. Derek Ryan made it 6-2 for the Americans when he scored on the power play at 9:10 (Matthew Myers was off for high-sticking for Great Britain).

Ben Davies of Britain took a goalie interference penalty at the 14:20 mark and then, eight seconds after his penalty expired, he scored to make it 6-3, which was our final.

Thatcher Demko made 23 saves on 26 British shots against. Ben Bowns was bombarded with 65 American shots and made 59 saves.

Jack Hughes had six shots on goal and was an even plus/minus in 11:28 of ice time (15 shifts).

USA next plays Denmark on Saturday.

Going over to Bratislava for Group B action, we have the Swiss over Norway 4-1.

Andres Ambuhl got the Swiss on the board 5:30 into the game to make it 1-0.

Nico Hischier took a slashing penalty at 17:29 of the first period, meaning it would straddle the intermission. When the penalty was killed off 29 seconds into the second, Nico jumped on to the ice and scored five seconds later. His goal made it 2-0 Switzerland.

Gregory Hofmann made it 3-0 9:01 into the third period when he scored from Lino Martschini.

Ambuhl bookended the scoring when he added a second for the fourth Swiss goal at 16:02 of the third. Norway would add a goal from Tobias Lindstrom with just under two minutes to go but it was window dressing. The Swiss came away with the 4-1 win.

In goal, Leonardo Genoni made 31 saves on a respectable 32 shots for Norway. Norwegian goalie Henrik Holm made 38 saves on 42 Swiss shots.

Nico finished the game with the goal for a point, two penalty minutes (the slashing penalty), three shots on goal and a plus-2 plus/minus in 17:21 of ice time (23 shifts).

The Swiss play Sweden next on Saturday in what will be a real test for them.

Now, we move back to Group A where Germany defeated Slovakia 3-2 at the Steel Arena in Kosice.

Marian Studenic took the first penalty of the game, a tripping call 3:13 into the contest. Slovakia would kill that off and the first period was scoreless.

But Germany would only need 3:54 into the second to take the 1-0 lead. Marc Michaelis beat Slovak goalie Marek Ciliak to make it 1-0.

The Germans would get into some penalty trouble early in the second when Moritz Seider was given two minutes for holding at 8:01, Moritz Muller was called for tripping at 8:24 and on the same play, Korbinian Holzer was assessed a ten minute misconduct for unsportsmanlike conduct.

With a 5-on-3, Slovakia would capitalize when Andrej Sekera tied the game with a goal at 8:30. Then, with a 5-on-4 man advantage, Libor Hudacek scored at 9:55 to make it 2-1 Slovakia.

Slovakia’s Ladislav Nagy was given a two minute minor for boarding and a ten minute misconduct to go with it 13:38 into the third. Studenic would serve the minor for Nagy.

At 18:08, with German goalie Mathias Niederberger pulled for the extra atttacker, Markus Eisenschmid tied the game for Germany at two. The Germans would pull Niederberger again and, with less than thirty seconds to go in the contest, Leon Draisaitl scored to give the Germans the 3-2 lead. This would go on to be our final.

Niederberger made 34 saves on 36 Slovak shots against while Ciliak made 18 saves on 21 German shots.

Studenic had two penalty minutes (the tripping penalty, not the one he served), one shots and was a minus-1 plus/minus in 12:08 of ice time (16 shifts).

Slovakia plays Friday against France in their next game.

Tomorrow we will have Damon Severson and Canada taking on France for you, plus Sweden versus Austria and Finland against Denmark.

Swiss Defeat Austrians at WHC

First things first. I appologize for the site being down the last week or so. Long story short, I was installing an update and the site crashed. We are obviously back up (a big thank you to Steve Paskovich for helping get things back on track) but have lost the posts between last September and now (including all of the 2018-19 Devils season).

Since I intended for this site to act as an archive of all things Devils, I may try to get those posts back up and running in time. It would be time consuming but we will see. I had also been keeping track of the World Championship and the CHL doings during the time the site was down, so those posts may see the light of day at some point too.

Otherwise, it’s business as usual around here with Nico Hischier and the Swiss taking on Austria at the World Hockey Championship in Bratislava. THe Swiss won the game 4-0 as the Austrians just had a complete breakdown of discipline.

Kevin Fiala got the Swiss on the board first with a goal with 33 seconds to go in the opening period. Nico picked up the primary helper on the goal. It was 1-0 Switzerland.

The rest of the scoring came in the third period (and mostly on the power play). Roman Josi scored an even strength goal at the 13:02 mark to give Switzerland the 2-0 lead. This was followed by a lengthly delay in the game as a plexiglass panel was broken and the arena staff tried as fast as they could to get the new piece in. It was the rounded piece near the end of the bench that is springy so that players do not get run into the old-syle turnbuckle.

Once the new glass was in, Austria went on the penalty kill when Thomas Raffl was called for high-sticking at 17:08. The Swiss quickly capitalized when Philipp Kurashev scored (with Hischier getting the lone assist on the goal) to make it 3-0.

With exactly one minute to go, Austria’s Raphael Herburger was given a ten minute misconduct, ending his night. Thirty-four seconds later, Raphael Wolf cross-checked Hischier in the Austrian crease to go off for two minues. Sven Andrighetto made them pay by scoring to make it 4-0 at 19:47.

Austria took 28 minutes in penalties (admittedly only ten minutes more than Switzerland, just more ill-timed) in the game.

Switzerland’s Reto Berra stopped all 18 Austrian shots that he saw and, in the other net, David Kickert was under siege. He faced 45 shots total, making 41 saves.

Nico’s stat line read: the two assists for two points, one shot on goal, was a plus-1 plus/minus in 19:46 of ice time (29 shifts).

Switzerland has a quick turnaround, playing tomorrow against Norway. We will also have coverage tomorrow of the USA-Great Britain game and Germany versus Slovakia.

Round One, Game Two: Devils Push Back Late, But Fall to Bolts 5-3

Nico Hischier, the first overall pick in last year’s Draft, scored his first Stanley Cup Playoff goal in a 5-3 Devils loss in Tampa in game two. Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Things like this happen. When you are going up against a team with as potent a power play as the Tampa Bay Lightning have, games like this are bound to appear.

The Devils fell to the Lightning 5-3 at Amalie Arena in game two of their best-of-seven first round Stanley Cup Playoff series today.

Things started out well enough with the game tied at one going into the first intermission. But the wheels began to fall off for New Jersey in the second period before a late surge in the third nearly resulted in a dramatic comeback.

They would not complete that comeback, but would help set the tone for game three by being more physical and hard on the puck. The Devils showed up in the third period.

Roster-wise, Brian Gibbons was out along with Jesper Bratt, Jimmy Hayes, Marcus Johansson and Drew Stafford up front as the Devils went with 11 forwards. Damon Severson slotted back in on the blue line as they went with seven defensemen. Steven Santini (a d-man) and Eddie Lack (goaltender) were the two other healthy scratches.

The Devils went right back to Keith Kinkaid between the pipes. He was solid early on and only faltered in that disastrous second period. He faced 15 shots and stopped ten of them. He would be pulled after Tampa’s fifth goal in favor of Cory Schneider, seeing his first playoff action in a New Jersey uniform. He stopped all ten shots he saw.

For the Lightning, one of their big stories was Andrei Vasilevskiy, who stopped 41 of a whopping 44 Devils shots. The Devils bombarded him, especially late in the game. They outshot Tampa 10-6 in the first period, 15-11 in the second and 19-9 in the third. He saw a lot of rubber but stood tall for the Bolts and was part of the Devils’ problem on the afternoon.

There was a slight delay about 45 seconds into the game when a bolt broke on one of the Lightning bench gates. That needed to be fixed before we could get things going proper. It was quickly repaired by the ice crew and we were off and running.

Brayden Point scored his first of the playoffs just 12:15 into the game to make it 1-0 from Ondrej Palat and Ryan McDonagh. Point was the recipient of a good bounce as the puck landed right on his stick through the Devils’ zone and he roofed it over Kinkaid. Tampa was an NHL-best 36-6-1 when scoring first in a game. This did not bode well for the Devils.

But the Devils had a quick answer. That answer was Nico Hischier. Nico scored his first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal unassisted just 1:23 after the first Tampa Bay goal. Nico won an offensive zone faceoff to Michael Grabner. Grabner gave to Mirco Mueller at the near point. He went point-to-point with Severson, who fired on net. Vasilevskiy made the initial save, but the rebound came to Hischier in the slot. He fired, beating the Tampa goaltender over his trapper. That made it 1-1 as we headed into the second period. Things seemed to be working out alright for the Devils.

Then things fell apart.

It began, appropriately enough, on the power play. Ben Lovejoy tried to clear a puck that was on edge and ended up shooting it out over the glass, being hit with a delay of game infraction. From there, the Tampa power play took over. Alex Killorn potted his second of the series at 3:14 of the second. Steven Stamkos had missed the net on a shot and it came right to Nikita Kucherov, whose shot was redirected in by Killorn to make it 2-1 Lightning.

That opened the floodgates. Tyler Johnson scored at 4:36 from McDonagh and Point as he too tipped McDonagh’s shot by Kinkaid. That made it 3-1.

At 6:01, Kucherov struck unassisted to make it 4-1. This one went in off of Sami Vatanen’s skate and stick on a play that Tampa did not even get credit for a shot on goal for.

Killorn finished the onslaught on the power play again (this was set up by a somewhat suspect unsportsmanlike conduct call on Kyle Palmieri). He scored off of a scramble in front where Kinkaid lost his stick. That came at 13:12 with assists to Kucherov and Victor Hedman. it was now 5-1 Lightning.

Following this goal was when Cory Schneider came on in relief for Kinkaid. He would be perfect on his end of the evening.

The power play saw Tampa go 2-for-3 with four shots on goal. The Devils, in contrast, were 0-for-3 with six shots.

The Devils would get one back late in the second, with less than 30 seconds left in the frame when Vatanen scored from Andy Greene and Cory Schneider. On the play, Vatanen took a pass in the Devils’ defensive zone from Greene and skated the length of the rink. He snapped a shot off from the top of the slot and beat Vasilevskiy stick side cleanly to make the score 5-2.

Earlier in the play, Vatanen had hit Tampa forward Ryan Callahan. Callahan left the ice injured and would not return. A blow for the Lightning and we will see how it plays out later in the series.

The third period was just a little bit different from the other two periods. Namely, the Devils dominated puck possession and zone time. Cory made a big save early in the period as he slid across his crease and knocked a shot down with his glove.

The Devils had chances, such as when Miles Wood had the puck knocked off of his stick on a partial breakaway midway through the period.

They would break through at the 11:57 mark when Blake Coleman scored his first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal from Travis Zajac and John Moore to make it 5-3. After sustained zone pressure, Zajac played catch with Moore at the point. Zajac teed up Coleman – who was stationed in the high slot – and he fired a one-timer past Vasilevskiy to make it 5-3.

From there, Nico hit the post with a shot and then, in a separate play, Miles Wood had seemingly made it 5-4. The puck got caught up in Vasilevskiy’s pants and no conclusive video proof was evident for the situation room in Toronto to call it a definitive goal. It was blow to the Devils and they would not recover. They would pull Schneider with about two minutes remaining in the game but would not get any closer. Tampa came out of their home arena with a 2-0 series lead.

Statistically, the Devils outshot Tampa 44-26, won just 34-percent of the game’s faceoffs, outhit the Lightning narrowly 36-35 in what was an extremely physical game and had 11 blocked shots to Tampa’s ten.

Individually, Vatanen led the Devils in ice time with 20:55 (1:04 on the PP and 23 seconds on the PK) narrowly beating out Taylor Hall, who had 20:43 of time on ice. Hall led in shots on goal with six, Patrick Maroon led in hits with five, Moore led in blocks with three and Lovejoy had two takeaways, which led in that category.

Next up, Monday and game three up north at Prudential Center. Hopefully, the Devils can use the tone that they set in the third period of this game to pull out a win in one or both of the games at The Rock. We will have you covered here, as always.

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Devils Fall to Caps in 2017-18 Season Finale

Patrick Maroon had a goal and two assists against the Capitals on Saturday. He has factored into every Devils’ goal for the final two games of the year. Photo: Adam Hunger/Getty Images

The Devils finished up the 2017-18 season with a 5-3 loss to the Washington Capitals at Capital One Arena. This puts a bow on what has been a fantastic (if not roller coaster-like) regular season and sets the stage for the Stanley Cup Playoffs: 2018 edition.

New Jersey was not fooling around with taking any chances tonight. They rested Taylor Hall, Sami Vatanen, Travis Zajac and Kyle Palmieri in order to keep them healthy for the postseason. Keith Kinkaid did not dress, as Eddie Lack was called up from Binghamton to back up Cory Schneider – making his first start since March 20 at San Jose – and Marcus Johansson is still being held out. Deb Placey of MSG+ alluded to the fact that it might not be until further into the playoffs (should the Devils get there) that he will play.

Because of this, some guys were playing in what would be essentially an audition for the playoffs. Jimmy Hayes, Drew Stafford, Jesper Bratt and Damon Severson, who have all been healthy scratches lately, were all back in the lineup. How they played tonight will determine how the coaching staff form their lineup for the playoffs.

The Devils would likely have a dance partner for the first round by the end of the night. The only thing they knew was that they could not face the Columbus Blue Jackets. With the outcome of their game versus Washington, the Devils knew that they would be crossing over to the Atlantic Division as the second wild card in the Eastern Conference. They finished with exactly the same amount of points and ROWs as Columbus, but the Jackets took the season series against New Jersey, which is the next tiebreaker.

Whether it was Boston or Tampa Bay (whomever won the Atlantic would be their opponent), they would not know tonight. Boston won in regulation while the Hurricanes defeated the Lightning in overtime. The Bruins have a makeup game on home ice tomorrow against the Panthers that will decide the winner of the Atlantic. If the Bruins win that game in any fashion (regulation, OT or shootout), the Devils will face the Bruins. Should Boston lose, the Devils get the Lightning in the first round. The Bruins and the Cats are making up a game that was snowed out at TD Garden back in January.


Between the pipes, Cory Schneider went for the Devils. As stated, Eddie Lack was called up from the AHL to dress as his backup. Schneider, of course, has not won a game in the 2018 calendar year, and was looking to get in some good work before the playoffs began, as the Devils need him to be in good shape for the playoffs. He stopped 21 of 26 Caps’ shots. He also weathered a storm of shots by Alex Ovechkin later in the game. More on why that was later.

For the Capitals, Braden Holtby was in action. He is having a similar season to Cory in that the former Vezina Trophy winner has not been playing up to his own high standards. He made 23 saves on 26 Devils shots.

Ovechkin was looking to reach 50 goals this year. He would need a hat trick to reach that goal but it was certainly within reach for him. He kicked off the game’s scoring with his 48th goal of the year when he scored from his usual spot. Evgeny Kuznetsov and Tom Wilson had the assists on that goal just 2:21 in to make it 1-0 Caps.

The Devils would respond a few minutes later at the 8:10 mark of the first when Nico Hischier scored his 20th of the year from Patrick Maroon and Severson. Severson came in with a well-timed pinch to move the puck to Maroon behind the Washington net. Maroon quickly passed to Nico, who was cruising into the slot. He fired and beat Holtby to the stick side. The game was tied up at one.

According to a tweet by the guys at the great Devils Insiders podcast, with that goal, Hischier reached one of his Schedule A bonuses for the year and would recoup $212,500. Congratulations to Nico on that accomplishment.

Washington would regain the lead with just seconds to go in the first period when Nicklas Backstrom scored from Brett Connolly and John Carlson at 19:32 to make it 2-1 Caps going into the first break.

Michal Kempny scored at the 3:44 mark of the second period to give the Capitals at two goal lead. He got assists from Shane Gersich and Chandler Stephenson.

The Devils would cut it to 3-2 with a little under a minute to go in the second. Miles Wood scored his 19th from Maroon and Pavel Zacha as that line continued their hot streak. Maroon won a puck battle behind the Washington net, trying to pass on his forehand to Wood on the doorstep. That pass was blocked by the Washington defender and bounced back to Maroon’s stick. He skated to the other side of the net and came out from around it, passing on his backhand to Wood in front. Wood shoveled the pass by Holtby on his glove side.

Maroon had now assisted on all of the Devils goals in the last two games. But he was not done. He would get one himself just 2:04 into the third (assists to Zacha and Wood) to tie things up at three. Wood batted down a clearing attempt by the Caps at their blue line. He knocked it right to Zacha, who found Maroon cutting towards the net from the far faceoff circle. He shot and beat Holtby glove side to make it 3-3.

Unfortunately, that was it for the Devils’ offense this game. But it is a good time for the Wood-Maroon-Zacha combination to get hot and we are anxious to see what they can do in the playoffs.

The rest of the scoring for third period saw Ovechkin get one closer to 50 with his 49th unassisted at 5:11. That is where he would end. The game broke down late into a bizzare attempt by the Caps to get Ovechkin the puck at all costs as he tried to get to that magic mark.

Andre Burakovsky would add a fifth goal for Washington at 11:50 from Kempny and Backstrom and that was it for the season.

On the power play for the night, the Devils were 0-for-1 with two shots on goal while the Caps were 0-for-2 with two shots on goal. The Devils also had two shorthanded shots on goal.

Overall, shots were even at 26, the Devils won only 41-percent of the game’s faceoffs, the Capitals out hit the Devils 15-10 and the Caps also had more blocks at 13-11. Individually, Severson led the team in ice time with 21:19 (including 55 seconds on the power play) while Brian Gibbons led the forwards with 19:03 (2:48 on the PK – he had a good game killing penalties). Shots on goal was led by Wood with five. Maroon led in hits with three. Andy Greene led in blocks with three and Brian Boyle and Mirco Mueller led in takeaways with two each.

Next up: the playoffs. The Devils will find out who they will be facing tomorrow following the conclusion of the Boston Bruins-Florida Panthers contest. So far in the East, Washington will take on Columbus, Pittsburgh will face Philadelphia and the Maple Leafs will face the loser of the Atlantic Division – the Devils will get the winner. We will be with you through the playoffs whenever they do start for New Jersey.

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Hall Strikes With Late Shorthanded Goal, Devils Win in Montreal

Nico Hischier and Taylor Hall acted as the Devils’ one-two punch in their 2-1 victory in Montreal. Photo: The Canadian Press (downloaded from TSN.ca)

The Devils are inching closer and closer to that elusive playoff spot. Tonight, they came away with a close one in Montreal, defeating the Canadiens 2-1 on a late Taylor Hall shorthanded goal.

The Devils now stand with four as the magic number: any combination of four points lost by the Florida Panthers (who were idle toinght) or won by the Devils will get them in. Florida does have two games in hand, but they come against teams like Nashville and Boston as well as Buffalo and Carolina. Not easy sledding for them, or for the Devils for that matter. The Devils just need to put their head down and go about their business and things will fall into place.

But first, tonight’s game. Some injury news to begin: Kyle Palmieri, who was clipped by an errant Andy Greene stick last night and was cut. The Devils wanted to take all precautions with him so he did not travel with the team to Montreal, however he was flown in once he was cleared and good to go. He wanted to play and was eager to be in the lineup. Also, some other good news as Marcus Johansson was cleared to play and taken off of injured reserve today. He was a healthy scratch for this game, along with Jimmy Hayes, Drew Stafford, Brian Gibbons and Damon Severson, as the coaching staff want to make sure he’s just right to get in. He did travel with the team to Montreal.

With Gibbons out, Jesper Bratt slotted back in at forward and with Severson out, Ben Lovejoy was back in on the blue line. Palmieri played on a line with Pavel Zacha and Michael Grabner while Patrick Maroon moved up to the top line with Nico Hischier and Hall.

In net, Keith Kinkaid made his third back-to-back start in as many weeks. He made 25 saves on 26 shots and was again brilliant at times. Opposing him was Carey Price, who tied Jacques Plante on the Canadiens’ all-time games-played list with 556. He was also fantastic for them, stopping 30 of 32 shots.

Special teams played a huge role in this one, as the referees certainly did not put the whistles away. The Devils ended the night 0-for-5 on the man advantage, with 11 power play shots. They also scored on their only shorthanded shot of the night, which we will get into in more detail later. Montreal was 1-for-4 on the power play with nine shots.

The Habs are on pace to finish with the fewest points by a Montreal team since the NHL went to an 82 game schedule in 1995-96. The Devils pushed the pace for most of the game, but things looked bad early on as Montreal got on the board first. It was the power play goal, scored at 19:51 of the first when Kinkaid drew a tripping penalty. Travis Zajac and Grabner were on a shorthanded 2-on-1 and Grabner’s pass was blocked, allowing Montreal to take the puck up the other way. Daniel Carr buried one from Arturi Lehkonen and Mike Reilly then.

But the Devils used their coach’s challenge, claiming offsides. The review was inconclusive to the linesmen who watched the replay, and, thus the call on the ice stood. It was a good goal and New Jersey was assessed a delay of game penalty. This was the first time coach John Hynes had tried to challenge for offsides against an opponent, but the Devils were right back on the penalty kill. Plus, they were down 1-0, the first time this season the Devils had trailed the Habs in regulatioin according to Deb Placey of MSG+.

The Devils had their chances to break through, but it was not until the third period that things would begin to click for them.

First, they tied things up 26 seconds into the third stanza. Nico Hischier scored from Sami Vatanen and Kyle Palmieri to even things up at one. Hall won a board battle in the far corner, pushing it towards Palmieri, who quickly wound it around the boards to Vatanen at the near point. He fired a quick one and Hischier, who was camped out in the slot, was able to get a stick on it and redirect it by Price.

The game was knotted up and for the next few minutes, it became the Nico Hischier show. He began by coming in on a breakaway midway through the third. Price stopped him as Nico elected to shoot instead of deking. A few minutes later, Nico would clang one off of the iron on another glorious chance.

But the game winner was set up by a penalty, or rather two penalties. Not to the Canadiens, but to the Devils. At the 13:45 mark of the third, the Devils were given a bench minor for too many men on the ice. That would be served by Hall (which would turn out to be a brilliant move on Hynes’ part). A little over a minute later, at 14:53, Lovejoy was called for cross checking Brendan Gallagher on a play in front of Keith Kinkaid’s net.

The Habs would have 52 seconds of 5-on-3 power play time and it looked like the game hung in the balance. The Devils would kill off the too many men penalty with Zajac blocking one final 5-on-3 shot by Montreal. He calmly gathered the puck and saw Hall coming out of the box. He saucered a pass directly to him, springing Hall for a breakaway. All alone in on Price, Hall beat him stick side to put the Devils up 2-1.

It was a well-timed play by both Zajac and Hall, and a nice one. Credit to the Devils’ PK unit for keeping the puck out of their own net. It was also a smart move by Hynes. Having a choice of who to put in the box for the bench minor allowed him to get his best offensive player, who does not generally kill penalties anyway, a jump start to come out of the box on a break. Zajac timed the block and pass so well and Hall was there to finish.

The goal came at 15:53 of the third with the only assist to Zajac. It was shorthanded, so the Devils still had the Lovejoy penalty to kill off, which they would.

With that shorty, the Devils notched their 12th shorthanded goal of the season, taking over the lead in the NHL.

Price would be pulled with about a minute left in the game, while Montreal was killing off a Nicolas Deslauriers slashing penalty, but were unable to tie things up. The Devils came away with points 92 and 93, putting them one behind the Flyers for the first wild card spot and seven ahead of the Panthers.

Statistically, the Devils won 47-percent of the game’s faceoffs and out shot Montreal 32-26. They were out hit 40-18 by the Habs, but the Devils had more blocked shots with 17 to Montreal’s 15.

Greene led the Devils in ice time with 23:15 (inlcuding 45 seconds of power play time and 4:50 on the PK). He narrowly edged Vatanen, who had 23:06 of ice time. Vatanen did lead in shots on goal with seven, while Stefan Noesen and Zacha led in hits with three each. Greene and Mirco Mueller led the team in blocked shots with three apiece while Grabner, Lovejoy and Vatanen each had one takeaway.

So, next up, the Devils take on their rivals, the Rangers, Tuesday. While the Rangers are long out of the playoff race – having been eliminated the night the Devils beat the Hurricanes at home – you can bet that New York will be looking to play spoiler against the Devils. This will not be an easy one, but if the Devils come away with the two points, it will be very much worth it.

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Devils Edge By Tampa For Second Straight Win

Nico Hischier scored his 18th of the season and second goal in as many nights in a 2-1 Devils victory over Tampa. Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Another Stanley Cup contender, another Devils win, another day at the office. The Devils, who have seemingly continued to play up to elite competition this season did it again, defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning at Prudential Center last night, 2-1.

The win helped the Devils gain some ground on Philly, who play tomorrow against the Penguins. They are only two points behind the number one wild card team in the East. Florida did win to keep pace, beating Arizona 4-2, and do have games in hand, but the Devils can only worry about themselves and that is what they are doing.

The Devils’ lineup got a bit of a shakeup, as Ben Lovejoy sat in favor of Mirco Mueller on D while Jimmy Hayes and Drew Stafford were the other scratches. Stefan Noesen drew back in up front and Miles Wood remains out with an upper body injury.

The Devils also went back to the red-hot Keith Kinkaid in net. He stopped 35 of 36 shots against, playing out of his mind at times. There is no doubting that Kinkaid is in a zone right now and the Devils will ride him as long as they can. Kinkaid would be named the game’s number one star at the end of the night. Andrei Vasilevskiy went for Tampa and made 29 saves on 31 Devils shots.

Nico Hischier kicked off the scoring in the game, getting the Devils on the board first. Nico notched his 18th of the season and second in as many nights when he scored at 17:51 from Will Butcher and Mueller. The goal came when Nico skated deep into the Lightning zone with the puck. He came out from behind the net and dished to Butcher at the far point. Butcher faked a shot and went D-to-D with Mueller. Mueller returned the pass after gaining some space and Butcher shot. Vasilevskiy knocked the shot down, but the rebound came right to Nico, who was able to shovel it in as he was falling down to make it 1-0 Devils.

The Devils had the early lead on the Eastern Conference’s best team and would keep it through the first intermission.

In the second period, Kyle Palmieri doubled the Devils’ lead with a goal at 10:59 from Pavel Zacha and Taylor Hall. This one developed when Zacha gave to Palmieri at the near half wall. Palmieri made a nice individual effort to get free in the high slot, fired and beat Vasilevskiy to the stick side to put the Devils up 2-0. That would prove to be the game winner.

The teams had played at 4-on-4 just prior to the Palmieri goal. That was a strange situation as Brian Gibbons of the Devils was called for hooking against Alex Killorn. On the ensuing faceoff in the Devils’ zone, the Lightning had a faceoff violation. JT Miller jumped into the circle and he was also called for a faceoff violation, leading to a delay of game penalty for Tampa. The Lightning power play was nullified before it even got a chance to start.

In the third period, Ondrej Palat scored at 4:22 on the power play to cut the Devils lead to 2-1. He got assists from Mikhail Sergachev and Brayden Point. The Devils’ Butcher had been taken off for tripping at 2:27.

After a frantic last few minutes where the Devils were just not able to put the puck into the Tampa net vacated by Vasilevskiy for the extra skater, the Devils won a few key faceoffs in their zone and got some timely goaltending by Kinkaid to come away with the 2-1 victory.

The Devils ended the night 0-for-1 on the power play with no shots on goal. The Lightning ended up 1-for-2 with three shots.

Statistically, the Devils won 42-percent of the game’s faceoffs, outhit Tampa, 27-16 and had ten more blocked shots with 18 to Tampa Bay’s eight. Individually, Sami Vatanen again led all New Jersey skaters in ice time with 25:48 (1:05 on the power play, 2:43 on the PK) while Hall led the forwards with 17:57 (inlcuding 1:05 on the power play). Stefan Noesen and Blake Coleman, the Plano,Texas boys, led in shots on goal with four apiece. Coleman also led in hits with five. Kyle Palmieri and Brian Gibbons led in blocks with three and Hall led in takeaways with two.

With this win, the Devils swept the season series against the powerful Bolts, going 3-0-0 against the Cup contenders this season.

Next up, the Devils remain home as they take on the Carolina Hurricanes at Prudential Center on Tuesday. Hopefully, the Devils can keep up the momentum they have built against legit contenders in taking on a team that is below them in the standings. We will see you Tuesday.

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Devils End Road Trip With OT Win In Pittsburgh

Taylor Hall scored the OT winner just 27 seconds into the extra frame. It was his third OT winner of the season. Photo: Perry Nelson/USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Penguins have played about 16 home games in the past 78 nights. They have only two losses in that time period at PPG Paints Arena. After those two losses have both come against the New Jersey Devils.

After a Devils victory in Pittsburgh back on February 27, they notched an overtime win tonight, coming away with both points in a 4-3 barnburner.

The Devils did get some help from the Columbus Blue Jackets yesterday in the playoff race, as the Jackets defeated Florida Panthers to keep them away from New Jersey in the standings. The Devils would take advantage of that help by ending their road trip 4-2-0, taking a eight of a possible 12 points.

According to the MSG+ pregame show, Ben Lovejoy was summoned by the coaching staff to give a speech after practice yesterday. He told the team, basically, that they were a good team and one that they must collect points to get to the playoffs. The point seemed to be that the Devils just had to continue to play the way they have and that would sustain them. That seemed to be enough to pump the Devils up to end their trip on a winning note.

They also got reinforcement when Pavel Zacha joined the team in Pittsburgh and played tonight for the first time since his injury March 6 against Montreal. The Devils would be missing Miles Wood, who remains out following his upper body injury suffered in Anaheim. Jimmy Hayes, Mirco Mueller and Stefan Noesen also sat while Jesper Bratt slotted back in up front.

In net, the Devils went back to Keith Kinkaid. Kinkaid has been the hot hand and the Devils went right back to him. He played amazing at times in notching his first-ever 20 win season tonight. He stopped 40 of 43 Penguins shots. The Pens threw out Matt Murray, who is playing his first games back after missing a block of time due to a concussion. He stopped 30 of 34 shots against.

The Devils did not look too good early on, as they got hemmed in early and Sidney Crosby was able to put in a rebound off of a Jamie Oleksiak shot. The goal came just 2:29 into the game and Jake Guentzel had the secondary assist. One-nothing Pens.

A scary moment in the second period when one of the linesmen, Tony Sericolo, fell and the Devils’ Brian Gibbons tripped over him. He was seemingly cut and had to leave the game to get stitched up. He would return about four or five minutes after the incident occurred at 11:03 of the first.

While the Pens grabbed the early lead in the first, the second period belonged to the Devils. It began at the 3:48 mark when Bryan Rust took a tripping call, putting the Devils on the power play. Will Butcher would convert, scoring his first goal since November 20, ending a 52 game goal drought.

Butcher skated the puck out from behind the Devils’ net, pushing it ahead to Taylor Hall. Hall broke into the Pens’ zone and found Damon Severson at the near point. Severson went point-to-point with a trailing Butcher, who was just joining the play. Butcher fired and beat Murray to tie things up at one.

For the night, the Devils were 1-for-2 on the power play with four shots on goal. Pittsburgh was held 0-for-2 with only two shots.

The goal that gave the Devils the lead was set up at the 8:36 mark of the second when Andy Greene and Carl Hagelin took coincidental minors – Greene for tripping and Hagelin for interference. The ensuing four-on-four would lead to a beautiful goal from Blake Coleman. That one came at 7:20 with assists to Drew Stafford and Zacha.

It began when Kinkaid made a nice save on a Pens’ 2-on-1. Zacha grabbed the puck, moving it ahead to Stafford, who headmanned it to Coleman, alone with one Penguin to beat behind the Pittsburgh blue line. He drove hard towards the net, keeping one hand on his stick and was able to backhand the puck, top shelf, by Murray. That made it 2-1 Devils.

New Jersey added an insurance goal at the 8:54 mark of the second when Nico Hischier scored to make it 3-1. It happened when the Devils broke into the Pens’ zone with numbers. Hall threaded a pass cross ice to John Moore in at the bottom of the near faceoff circle. Moore then threaded one back to Nico Hischier, who had fought to get all alone in the slot. He layed the puck in, all alone with an empty net in front of him. Three-one Devils.

The Devils had scored three goals in just 3:39. The Devils seemed to have things in control going into the third period. But this was Pittsburgh and these are the two-time defending champion Penguins we are talking about.

At 3:13 of the third, Crosby won a draw deep in the Devils’ zone, back to Brian Dumoulin. Dumoulin scored to make it 3-2. The comeback was on.

Sure enough, at the 10:52 mark, Phil Kessel beat Kinkaid through a screen to tie the game at three. The assists went to Derick Brassard and Conor Sheary. The game was back to square one.

What ensued was about nine minutes of the most jaw-dropping, back-and-forth, end-to-end hockey that you have ever seen. Both goalies stood on their heads, some big breaks to both teams, including the Pens getting lucky on Michael Grabner’s shorthanded try somehow not going in.

When the dust settled, we were headed to overtime. Because that is just what a fan with a vested interest watching this game needed after enduring the final nine minutes of the third period.

But OT would not last long. The Devils started with Hall, Sami Vatanen and Nico Hischier to start. Just 27 seconds in, Hall pushed the puck up the far boards in the Devils’ zone to Nico. Nico got into a puck battle along the boards with Kessel and was able to kick the puck to his stick blade, soccer-style. He had outmuscled one of the strongest Penguins and was able to throw the puck to an all-alone and in the clear Hall just outside the Pittsburgh zone. Hall was in alone on Murray and shot five hole, beating him to give the Devils the 4-3 win. It was his third OT game winner of the season for New Jersey.

Hall’s celebration was understated. He told Deb Placey on the postgame show that he would wait for the playoffs to celebrate bigger. That and he was just too exhausted to celebrate too wildly.

Either way, the Devils had gotten the two points and now have beaten Pittsburgh three times this season.

Stats-wise, the Devils won 49-percent of the game’s draws, outhit the Pens 37-20 and had 15 blocked shots to the Penguins’ eight. Vatanen led all Devils in ice time with 24:19 (2:35 on the power play and 58 seconds on the penalty kill) while Hall led all Devils’ forwards with 20:06 (2:48 on the PP). Hall also led in shots on goal with seven, Coleman led in hits with five, Greene led in blocks with three and takeaways were led by Hischier, Coleman, Kyle Palmieri, Zacha, Gibbons, Lovejoy and Vatanen, who each had one.

It is a quick turnaround for the Devils as they finally return home to face the Tampa Bay Lightning tomorrow night at Prudential Center. I will be attending this game, so the recap will be up a little bit later. We will find out then if the Devils can build up more space between them and the Panthers as we head into the final stretch.

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