On Big Day for Jack Hughes, Devils Fall to Sharks

Today, the Devils made a major announcement regarding Jack Hughes’ contract situation. I am currently working on a big post that contains all of the news that has to do with Jack as well his brother Luke, who will likely be playing in late December for Team USA.

That post should be finished and up following this recap post.

This game saw the San Jose Sharks come east to face the Devils at Prudential Center, finishing up the season series between the Devils and their Californian nemesis. They Sharks won 5-2.

The Devils got Jack Hughes about a week earlier than expected as he returned to the team for tonight’s game from his dislocated shoulder suffered against the Seattle Kraken back on October 19. He played left wing on the Devils’ top line for the night.

Colton White and Mason Geertsen were the healthy scratches for the Devils as they got Hughes back and Ty Smith played again on defense.

In goal, the Devils started Mackenzie Blackwood. Blackwood stopped 28 of the 30 shots the Sharks threw at him for a nightly save percentage of .867. The Sharks added an empty net goal, which increased their shot total to 31 for the game. He blocked San Jose’s lone shorthanded chance and four of their five power play shots. He turned aside 21 of San Jose’s 24 shots at even strength.

The Sharks went with James Reimer who made 32 saves on 34 Devils shots. He had a night’s save percentage of .941, was equal to the Devils’ lone power play shot and made 31 saves off of 33 shots at even strength.

On the power play, the Sharks went 1-for-3 while the Devils only had one opportunity and went 0-for-1.

San Jose had won 3-of-their-last-4 games coming into this game. They shutout 2-0 the Chicago Blackhawks in Chicago to start this road trip on Sunday.

On a side note, the ESPN+ broadcast was really spotty for me tonight. Lagging and buffering a lot. I had to refresh my browser a few times – was watching on a relatively bigger screen on my laptop and not on my phone. Not a really smooth experience and I hope this gets cleaned up a little as we go on with ESPN+.

And that shutout streak for the Sharks would continue through two periods tonight.

San Jose, however, beat Blackwood enough to build up a big lead by then.

It began just 4:26 into the game. There was an offensive zone start for the Sharks – deep in the Devils zone. The Sharks won the draw and got it back to Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who moved it to Radim Simek at the other point. Simek shot and it was tipped past Blackwood by Noah Gregor to make it 1-0 San Jose.

The first period ended with Pavel Zacha being stopped late on a breakaway by Reimer. Reimer turned him aside and the Devils would not be on the board yet.

In the second period, the Sharks exploded for three more goals.

Just 4:14 into the new frame, Alexander Barabanov got the puck off of the wall and moved it to Gregor, who made a pass to Jacob Middleton at the far side. Middleton shot above Blackwood’s blocker and in. The goal was called a good goal on the ice to make the score 2-0.

Devils coach Lindy Ruff decided after a quick review on the bench that he was going to use his coach’s challenge to see if the Sharks’ Tomas Hertl was offside about twenty seconds prior to the goal. Reviews clearly showed that Hertl had tagged up at the blue line sufficiently and the Sharks were onside on the play. The goal stood and it was 2-0 San Jose.

The Devils received a delay of game minor for getting the coach’s challenge wrong. They would kill that off, but not the next San Jose power play.

At the 10:17 mark of the second period, Jesper Bratt took a hooking penalty against Erik Karlsson setting up the man advantage for the Sharks.

On that power play, Logan Couture dug the puck out of the near corner with the Devils’ penalty kill overloaded to that side. Couture’s pass hit Timo Meier, alone on the far side, on the tape. Meier clanged it off of the post and in behind a Mackenzie Blackwood who was anticipating a near side shot. That one made it 3-0 Sharks.

Now things were getting out of hand for the Devils.

Before the second was over, Erik Karlsson would increase the Sharks lead to 4-0.

At the 11:30 mark of the middle frame, Barabanov found a seam across to a pinching Karlsson at the far post. Karlsson had a wide-open side of the goal cage to shoot at and did not miss, making it 4-0. Rudolfs Balcers had the secondary assist on the goal.

The Devils were now in a four-goal hole going into the third period.

But this season so far, you put the Devils behind the eight-ball in the third and you have a very dangerous team.

Sure enough, it began at the 9:12 mark of the third. Tomas Tatar, who scored late in the loss at Nashville last week, broke the Sharks’ shutout streak.

A Nico Hischier shot was saved by Reimer. The rebound went to Zacha, who popped it up and Tatar batted the rebound in to make it 4-1 Sharks.

The Devils would cut the lead in half a few minutes later. At the 12:45 mark of the third, Andreas Johnsson grabbed a turnover at the Devils blue line as a Sharks player bobbled it. He made a nice pass to Bratt in stride. Bratt broke into the Sharks’ zone, fighting through two Sharks defenders, and wristed the puck past Reimer to make it 4-2.

The Devils had made a game out of this and Ruff would take advantage of it, pulling Blackwood with about 3:40 or so remaining in regulation for the extra attacker.

The Sharks, however, would ice things when Meier got his second of the game into an empty net.

It came when Ty Smith had the puck deep in the Devils zone. He tried to reverse the puck back to Hischier, but when he dropped it, Hischier was just a bit off of receiving it. Meier grabbed the errant pass and threw it towards goal from a sharp angle. It went in unassisted to give us our final score of 5-2 Sharks.

The Devils ended up outshooting the Sharks 34-31. The Devils won just 41-percent of the game’s faceoffs. Dawson Mercer led the Devils centers with just a 54-percent personal winning percentage. Hischier was second with a 53-percent winning clip for reference.

The Devils took a few too many penalties, accumulating six total penalty minutes as a team while San Jose only had two – the one penalty, a Brent Burns hooking minor with 6:43 gone by in the first. Of course, one of those was the bench minor for getting the coach’s challenge wrong, so that is not as bad as it looks.

The Sharks outhit the Devils 23-21. The Devils had five more blocks at 20 to the Sharks’ 15. The Devils also turned over the puck 11 times while the Sharks did so just five.

In terms of ice time, Dougie Hamilton led the Devils’ skaters with 21:59 total (including 1:11 on their lone power play chance). Damon Severson had the most PK time amongst the defensemen at 3:58.

For the forwards, Hischier led with 17:53 total (including 53 seconds on the power play and 2:24 killing penalties). Jack Hughes finished with 17:31 total which included 53 seconds on the PP.

Hamilton again led the team in shots on goal, this time with seven. Michael McLeod led the team in hits with five. Blocked shots were led by Ryan Graves who had six. Severson and Graves had the dubious distinction of leading the Devils in giveaways at two apiece. Hischier led in takeaways with two.

The Devils will next play at the Minnesota Wild on Thursday. Puck drop is 8 PM for that game, which will be broadcast on MSG+2. This game will finish up the season series with the Wild and the Devils will look to bounce back in St. Paul.

Look for the Hughes news post coming up after this is posted and please be with us on Thursday for a recap of the Devils at Minnesota.

Until then, have a great week everyone!

Devils Salvage California Trip with Shootout Win in San Jose

MSG+ play-by-play man Steve Cangialosi put it perfectly when he mentioned that Damon Severson had one of the toughest 24-hour stretches of his career in Los Angeles last night and early tonight in San Jose.

But as so often happens in sports, Severson got a chance at redemption, and he came through. The Devils won in a shootout, defeating the San Jose Sharks 3-2 on Severson’s shootout winner.

First, the defense situation for the Devils. Last night saw them so depleted that Mason Geertsen needed to be moved to the blue line to fill out the D.

Tonight, reinforcements arrived in the form of Colton White. White was recalled from AHL Utica yesterday and arrived in California yesterday as well. Dougie Hamilton was out again tonight with a lower body injury – for which he is day-to-day – but he did participate with the team at the morning skate.

Christian Jaros, who was acquired from the Sharks back on July 26, was placed on Injured Reserve retroactive to November 4 with a hand injury.

Geertsen and Marian Studenic were the scratches. White (who was also a game-time decision for coach Lindy Ruff) played for the Devils for the first time since he was sent back down to Utica on October 23, when Ty Smith came off of IR.

In net, with the Devils playing the second half of a back-to-back, it was back to Jonathan Bernier. Bernier made 25 saves on 27 shots against for a .928 save percentage. He stopped all three Sharks shorthanded shots and three of their four power play shots as the Sharks finished 1-for-3 on the night. He had 19 saves on 20 shots at even strength.

The Sharks countered with James Reimer, who was equal to 26 of the Devils’ 28 shots for a .929 save percentage. He turned aside all three of the Devils’ power play shots (the Devils’ power play was 0-for-4 on the night as their special teams continue to struggle mightily) and he was 23-for-25 at even strength.

The Sharks are simply decimated by COVID Protocol right now. They are missing seven players and coaches, including head coach Bob Boughner. With Boughner out, San Jose was being coached by none other than former Devils’ player and coach John MacLean. Although Johnny Mac’s coaching stint here in New Jersey will likely live in infamy for all eternity, there is no denying the type of player that he was for the Devils in the franchise’s first decade-and-a-half here in New Jersey.

Also of note is John Leonard, a left winger for the Sharks wearing number 43. He is a Westwood, New Jersey native and played hockey at UMASS-Amhearst.

The pregame on MSG+ was delayed about 15 or so minutes as the Islanders-Winnipeg Jets postgame went a little bit later and pushed the Devils pregame back.

The Devils were finishing their three-game California road trip and looking for their first win of the trip. San Jose was completing a five-game homestand at SAP Center.

Following a scoreless first period, one of the teams finally broke through in the second.

At the 4:48 mark of the second period, Rudolfs Balcers scored for the Sharks to put them in front 1-0. It game when Mario Ferraro carried the puck up the left wing boards while Balcers got loose on the other side and was not picked up by the Devils’ defense. Balcers cut in behind the play. Ferraro made a nice pass in front through the crease as Balcers cut in towards net. Balcers tapped the puck into the open side of the Devils goal to give San Jose the lead. Brent Burns had the secondary assist on the goal.

The Devils would get the equalizer before the end of the period, however.

It came at the 16:45 mark when Michael McLeod came up the right wing boards and dropped a pass to Nico Hischier. Hischier made a nice pass as he found a seam to Ryan Graves pinching in behind the play. Graves got the pass and put the puck behind Reimer to tie at one the game and notch his first tally as a Devil.

The third period saw the Sharks again take the lead and the Devils again play catch-up.

At the 4:21 mark of the third period, the Sharks took a 2-1 lead when Jonathan Dahlen scored. It came on the power play. Janne Kuokkanen was called for high-sticking Nicolas Meloche at 4:04 to put San Jose on the man advantage.

While blocking a shot on the penalty kill, Severson’s stick broke leaving him without a stick and, essentially, putting the Devils down at a 5-on-3 disadvantage. The Sharks worked the puck to Severson’s side to Dahlen. With Severson unable to get a stick in the lane, he was a dead duck. Dahlen shot and scored. Burns had the primary assist – his second point (both assists) of the night – and former Devil Nick Merkley, who was dealt to San Jose in the Jaros trade, had the secondary assist.

The Devils were once again behind the eight-ball. But one thing you can say about this team early on is that they never seem to be out of a game late.

It began with about eight minutes to go when Bernier made a huge save on Jonah Gadjovich. Bernier went for the poke check as Gadjovich was cutting in on him. Gadjovich got around him and shot, but Bernier made a nice right pad save on him as Gadjovich had an empty net to shoot at. This save had the potential to be a game-changer should the Devils come back.

And sure enough, at the 17:04 mark, Janne Kuokkanen tied things at two. The Devils kept firing shots on net, getting as much rubber as they could on Reimer. The puck caromed around and finally came out to Kuokkanen in the slot. His shot went under Reimer and in to tie the game at two. Jimmy Vesey had the primary assist while White, in his first game back in the NHL, got the secondary.

Coach Ruff immediately called his timeout following the goal in order to settle his team down and get them focused on the final three minutes plus of the game.

And the Devils held on. When the final horn sounded, New Jersey was going to be playing in their fourth overtime game of the season and their second in two night – following Saturday’s loss to the Kings in Los Angeles.

When OT expired with nothing settled, we were off to a shootout, the Devils’ second shootout of the year. They dropped their first to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Halloween.

In round one, Logan Couture shot first for the Sharks. He scored when he beat Bernier five-hole and Jesper Bratt was up for the Devils. Bratt also scored by deking around Reimer and just getting the puck over the goal line.

In the second round, Balcers went for San Jose first. He missed, hitting the post. This brought up Alexander Holtz, in just his second NHL game and taking his first NHL shootout attempt. Holtz skated in wide to the left and cut in, shooting into Reimer’s chest.

Round three saw Tomas Hertl go for the Sharks and shoot wide on Bernier. This brought up a gamble for Lindy Ruff. He decided to go to Severson, who while a defenseman, does have good hands and would show them off on this chance.

Severson won the game for the Devils when he made a nice move coming in on Reimer and then roofed one top shelf once he had the San Jose goaltender beaten. And that was it. Redemption for Severson and two points for the Devils in California.

The Devils ended up outshooting the Sharks, 28-27 and winning 54-percent of the game’s faceoffs. Hischier and Dawson Mercer both led the Devils with 63-percent personal winning clips in the faceoff circle.

The Devils actually stayed out of the penalty box a little bit less than San Jose, accumulating six total penalty minutes to the Sharks’ six – although, as has been covered, the Devils’ special teams have not been good, so there was no real advantage on either side of the power play/penalty kill divide for New Jersey.

The Sharks outhit the Devils 22-17, playing the more physical game. The Devils did end up with a slight edge in blocked shots with 21 to San Jose’s 20. Each team ended the game with six turnovers.

In terms of ice time, Graves logged 23:53 to lead the team. He spent 2:10 of that on the PK. Bratt narrowly beat out Hischier to lead the forwards in total time on ice with 23:35 to Hischier’s 23:24 logged. Bratt played 3:18 on the power play and six seconds on the PK.

Mercer and Jonas Siegenthaler each led the Devils with four shots on goal. Hits were led by Michael McLeod, Pavel Zacha and Bratt each with three. Blocks were led by Severson with four. Giveaways were spread out with Hischier, Vesey, Tomas Tatar, Smith, Severson and Graves each having one to lead. Takeaways saw Bratt lead with two recovered turnovers.

Next up, the Devils return home to face a tall order in Newark on Tuesday. The NHL-leading Florida Panthers come calling and the Devils will have a real test. The Cats are 10-0-1, the last team to not suffer a regulation loss this season in the league. They beat the fellow unbeaten Carolina Hurricanes earlier today to improve.

That game will be broadcast on ESPN+ and we will have a recap here for you as well. See you then!