Devils Fall to Leafs After Allowing Two Shorthanded Goals

How would the Devils follow up their performance from last night after the 7-4 lambasting that they gave the Rangers?

Not with the output that they would have preferred, most would assume.

They traveled up to Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, gave up two shorthanded goals and lost 3-2 to the Maple Leafs in the second half of a back-to-back.

This continues the Devils’ run of futility in the country of Canada. They have still only won a single game north of the border. That was a 7-1 victory back on February 8 at Montreal. It also completes the season sweep by the Leafs over the Devils in their three meetings.

The Devils made a few changes to their lineup along with callups from AHL Utica.

Colton White and Ty Smith were healthy scratches on the blue line with Mason Geertsen slotting out up front. Pavel Zacha remains out fighting an injury suffered during the road trip west last week.

In Smith’s place was Kevin Bahl on defense (he paired with PK Subban on the third pairing) while AJ Greer slotted in up front for Geertsen. Greer played on the fourth line centered by Michael McLeod with Nathan Bastian on the right wing and Greer on the left side.

For both Bahl and Greer, they were marking their second stints with the big club this season. Greer’s last NHL tenure ended with an injury suffered at the Islanders in December.

In addition to that, newly acquired goaltender Andrew Hammond joined the team today officially. He will likely not play until next week.

In the meantime, it was back to Nico Daws between the pipes for the Devils tonight, making his second straight start following a night off last weekend in Edmonton.

Daws stopped 28 of the Leafs’ 31 total shots for a .903 save percentage for the game. He stopped both Toronto power play shots as the Maple Leafs finished 0-for-3 on the man advantage. At even strength, he was equal to 25 of 26 Toronto shots. Where the Devils suffered was when you factor in that Daws let in two of the three shorthanded shots that the Leafs took.

For the Leafs, Petr Mrazek was their guy. He made 20 saves on 22 total New Jersey shooting attempts for a .909 save percentage. He stopped the Devils’ one lone shorthanded chance and two of their three power play shots. On power play chances, the Devils went 1-for-4 as a team. Mrazek made 17 saves against 18 shots at five-on-five play.

Of note from last night was not just Jack Hughes becoming a 20-goal scorer for the first time in his NHL career, but also Yegor Sharangovich matching his goal total for his rookie year with his 16th goal.

The Maple Leafs were welcoming some trade deadline pickups with defenseman Mark Giordano making his Toronto debut after being acquired from the Seattle Kraken on Monday. Center Colin Blackwell, also picked up from Seattle, was in the Leafs’ lineup as well.

Another debut for the Leafs were their “Next Gen” uniforms designed by Justin Bieber of all people. They are basically black Maple Leafs jerseys with black where the blue would be and blue where the white striping would be and they are… not too bad looking, actually. A bit of a departure from what you would expect from the Leafs, but not overly terrible on television. Not too sure how they came across in person, however.

Following a first period that saw no scoring or penalties and the Maple Leafs outshooting the Devils 11-3, we got set for the second.

The Devils jumped out to a 1-0 lead early in the second period on the power play.

After New Jersey’s Bahl had been penalized for slashing Ilya Mikheyev 1:42 into the new frame and the Devils killed that off – limited Toronto’s number one ranked power play – it was time for the Devils to go to work.

At 4:38 gone by, Pierre Engvall was called for tripping Jonas Siegenthaler and the Devils were up a man.

About 23 seconds into the 5-on-4, Nico Hischier was able to keep the play alive in the Toronto zone. He got it to Jesper Bratt, who used his body to shield the puck in the slot and make a pass to Damon Severson, who had moved down low. Severson attemped to pass across ice to Hughes, but Leafs defenseman Ilya Lyubushkin went down to block and Severson’s pass deflected off of him and past Mrazek to make it 1-0 New Jersey.

With that goal, Severson now has 49 career goals, allowing him to pass Andy Greene on the Devils all-time defensemen goal scoring list. Congratulations to him as he has been a solid player for years for the Devils and it’s nice to see him get rewarded for it statistically.

In addition to that, this was the first time the Devils had scored the first goal of the game in eight games.

The Devils found themselves back on the power play at the 11:49 gone by mark of the second period when Auston Matthews was given a hooking minor against Hischier.

While Toronto is mostly known for its power play proficiency across the league, it was their penalty kill that came up big tonight.

At the 12:30 mark, Yegor Sharangovich, with the Devils on the man advantage, was stripped of the puck at the Leafs’ blue line by Alex Kerfoot. Kerfoot gave to Ilya Mikheyev, who was off on his way. He cut in one-on-one on Daws and beat him to tie the game at 1-1.

To add insult to injury, the Leafs ended up killing off the rest of the penalty as well.

That shorty for Toronto would, however, kick off a flurry of goals for both teams.

At the 13:56 mark, Hischier gave New Jersey back the lead just after that penalty was up.

Dougie Hamilton made a one-touch pass to Jack Hughes at the side of the Leafs net. This looked like a pure slam dunk for Hughes. Mrazek stopped him, however, and Hischier crashed in, cleaning up the rebound and sweeping it into the Toronto net to make it 2-1 Devils.

But the Devils were not to take that lead into the third period.

About a minute after the Hischier goal, at 14:54 gone by, Michael Bunting made a pass behind the Devils net to Matthews. Matthews then centered to Mitch Marner who snapped off a shot that eluded Daws to tie the game up at two apiece.

And that was where we were going into the final frame – tied as we were at the end of the first.

The third period began with Giordano being called for a trip to seemingly put New Jersey on the power play again.

Replay, however, initiated by the officials, found that Giordano had actually never touched the Devils player with his stick or any other part of his body. With the Devils puck carrier simply losing an edge. Very quickly, Giordano was waved out of the penalty box and the teams were playing at five-on-five.

The third period featured no scoring for the majority of it, but there was plenty of high-energy, up tempo hockey from both teams.

Then it happened.

At the 12:23 mark of the period, Mikheyev hit Andreas Johnsson with a high stick. Johnsson was cut and Mikheyev was assessed a double minor to put the Devils on the power play for four minutes.

After the Leafs killed off the first two minutes, the Devils were beginning to get a bit frustrated.

At 15:18 gone by in the period – nearly three minutes into the double minor – three Devils players were caught deep in the Toronto zone. Pierre Engvall grabbed the puck and was off on a 2-on-1 with Hamilton back as the Devils’ defender and Hischier aggressively backchecking on the second Leaf.

Engvall entered the Devils zone on his own and waited for Hamilton to go down too early trying to take away the pass. He then calmly skated around the downed Hamilton and beat Daws one-on-one.

That second shorthanded goal of the evening given up by the Devils (their tenth and eleventh shorties allowed this season – leading the league in that… not so good category) gave the Maple Leafs a 3-2 lead and came from Engvall unassisted.

Toronto killed the rest of that penalty and would, indeed, go on their own 5-on-4 at 15:55 when Hamilton was called for tripping David Kampf.

Since the end of the double minor overlapped with that power play, there was 28 seconds of 4-on-4 before the Leafs power play.

The Devils killed that off as well to hold Toronto’s power play in check for the night and would pull Daws with about 1:30 or so remaining in regulation. But they never got the score tied.

Our final score was 3-2 and it was the inefficiency of the Devils’ power play to defend rather than score that did them in.

Team stats saw the Leafs outshoot the Devils 31 to 22. The Devils did not do well in the faceoff circle, winning just 35-percent of the game’s draws. Hughes won 63-percent of his personal faceoffs to lead the Devils centers.

Team penalty minutes saw the Devils accumulate six minutes while the Leafs had eight minutes. The Devils played the more physical game with 33 hits to the Maple Leafs’ 28. Blocked shots had the Leafs at 18 and the Devils registering seven. Team giveaways had the Devils finish with seven to the Maple Leafs’ nine.

After last night’s offensive explosion for New Jersey, only Hischier registered a multi-point night with two points (one goal and one assist).

Severson led all Devils skaters in ice time with 28:13 which included 4:27 on the power play and 4:06 on the penalty kill. Those special team times are tops amongst Devils defensemen.

Hischier led the forwards with 22:46 of total time on ice which featured 4:37 on the PP and 2:32 on the PK. Only Mikey McLeod logged more shorthanded time with 2:37 out of his 9:06 of total time on ice.

Hughes’ five shots led in that category, edging out Bratt’s four. Siegenthaler registered five hits – leading there. Siegenthaler had the most blocked shots amongst Devils skaters with two. Personal turnovers were led by Jimmy Vesey, Bratt, Hughes, Hamilton, Severson and Siegenthaler who each had one. Personal takeaways saw Sharangovich led with three, just ahead of Vesey’s two.

Next up, the Devils will continue their short road trip as they return to the United States to play the Washington Capitals in DC at 7 PM on Saturday night.

That game will be shown on MSG+ and will be the beginning of another back-to-back for the weekend.

We will have coverage of that game for you right here after the conclusion.

Until then, enjoy the rest of your week everyone!

Devils Limp into All-Star Break; Clobbered by Maple Leafs

The Devils completed their home-and-home back-to-back with the Toronto Maple Leafs with the New Jersey portion of the two games and, while last night was the two points that got away from the Devils, tonight was the two points that never were.

The Devils found themselves down 4-0 after one period of play and the Leafs never looked back, defeating New Jersey 7-1 at Prudential Center.

Roster-wise, the Devils again sat Mason Geertsen, Marian Studenic and Christian Jaros, going with the same lineup as last night except who started in goal.

Jon Gillies was back between the pipes for the first two periods for New Jersey. He stopped 22-of-28 Toronto shots for a .786 save percentage tonight while also helping to stymy the Leafs’ special teams. He stopped their lone shorthanded shot and both of their power play chances. The Leafs were 0-for-2 on the man advantage. At five-on-five, he got 19 of Toronto’s 25 shots.

Akira Schmid came on in relief in the third period to play the final 20 minutes and let in one goal, making seven saves on eight shots for an .875 save percentage. All of those shot attempts and the goal came at even strength as Schmid did not face the Leafs’ power play unit.

The Maple Leafs were back to Jack Campbell, who got pulled in last night’s game but fared much better tonight. He made 31 saves on 32 total Devils shots for a .969 save percentage. He turned aside the Devils lone shorthanded chance and all four of their power play shots – the Devils went 0-for-3 on the power play as a team. At even strength, Campbell was equal to 26 of the Devils’ 27 shots.

This is largely a quick and dirty recap of the game as it’s now late as I write this and, having witnessed this travesty live, do not wish to subject myself to even more nightmare fuel.

The Devils did wear Chinese Lunar New Year jerseys during warmups as well as make a pretty cool presentation during the first intermission. A traditional dragon dance made its way around the rink with a group of musicians playing music on Chinese instruments. Mascot NJ Devil wore one of the warmup jerseys with his name written in Chinese characters on the back for the entire game and all in-game graphics on the big board showing Devils player names were presented transliterated into Chinese characters.

Also, head coach Lindy Ruff missed his second game behind the bench while mourning the loss of his father Leeson.

The game got out of hand early for the Devils as the Leafs accumulated a 4-0 lead before the end of the first period.

It began 2:13 into the contest when Pierre Engvall cut off Gillies playing the puck behind the Devils net and forced a turnover on the forecheck.

He was able to quickly center to Jason Spezza in the slot and Spezza scored to make it 1-0 Maple Leafs. It was a miscue by the Devils that ended up in the back of the net. A sign of things to come no doubt. It was also Spezza’s second goal in two nights against the Devils.

And speaking of multiple goals against the Devils in two nights. Auston Matthews, who had a hat trick against New Jersey in Toronto on Monday, would notch his fourth in two nights with 8:39 gone by in the first period.

The Devils were unable to clear their zone as the Leafs kept the puck in. A hard around on the boards led to Michael Bunting winning a board battle along the far half wall and Mitchell Marner picking it up as support.

Marner passed to Matthews, who was drifting into the high slot and was all alone. He took the pass, set and sniped a shot top shelf past Gillies to make it 2-0 Maple Leafs.

Goal number three came less than 30 seconds later when Justin Holl’s breakout pass is tipped by Ilya Mikheyev into the Devils zone. It went into the far corner and Mikheyev chased it in, recovering it, turning around and passing to David Kampf, who was drifting all alone to the top of the far faceoff circle. He had enough time and space to set and shoot and beat Gillies to make it 3-0 Toronto.

Goal number four came with about 5:29 to go in the first period when Marner and Matthews teamed up again.

This time, the Leafs’ forecheck forced a turnover behind the New Jersey net that Matthews grabbed, making a backhand pass to Marner in the slot. Marner walked in on Gillies and scored his 13th goal of the year to make it 4-0 Leafs going into the first intermission.

The onslaught did not let up in the second period.

The Leafs made it 5-0 8:25 into the middle period when Kampf forced a Jack Hughes breakout attempt to pop up into the air. Marner gloved it down and broke in with Michael Bunting on a partial 2-on-1 with Ryan Graves the lone Devils back. Marner and Bunting played give-and-got and Bunting scored to up the score to 5-0 and the rout was officially on.

And still the Leafs were not done.

At the 15:12 mark of the second, Wayne Simmonds stole the puck just inside the Devils blue line. He made a slick move around the Devils defense and dished to Engvall, who scored to make it 6-0 Maple Leafs.

The Leafs had put up a touchdown on the Devils with 20 minutes still to play.

The Devils would finally get on the board 3:31 into the third period.

Jesper Bratt intercepted a Toronto dump in and made a quick breakout pass to Yegor Sharangovich. Sharangovich made a rink-wide pass to Hughes. Hughes then skated into the Toronto zone and fired a shot past Campbell to score the only Devils goal of the night.

Of course, the Leafs got that one back about 2:30 later with 5:57 gone by in the third.

The Devils had won control of the puck behind their own net. Damon Severson pushed it up to Janne Kuokkanen, whose clearing attempt was grabbed by Marner. Marner took a shot from the top of the near faceoff circle past Schmid (who had taken over the Devils crease for the third period). This gave Toronto the extra point and made it 7-1, which went down as our final.

The Devils were outshot 36 to 32 and won 45-percent of the game’s faceoffs. Dawson Mercer and Pavel Zacha each took up the slack in the faceoff circle, winning 50-percent of their personal draws, although I believe Zacha spent time on the wing.

In terms of total team penalty minutes, the Leafs racked up six while New Jersey had four. The Devils outhit the Leafs 12 to nine. Toronto had 12 blocked shots to the Devils’ six while in team giveaways, the Devils finished with ten and the Maple Leafs had six.

Ty Smith led all Devils skaters with 21:45 logged (which includes 1:51 on the power play and nine seconds shorthanded). Also, amongst defensemen, Jonas Siegenthaler led the blue liners in PK time with 2:15 out of his 19:20 of total TOI. Severson led in power play time with 2:26 out of his 20:32 of total time.

Hughes led the forwards with 18:51 of total ice time (which included 2:35 of PP time and nine seconds of PK time). Nico Hischier led the forwards in special teams time in both power play time (2:37 logged) and shorthanded time (1:45 logged) among his 16:34 of total ice time.

Jimmy Vesey led the Devils in shots on goal with five. Nate Bastian led in hits with three. Andreas Johnsson, Hischier, Kuokkanen, Colton White, Severson and PK Subban each logged one blocked shot to lead in that category. Hughes led in personal giveaways with five while Vesey and Bratt each had one takeaway to lead the Devils in personal takeaways.

And with that horror show over for the Devils, the team will move on into the All-Star break.

Jack Hughes will represent the team this Friday and Saturday in Las Vegas for the Skills Competition and the All-Star Game.

We will have coverage of the All-Star Weekend later this week as well as the Devils’ return to action on Monday, February 7 when the Devils travel to Ottawa to take on the Senators to begin the home stretch. That game is at 7 PM next Monday and will air on MSG+.

In the meantime, congratulations to Alexander Holtz, who Catherine Bogart of the “Inside the Devils Blog” is reporting was named the AHL Rookie of the Month for January 2022.

The announcement was made yesterday by the American Hockey League.

According to Bogart, Holtz compiled five goals and eight assists totaling 13 points over the month over ten games for the Utica Comets.

She said that he has 11 goals and 12 assists (23 points) over 21 games in the AHL in 2021-22 total.

He has also played seven games at the NHL level, where he has logged two assists. Bogart noted that his last game in the National Hockey League came on January 4 of this year against the Boston Bruins.