Devils Get First Win of Season in OT Over Bruins

The Devils have their first win of the 2021 season and it comes in their second straight overtime game against the Boston Bruins.

They prevailed 2-1 on a Yegor Sharangovich goal late in the extra frame.

It was a game of many firsts of the year: first day game (the game was a 1 PM matinee yesterday – I’m late due to work obligations) and the first (of many) back-to-backs against the same team. It was also the first time in Devils history that they played the first two games of a season to OT and the third straight game they have gone to OT against the Bruins.

The game-winner was also Sharangovich’s first NHL goal.

In the last game, Ty Smith became the second Devils defenseman to score in his NHL debut game. So this would mark two straight games that the Devils have gotten goals from rookies coming up big.

For the Devils, the lineup remained exactly the same as Thursday, all lines and defensive pairings not changing. Connor Carrick and Will Butcher were the two healthy scratches again.

Boston had one major change and that was in goal. Out was Tuukka Rask, in was Jaroslav Halak. It was another goalie duel between these teams with Halak making 29 saves on 31 Devils shots (including all five power play shots the Devils fired at him) making 24-of-26 in regulation. He finished with a .935 save percentage.

Mackenzie Blackwood went for the Devils again and made 27 stops on 28 total Boston shots. He stopped both power play shots the Bruins had and was 25-for-25 at even strength. He only let in the Bruins’ lone shorthanded shot. He finished with a .964 save percentage.

The Bruins would actually never lead in this game as the Devils got on the board first in the first period.

Before we begin, congratulations to Travis Zajac, for playing in his 993rd career NHL game (all with the Devils over 15 seasons) and moving into 4th overall on the Devils’ all-time games played list.

The game began with some payback. Miles Wood, who the Bruins had been accusing of running Rask in the last game, squared off with Kevan Miller just 19 seconds into the game. Kudos to Wood for accepting the fight from one of the toughest players in the league. He knew it was coming and fought, issue over.

But Wood would notch two-thirds of a Gordie Howe Hat Trick when he put the Devils on top with a goal at the 16:15 mark of the first. It began when Palmieri blocked a shot in the Devils’ zone, allowing the Devils to recover the puck and get up ice. Jack Hughes peeled back in the Bruins’ zone to buy time and cycled the puck to Smith, who shot from the point with Wood tipping the puck by Halak to make it 1-0. It was the sixth time in his career that Wood had scored in consecutive games and made Smith the first Devils rookie defenseman to record points in his first two NHL games since Slava Fetisov did it in 1989.

The Devils had the lead, but Boston would gain momentum (a lot of it) in the second).

It began when Matt Grzelcyk had a goal waived off with 3:59 remaining in the second. The call on the ice was goalie interference and the Bruins were able to challenge it just before play resumed.

After review, the call on the ice stood: no goal. Boston was assessed a two-minute minor for delay of game due to the unsuccessful challenge. The Devils seemed to have things in hand and were on the power play.

But with a good team like the Bruins, things can change in a heartbeat. And that is just what happened.

At the 17:16 mark of the second, Brad Marchand got through a check by Palmieri, stayed with the puck and found Patrice Bergeron trailing. Bergeron wristed the puck by Blackwood for a shorthanded game-tying goal while New Jersey still had 30 seconds to go on their power play.

That would be killed off and we were on to the third period.

The Devils would get chances to retake the lead in the third. Palmieri was stopped mid-period when he took a chip pass from Hughes but was stopped in close by Halak.

Zajac had a nice chance very late in the third when he was in on a partial 2-on-1 and elected to shoot but was stopped by Halak.

With seconds to go in regulation, Hughes split the Boston defense and walked in alone, but Halak made the save.

Things would get very interesting when, at 18:36 gone by in the third, about 1:30 to go in regulation, Grzelcyk took a hooking call against Janne Kuokkanen, setting the Devils up on a power play for the rest of regulation. When that 1:24 expired, the Devils would take 36 seconds of power play time into overtime.

OT began 4-on-3, but Boston would kill that off. They also got a chance to end things on a 2-on-0 when Gryzelcyk came out of the penalty box. Luckily for the Devils, his shot went wide of the net due to a strong backcheck by New Jersey.

Things would settle into a rhythm through the OT period and it was not until very late that a play would develop to give the Devils the “W.”

Palmieri banked the puck up the boards to Damon Severson near the Bruins’ blue line. Severson would make a not look, backhanded pass to Sharangovich, who skated in on Halak and wristed a shot five-hole to beat him and win the game for the Devils. This, as mentioned, was Sharangovich’s first NHL goal.

Stats-wise (and I’m getting this from NHL.com, so things could be incomplete – something has been wonky about their stats sheets lately), Devils forwards were led by Hughes with 22:38. PK Subban led defenseman with 26:23.

Shots on goal was led by Palmieri, Pavel Zacha and Subban, all with three. Hits were led by Subban with three. Palmieri led in blocked shots with two and Zajac, Palmieri and Smith all led with one takeaway each.

So now that I finally got that game up, the Devils will next play Tuesday when they take on the rival Rangers at Madison Square Garden. The Rangers split their season openers with the Islanders with a win and a loss. We will see how the Devils can fare against them coming off of the big win Saturday afternoon.

Clarke, Mercer Invited to Team Canada Selection Camp

Today Amanda Stein, on the “Inside the Devils Blog,” reported that two Devils forward prospects have been named to Canada’s World Junior Selection Camp.

Graeme Clarke, taken in the third-round, 80th overall in the 2019 NHL Draft and Dawson Mercer, taken 18th overall in the first-round in this year’s Draft, will attend the National Junior Selection Camp in Red Deer, Alberta. The camp, Stein reports, runs from November 16 to December 13, 2020.

Clarke and Dawson were two of 42 players selected for the camp.

Stein mentions that Clarke’s season with the Ottawa 67’s of the Ontario Hockey League has yet to get off the ground due to COVID-19. The OHL has not started their season due to the pandemic.

Mercer, on the other hand, plays for the Chicoutimi Sagueneens of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. The QMJHL’s season has started and Mercer, in four games has four goals and two assists. With those six points, he is currently second in scoring on the Sags right now, enjoying a point-per-game pace.

One other thing to note is that Stein mentioned that 67’s coach Andre Tourigny is also the coach of the Team Canada, the defending champs at the World Juniors. Canada struck gold last year and will hope to do the same this year on home ice when the tournament begins on Christmas Day in Edmonton, Alberta.

In other Devils-related news, the “Devils Army Blog” noted on Twitter that prospect Yegor Sharangovich, loaned to Dinamo Minsk of the KHL, has 10 goals over the last 19 games with Minsk. This includes two goals against Dinamo Riga last week as Minsk beat Riga 3-0. Hopefully the former fifth-round pick can keep this pace up when he returns to North America in the coming months.

In coaching/scouting news, Devils Insiders report on Twitter that, “according to the team website, Peter Horachek has been re-assigned from AC to his prior role as a Pro Scout.” Horachek served last season as an assistant under Alain Nasreddine but will return to his role in the scouting department. It is good to see that the Devils did not fully cut ties with him.

Devils Insiders also note that Brian Strait will serve as a Pro Scout too. They said that “he did some scouting work for” the Devils last year while out with injuries playing for the Binghamton Devils of the AHL. It is possible that Strait quietly retired and will now work full-time as a scout for the organization. Otherwise, he is still out with injuries and will continue to serve in this role until he plays for Binghamton again.