Two Simmonds Goals Lead Devils to Victory Over Wings

The bad news? After about 172 or so minutes, Mackenzie Blackwood finally let in a goal. The good news, as he would probably tell you, is that it did not matter. The Devils defeated the Detroit Red Wings 4-1 tonight at Prudential Center.

Since it is late, I thought I would get right to things.

The Devils made a move earlier today, moving Sami Vatanen to Injured Reserve, retroactive to February 1, as he injured his right leg blocking a shot that night against the Dallas Stars. Nico Hischier also remained out from an injury suffered in that same game. With that, forward Nick Merkley was recalled from AHL Binghamton. Merkley was acquired by the Devils in the Taylor Hall trade from Arizona and had been playing well of late for the minor league club. According to a press release put out by the Devils, he has seven goals and 11 assists for 18 points since joining Binghamton. He did not play tonight, but was assigned the number 39. Colton White remained the other healthy scratch for the Devils.

The goaltending matchup saw Blackwood back in net for New Jersey. He turned aside 25 of 26 Red Wing shots in a near bid for three straight shutouts. He finished the night with a .962 save percentage. Facing him for Detroit was Jonathan Bernier, who stopped 22 of the 26 shots the Devils fired at him for an .846 save percentage on the night.

In the first period, Blackwood was tested way more than Bernier, as the Wings fired 12 shots on the Devils netminder while New Jersey only mustered four shots on goal. With both teams getting out of the first unscathed, we were off to the second.

Here, Detroit got on the board to take the 1-0 lead. It came with 16:34 gone by when Andreas Athanasiou connected on the power play. Blake Coleman was sent off for an illegal check to the head to set this one up.

On the man advantage, the Wings broke out of their zone when Filip Hronek sent the puck up ice to Athanasiou. Ahtanasiou then played give and go with Anthony Mantha and when Athanasioiu got the puck back at the far faceoff dot, he fired quickly and beat Blackwood to give the Red Wings the 1-0 lead.

And that is how it would remain but for an exactly four-minute offensive outburst by the Devils in the third period.

The comeback began when Michigan-native Andy Greene got the Devils knotted up at the 5:10 mark. Pavel Zacha drove hard to the net and his rebound came out to Damon Severson at the point. He passed it through to the other point where it was tipped by Zacha to Greene. Greene then rifled a shot through traffic and by Bernier to tie the game at one apiece. It was Greene’s second goal of the season.

The secondary assist on that goal ensured that Severson would move his point-scoring streak to eight games.

At the 6:54 mark, the Devils got the game-winner off the stick of Wayne Simmonds. Simmonds got his sixth of the year when Miles Wood shoveled a pass from near the Devils’ bench to Zacha streaking up the right wing boards. Zacha dished to a trailing Wood who connected in front to Simmonds who put it home to give the Devils a 2-1 lead.

A few moments later at 7:51, Alex Biega took a delay of game penalty for smothering the puck to set up a Devils power play. At 8:37, Simmonds struck again when Severson and Kyle Palmieri played catch along the point and half wall with Severson stationed at the point. Palmieri eventually got it and shot, with three Devils collapsing low, Simmonds buried it to make it 3-1 New Jersey.

Jesper Bratt finished up the scoring at 9:10, exactly four minutes after it began, when he made it 4-1. Will Butcher gave to PK Subban just inside the Detroit line. He passed down low to Bratt and he curled back up to the blue line, and wristed one from the center of the ice. He beat Bernier to add to the Devils’ lead.

For Subban, the primary assist was achieved in his 700th NHL contest. Congratulations to PK on this great milestone and on the point. Initially, only Subban was credited with an assist, but that was changed to Bratt from Subban and Butcher later on by the official scorer.

On the power play, the Devils were 1-for-6 with nine shots. They also had a single shorthanded shot. Detroit was 1-for-4 with two power play shots and a shorthanded shot as well.

Both teams finished, after a lopsided first period in favor of Detroit, with the same 26 shots on net. Detroit dominated in the faceoff circle, winning 67-percent of the faceoffs. Jack Hughes, who once again was centering the top line, had the best personal percentage amongst Devils centers with 44-percent.

The Devils had ten more hits than the Wings with 25 to Detroit’s 15. The Wings had 12 blocked shots to the Devils’ six and the Devils had more giveaways at ten to Detroit’s seven.

Severson, who was named the game’s third star, led all Devils skaters in ice time with 25:03 (7:24 on the power play and 3:22 on the PK included). Blake Coleman led the forwards with 19:21 of time on ice (5:54 on the PP and 3:43 shorthanded included).

Andy Greene was the game’s second star and Simmonds the first with his two-goal performance. Zacha also had two points – both assists – as did Severson (both assists as well).

Shots were led by Bratt with five, one ahead of Simmonds, who had four. Hits were led by a wide margin with seven. Butcher led in blocked shots with three, just narrowing by Subban, who had two. Takeaways were led by Jack Hughes, Coleman, Travis Zajac and Simmonds, who all had two to their name.

Next up, the Devils travel down to North Carolina for a matchup with the Hurricanes tomorrow night. We will see you then and hope you have a great Valentine’s Day as well.

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