This was, simply put, a wild one. In the Devils’ only visit to the Madhouse on Madison this year, the game played was just crazy. The Devils came back from being down by three to win the game 7-5 against a tough Chicago Blackhawks club.
Some quick roster moves before we get to the play-by-play. Firstly, Travis Zajac was cleared to play and will accompany the team to Toronto later in the week. He could be back from his pectoral injury as soon as then. Pavel Zacha, who was a healthy scratch the last two games, slotted back in but at wing instead of center. The reasoning there was to get his fresh legs in the lineup at a position that would put less responsibilities on him. Playing center is a tough position, this was a move to ease some of the burden on Zacha. Because of this, Jimmy Hayes slotted out at forward while Ben Lovejoy and Dalton Prout were the healthy scratches on defense. Mirco Mueller would leave the game in the first period after sustaining a high hit from the Hawks’ John Hayden, leaving the Devils down a defenseman.
This was a quick trip to Chicago for the Devils, as they would be there for less than 24 hours before returning to New Jersey and then departing for Toronto later in the week.
Chicago got the scoring off to a start just 41 seconds into the game when Artem Anisimov scored by banking the puck off of Steven Santini with assists from Jan Rutta and Patrick Kane. That lead would last for almost three minutes until Miles Wood scored his first goal of the game at 3:40 of the first period. That goal came on the power play while Brent Seabrook was off for tripping Wood. It materialized when Drew Stafford threw the puck to Taylor Hall in the far corner from behind the Hawks’ net. Hall centered one to Wood whose rebound came back to Stafford. He gave back to Wood who jammed the puck in from right on the doorstep.
From there, over a 3:20 span, the Blackhawks really gave “Chelsea Dagger” a workout. First, Alex DeBrincat scored at 13:41 from Nick Schmaltz to give Chicago back the lead, 2-1. At 16:39, Rutta scored unassisted on the power play to make it 3-1. Then, at 17:01, Tanner Kero scored his first of the year from Lance Bouma to make it 4-1.
At the 17:37 mark, Wood would notch his second of the game to make the score going into the first intermission Chicago Blackhawks: 4, Miles Wood: 2. It came when Zacha dug the puck out of the far corner and gave to Wood at the top of the far faceoff circle. He fired from his knees and beat Hawks’ goaltender Corey Crawford.
It was 4-2 until 3:07 of the second when Andy Greene jumped up into the play and scored off of a Stefan Noesen pass. Blake Coleman made a nice play to create the offense by driving up the wing before dishing to Noesen. The Devils were on the comeback trail. That goal was a milestone for Greene, as it was his 200th career point. Congratulations to the captain on that achievement.
The next goal happened at a funny time in the MSG broadcast. It came at 6:52 of the second while Deb Placey was doing an interview with Illinois-native John Moore’s father in the stands. John Moore Sr. then made the call as Nico Hischier scored unassisted to tie the game at four. It happened when Nico stole the puck in the slot and fired past Crawford. The game was now knotted at one as the Devils had made the improbable comeback.
The Devils would not look back from there. First, they took a 5-4 lead when Hall made a nice individual effort at 12:15 of the second. Greene kept the puck in the Chicago zone and it bounced off of Hischier’s stick to Hall, who made a nice power move towards the net and jammed it home. That goal was Hall’s 400th career NHL point. Congratulations to Taylor Hall on that milestone.
The Devils were now rolling and continued when Brian Gibbons scored at 17:05 to make it 6-4. Wood grabbed the puck in the neutral zone and broke in on a partial 2-on-1 with Gibbons. He passed and Gibbons shot past Crawford’s blocker side to extend the Devil lead.
The Devils may have come all the way back to take a two goal lead, but the Hawks are still a dangerous group. That was made very real when, at the 19:51 mark of the second period, Brian Boyle took a cross checking penalty and Kane scored on the ensuing power play with just about three seconds remaining on the clock. That made it 6-5 and set up a nailbiter in the third period.
Corey Crawford had never given up seven goals in his NHL career and that streak would remain intact, as Chicago coach John Quenneville elected to go with Anton Forsberg, their backup, for the third frame. Crawford would make 19 saves on 25 Devils shots while Forsberg would finish with 12 saves on 13 shots. The Devils totaled 38 shots on goal for the night. The Devils, however, went with Keith Kinkaid and stuck with him even after his first period troubles. He really settled in starting in the second period and made 39 saves on 44 Blackhawk shots.
Just 2:21 into the final stanza, Wood would complete his hat trick when he scored on a power play set up by a Richard Panik slashing penalty. On the goal, Hischier gave the puck to Jesper Bratt at the point. He fired and Wood collected, jamming it by Forsberg to give the Devils the 7-5 lead and Wood the hat trick. It was the Devils’ first hat trick since December of 2016 when Zajac turned the trick in the very same building. It also tied Miles with his father, Randy, in terms of NHL hat tricks in the Wood family. His father only had one career big league hat trick.
Forsberg would be pulled with more than four minutes left in the game, but Chicago was not able to do anything with the extra attacker, as the Devils just stifled them and New Jersey came away with the two points.
On the power play, both teams were 2-for-3. The Blackhawks had six shots while the Devils notched six as well with the man advantage. The Devils continued to improve in the faceoff circle, winning 54-percent of their faceofffs. Individually, Greene led the Devils with 26:15 TOI. Wood had the most shots with seven while Santini again led the hit parade with five. This was also the first time the Devils had scored seven goals in Chicago since 1989.
Wood led the game with four points (three goals and an assist) and was named the game’s first star. Hischier was the second star with a goal and two assists while Chicago’s Jan Rutta (a goal and two assists) was the game’s third star.
Next up, the Devils return home for practice before heading up to Toronto on Wednesday. They will play the Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre on Thursday. We will have that for you right here.