Streaks Live On For Devils By Matt Blittner, The New York Extra/TheNYExtra.com
“We battled until the end.” That should be the slogan on Devils’ Head Coach Lindy Ruff’s suit jacket and shirt. While the exact wording changes from time to time, the meaning is always the same. The one thing above all else to take away from this season is the Devils’ compete level. Sure, there might be a period here or there where that level drops, but that’s true for all teams. Mostly, even when matched up against more talented teams, New Jersey does anything and everything it can to try and win a hockey game.
Sunday night at Prudential Center the Devils hosted the Montreal Canadiens for the first time since February 4, 2020. These two teams did meet north of the border back in February of this year with the Devils winning that contest 7-1. Now, at the end of March 2022, New Jersey added yet another victory against the Canadiens to its ledger. This time the score was 3-2 in the shootout. This extended New Jersey’s record vs. Montreal to 9-0-2 since the 2017-18 season. In addition, they improved to 4-0-1 at home against the Canadiens in that same time span.
(Thank you to Devils super communications man Kyle McKenna for the stats).
This win also saved the Devils from being officially eliminated from playoff contention. While it’s a given the Garden Staters won’t make the playoffs this year, you never want the final nail in the coffin to come at home.
“For us to come out and win, it was a big win for us,” said Jack Hughes.
In addition to their place in the standings, the Devils welcomed Miles Wood back from IR as the speedster made his season debut following hip surgery in the Fall.
“He brings a lot of speed to the lineup,” said Devils Head Coach Lindy Ruff. “He’s been a piece that’s been missed.”
As for the game…
1) Nico Daws made his fourth consecutive start in net for the Devils. Opposing him, for the Canadiens, was Sam Montembeault. In the opening minutes it was Montembeault who was under more pressure than Daws.
2) On Miles Wood’s first shift of the game (and the year), New Jersey’s fleet footed winger negated a potential icing with his speed and then generated a quality scoring chance with a shot from the point that deflected just wide.
After the game Wood told the media, “I was very excited, now I’m very tired. The big test is to see how I feel tomorrow.”
“For his first game back,” said Ruff, “I thought it went well.”
3) The teams traded chances as the opening period hit its midway point. Jesper Bratt punctuated the back-and-forth with a breakaway attempt that Montembeault turned aside at the last moment.
4) A quick observation of the first period reveals Miles Wood is still as fast as ever. The returning winger had three high quality scoring chances, one on a breakaway and one on a partial break attempt. With him back New Jersey’s offense gets a whole new dimension to it.
“He obviously brings a different element to our game,” added Hughes. “He’s a big part of our team.”
5) With time winding down in the first period Montembeault attempted to play the puck in front of his net. He fumbled the puck and ended up backhanding it straight to Jack Hughes in the right face-off circle. Hughes ripped a shot to the top right corner of Montreal’s net and it was 1-0 New Jersey 19:16 into the game.
6) Onto the second period and the scoring chances between the teams became more infrequent. Through the first 7:29 of the middle period New Jersey mustered just three shots on goal. And Montreal managed just one.
7) Then, 8:24 into the second period, New Jersey was penalized for having too many men on the ice. It was the first penalty of the game. Dawson Mercer served the penalty for the Devils while his teammates held the Canadiens without a shot on goal during those two-minutes.
8) With 7:39 to go in the period Josh Anderson was called for tripping A.J. Greer, which sent the Devils to their first power-play of the game. On the ensuing power-play Jack Hughes netted his second goal of the game to make it 2-0 Devils at 14:16 of the middle period.
9) Miles Wood was called for high-sticking Joel Edmundson 15-seconds after Hughes’ goal to send the Devils to their second penalty-kill of the game. Just over a minute into the penalty-kill, Jonas Siegenthaler was sent to the box for interfering with Cole Caufield. This put the Devils at a 3-on-5 disadvantage for 56-seconds. Nico Daws came up with a couple huge saves to protect New Jersey’s two-goal lead as the second period neared its conclusion.
10) Unfortunately for the Devils, one-second after their penalty-kill ended, Josh Anderson potted his 16th goal of the year to cut New Jersey’s lead to 2-1 at 17:36 of the second period.
11) Mike Hoffman tripped Jack Hughes 1:07 into the third period to send the Devils to their second power-play of the game. The Garden Staters were unable to get anything going on their power-play. Then, five-seconds after it expired, Dougie Hamilton was called for interfering with Jake Evans to put the Devils on their fourth penalty-kill of the night. For the fourth time in the game New Jersey’s penalty-kill was successful.
12) A little more than midway through the third period a spirited back-and-forth gave way to Dawson Mercer being called for slashing David Savard. On the penalty-kill for the fifth time in the game the Devils held the Canadiens without a shot on goal and dutifully protected their one-goal lead.
13) A mark of development from young teams is learning to not only play with a lead but to also close out a game when you have a lead. Unfortunately, New Jersey still hasn’t learned that last lesson. With 41.6 seconds left in regulation and with Montreal’s net empty, Rem Pitlick scored off a second chance shot to tie the game 2-2.
14) In overtime neither side could muster an extended offensive opportunity. However, Jesper Bratt came close to ending the game when his shot rang off the crossbar with under two-minutes to go in the extra period. Mike Hoffman appeared to end the game with 53.4 seconds left in overtime. However, a review of the play showed his shot hit off both goal posts and stayed out. Play on.
15) Nico Hischier then hit the post going the other way before the game went to the shootout.
16) In the shootout the teams traded goals galore as the skills contest required a full seven-rounds before a winner was decided. Cole Caufield, Jesper Bratt, Rem Pitlick, Jack Hughes, Mike Hoffman and Yegor Sharangovich all scored before Paul Byron was stopped by Daws in the second-half of round seven to give the Devils a 3-2 shootout victory.
“It’s a good win for us tonight,” said Hughes.
“It was really good to see our guys respond,” added Ruff.
New Jersey’s power-play went 1-for-2 on the night. Meanwhile the Devils went 5-for-5 on the penalty-kill…Jack Hughes led all Devils forwards in ice time at 24:46…Damon Severson led all New Jersey defensemen in ice time at 30:56…Jesper Bratt’s assist extended his points streak to seven-games, a new career-high for him…Nico Hischier went pointless to end his five-game points streak.