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Heroic Performance by Mackenzie Blackwood Squandered by Devils, who Lose 2-1 to Blue Jackets

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Despite a 37 save performance for Mackenzie Blackwood, the Devils could not reward their goaltender with a win.

NHL: New Jersey Devils at Columbus Blue Jackets
Get that, Mac.
Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

The First Period: The first few minutes of the game had been going along without much to note - with the Blue Jackets mostly misfiring on their chances and being forced to the outside by the Devils. However, the defense had their first defensive lapse just over four minutes into the game, when Damon Severson forgot he was supposed to be playing the left side and Nick Foligno was so wide open he got a pass right outside the crease and was able to collect himself, all alone, and put it right into the net. It was less than inspiring to watch.

A couple minutes after the goal, Damon Severson, put back to the right of Andy Greene, turned the puck over right after a faceoff with a weak saucer pass right to the opposition. The Blue Jackets took it to the net and forced Mackenzie Blackwood to make a good save. A minute later, Greene broke up a cross-slot pass on an odd-man rush.

Right after, Wood caught a pass in his skates from Steven Santini in the neutral zone and was all alone for a breakway. He went backhand on Sergei Bobrovsky, and was stuffed by the pad. It would have been great to see him finish, but he needed to lift the puck more.

Just over halfway through the period, Sami Vatanen failed to stop Riley Nash keeping the puck leaving the Devils’ offensive zone, and Steven Santini tried to stonewall him on the blue line of the defensive zone. He also failed, and Nash fired a shot from the circle that hit the post.

Kyle Palmieri took a bad penalty with just over eight minutes left in the period. Following his post-whistle beef earlier, he tried to get in Artemi Panarin’s face by the benches behind the play, knocking him to the ice and picking up an interference call. He needed to be more disciplined.

During the penalty kill, Blake Coleman got a pass across to Travis Zajac, who forced Bobrovsky to make a pad save on a tough shot, and Coleman overskated on the rebound. Blackwood played well on the penalty kill, and the Devils killed the whole two minutes.

Nearly three minutes after the penalty expired, Kyle Palmieri took a hit at center ice that resulted in his leg being crunched between two Jackets players. He limped off gingerly, but stayed on the bench.

Brandon Dubinsky decided to pick on a player about 50 pounds lighter than him in Brett Seney. Seney dropped the gloves, and Dubinsky got the better of him. Brian Boyle stepped in after Seney was knocked to the ice, and gave Dubinsky some shots. They called Boyle for a penalty, after which he continued to go after David Savard. To be honest, I didn’t mind the roughing call, though I wish Seney had just let someone take Dubinsky for him in the first place.

Blackwood played amazingly on the penalty kill, and I think he had three or four stops on high danger chances. After the kill the period expired with little to note. He had 16 saves total on the period, and kept an at-times lackadaisical Devils squad from falling behind an insurmountable goal total. The Devils meanwhile, only had five shots.

The Second Period: Following a poor passing decision from Taylor Hall in the offensive zone, the Colombus Blue Jackets were awarded a penalty shot after Andy Greene hooked a counterattacking Cam Atkinson from behind, as Greene had to skate from the far end bench on an ill-timed change. Atkinson faked a move to the backhand and pulled back, bringing Blackwood to the ice and giving him space to slide the puck into the net.

Sami Vatanen continued the streak of poor defense when he held a Blue Jacket in the neutral zone, sending the opposing player’s stick flying. He was given two minutes. Damon Severson made a good block on a wrist shot from the circle towards the end of the penalty kill, and this one passed with less excitement than the previous kills.

Andy Greene, a minute or so later, got his stick out again on a cross-crease pass, preventing a two-on-one goal. Soon after, the Blue Jackets got another odd-man rush, and the shot from Zach Werenski went off the post.

Taylor Hall made up for his poor passing decision when he got sprung for a breakaway by Kyle Palmieri, who made a great exit pass to center ice. Hall got the shot up on Bobrovsky, who went down too early, and scored to make the score 2-1. This was Hall’s ninth of the year and 200th of his career.

Following the goal, the Blue Jackets took their first minor of the game. Werenski got his stick high on Blake Coleman, and clipped him around the mouth, which got him two minutes.

On the power play, the Devils had a couple chances, the most dangerous one being a Travis Zajac backhander right in front of Bobrovsky. Shortly after, Blackwood was forced to make a save on an Atkinson toe drag and a follow-up attempt. Sami Vatanen, after the Devils finally got the puck back in the zone, had a very open slap shot in the high slot, which was stopped. The Devils could not get on the rebound, and that about did it for the power play.

Towards the end of the period, the Blue Jackets started to dominate play again. After keeping the zone for a full minute, Kyle Palmieri was called for tripping Pierre-Luc Dubois. It was, again, a less than ideal penalty for Palmieri to take.

The penalty seemed to do pretty good at keeping Columbis at bay for about a minute and a half. After Pavel Zacha cleared the zone, the Blue Jackets re-entered, and Artemi Panarin ringed it off the crossbar on an uncontested shot with 18 seconds left on the kill. A final shot was blocked many feet straight into the air by Blake Coleman with seconds left, and the period expired with the game still at 2-1.

Third Period: The Devils started the period with an offsides seven seconds in. John Quenneville had become the left wing on Travis Zajac’s line. The Devils began celebrating an apparent goal 40 seconds into the period on a Blake Coleman one-timer, but the light did not come on. The referees blew the play dead, and reviewed the play, but it was determined that the puck very clearly only hit the crossbar.

After play resumed, Andy Greene went down hard into the corner while chasing the puck. It was not very pretty, and he did not stay on the ice for much longer after getting back on his feet.

Brian Boyle danced through the neutral zone after getting a pass from Damon Severson and threw it from his backhand to Brett Seney, who made a great backhand move on Bobrovsky but could not get a goal. Boyle could not angle his shot from the goal line on the rebound, and the Devils failed to tie the game.

About six minutes into the period, Mackenzie Blackwood made the widest split I’ve seen a goalie make on a save in a very long time to stuff the puck after it rebounded off the boards to the front of the net. I think that Cory Schneider’s leg would have fallen off if he tried to make that stretch.

After getting hemmed in for about a minute or so, which included some big saves by Blackwood, Travis Zajac got the puck out of the zone and took it towards the other end, backhanding it to Blake Coleman, who was unable to finish on the pass and skated into Bobrovsky, who knocked the net a couple feet back. Boone Jenner got a penalty for holding on the play.

Not much happened the first minute of the power play, and Taylor Hall got a shot from the circle that made it through traffic - but the puck was cleared right after. The Devils never got fully set again, and the chance was squandered.

After Blake Coleman was stripped of the puck with just a few minutes left in the game right outside of the Devils’ defensive zone, the Blue Jackets got an odd-man chance with Anthony Duclair getting a clean shot on Blackwood, who had to stretch the pad out again to keep the game at 2-1. The Devils were wasting far too much time in trying to tie the game, and their defensive responses to counterattacks continued to be poor.

With two minutes and 10 seconds left, Travis Zajac won the draw against Boone Jenner. The Devils immediately got the sixth attacker on the ice. Kyle Palmieri got the one-timer chance off the cross-ice pass from Hall, which was followed by a Boyle backhand, which came back to Palmieri, who could not get the sharp-angle shot into the net.

Zajac won the draw again, and Blackwood came off again. Zajac got the puck to Brian Boyle, who wound the puck to Hall, and the puck came back for a one timer by Palmieri, and it was saved by Bobrovsky. After another chance for Brian Boyle on a redirect of a Will Butcher shot, the Blue Jackets iced the puck.

Zajac won the draw again, and Palmieri was tripped by a diving Blue Jacket but there was no call. Play continued, and the Devils had trouble setting up, with Columbus keeping the puck in the corner. Brian Boyle got a final shot on goal from the blue line as he rushed the puck back into the zone following a clear, but it was too little, too late. The Blue Jackets won 2-1.

The Game Stats: The NHL.com Game Summary | The NHL.com Event Summary | The NHL.com Play by Play Log | The NHL.com Shot Summary | The Natural Stat Trick Game Stats

The Opposition Opinion: Check out Jackets Cannon for their recap.

Well: It was a mixed game for the Devils’ star, Taylor Hall. He scored their only goal. He also made the ill-advised pass responsible for giving the Blue Jackets an opportunity to stretch pass to Cam Atkinson for a breakaway. He was hooked by Andy Greene, who was trying to get back from the far-end bench after coming on for Will Butcher. Damon Severson did not cover for Greene, and the captain was unable to impede Atkinson without allowing a penalty shot.

Andy Greene got wrecked in the run-of-play tonight. So did Travis Zajac and Blake Coleman, who - along with Hall - were on the ice with the Vatanen-Severson pairing for Columbus’ first goal of the game. These players continually got hemmed in at even strength when together, and I cannot say that I ever want to see Damon Severson get paired with Sami Vatanen ever again. It was atrocious.

Surprises: Steven Santini and Pavel Zacha had the Devils’ only positive possession differentials at five-on-five tonight, at 64.71 (+34.35) and 60.00 (+27.24) CF%, respectively. When accounting for how well the Devils did with the extra attacker (and for how long), Butcher, Hall, Hischier, Palmieri, and Boyle were above the break-even threshold. Zacha and Palmieri led the team with two individual high danger chances for at 5v5, and Palmieri had one during the 6v5 portion of the game. Unfortunately for Zacha, one of his linemates has Michael Grabner syndrome, and the other disappeared for the first two periods of the game.

The team also won faceoffs tonight. Travis Zajac led the team with 14 wins and five losses, as the team won 27 of 46 draws. Unfortunately, that stat doesn’t mean much when you can’t hold the zone for the first 57 minutes.

Blackwood: I’ve already sung his praises a lot in this recap. Here’s that split-save mentioned earlier.

I was angry, and then I was confused, and then I was amazed. That was a pattern throughout the game, as Blackwood made several improbable saves. While Keith Kinkaid should definitely start the latter half of the back-to-back, I would definitely like to see Blackwood in net for the home rematch versus Columbus on Sunday. Hopefully, that game brings us fans a win. We can only hope.

Get Well Soon: Marcus Johansson missed most of the game with an injury. After last season, where he had concussion issues, it is not ideal to see him miss time for any reason. We can only hope the injury is not of a serious nature.

Your Thoughts: How did you feel watching tonight’s game? How disappointed were you? Do you think Mackenzie Blackwood is this good? Who played the worst? How should John Hynes continue his line adjustments? Are the defensive pairings salvageable? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Thank you for following along with us at All About the Jersey tonight, whether you were in the gamethread or you followed Mike on Twitter @AATJerseyBlog. This is Chris - goodnight. Senators at home tomorrow.