First Period: The first minute of the game was played very choppily, with several whistles for offsides and icing. The teams were able to get into the flow of things in the following minute, and the Devils started getting sustained offensive zone time in the third minute of the game.
The Hurricanes were getting shots early, but the only ones on goal were from areas of low danger for MacKenzie Blackwood, who was making his second straight start despite being on the back end of a back-to-back with travel. He was able to make the saves on the long-range shots.
The fourth line had a prime chance to score, as Miles Wood had the puck along the boards in the offensive zone, and fired it on net. James Reimer made the initial stop, and the puck deflected off of Wayne Simmonds before Kevin Rooney tried to slam the rebound past Reimer, and shot it into the goaltender.
After Jesper Bratt appeared to hurt himself throwing a check in the corner, the Hurricanes were able to get behind the Devils on a three-on-two rush. Warren Foegele slipped behind Pavel Zacha, who was covering for an out-of-position defenseman, who collected a pass from Sebastian Aho and redirected it past Blackwood. 1-0, Hurricanes.
After a few minutes of his face being checked out by Devils trainers, Jesper Bratt returned to the Hischier line in the 11th minute of the period.
The Devils got an equalizer with the fourth line on the ice, as Miles Wood had used his speed to zip past multiple defensemen to create offensive zone possession. The puck worked back to Will Butcher, whose wrist shot went wide and bounced off the end boards back to Miles Wood, who lifted it past Reimer. 1-1. The secondary assist went to Wayne Simmonds.
The Hurricanes took the first penalty of the game as Andrei Svechnikov hooked Pavel Zacha as Zacha took the puck away in the Hurricanes’ offensive zone. The second power play unit got the first shift, and the Hurricanes made a clear in the first 10 seconds. P.K. Subban did a great job at picking the puck out of the corner and cycling it back to Damon Severson to create more chances, but the second unit could not make use of their early deployment. The first unit, with Taylor Hall and Kyle Palmieri, got most of the second minute, but Jaccob Slavin’s shot after a Hall turnover appeared to be the best opportunity in that time.
The Devils took a penalty of their own with four minutes and 10 seconds remaining in the period, as Matt Tennyson cleared the puck over the glass right off a defensive zone draw. Teuvo Teravainen had an easy goal after a shot from Andrei Svechnikov went off Blackwood’s left pad and right to his stick. Blake Coleman was called for a penalty as following his dragging down of Svechnikov, he got into a scrum with multiple Hurricanes players. The Hurricanes got another power play.
The second Hurricanes power play featured several chances and shots on Blackwood, as a failed clearing attempt prolonged their offensive zone time. At the end of the two minutes, Dougie Hamilton was called for tripping Nico Hischier. The teams played four-on-four for eight seconds, followed by Devils power play for the remaining minute and 24 seconds in the period (and 29 seconds in carryover power play).
Jack Hughes made a falling pass under pressure from behind the net to Sami Vatanen, whose shot was deflected straight into the air, but the Devils kept possession, cycling the puck until Taylor Hall took a pass from Jack Hughes and shot on Reimer after fanning on the attempt once. The puck was never covered, and the referee apparently saw it the whole time. Jack Hughes skated in and tucked the loose puck into the net, testing the improbability of the universe by tying the game at two each after one period. Taylor Hall and Kyle Palmieri got the assists.
Second Period: Nico Hischier got his first goal of the year on the rush, following a pass breakup by Andy Greene that got the puck right to him. Hischier put the puck to his backhand, pulled it back, and put it over Reimer in a silky motion. It was beautiful, and suddenly Andy Greene also has four assists in eight games. 3-2, Devils. This was also the first lead, as Steve Cangialosi noted on the MSG broadcast, that the Devils have had this season on the road.
Jesper Boqvist nearly got his first NHL goal as he found a loose puck when the Devils were in transition as he skated past Blake Coleman to try to sneak in a short-side move on James Reimer, but the shot appeared to go just wide of goal.
Travis Zajac was called past the fifth minute of the period for hooking Jake Gardiner, and the Hurricanes went back to the power play. Pavel Zacha got the puck from a blocked shot and made an early clear. Andy Greene got a second clear of the first minute before the Hurricanes had really threatened the Devils. On the third entry, Damon Severson made a clear, before Nico Hischier and Blake Coleman pressured the Hurricanes with a forecheck that held the puck for about 20 seconds before Pavel Zacha made two pass breakups. It was a great penalty kill. Severson made a pass to Zajac out of the box, but the pass was too behind Zajac and caused an offsides.
Matt Tennyson helped create minutes of offensive zone time for the Hurricanes, as his pass to Will Butcher behind the net for a breakout was way wide, making the Zajac line stay out longer against the Carolina attack. It was displeasing to watch, but Blackwood stood strong.
The Hurricanes tied the game a minute past the halfway point, as Erik Haula was uncovered in front of the net. Haula took a pass from Ryan Dzingel behind the net as he cut and slipped the puck past Blackwod. 3-3. Martin Necas got the secondary assist.
Wayne Simmonds only had Dougie Hamilton to beat after a one-timer attempt was fanned on by the Hurricanes, and Simmonds’ shot was deflected high by Reimer. The fourth line then proceeded to create some chaotic offense, but Reimer was able to handle all of it.
Jesper Bratt meanwhile went to the locker room after taking a high hit along the boards from Andrei Svechnikov. Jesper Boqvist got shifts with Hischier and Zacha.
In the last minutes of the period, the Hurricanes got the majority of the shots, in part thanks to some poor turnovers in all areas if the ice. The Hischier line featuring Miles Wood finally got some offensive zone time in the last minute, but didn’t get a shot. Andy Greene made a timely shot block on the other end, and Blackwood saved one long shot before the period ended. There was a scrum of players in the neutral zone as play expired, after Warren Foegele hit Wayne Simmonds high, and Andrei Svechnikov and Kevin Rooney got in the mix as well.
Third Period: Coincidental roughing minors were issued to Kevin Rooney and Andrei Svechnikov at the very end of the period, so the teams started at four-on-four. Immediately off the faceoff, Dougie Hamilton tripped Nico Hischier, and it became four-on-three. Taylor Hall, Kyle Palmieri, Wayne Simmonds, and Sami Vatanen were the first wave for the Devils.
Kyle Palmieri took a penalty for holding Jaccob Slavin, who fell by being lightly touched at most. It was three-on-three for a minute and 44 seconds. Taylor Hall made a steal right off the draw and had a breakaway, and some appeared to have thought Hall scored - but it hit the iron.
Back at five-on-five, the Devils continued to get plenty of offensive zone time. Miles Wood stole the puck on the forecheck from James Reimer, and took the puck out to the blueline before taking a wrist shot that was redirected by P.K. Subban into the net. It was a great goal to go up 4-3. It was P.K. Subban’s second goal of the season and the 100th of his career.
Ryan Dzingel took a run at Pavel Zacha because Kyle Palmieri threw a big check between the benches on Erik Haula. Instead of calling a holding penalty on Dzingel, the referees gave coincidental minors to Dzingel and Zacha for roughing, which Zacha didn’t really partake in. Nonetheless...
The game returned to four-on-four for a whole two minutes. Nico Hischier made a big block on a slap shot and returned to the bench in some apparent pain. At the end of two minutes, a penalty was called on the Hurricanes for hooking Taylor Hall. Warren Foegele went to the box.
On the power play, the Hurricanes played it back into the Devils defensive zone where Vatanen started the breakout. No shots were taken in the first minute before Jordan Staal broke up a pass from Vatanen to Hughes. The second wave did better at moving the puck, as Nico Hischier had a close opportunity, and a shot from the point came off the boards and went through the crease.
With under five minutes to play, John Hynes started playing Nico Hischier with Taylor Hall and Kyle Palmieri. Pavel Zacha followed on the Zajac line as well as the Rooney line. With Jesper Bratt injured and apparently out for the game by that point, Hynes’ hand was forced. The Devils did a very good job of not allowing open shots and not allowing easy rushes for the Hurricanes. The game John Hynes was playing was then resembling a neutral zone trap with one forechecker.
The Hurricanes pulled Reimer with over two minutes remaining, and the Zajac line with Wayne Simmonds got the first six-on-five shift. Wayne Simmonds played it to Blake Coleman from the boards with a backhanded pass, but Coleman’s shot went wide of goal. The Hischier line relieved the Zajac line, and Damon Severson failed to clear a puck before launching a lofty shot from a faceoff circle, which went in. 5-3, Devils.
Kevin Rooney took a shot at the still-empty net and Nino Neidereitter made a gutsy save in lieu of Reimer. Following that, play winded down with some light tension but nothing important to speak of.
The Opposition Opinion: Check out Canes Country for the opinion of the home team.
Great Game for Wood: Miles Wood is in a tough spot. He has plenty of tools to be an NHL forward, but in the logjam of Devils that can play the wing, he has found himself regularly playing fourth-line duties. Devils fans know that Wood can occasionally flash some sort of chaotic brilliance - and they saw that today.
Wood played 13:03 at even strength and led the Devils with 0.38 individual expected goals (ixG) at five-on-five, and tied the team lead for even strength individual high danger chances for (iHDCF) with two. He was the only Devil to have a multi-point night, with a goal and a primary assist on two shots. His forechecking was on-point tonight, and when a player of his speed is doing well on the forecheck, opposition will have fits. Just ask James Reimer about his cut off pass attempt from behind the net.
Wood also did a good job of keeping his nose clean tonight. In a game where referees seemed to be making calls in bunches, he did not run the goaltender, or throw illegal hits, or take stick penalties. More games like this would help solidify him as a part of the team, as it is rather easy to speculate given the number of NHL-caliber wingers on the Devils’ payroll that he might end up a trade piece if he doesn’t cement his spot.
Improved Defense from Hall: In the game preview for the game versus the Flyers last night, I noted that Taylor Hall’s takeaways had taken a dip this season in comparison to his last two. Along with his primary assist and second-ranked on the team 0.29 ixG, Taylor Hall had three takeaways tonight, to zero giveaways, while drawing two penalties. Aside from having average goaltending, this would probably be the most important development for the team’s success for the remainder of the season. A disruptive Taylor Hall is a good Taylor Hall.
Speaking of Goaltending...: MacKenzie Blackwood stoped 24 of 27 shots for an .889 save percentage. According to Natural Stat Trick, all three of his goals allowed were on high danger shots, while he stopped all four medium danger and all 14 low danger shots. The eye test on all of the goals backs up their classification as high danger goals.
While Blackwood was fine today, he wasn’t incredible. He was within the range of performance expected from an NHL goaltender, and he allowed the Devils a chance to win. I expect him to play Tuesday against Winnipeg, as the Devils have a back-to back in Calgary and Edmonton on 11/7 and 11/8 - and John Hynes would probably prefer to play Blackwood the first in third game (and possibly the fourth in Vancouver on 11/10) rather than the second and third on back-to-back nights.
The Fourth Line: After a particularly hapless performance versus Philadelphia, the fourth line had the highest expected goals for percentage (xGF) of any line for the Devils tonight. With Wayne Simmonds in the mix in the place of John Hayden, the line had an 81.83 xGF% (0.56-0.12), while out-attempting the Hurricanes opposition (52.94 CF%) but being outshot six to three. It was an improvement, although the injury to Jesper Bratt complicates the lines’ stability once more.
What Didn’t Work: The Zajac line with Jesper Boqvist was a possession sieve. While only allowing three shots in 6:22 together, the line had a 16.67 CF% and a 28.03 xGF% - as they were the only original line of the night to have an xGF% under 50. They allowed seven scoring chances (the next most was two), and three high danger chances. I thought they got better as the game went on, but Jesper Boqvist needed to do more with his game tonight. He did have some defensive flash, with two credited takeaways as he was able to make strips of the puck a few times during the game. His short-side chance on Reimer was his best showing in the offensive zone, and he was credited with one individual high danger chance.
Redemption: After the loss to Tampa Bay, P.K. Subban called himself out, saying that he was playing like a rookie. After some improvement versus Philadelphia last night, Subban came to win tonight, and scored the game-winning goal.
I think we all know who got the jacket tonight!— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) November 3, 2019
Jack Hughes handed it off to P.K. Subban after his game-winning goal sealed the deal in Carolina. pic.twitter.com/sXPRgDc9cj
As the team struggles back into a workable place in the standings, it would be good to see Subban regain more of the confidence in himself that he was showing early in the season. With two goals and three assists in 12 games, there is more room for Subban to produce.
Your Thoughts: What did you think about tonight’s game? Were you satisfied to finally see a win? Who did you see on the ice that didn’t get on the scoresheet that you thought played a good game? Who didn’t? What do you expect going forward if Jesper Bratt has another extended injury? Do you think we could see Louis Domingue on this road trip?
Whether you followed along in the gamethread or on Twitter @AATJerseyBlog, thanks for reading. This is Chris - goodnight.