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Devils Hold On, Knock Winnipeg Jets in a Shootout Win

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Nikita Gusev and Jesper Boqvist had the shootout goals as MacKenzie Blackwood stopped 32 shots and both shootout attempts in a 2-1 win.

NHL: New Jersey Devils at Winnipeg Jets
Wicked release.
Terrence Lee-USA TODAY Sports

First Period: The first period started with a bit of an immediate scare, with MacKenzie Blackwood trying to handle the puck behind the net with a hard Winnipeg Jets forecheck coming. Fortunately, Andy Greene and the Zajac line were able to work the puck out of the zone. At the end of the Hischier line’s first shift, Kyle Palmieri had a chance to get a partial breakaway, but as he cut across the slot Josh Morrissey was able to lift his stick.

The Devils and Jets traded chances for the following with Patrick Laine forcing MacKenzie Blackwood to make two good saves. Travis Zajac almost connected with Blake Coleman for a net-crashing tap-in on the following play.

The Devils got the first score of the game, as Taylor Hall made his man miss, and played it to Vatanen, who got it back to Hall for a shot in close on Hellebuyck. On the rebound, Nico Hischier potted a backhanded goal. 1-0, Devils. While Taylor Hall had been firing a lot of low-percentage shots early on in the season, his moves on this play are what make him good. Rather than firing away from the boards - when Taylor Hall works in the middle of the ice, the Devils will always do well.

With just under 12 minutes to play in the period, Andy Greene had the puck in the Devils offensive zone following a clear by Kyle Palmieri and made a move towards the net, and Jack Roslovic hauled him to the ice as Greene made his cut. The Devils went to the power play, looking to extend the power play goals streak to seven games.

The power play got several shot attempts on Hellebuyck during the power play, but were unable to capitalize on rebounds and loose pucks. The second-wave had some trouble keeping possession, and it felt like a wasted opportunity for the Devils after looking good early on.

The second half of the period saw the game start to slow down to a normal pace. Rather than trading opportunities, there were more stoppages and not much in the way of scoring chances. However, Taylor Hall drew a penalty from Nathan Beaulieu, who was making his season debut. Hall played the puck on the boards around Beaulieu, who took Hall out and was called for interference.

The second power play started with a Winnipeg clear, followed by Sami Vatanen playing the puck from center ice to Taylor Hall in the faceoff circle by MacKenzie Blackwood. It was no wonder the Devils never got full possession in the first minute in the offensive zone. Following the second failed attempt, the Devils gave up a breakaway to Bryan Little, who went crashing into Blackwood but wasn’t called for a penalty as Wayne Simmonds was on his back for part of the breakaway.

Aside from some good chances for the Nico Hischier line with Taylor Hall and Kyle Palmieri, not much happened the last few minutes of the period. There were multiple icings, and play slowed nearly to a crawl. The shots were 13-8, Devils, as they also had a slight edge in even strength possession. Nikita Gusev had a poor showing in his first period at even strength, with a 0.00 expected goals for percentage (xGF%) in 2:49 of play according to Natural Stat Trick (0.00xGF-0.15xGA).

This is a particularly infuriating stat, as Pavel Zacha only got to play 2:28 in the first period because John Hynes made an inoperable line that results in one of his best forwards this season not getting playing time.

On the opposite end of the scale, Andy Greene had an 85.71 CF% and a 98.60 xGF% in the first period. Playing mostly with Sami Vatanen and the first line, none of the five were on the ice for a scoring chance against in the first period at even strength, and Greene wasn’t on the ice for a single shot against.

Second Period: The second period started with an offensive zone shift for the Zajac line and the Greene pairing, with Blake Coleman having a good chance and Andy Grenee slapping a one-timer from the boards at Connor Hellebuyck. However, the Devils could not jump on the rebound and reset following a line change.

The Devils did well to control play in the early period. P.K. Subban made a good recovery to stop Patrik Laine from collecting a loose puck that escaped the Devils offensive zone behind Damon Severson. The Winnipeg Jets got their first real extended zone time about five minutes into the period, with Adam Lowry trying to deflect a point slap shot into the net - but was stopped by Blackwood.

The Devils took their first penalty of the game with the fourth line on the ice. As Wayne Simmonds was fighting for the puck along the boards, Miles Wood threw his hands up at Dmitry Kulikov and took a roughing penalty.

On the penalty kill, MacKenzie Blackwood had to make an amazing glove save on Mark Scheifele, who fired a one-timer above his pad from the left faceoff circle. After the following faceoff, the Devils were able to keep the Jets away from the net and made a few successful clears. The Devils were able to sustain their kill, with Blackwood making two saves.

Unfortunately, the Jets tied the game shortly following their power play. Matt Tennyson tried to make a pass to Nico Hischier which ended up on Josh Morrissey’s stick. The blast from the blueline was deflected by Andrew Copp, and Blackwood had no chance on the shot. The pass from Tennyson was behind Hischier, and the Devils paid for that.

Taylor Hall had a collision with Dmitry Kulikov at the blueline as he tried to gain the zone, and went slowly to the bench. Wayne Simmonds tried to fight Kulikov, who went flying into Hall and ended up driving his knee into Hall’s hip. Hall stayed on the bench, and returned as normal for his next shift, but was mostly gliding around and seemed unwilling to put too much pressure on his right leg.

Shortly after, Nikita Gusev attempted making a pass to Jack Hughes to gain the offensive zone which went off Neal Pionk’s skate - but right to Hughes anyway. Hughes went in on Hellebuyck but was stopped on the breakaway. On the following play after a stoppage, Pavel Zacha went to the bench after taking a puck to the face.

The Devils started looking pretty bad towards the end of the second period. The momentum was clearly in the Jets’ favor, and Winnipeg got some good chances on Blackwood in the final minutes of the period until the fourth line got onto the ice with a minute and 30 seconds remaining. They did not get any shots on goal, but Wood and Rooney were able to stop the defensive bleeding for nearly their entire shift - at the end of which the Jets got a tough shot on Blackwood that was fought off.

Damon Severson nearly scored on the following shift, as his shot from above the faceoff circle hit Hellebuyck’s glove and then the post. Making use of Subban’s preferred fake-shot move, he nearly scored a rare goal for in the final minute of a Devils period. Alas, he did not. At the end of two periods, the score was even at 1-1.

Third Period: The Hischier line started the period, with Taylor Hall still on the ice and looking better on his skates following the break. Nothing happened on the first shift, with the Devils blocking a shot but not getting offensive zone time for themselves. Pavel Zacha was also back on the Devils bench with a purple mark below his right eye. So, the Devils continued with a full bench.

A few minutes in, just as the Hughes line looked finally poised to do something in the offensive zone, Will Butcher made one too many moves deep in the zone and gave away the puck. A couple minutes later, Nico Hischier was about to make a pass to a cutting Will Butcher, but Butcher overskated Hischier and Nico was unable to make a play to continue his line’s pressure of Hellebuyck.

Blake Wheeler nearly created a goal as he took the puck around the net and threw the puck across Blackwood, and Neal Pionk was unable to make a play with the puck as it came out to the blueline. Wheeler came right back, zooming around the Hughes line and the net and setting Scheifele up for a one-timer, which Blackwood fought off.

Bryan Little was hit in the face by a slap shot as the Jets continued to pressure, and play immediately stopped. He skated off with help from the trainer, holding a towel over his ear, having taken the full force of Nikolaj Ehlers’ shot.

With twelve and a half minutes to go, play continued after several minutes of delay. Pavel Zacha was moved onto Wood and Simmonds’ line, and with them on the ice Neal Pionk nearly scored from the point - but Blackwood made a save with his pad. On the other end, Wayne Simmonds flipped it to a cutting Miles Wood, who redirected it and was stopped by Connor Hellebuyck with the glove. Zacha returned to his normal line when Hughes and Gusev came on a minute or so later.

After a break, Pavel Zacha played on the Travis Zajac line (perhaps Hynes heard how little he was playing?) and following a clear from Zajac, Zacha powered the puck to the net and made a great effort and shot. However, that too was stopped by Hellebuyck.

With just four minutes left in the period, Nikita Gusev flipped a puck into the air, which was batted down and played by Hughes, who started a neutral zone cycling until Will Butcher dumped the puck in from center-ice, allowing the Rooney line to have the Jets in their own zone. After the Jets tried moving the puck up the ice, Miles Wood got a jump on the puck and made Hellebuyck make a difficult save. Shortly after, he got another attempt that Hellebuyck had cut the angle down on, and was able to make a relatively pressure-free save.

In the final minute of regulation, the Jets held the puck behind their own net for about 15 seconds before breaking out. A pass went wide of its target, and went all the way to MacKenzie Blackwood, who covered the puck with 36 seconds to play. The Devils were able to shut down the Scheifele line, and the Jets only got a shot from Josh Morrissey from beyond the faceoff circle that was knocked aside by Blackwood at the last second.

One point.

Overtime: With the Devils 0-4 in overtime and shootout games this season, they seemed due. Taylor Hall, Nico Hischier, and P.K. Subban led the Devils at the start of overtime. MacKenzie Blackwood made an early save on Josh Morrissey, who took advantage of Nico Hischier losing his stick off the faceoff. Hischier almost had Hall on a two-on-one, but Hall lost his stick as well.

With Jack Hughes, Pavel Zacha, and Sami Vatanen, Laine was stripped by Zacha and had the puck taken by Hughes. They worked the puck towards the offensive zone for Palmieri, Gusev, and Severson. Gusev’s pass to Palmieri was intercepted, and the Jets set back up. They were unable to get a shot on goal agaisnt Palmieri and Gusev, as Ehlers’ shot went wide.

In the final minute and 30 seconds, Nico Hischier was stripped by Neal Pionk and Mark Scheifele as he was about to break free. Blackwood made the quick save as the puck deflected out of play.

The Jets sent out Scheifele, Connor, and Wheeler to play against Hall, Hischier, and Subban with over a minute left. A one-timer for Mark Scheifele from Blake Wheeler was sent wide of Blackwood. Jesper Boqvist was tripped up on a breakaway by Blake Wheeler. He was all alone, and the trip was very deliberate. The Jets were called for a two-minute minor.

Hischier, Palmieri, Hall, and Vatanen came out. Hischier won the draw. Vatanen played to Hall, who set Palmieri up for a one-timer that was saved by Hellebuyck. The Devils nearly scored after the second draw, with the power play unit successfully pulling Hellebuyck out of position. Taylor Hall tried to shoot off the rebound, but the Jets successfully blocked the shot from reaching the mostly empty net. Nico Hischier had tried wrapping the puck around Hellebuyck’s skate, and it came out to Taylor Hall. Unfortunately, it went to...

Shootout: First for the Devils was Nikita Gusev. He took the puck slow and wide and pulled the puck simply to his forehand and scored. 1/1 for the Devils.

On the Jets’ first try, Blackwood made the save on a shot that Kyle Connor seemed to have slightly lost the handle on. Previously, he was four-for-five on his career.

Jesper Boqvist got the nod on the second go-through. He banged it off the post and in with a forehand shot.

Patrik Laine got the second try for the Jets, and his backhanded try went high as Blackwood cut off his angle.

Two points. Devils win.

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: Arctic Ice Hockey will have the Jets-centric recap.

The MacKenzie Blackwood Show: After a terrible showing in the Devils’ first game of the year against Winnipeg, MacKenzie Blackwood had a great game tonight. If not for Matt Tennyson’s failed pass and subsequent deflection from the Jets, he would have had a shutout.

While he had a really weak five-hole goal in his last outing, Blackwood did great to shut the door low tonight. The Jets took a ton of point shots, and he was able to guard against the goals that plagued his early season. He also constantly matched the competitive level the Jets were playing at. When the Jets went from five even strength scoring chances in each of the first two periods to 10 in the third period, Blackwood stood strong. 32 saves on 33 shots. He saved all five high danger shots against, per Natural Stat Trick. Great night.

Jesper Boqvist is Here to Stay: After last game, I said Jesper Boqvist needed to do more with his ice-time. He was relatively weak in possession, not doing well on the Zajac line in Carolina. Tonight, they did a lot better. Jesper Boqvist had two credited individual Corsi for (iCF), and drew a penalty. His xGF% rose to 54.19, as he was on the ice for six scoring chances against but no high-danger ones. The Zajac line, Hischier, and Greene-Vatanen were the Devils without high-danger chances against at even strength. He is now showing that he is capable of hanging with an NHL middle-six (occasionally top-six) line.

Further, he was selected second in the shootout. While Hynes has usually preferred to go to his top-line talent of Hall and Palmieri, sometimes with Jesper Bratt and now Nikita Gusev - I was not expecting to see Boqvist go second tonight. It was a pleasant surprise, with an even better finish. It would be incredibly hard to scratch him after that shootout goal, and I think we are approaching the point of the season that Hynes starts dressing Boqvist nightly (or nearly so).

Have Yourself a Defensive Outing, Travis Zajac: Travis Zajac has frequently had the unfortunate matchup of Mark Scheifele’s line, which I would imagine is not something any center in the NHL wants. However, Zajac was great. In 5:24 tonight, Zajac held Scheifele’s line to zero shots to five shots for the Devils with Zajac, and only one CF. Scheifele’s CF% was 12.50 against Travis Zajac and his line, versus 43.33 when Zajac was off the ice.

The Hischier line similarly outshot Scheifele’s line six to one, but allowed several more attempts - as Scheifele’s CF% against Hischier was 42.86. Ironically, Zajac did worst against a make-shift bottom-six line with Adam Lowry, Mathieu Perrault, and Jack Roslovic. Zajac’s line was attempt-less against those three. I imagine they would have fared better with Wayne Simmonds in that situation, but it is not worth it to play Simmonds with Zajac over Boqvist so they can matchup against bottom six talent.

Greene-Vatanen: Andy Greene has been really good in his mid-pairing role with Sami Vatanen since returning from injury. Tonight, they had a 58.54 CF% in 18:48 of even strength play together, allowing only six shots on goal while being on the ice for 13 shots for the Devils. More impressively, they finished with a 79.39 xGF%, by far the best of the defensive pairings. The Devils had 11 scoring chances to four against, and five high-danger chances to zero against with them on the ice. Andy Greene had two shots and 5 iCF, leading Devils defensemen. He also drew a penalty driving to the net and was credited for creating two rebounds by Natural Stat Trick. Sami Vatanen picked up the secondary assist from playing give-and-go with Taylor Hall in the lead-up to Nico Hischier’s goal. He also had three blocked shots.

A really good game for the aging captain and his young talented counterpart. Both are in their contract years with a lot to prove, each in their own right.

Bryan Little: Bryan Little had earlier this season suffered a concussion in the final preseason game of the season. While skating from behind the net, a wide Nikolaj Ehlers shot hit him in the side of the face, which made him go down to the ice in a considerably scary scene.

Coming back from that shortly following another concussion could be a very serious matter. As such, my thoughts are with Bryan Little, and I hope he recovers well.

Your Thoughts: What did you think about tonight’s game? What did you think of the third period and overtime effort? Do you think that the Devils are going to make this season worth the offseason hype now? What do you make of Nikita Gusev right now? What about MacKenzie Blackwood? Does Schneider or someone else (aside from Blackwood) start one of the back-to-back on Thursday and Friday in Calgary in Edmonton? What do you want to happen? Should we have more hope about our future with Taylor Hall? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Whether you followed along in the gamethread, or on Twitter @AATJerseyBlog, thanks for reading. This is Chris - goodnight.