With low expectations after yesterday’s result, the New Jersey Devils would again get an opportunity to win a home game, today against the playoff hopeful Carolina Hurricanes. The game started out with a feeling out process; by feeling out process, I mean Kurtis Gabriel and Michael Ferland feeling each other’s faces with their fists just 1:05 into the contest. It was a good scuffle to get the fans fired up and Gabriel would wind up the winner, and afterwards he would motion towards the fans to try and get them even louder.
The Devils would proceed to follow build on this moment by...taking a pair of penalties. Good ol’ 2018-19 Devils right there; the good news was the 2018-19 Penalty Kill showed up and took care of business as usual. The Canes would take their first minor of the night shortly after with Brett Pesce going off for holding Jesper Bratt. Miraculously, the Devils power play would capitalize, with Ryan Murphy in his first Devils’ game streaking into the offensive zone. He would make backhand pass in front of three Canes and Pavel Zacha would one-time the puck into the net for a new career high of 10 goals for him; 1-0 Devils.
While we’ve seen that situation lately, what came next we haven’t. Kurtis Gabriel took a late penalty in the first, which would again be killed off. After roughly another minute of play, Damon Severson would keep a clearing attempt in the offensive zone; each Devils would touch the puck finishing with Marcus Johansson tapping in a rebound of a Kyle Palmieri shot that had banked off of Nico Hischier. Nico at this point already had two points on the night and Marcus Johansson increased his trade value as the Devils went up 2-0. That score would hold at the end of one.
The second period saw the energy shift to Carolina, as they began to get more of the pressure, and even held the Devils without a shot on goal for roughly 12 minutes. In this time Carolina would get a goal back, with Dougie Hamilton sending a laser past a screened Keith Kinkaid to make the game 2-1. This period also saw Kinkaid get whacked in the throat by Jordan Martinook’s stick (with no call) and run over by Ben Lovejoy propelling a forward into him. While he had a pretty darn good game overall, I can’t imagine Keith feeling too good after all of the extra physical abuse he took today. The teams would adjourn again with the 2-1 score, but not before Drew Stafford took a call to have 1:20 of carryover penalty time.
The third continued at five on four thanks to Stafford, but the PK would take care of it, Stafford would take a call again quickly after leaving the box, but Brock McGinn was called for embellishing the call, leaving the teams at four on four. The Hurricanes would take another call with both players still off, giving the Devils a four on three PP. While the Devils put a good number of good shots on Petr Mrazek (both four on three and five on four) the score would remain 2-1.
This would be until there was 12:54 remaining and Carolina put another one behind Keith Kinkaid...only it wouldn’t count! Nino Niederreiter would be whistled for interfering with Severson, not only negating the goal, but also giving the Devils a power play! Alas the PP’s effectiveness would continue it’s decline, going from 1-1 after Zacha’s goal to 1-4 at this point. Carolina would continue to press looking for the tying goal; the ice had tilted in their favor a bit. It seemed inevitable that Kinkaid would run out of big saves and the game would be 2-2.
Except it never was allowed to get there.
A puck would bunker off of Nico Hischier in the defensive zone and Jesper Bratt would charge up ice with his incredible speed, bringing the puck into the offensive zone. Bratt would make an incredible shot fake before sending a pass behind two defenders which Marcus Johansson would one time home to restore the two goal lead.
The Devils would allow it to become an interesting finish, as Gabriel would take another call (though I disagree that he can be responsible for a player skating over his stick when another Hurricane just pinned him to the boards) with just under three minutes left. The Devils penalty killers would get stranded in a six on four situation, and after a failed clear and bad lunge by Ben Lovejoy, as well as Andy Greene not taking away the cross ice pass, Teuvo Teravainen would get Carolina within one 3-2.
That would be all for the scoring though. Mrazek would go off for an extra man again, but no more pucks would go into either net, and the Devils would skate away to start their road trip with a 3-2 home victory.
The Game Highlights: NHL.com brings a recap package that will actually make you happy if you didn’t view today’s game live:
The Corsi Corner: Outside of the top line, it was an ugly afternoon for puck possession and shots taken for the Devils. Despite them pulling out the win, only two players were over 50% CF and this is with an even number of penalty calls for each team. Part of this was due to the fact that the Canes were playing catch up for almost 50 minutes of the game, but it also highlights the struggles the Devils are having, particularly without Taylor Hall in the lineup.
If you want to see the stats for yourself, head on over to the above link at Natural Stat Trick, because I’ve posted more than enough ugly numbers lately.
Evaluation Proclamation Part II: Ryan Murphy had a decent showing in 14:16 of ice time, and hopefully with more practices and getting further acclimated with this team, he could be a useful player. I know he’s not going to be the solution on the back end that the Devils need, but finding more solid pieces means the Devils can move on from certain players (named Ben Lovejoy) who constantly make silly mistakes.
I thought Nick Lappin looked less than impressive, and honestly didn’t add anything to the team that Joey Anderson wouldn’t have. Considering that one of them is coming off of an injury and one of them is just coming up from the AHL, I would hope that there’s a lineup change on Tuesday.
Speaking of evaluating, the broadcast was mentioning how the Gabriel/Rooney/Seney line has been good and providing energy. While I agree with the latter piece, I don’t agree with the former, as this line has found themselves hemmed in their own end for extended sessions in the few games they’ve been together. I think Tuesday night will go a long way in showing that this line staying together long term is not a cure for any of the problems ailing the team.
Hot, Hot Hischier: Nico Hischier continues to grow as an NHL center and will certainly big a big piece of the future for the Devils for a long time to come. He had a strong three assist performance today after being robbed on a breakaway yesterday, and it was nice to see him come out of the weekend with some points. He’s now one shy of 40 on the season, 13 shy of tying his career high, and there’s still 27 games to go. I think there’s still some more for potential for him to tap into, but he’s showing himself to be a consistent player and the Devils need him to keep producing.
A Final Thought: Congratulations to Ryan Murphy for his primary assist, giving him a point in his first game as a Devil. It was a beautiful play and I’m glad Zacha buried the shot, because those points were well earned.
Your Take: The New Jersey Devils found a way to defeat the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2. A number of young players made strong contributions and Marcus Johansson either increased his value or made a good case to remain a Devil. Sound off on the victory or the MoJo situation in the comments below!
Thank you to Jenna for the game preview, to Mike for providing coverage on the @AAtJerseyBlog account, and to everyone who commented in the gamethread. Thank you all as always for reading.