Miracles do happen.
1st Period: The Devils, trying to end a three game losing streak, faced off against the NHL best Washington Capitals, and got off with a better first period. The Devils got the first shot off over four minutes into a game, with a Nikita Gusev slap-shot saved by Holtby. Tom Wilson then got the first shot for the Capitals 4:30 into the game, which was saved by Louis Domingue. On the proceeding faceoff, Wilson had two great chances both saved by Domingue, and then the Devils did first damage. Off a neutral-zone faceoff, Will Butcher was able to send a puck to Nico Hischier, who took advanced of Richard Panik and drove the net past Holtby for a 1-0 lead. Connor Carrick recorded a secondary assist. The sophomore’s hot streak continued, and the Devils grabbed the lead.
Wayne Simmonds responded well a minute after the goal, deking past multiple Capital defenders and getting oh-so close to a goal, backhanding a shot off the post. After this, Kevin Rooney and Jesper Bratt both had shots stopped by Holtby.
At some point after this, Washington hit a crossbar off a deflected shot, representing their first incredibly dangerous chance.
A little bit after this, Alex Ovechkin was driving into the zone, and proceeded to get a heavy wrist-shot off, but did get hooked by Travis Zajac in the process. On the proceeding power-play, Ovechkin and Jakub Vrana had many shots on goal, all of which were stopped by Vrana.
To end off the game, Blake Coleman had the opportunity to score off of Holtby, but nailed the post.
2nd Period: The Devils, looking to expand on their lead, started off with a bang. Blake Coleman, off a nice feed from Travis Zajac, was robbed by Blake Coleman. Tom Wilson then took a slashing penalty early in the period, and the Devils piled chances off shots from Wayne Simmonds and Sami Vatanen. Almost immediately after the penalty, Will Butcher wristed a shot from the blue line, and the puck deflected to Nikita Gusev, who did a nice job of taking the puck while bouncing and slapping it into the open net, giving the Devils a 2-0 lead.
After this goal, the Capitals finally woke up. Louis Domingue made a huge save on Jakub Vrana after this goal, and then impressed by stopping a Carl Hagelin shot from 6 feet out. Then, Miles Wood took a double minor for high-sticking, which he may have been pushed into. With four minutes of penalty time to kill, the Devils took advantage. A John Carlson shot was blocked by Andy Greene, who then proceeded to pass the puck over to Travis Zajac. Zajac, as he does so well, was able to find Blake Coleman driving the net, who proceeded to deke to his backhand a goal past Holtby.
The Devils, somehow dominating this penalty kill offensively, then sprung Blake Coleman on a shorthanded breakaway, which was stopped by Holtby. Power-play specialist Jakub Vrana then did what he does best — scoring on the power play. A shot by Nicklas Backstrom was stopped, but not corralled by Domingue, who then got the pass over to Jakub Vrana who deposited the puck into the empty net for a 3-1 lead.
Luckily for the Devils, that would be it for Washington. The Devils did a great job of neutralizing the Capitals as Washington did not take another shot for four minutes. During that time, superstar Nico Hischier capitalized for the Devils again, beating Holtby on a one-timer 30 feet out on a feed from Kyle Palmieri.
Domingue then made some nice chances in the rest of the period, stopping a Backstrom tip-in and a Kuznetsov snapshot, taking the Devils into the 3rd up 4-1.
3rd Period: The 3rd had a more conservative, patient Devils team, content with keeping their lead. This time, unlike early in the year, the Devils were able to hold on defensively. Two minutes into the game, a Lars Eller one-timer was stopped by Domingue, and a repeat instance occurred 3 minutes later on a Jakub Vrana one-timer. Radko Gudas was then stopped on a slapshot 18 feet out, before Holtby made a similarly good stop on Pavel Zacha. Nico Hischier was called for elbowing, a call I heavily questioned, and Lars Eller was unable to score on an open pass. A TJ Oshie slapshot was robbed, before PK Subban then received a delay-of-game penalty, but nothing came from the abbreviated 5-on-3. The penalty was then killed, and chances were few and in-between, and marked by a Miles Wood empty net goal. The Devils won 5-1, and fans could go home happy.
The Game Highlights:
Who Played Well:
According to Corsi.... no one but Gusev-Coleman-Zajac. However, this is heavily skewed by a third period where the Devils were trying to play defensively and not shoot themselves. From what I saw, and what the general consensus seems to be, is that Nico Hischier was a monster and ace on the ice, dominating possession and bullying the Capitals defenders into chances. I thought Pavel Zacha had a pretty good game, and his name seemed to be called a lot in great chances. Defensively, I thought Andy Greene and Connor Carrick had great games, being reliable and blocking chances when needed.
For the Capitals, Jakub Vrana was a hound on the puck, shooting whenever he could and scaring the Devils with chances. Nic Dowd and TJ Oshie seemed to create trouble as well for the Devils.
Who Played Badly:
Probably every Capital not named Jakub Vrana, TJ Oshie or Nic Down. Backstrom and Ovechkin seemed more sloppy than usual, while John Carlson’s defensive deficiencies were on full display tonight.
Miles Wood, John Hayden and Kevin Rooney were unsurprisingly the only line that stuck out as struggling for the Devils.
Your Thoughts: Celebrate, the Devils won! Who played well, and who didn’t in your eyes? Will this great play continue next game? Let me know in the comments below, and take care!