First Period: The first few minutes of the game were rather listless, with a couple icings and a lot of back-and-forths without any substantial zone time. The Hischier line successfully forechecked and took possession about three and a half minutes in, but turned over the puck after about 15 seconds of puck movement. The Zajac line took back possession on the next shift, but a pass to Travis Zajac from Joey Anderson in the slot was picked off right before Zajac could one-time the puck.
Michael McLeod took a pass from John Hayden and cut across the middle with a quick move around a defenseman that gave McLeod an open lane to the net. McLeod fired a slap shot from the inner half of the faceoff circle on his strong side just before another defenseman could close down on him, and Martin Jones made the save. I think that McLeod should leverage his reach and try to protect the puck in pursuit of better shots.
Fredrik Claesson made a backhand pass to escape an oncoming forecheck about eight and a half minutes into the game, allowing the Devils to breakout, but the fourth line turned the puck over and promptly allowed multiple shots with the Mueller-Subban pairing on before Kevin Rooney iced the puck.
Miles Wood and Travis Zajac combined for a great netfront goal eleven minutes into the game. After Miles Wood got the puck from Joey Anderson high in the offensive zone, he skated down the boards before cutting up the goal line for a power move across Martin Jones. Jones made the initial save, but Travis Zajac took two rebound attempts and the second got past Jones, making the game 1-0, Devils.
With just over seven minutes remaining in the perod, Kyle Palmieri entered the zone and fired a shot off Martin Jones, and the Devils fought for the puck before Jack Hughes poked it to Mermis, who fired from the blueline. The Devils got back on the puck again, and Palmieri had a chance in front off a pass from behind the net that was saved by Martin Jones as well.
Pavel Zacha did a great job to protect the puck while driving the net almost 15 minutes into the period, one-handing it to Nikita Gusev. The puck went past Gusev, but Zacha won the puck and centered the puck, which was taken back by Gusev - who went wide and then five hole on Martin Jones. 2-0, Devils. Zacha was not given an assist as his centering attempt hit a Sharks stick before Gusev took it back. However, it was Gusev’s 40th point of the season in his 60th game played.
The Devils took their first penalty of the game seventeen minutes and 22 seconds into the game, as they took a holding call. Miles Wood went to the box. Travis Zajac, Joey Anderson, Mirco Mueller, and Damon Severson were on the ice, but Evander Kane went off for holding Anderson seven seconds into the power play as Mueller was clearing the puck.
Dakota Mermis blocked a shot from Brent Burns with the blade of his stick about 40 seconds into four-on-four, which saved a sure goal on a two-on-one. More impressively, he blocked it while spinning.
After the penalties expired, the Devils and Sharks were unable to get any significant zone time, as Kyle Palmieri was knocked off the puck before he could collect a pass for a shot in the last few seconds of the period. Regardless, the teams went to intermission with the score 2-0, Devils.
After one period, the Devils were outshooting the Sharks 11 to six, as the game swung quickly in their favor after the goal by Travis Zajac. The even strength CF ratio was 17-15, Devils (53.13% to 46.88%), the scoring chance ratio was 15 to seven, Devils (68.18% to 31.82%), the high danger chance ratio was seven to one, Devils (87.5% to 12.5%), and the xGF ratio was 1.38 to 0.25, Devils (84.83% to 15.17%). The Devils were definitely earning it, despite the sluggish flow to the game. The Sharks got their only high-danger chance at four-on-four, when Mermis blocked Burns’ shot.
The only players under a 50.00 even strength CF% were John Hayden (40.00 in 3:58),Michael McLeod (33.33 in 4:25), P.K. Subban and Mirco Mueller (30.77 in 6:25 and 6:43, respectively), and Kevin Rooney (25:00 in 4:34). Subban and Mueller allowed five of the six shots the Sharks got on net.
Second Period: Joey Anderson blocked a Brent Burns slap shot just over a minute into the period, and Cory Schneider saved a shot from the boards about 10 seconds afterwards, before the Devils worked the puck out of the zone. Fredrik Claesson was going to take a penalty for taking someone down in the defensive zone after a re-entry. However, Mario Ferraro got the puck and took a wrist shot from the blueline, which got through a screen and past Schneider to make the game 2-1, negating the penalty.
Lean Bergmann took a holding call for taking Damon Severson down just under four minutes into the period. The Devils went to the power play, and Travis Zajac turned the puck over to Evander Kane as Zajac was trying to pass across to Palmieri about 25 seconds into the power play. Palmieri got back and stripped Kane of the puck. With the second wave of the power play on, Nikita Gusev turned the puck over to Brent Burns on a pass around the boards, who cleared it. The Devils were unable to reset, as Nico Hischier lost the puck off a bad Jack Hughes pass in the final seconds.
Joe Thornton won the puck from Dakota Mermis below the goal line and passed to Timo Meier, who went wide on Schneider. Schneider sprawled out to his left and stopped the backhand attempt with his glove, and then the several pokes from Kevin Labanc at the loose puck before the it was frozen.
After the first line got hemmed in for nearly a minute, Kyle Palmieri iced the puck nine minutes and 45 seconds into the period. Despite Jack Hughes blocking a Burns shot high and out of the zone, the Devils were unable to give support and never got the puck out of the zone successfully again. It was sluggish play against a more alert team.
About twelve minutes into the period, after being tied up with each other as play blown dead from Schneider freezing the puck, Stefan Noesen and P.K. Subban went to the box for coincidental roughing calls. The teams went to four-on-four hockey once more.
Kyle Palmieri had Nico Hischier for a two-on-one 45 seconds into four-on-four, but Vlasic cut down on Palmieri and blocked the pass away. In the final 20 seconds of the four-on-four, Logan Couture knocked the puck away from Jack Hughes towards the neutral zone, and Evander Kane sped down the ice with the puck before taking a slap shot from the faceoff circle, which Schneider saved.
Evander Kane took another penalty with just over five minutes to play in the second period. He was called for hooking in the Sharks’ offensive zone. Just prior to that, MSG viewers were privy to some news about a recently traded Devil.
Ken Danyeko just said on the #NJDevils broadcast that Blake Coleman's wife just gave birth. Congrats to Blake and family.— Craig Seiden (@CraigSeiden) February 28, 2020
On the power play, Kyle Palmieri got a chance early, but his shot at an open net hit the post. After a reset, Damon Severson played the puck to Jack Hughes twice, who passed behind Kyle Palmieri twice. After the second time, the Sharks won the puck and got a two-on-one where Marcus Sorensen received a pass across Damon Severson, and he tied the game at 2-2.
The Devils failed to respond in a meaningful way for the rest of the period, with multiple unnecessary turnovers and a lack of aggression in getting the puck on goal. After two periods, the shots were 18-17, Sharks. At even strength, the Sharks had 15 scoring chances and seven high-danger chances to the Devils’ five and two, and the xGF ratio in the second period was 1.46 to 0.37, Sharks.
Third Period: The Devils had a good deal of trouble to start the third period. The Thronton line hemmed in the Zacha line two minutes into the period, but did not get a shot before Pavel Zacha worked the puck out of the zone, but the puck was iced.
Jesper Bratt worked the puck out of the zone before Pavel Zacha went off for hooking just as the puck got back into the neutral zone. It was a bad penalty to take, as Zacha should have gotten off.
Cory Schneider stood strong on the penalty kill, as Logan Couture and Kevin Lebanc both took wrist shots where Schneider had to make glove saves. The Devils got a couple clears after Schneider froze play just over halfway into the penalty kill, and no damage was ultimately done.
The fourth line got some possession six minutes into the period, but only took one shot despite a good deal of cycling. John Hayden hit the outside of the post after skating around the net.
After the first line lost the puck upon coming onto the ice, the Sharks were going to be offsides on their zone entry - but Dakota Mermis took an interference call. The Devils would have to go the penalty kill yet again. Mermis took Noah Gregor down, which might have been embellished a bit. Regardless, the Devils went to the penalty kill.
The Sharks failed to get set, as the Devils worked the puck out of the defensive zone multiple times in the first minute. A minute and three seconds into the penalty kill, the Sharks iced the puck. Thornton won the draw against Zajac, and Evander Kane entered the offensive zone for the Sharks. Joey Anderson did a great job to close down on the puck by the boards, which freed the puck up for Mirco Mueller to get a clear. In the final 25 seconds of the penalty kill, Cory Schneider had a loose puck around the net but the Sharks could not jump on it before it was sent away, and the penalty expired.
Past the halfway mark of the final period of regulation, Noah Gregor split Carrick and Claesson and went backhand on Schneider, but he didn’t have enough room with Claesson closing down on him. Schneider got his pad far enough out, and kept the game tied.
Joey Anderson attempted to pass to Miles Wood entering the offensive zone, but Wood fell to the ice with a Sharks player on his back. There was no penalty called, and play was turned the other way. Marcus Sorensen got a pass from behind the net, and his shot from the slot was stopped and frozen by Schneider. Miles Wood tied up Sorensen’s stick on the play.
After a Mirco Mueller shot was redirected wide, Radim Simek took a delay of game call for sending the rebound from the boards out of the zone and over the glass. This was just after he elbowed Pavel Zacha along the boards before the dump-in from Bratt could reach Zacha, so he probably deserved to go to the box regardless.
On the power play, the Sharks cleared the puck from the first faceoff, and the Devils had to enter the zone. They were able to on one attempt, but were unable to get anything going. Damon Severson took the first shot 35 seconds into the power play, but it was nonthreatening and mostly taken to avoid the puck being taken away.
After the Devils won the draw, Jack Hughes dropped the puck behind the net for Nico Hischier, who sent the puck to Damon Severson. Severson tried to set Zajac and Palmieri up for a tip, but both whiffed in succession at Severson’s shot. After a Sharks clear with 25 seconds left in the power play, a Cory Schneider pass bounced past Pavel Zacha, which effectively ended the penalty. The Sharks iced the puck at even strength.
With just three and a half minutes to play, Dakota Mermis failed to knock the puck away from Timo Meier alone in the offensive zone, allowing the Sharks to get nearly half a minute of zone time. They were unable to get a shot on goal, however, and the Zajac line came on with Rooney and Anderson. Joey Anderson took a shot with 2 minutes and 45 seconds that rose just over the net.
With 45 seconds remaining in regulation, the Sharks iced the puck. Logan Couture chipped the puck down the ice following the draw to allow a change without an icing. Miles Wood then negated an icing for the Devils, but his centering attempt from behind the net went through wide open space in the slot and created a three-on-two for the Sharks. Fortunately, the Sharks were offsides. The final 20 seconds were uneventful, and the game went to overtime. Cory Schneider stopped 26 of 28 shots in regulation.
Overtime: At three-on-three, Nico Hischier, Damon Severson, and Kyle Palmieri faced off against Logan Couture, Brent Burns, and Evander Kane. Couture won the draw, and Brent Burns played the puck across Schneider 20 seconds into the game - but Kane was not there for the redirection. Couture got a shot from the high slot a few seconds later, and Couture got in close to take a no-look pass from Evander Kane off the rebound. Severson was not low enough to stop him from putting the puck past Schneider, as he doubled up on Kane. That’s not what you do at three-on-three, and the Devils lost 3-2.
The Opposition Opinion: Fear the Fin will have the recap for the Sharks side.
Win Games, Or Don’t: There is one result that is pretty much useless for the New Jersey Devils at this point of the season - the overtime loss. With this point, the Devils now have 61 points (25-27-11) in 63 games. The chance of closing the 15 point gap between them and the Columbus Blue Jackets is not really worth consideration after the trade deadline sale. Therefore, the Devils are resigned to be a lottery team. Their 61st point of the season puts them three above the Anaheim Ducks (58 points in 63 games) - though losing to the Sharks brings San Jose to 58 as well. The Devils have five teams below them, and I doubt Chicago (64 in 64 and 66 in 63) and Buffalo will be winning many games for the rest of the season.
If they don’t watch themselves, too many overtime loss points can be the difference between having better odds at a top three selection, or having a pick outside of the top five. I’m not in favor of outright tanking, but I would have rather seen the Devils give up a third period goal (and maybe see some fight afterwards) than see them hapless against the Sharks in overtime. It’s better for both the viewer and the standings.
Still .900: Cory Schneider gave up 3 goals tonight, which was a perfectly average performance according to Natural Stat Trick. In all situations, the Sharks had 3.01 expected goals against Schneider. Schneider saved 11 of 12 high danger shots (Couture), eight of nine medium danger shots (Marcus Sorensen’s two-on-one goal), and eight of nine low danger shots (Ferraro’s screened goal). He performed very well against an onslaught following the first intermission (the shots were 24 to 13 in that span).
At even strength, he had a 2.41 goals against average on 2.42 expected goals against. His 2 goals allowed on 24 shots carried a .917 save percentage of 49:52 of play. Schneider did not allow a five-on-five goal, with 18 saves. The Sharks had 1.93 expected five-on-five goals; with eight high, four medium, and six low danger shots.
Schneider saved five shots on the penalty kill, with two high, one medium, and two low danger shots on goal. The Sharks had 0.40 expected goals on the power play. Of course, the one shorthanded shot taken by the Sharks was the two-on-one one-timer from Sorensen. Schneider’s lateral movement is still not great, but he did get across on other opportunities where the Sharks went wide or tried to pass across him. For what it’s worth, he is able to adjust to his mistrusted lateral movement still gets him in better position than Louis Domingue.
Netfront Success: The Devils did a very good job at concentrating their shots close to Martin Jones tonight. In all situations, Jones saved seven of nine high danger shots, and seven of seven medium and low danger shots each. As you can see in the Natural Stat Trick heatmap for the game, the Devils didn’t really get that many shots from high in the zone, despite all of the cycling they were trying to do later in the game.
At this moment, I would like to revisit the goal by Nikita Gusev in the first period, and what happened leading up to it.
Pavel Zacha misses with two passes - the one-handed slide off of Tim Heed’s skate just before it reached Gusev, and then the centering pass from the corner after he had won the puck back. Zacha was not trying to pass back to Bratt - and he chose to play it to the front of the net rather than dump it around the boards, which might have given the Devils more time to try to reset or do a line change. His pass across Jones, which pulls Jacob Middleton into a precarious position with the puck right into the path of Nikita Gusev, was an act of aggression despite a lack of visible, immediate opportunity. His bet paid off, and the Devils need to attempt more of these plays rather than cycle all of the time. Zacha’s pass was conducive to a breakdown, and the Devils’ cycling frankly does not create those breakdowns with this roster.
Consistency: The Devils stayed competitive in this game mostly due to their dominance in an nine-minute span at the end of the first. Following the Zajac goal, possession and expected goals swung wildly in the Devils’ favor. After the intermission the Sharks dominated in possession, and the expected goals then swung in their favor after Ferraro’s goal from the point two minutes and 20 seconds into the second period. That swing happened despite the Devils getting a power play after the goal, and the opportunities slowed down at even strength on both sides for the remainder of the game.
To those who think that Alain Nasreddine should be back as head coach next season, the Sharks were in the midst of a five-game losing streak coming into tonight. For the Devils to blow a two-goal lead and not even make use of their power plays as the Sharks came back was really disappointing to watch.
One Line: Of the regularly-practiced Devils’ forward lines, only one broke even in both possession stats and expected goals - the Gusev-Zacha-Bratt line. In 9:42 together, their 64.29 CF% was highest on the Devils, as they outshot the Sharks six to two Their 0.61 xGF was second highest to the Zajac line, their 0.34 xGA was second lowest to the Rooney line. Their 63.97 xGF% was second to the Rooney line (which also only had one scoring chance and got outshot).
The Wood-Zajac-Anderson line was an analytic oddity tonight, with a 25.00 CF% in 8:34, as they got outshot four to eight. Their 0.73 xGF to 0.59 xGA is likely buoyed by the Miles Wood attempt and Travis Zajac goal in the first period. So, while the Zajac line started the scoring, they did very little to contribute opportunities as the game progressed.
Not So Fast: After the Devils called up Josh Jacobs earlier today, Fredrik Claesson and Connor Carrick put in a statistically strong performance, despite being pressured by the forecheck a few times. At even strength, they allowed four shots while being on the ice for four, being on for even strength goals for (Zajac) and against (Ferraro). Claesson was going to take a penalty just prior to the Ferraro goal, but it was a defensive blip in a game where their pairing had a 73.69 xGF% (0.81-0.29) in 13:16 of even strength play. Again, that xGF number is ballooned by Travis Zajac getting multiple netfront attempts before scoring. However, they were not as bad as the other pairings at allowing attempts. Mermis-Severson had a 34.79 xGF% (0.62-1.17) while being outshot 10 to eight with a 37.50 CF% in 16:57 as a pairing. Mueller-Subbam had a 40.64 xGF% (0.4-0.59) while being outshot eight to four with a 37.04 even strength CF% in 13:54 as a pairing. If Alain Nasreddine is going to insert Jacobs into the lineup soon, he might have to think twice about breaking up Claesson and Carrick given their success with the Rooney line at totally suppressing shots. Improving the attack with them on the ice is a need for the Devils in the final stretch of the season, however.
Your Thoughts: What did you think about tonight’s game? Were you able to stay up to watch it? In one way or another, did you feel like you had been seeing the ending coming before it happened? How did you feel about Connor Carrick and Fredrik Claesson’s performance? How did you feel about Cory Schneider’s performance? Did you feel like Alain Nasreddine was not doing enough to change the approach to the game? Why did you feel the first line struggled on defense tonight? 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.