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Nico Daws, Nico Hischier, and Pavel Zacha Lead Devils to 2-1 Overtime Win Against Sabres

It was not looking good early, but the Devils turned it around and deserved this win.

NHL: Buffalo Sabres at New Jersey Devils
Our two goalscorers.
Tom Horak-USA TODAY Sports

First Period

Nico Daws, making his debut for the New Jersey Devils, made his first save of the game nearly a minute and a half in as Tage Thompson slipped in for a high slot wrist shot. This was after the Devils had spent much of the beginning of the game in their offensive zone, fighting for shots but not getting anything in close.

Jonas Siegenthaler took the first penalty at 1:57 in the first period, holding Jeff Skinner as Skinner had gotten behind him on the rush. It might have been his best choice at that point, as Skinner is a threat to score, but Siegenthaler needs to position himself better.

On the penalty kill, the Devils fared rather well in the first minute, getting an initial clear by Fredrik Gauthier and then Michael McLeod keeping up the pressure and not allowing any transition. However, with Smith, Hamilton on the ice, Dylan Cozens scored on a wrist shot as he got open inside the faceoff circle.

After the goal, the Devils drew a penalty, as Nico Hischier drew a hook. P.K. Subban took control at the top of the zone, prolonging the possession for the Devils to have an extra attacker. Pavel Zacha centered the puck for Nico Hischier, who jammed the puck under Tokarski’s pad, and possibly into the net. However, the whistle was blown, and the referees called it interference for pushing the pad into the net. Lindy Ruff was not satisfied with the power play, and challenged the no-goal call.

The replay shows Nico Hischier jamming his stick under Tokarski’s pad, driving the puck through. However, Nico’s stick forced the pad into the net, and the call stood. Lindy Ruff lost his team a power play because he made a rather stupid challenge. Jimmy Vesey served the bench minor.

Pavel Zacha lost the four-on-four draw, and later took away the puck in the offensive zone. However, he passed across to Ryan Graves, who was unable to take the pass. The Devils had to recollect in their defensive zone, and Graves turned play back ahead to Tomas Tatar. Him and Sharangovich lost the puck in the corner. Ty Smith absorbed a block on a point shot, and appeared to be in some pain. On the other end, Marian Studenic circled the net, protecting the puck and giving the Devils a chance to set up in the offensive zone. He got open for a one-timer, which Tokarski had to make a glove save on.

Nico Daws showed off his lateral movement near the halfway point in the period. On the rush, he had kicked out a shot, challenging the shooter. However, the Devils did not cover the rebound very much and Daws move across quickly to smother another shot by Drake Caggiula with his chest. It was a very nice play to get across, but if he could learn how to control his rebounds better - that would be fantastic.

After the Hischier line had gotten the puck deep with a bit over eight minutes to play, they played it back to Damon Severson, whose shot was blocked and turned into a three-on-two. Hinestroza’s shot hit Daws in the shoulder and deflected off the crossbar. John Hayden then had a chance that Daws froze.

With a couple minutes left, Jesper Bratt had created a nice possession for the Devils, showing off some moves and nice passing. He, unfortunately, played it back to Ryan Graves, whose shot went wide without a deflection. The Sabres then tested Daws again, with Jeff Skinner on the doorstep nearly having a puck to poke at. Ryan Graves then took him as the whistle blew, but no roughing was called, thankfully. Nico Daws was able to hang on for the rest of the period, keeping the game at 0-1.

Second Period

Tomas Tatar drew a tripping call, which gave them a power play a minute into the period. Viktor Olofsson had tripped him in the neutral zone. The power play started with Kuokkanen, Mercer, Sharangovich, Severson, and Subban. P.K. Subban went diving at the blueline to keep a puck in, which gave the Sabres a two-on-one, which was successfully defended by Severson. After wasting 30 seconds, the Devils gained the offensive zone before Rasmus Asplund cleared the puck from the corner as the first wave came on. Jesper Bratt and Dougie Hamitlon could not conenct twice in the offensive zone, killing another offensive zone possession. After the penalty ended, Jesper Bratt played the puck across to Ty Smith, who walked in and shot a puck that deflected off Tokarski and over the net. Then, Fredrik Gauthier fed Marian Studenic for a great shot, which went just wide - and then the Sabres took a delay of game call for shooting the puck over the glass.

Michael McLeod won the draw, but the Sabres quickly got the puck and cleared. He started with the second wave, and stayed on for Mercer. P.K. Subban then flubbed with the puck at the blueline, leading to another clear. The first wave came on after 45 seconds. Jesper Bratt turned the puck over in the neutral zone, and the Sabres got the puck deep again, but Severson recollected and passed ahead to Hischier. Hischier fed Tatar, who dragged through the egde of the slot and into the circle and forced Tokarski to make a glove save.

The Devils then held the zone on a clearing attempt twice, but Robert Hagg got it on the third attempt following the faceoff. The Devils recollected after a turnover by Hamilton on a bad drop pass, and Nico Hischier created another opportunity for Tatar right in front of Tokarski, and he nearly scored on the play. The Devils were unable to recollect the loose puck after a netside scramble kicked it to the corner.

Marian Studenic created a breakaway after a blocked shot, and he was possibly held behind but fought through it and had an open net after making Tokarski go down. Somehow, he hit the post with the shot, and the puck bounced around and was passed back to Yegor Sharangovich, who shot it off the crossbar as Tokarski flailed for the puck.

Dawson Mercer took a penalty for tripping with 10:18 to play in the period, as he took Rasmus Asplund by behind and lost his stick in the skate. Gauthier, Vesey, Severson, and Graves started the kill. Jimmy Vesey took the puck away early off a deflected pass, and he wasted some time by skating around the Buffalo net with the puck. Yegor Sharangovich later failed to clear the puck, before Michael McLeod closed down on a Sabre and did it himself. Toward the end of the kill, P.K. Subban blocked a Kyle Okposo shot and Nico Hischier gloved a high puck out of the zone. Dawson Mercer, flying around after coming out of the box, hit the post on the rush. Dougie Hamilton got another chance after the Devils regained the zone, and his shot was deflected wide by Mercer. However, the Devils got caught too low in the offensive zone as Nico Daws had to face down a breakaway after a simple breakout pass that put Drake Caggiula behind all backcheckers. Caggiula’s shot was saved by Daws, and he then made two more saves, freezing the puck off a redirection.

Nico Hischier had a golden opportunity to score as the Devils had good cycling going. Jonas Siegenthaler’s shot deflected high, and Hischier collected it with his back to the net. I thought he was going to shoot, but he slid it quickly across to Jesper Bratt for a one-timer, but Bratt wasn’t expecting the play. After they got back on the ice, Nico Hischier took a far-away wrist shot that was struggled with by Tokarski, and Pavel Zacha was cross-checked in the arm as the whistle blew. Nico Hischier went down the tunnel after the stoppage, as there was only a minute and change left and he was laboring during the last few minutes.

In terms of shot generation, the Devils had an excellent period. They led in shots 22-18 after two, after they had trailed 13-8 after one. Still, Daws was occasionally tested and Nico was possibly injured. His line had an excellent period, as did all of the Devils who led high-danger scoring chances 9-2 in the second period. Of course, they needed to score.

Third Period

Nico Hischier started the third period on the bench, grimacing as he occasionally put his head down. The McLeod line started the period, with Vesey in Sharangovich’s place. The Devils gained the puck in their own end, as Ty Smith broke out to Janne Kuokkanen, who dumped in. McLeod slapped the puck around from behind the net, but Smith was at the top of the zone near the middle and the Sabres took possession soon after. The Hischier line came on, and Hischier turned the puck over on a pass to Hamilton that gave Asplund a chance all alone. Daws stayed calm in net and made the save, freezing the puck.

As Jesper Bratt took a perimeter shot in an attempt to create a deflection opportunity for Andreas Johnsson, Johnsson was taken down by Dahlin as Johnsson went for the tip. The Devils went to the power play. The first wave started the power play and set up a shot for Pavel Zacha, who ripped it wide. Dougie Hamilton broke out from behind the net, and the Devils set up a second time. Nico Hischier played the puck from the goal line to Hamilton, whose shot was frozen by Tokarski as Tatar was more focused on cross-checking Robert Hagg than going for a deflection. The Sabres won the next draw and cleared. Hamilton gave Zacha a bad pass, but Zacha fought off the defender and the Devils struggled into the zone. Jesper Bratt had Zacha for a pass on the rush, but the pass was too close to the crease for Zacha. The Devils set up for another shot from Hamilton, and Nico Hischier was on the doorstep for the rebound, which he knocked in with the backhand to tie the game! 1-1.

Damon Severson made an excellent hold of the zone a minute later, feeding Frederik Gauthier and getting into position for the one-timer as he cut toward the net. His shot nearly beat Tokarski, as it was just fought off.

Ryan Graves was knocked down by a hard check in the Devils’ defensive zone, which caused him to go off ice during a stoppage. Dawson Mercer, a minute or so later, took the puck away in the neutral zone and sprung Jesper Bratt. However, there was a man back and Bratt only got a weak shot off. Graves came back on later with about seven and a half to play.

Jesper Bratt chipped the puck up for Michael McLeod, who dumped the puck in with seven minutes to play. Mercer came on for Johnsson, and the Devils set up two chances for Mercer - one being a slot shot that went high.

With five minutes and 45 seconds to play, the Devils had a surprise rush as they were in between lines, and Fredrik Gauthier split the Buffalo defense, backhanding a shot that nearly squeezed through underneath Tokarski’s arm.

With two and a half minutes to play, the Devils had the McLeod line on the ice and took the puck away in their defensive zone, creating a transition opportunity. However, McLeod hesitated as they entered the offensive zone, causing an offsides whistle. Had they been synchronized, they would have had a three-man rush chance.

With just over a minute to play, the Sabres finally had a chance to score. Nico Daws made a save on a dangerous shot from the slot off a high-deflecting puck. It was an uncomfortable moment, but Daws stood strong. Following a faceoff, Marian Studenic flipped the puck out of play in the neutral zone, killing the transition. Pavel Zacha won the following draw, but the Devils lost the puck after entering the zone. They recollected, but Zacha lost it to Asplund at the top of the zone. The Devils forced the puck low to the corner, and the Sabres won it out for one more pass that went well wide of the target - and much too fast for anyone to play it, bringing the game to overtime.

Overtime

The Devils started overtime with Michael McLeod, Pavel Zacha, and Dougie Hamilton against Tage Thompson, Viktor Olofsson, and Rasmus Dahlin. McLeod won the draw and got off for Jesper Bratt. Hamilton nearly drew a hook from Thompson and played it back to Bratt. They crossed up and Hamilton’s shot was gloved and played away by Tokarski.

The Devils kept the Sabres at bay for awhile, but Dahlin cut in and fired a shot wide. Jesper Bratt got on the far away rebound, which turned to a breakaway chance which he backhanded wide. Ty Smith then broke up a stretch pass chance for Rasmus Asplund as Hischier and Tatar came onto the ice. Dougie Hamilton then turned over the puck on a breakout, and Mercer came on for Hischier. Mercer got a pass from Tatar, and the Devils got the puck into their offensive zone. Sharangovich took it behind the net and fought for it, but Mercer sent a pass to the point too wide for Severson.

Zacha and Sharangovich were on the ice, and Zacha entered the zone with swagger, dropping a pass for Severson. Damon Severson drew a defender to the high slot, faking shot, and slipped the puck behind him for Pavel Zacha, who wound up from his favorite spot - the circle - and beat Tokarski with a far post shot to win the game for the Devils. Overtime win! 2-1, Devils.

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: Die By the Blade has the Buffalo-sided opinion.

The Highlights

The First Line Needed to Produce. They Did.

After last game, Lindy Ruff called the first line out directly as a group that needs to step up in Jack Hughes’ absence. While Jesper Bratt was taken off the line as Tomas Tatar was given a field promotion, it was Nico Hischier and Pavel Zacha who were responsible for the clutch game-tying and game-winning goals. In 8:54, Bratt-Nico-Zacha had a 57.14 CF%, were outshot 6-8, but had a 58.55 xGF% (0.41-0.29). In 3:21, Tatar-Nico-Zacha had an 80.00 CF%, outshot Buffalo 3-1, and had a 92.85 xGF% (0.34-0.03). Nico, Bratt, and Zacha were on-ice for 1.14, 1.13, and 1.04 total expected goals for in five-on-five play, with Hischier tying Severson for team-lead. Nico Hischier also led the team in all-situation individual-expected goals with 0.8, while Tatar was second with 0.52, Bratt was sixth with 0.2, and Zacha was seventh with 0.19. Hischier led the team with four high-danger scoring chances, five shots, and three rush attempts. He was hungry for a goal, and it was quite a play when he finally got it.

Nico Daws Making a Statement Debut

Nico Daws, who was 32nd on the Top 25 Under 25 list, was thrust into action tonight after Scott Wedgewood has only a below-average (but understandably so) performance against the Capitals on Thursday. Without Bernier or Blackwood, the Devils played their fourth string goaltender in the fourth game of the year. And while he gave up the early goal, Daws was about as good as a goaltender can be. He stopped a few great chances for the Sabres, including a breakaway save and showing off some great lateral movement.

I am also pretty amused this came true:

It might have only been possible due to injuries, but Nico Daws showed he is capable of playing an NHL game. He stopped 24 of 25 shots tonight, with 1.99 expected goals against. That’s a fine start for the youngest goalie to make his debut for the Devils since Martin Brodeur in 1992. I said after last game I thought Daws would make more saves on plays where Wedgewood is limited by his post-injuries mobility. I think he proved that right with his cross-crease movement tonight. He was also very poised and in position after he really settled in. I think we will continue to see Daws get starts until Bernier or Blackwood come back.

The Reshuffled Lines Worked Tonight

While the team got hemmed in at times this game, Lindy Ruff’s line shuffling actually worked out tonight. He switched Bratt and Tatar, as well as Sharangovich with Vesey. All reconfigured lines had excellent ends to this game.

Meanwhile, Sharangovich-Gauthier-Studenic had a 62.50 CF% in 5:22 together, going with an 83.46 xGF%. I do not know why, but Jesper Bratt seemed to be playing much tougher on a line with Mercer than Hischier. He was fighting more on the boards and pushing play more. Bratt needs to watch his backchecks, though - he is a capable defender and needs to keep himself in the play more often. I do not know if he has been frustrated with the offense so far, but I hope he comes ready for next game now that Hischier and Zacha officially seem warmed up. I think I would like to see Kuokkanen-McLeod-Vesey and Sharangovich-Gauthier-Studenic stay together at the start of next game if Miles Wood is not back, though.

Another Rough Game for Graves-Hamilton; A Great Season Debut for Smith-Severson

Tonight was the first night that both Ty Smith and Damon Severson played together for the New Jersey Devils this season. Like last season, they were extremely effective for the New Jersey Devils tonight. Playing 16:07 together, they had a 63.33 CF%, were on the ice for the Devils outshooting Buffalo 10-5, and had a 73.75 xGF% (1.09-0.39). Severson in particular was very active offensively while Smith was surprisingly effective in the back end in addition to the neutral zone. Severson, of course, was rewarded on the stat sheet with the Overtime primary assist.

As you can see here, Graves and Hamilton did not fare so well. In 12:45 together at five-on-five, they had a 48.28 CF%, were outshot 7-12, and had a 28.58 xGF% (0.38-0.96). There is no excuse for them to play this poorly against the Buffalo Sabres, as they struggled against even players like Vinnie Hinosroza and Arttu Ruotsalainen (29.16 and 34.60 xGF% against, respectively). They just seemed to have nothing going their way tonight, and I hope they are on their game against Calgary.

Fredrik Gauthier is Earning His Minutes

While Mason Geertsen saw himself benched for Marian Studenic, who had a very good first period and then kind of disappeared after his near-breakaway, Fredrik Gauthier got another game tonight with the team lacking centers. To his credit, Gauthier played excellent for a fourth liner tonight. In 9:18 of five-on-five, he had a 61.90 CF%, 64.61 xGF% (0.64-0.35), two shots, 0.14 ixG, four hits, and won six of ten faceoffs. In 1:10 on the penalty kill, the Devils allowed no shots as Gauthier had a 0.00 xGA, winning one of two faceoffs and getting a timely clear. He was also making good decisions with the puck, showing some chemistry with Marian Studenic. On a team starved for depth, Fredrik Gauthier could be an answer for the team. He brings physicality that the team lost when Nathan Bastian was selected by the Kraken, and he made all the right decisions tonight in all three zones. Hopefully, he can prove that he’s more than the player he was in Toronto. For now, I am happy to see how he does in more games and maybe a few more minutes of playing time. Sharangovich and Studenic could be a nice change of pace from the usual linemates he has likely had in the past.

A thing I noticed looking at his stats is he happens to be a very disciplined player, having only 47 penalty minutes in now 172 games. He’s been plenty physical with the Devils so far and looked good on the penalty kill tonight, so I am increasingly intrigued by Gauthier at the moment. His play seems much more fruitful with Studenic to create with, and hopefully they make some chances for Sharangovich next game.

Your Thoughts

What did you think of tonight’s game? What did you make of the second-half line combinations? How did you feel about Nico Daws? Were you expecting a win from him? How are you feeling about Nico Hischier and Pavel Zacha? Do you think Gauthier is going to stick for awhile? How did you think Ty Smith played? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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