Twenty-four hours earlier, Damon Severson played one of his worst games as an NHL player, taking three consecutive penalties which led to an eventual Kings power play goal, and ultimately, a Devils loss. Tonight, the veteran blueliner redeemed himself scoring the game winning goal in the shootout as the New Jersey Devils defeated the San Jose Sharks 3-2 and salvaged a disappointing California road trip with a win.
The Devils and Sharks traded blows over the first 9 and a half minutes of the opening frame, with the Devils earning a slight advantage in shots. Severson went to the box at the 9:37 mark for hooking John Leonard. San Jose generated a few scoring chances with the man advantage, but Jonathan Bernier held strong and the Devils caught a bit of a break as well with the puck deflecting off of the post. After the penalty expired, the Sharks continued to build on that momentum until Rudolfs Balcers hooked Jesper Bratt. Nico Hischier got a shot from the high danger area before the Sharks got a clear. Alex Holtz showed off his big shot from the left circle off of a feed from Ty Smith, but James Reimer stopped the puck. Yegor Sharangovich forced a turnover in the offensive zone on the tail end of the power play but his shot was deflected and the power play expired. The Sharks hit the post a second time after the TV timeout and controlled the pace of play in the closing minutes of the first. New Jersey finished with a slight edge in shots on goal (10 to 9), but San Jose finished with a slight edge in CF% and xGF%, they hit the post several times, and they were buzzing towards the end of the period, so I’d give the Sharks the slight edge in Round 1.
New Jersey went on the power play early in the second as Nick Bonino caught Nico Hischier in the neutral zone with a high stick. The Devils got a few shots through to Reimer but couldn’t put one behind him and the Sharks killed off the penalty. San Jose took the 1-0 lead moments later as Mario Ferraro caught Jesper Bratt and PK Subban out of position defensively and found Rudolfs Balcers for the tap in. The Sharks nearly doubled their lead moments later as Subban was caught out of position again in front of Bernier. The Devils were fortunate that the Sharks couldn’t find the loose puck by Bernier’s pads because Bernier himself had trouble finding it before the Devils eventually cleared the puck.
Reimer made a brilliant left pad kick save to deny a golden opportunity by Andreas Johnsson in the closing minutes of the second. The Devils kept the pressure on, as Mike McLeod dropped the puck back to Nico Hischier, who found Ryan Graves all alone with Reimer out of position. Graves fired the puck towards the open net, and while Reimer was able to recover enough to get a piece of the puck with his blocker, it still wound up in the back of the net and the game was tied 1-1.
All aboard the Gravy train! pic.twitter.com/jeqKLq19gh— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) November 7, 2021
The Sharks were on their way to a dominant second period but the Devils strong play towards the end of the frame made the numbers a little more respectable. More importantly, the Devils went to the dressing room with the game tied and 20 minutes to play.
New Jersey went to the power play early in the third as Balcers tripped Johnsson in the offensive zone, but the Devils continued to show their ineptitude with the man advantage as the Sharks repeatedly cleared the puck and kept the Devils from getting set up. San Jose easily killed the penalty and got a man advantage of their own as Janne Kuokkanen was caught high sticking. The Sharks made the Devils pay for this mistake immediately as Jonathan Dahlen ripped the puck past a screened Jonathan Bernier for the 2-1 lead.
Jesper Bratt went off for a careless tripping penalty at the 7:06 mark. The Devils penalty kill did a better job of pressuring the Sharks on the power play and killed the penalty. New Jersey was fortunate to get away with a too many men penalty shortly after. Play opened up moments later as Bratt nearly found Johnsson for a grade A scoring chance, but the puck went the other way after Graves’s shot from the blueline was blocked and Bernier made the huge save on the 3-on-1.
Dawson Mercer was tripped by Andrew Cogliano in the Devils end with 5:37 to go and the Devils power play got another opportunity. The Sharks immediately cleared the puck and got another clear 30 seconds later as the Devils couldn’t corral the puck along the boards. The Devils finally got set up with the second unit with about 50 seconds to go on the man advantage but Jesper Bratt’s stick failed him on the shot attempt and the time expired with the Devils 0-4 on the power play.
The Devils broke through with 2:56 to go as Janne Kuokkanen made up for his penalty earlier in the period, found the loose puck, and put it past Reimer to tie the game at 2! With the Devils and Sharks unable to score again in regulation, we’re heading to overtime!
Pavel Zacha won the faceoff to open the overtime but turned the puck over shortly after gaining the zone. The Sharks turned it over themselves as Brent Burns couldn’t handle a pass in the neutral zone. Nico Hischier took the puck and fed it to Dawson Mercer who went strong to the net but couldn’t put it past Reimer. The Sharks went the other way and Damon Severson did a good job getting a stick on Logan Couture’s shot. Balcers cut to the net with a power move and Bernier corralled the puck for the first stoppage. Zacha lost the defensive zone draw but the Devils recovered the puck and gained the offensive zone. Kuokkanen found Smith for the shot attempt that went high off of the glass. Johnsson dumped the puck to a trailing Bratt who fed Severson who shot the puck wide. Hischier again tried to feed the puck to Mercer in front, who tried to redirect the puck past Reimer but to no avail. The Sharks got a scoring chance the other way as Brent Burns fought off a backcheck by Tomas Tatar but Bernier turned the longtime Shark away. San Jose threatened in the final minute of overtime but Bernier made the blocker save and we’re heading for another skills competition to decide this one.
Sharks captain Logan Couture went in with a head of steam and snapped the wrister by Bernier for the quick 1-0 advantage. Jesper Bratt went in slowly and shot the puck into Reimer’s skate, but it had enough momentum to barely cross the goalline to tie it at 1. Rudolfs Balcers skated full speed and fired it off of the post. Alexander Holtz got a chance but didn’t lift the puck quite enough and fired it into Reimer’s pad. Tomas Hertl fired one off of the blocker, giving Damon Severson a chance to win it. Severson gained a measure of redemption as he froze Reimer and flipped the puck under the bar and past Reimer for the 3-2 shootout win!
Damon Dangles for the dub! pic.twitter.com/qaI7DJ7B0A— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) November 7, 2021
The Opposition Opinion: Visit Fear The Fin for the Sharks perspective on tonight’s game.
Special teams awful yet again
Once again, the Devils poor play on special teams put the team behind the eight ball and made things more difficult than they needed to be. Fortunately on this night, the Devils won in spite of their ineptitude on special teams.
The Devils ineffective power play early in the second once again sucked away any momentum the team had built. The Sharks broke through minutes later once the teams were back at 5v5. The Devils followed that up with an embarrassingly bad power play where they nearly got scored on, and gave up the go-ahead goal after a foolish high sticking penalty. The Devils power play continually generated little to nothing in terms of dangerous scoring threats and wound up going 0 for the road trip.
Gerard posed the question when is enough, enough with Recchi and Nasreddine and fortunately for them, they get a bit of a brief reprieve because the Devils ultimately won the game. However, I suspect this will only continue to be a recurring issue throughout the season regardless of what personnel the Devils put out there. The Devils are systemically broken and I don’t know how this gets fixed other than firing the coaches.
Ruff’s line blender gets a workout
Late in the second period, Lindy Ruff decided he’s seen enough from the lines and mixed things up, reuniting Zacha and Tatar with Hischier and Johnsson and Bratt with Mercer. It’s tough to argue with the results, as the Devils picked up the pace late in the second period and got the equalizer. It’s also not exactly a glowing review of what Ruff thinks of Alexander Holtz’s play through the first 36 minutes or so of the game.
Fortunately, the changes worked as the Devils played a much stronger third period. The Tatar-Hischier-Zacha line combined for a 85.71% CF%. The Johnsson-Mercer-Bratt line continued their strong play of late, posting a 76.92 CF% in the final frame.
I believe the biggest issue with the lines continues to be the lack of a quality option at center with Jack Hughes still out of the lineup. We’ve seen enough of Michael McLeod to know he probably shouldn’t be playing any higher in the lineup than as the 4th center, and we’ve seen enough of Frederik Gauthier to see that he brings very little to the table. With the Devils returning from the West Coast, I would strongly urge Ruff and the Devils braintrust to consider giving Jesper Boqvist a look as the 3C since nothing else the team has tried in Hughes’s absence has worked.
Alex Holtz struggles at 5v5
Corey Masisak noted that Holtz was benched for the final 5:25 of the second period, as the Sharks picked on him at 5v5. These struggles necessitated the aforementioned lineup changes. Holtz only took a handful of shifts in the third, with the bulk of that time coming on the Devils failed power plays, and he didn’t see the ice again until the shootout.
I wouldn’t be too concerned about Holtz’s long-term prognosis off of two so-so games in California, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if they pulled the plug on the Holtz experiment for now and revisit the idea once Jack Hughes returns. It’s not that the Devils couldn’t use Holtz’s shot on the power play, but they might be better suited in the interim with a player who plays a stronger two-way game.
Bernier bounces back
Jonathan Bernier, like many of the Devils players, had a rough night in Tuesday’s 4-0 loss to the Ducks, but he was very sharp tonight. He stopped 25 of the 27 shots he saw tonight, including 4 saves in overtime.
Now that Bernier and Mackenzie Blackwood are healthy, its refreshing to see that the Devils goaltending can give the team a chance to win on any given night. This is the first time in a long, long time that we can say this about Devils goaltending. Of course, it would also be nice if the rest of the Devils could be more consistent, pick it up offensively and help their goaltenders out so they don’t have to carry this team on a nightly basis.
Sharks pick on Siegenthaler-Subban, or do they?
The Jonas Siegenthaler-PK Subban pairing really struggled over the first two periods, although I think a lot of those issues can be tied to the struggles of the Sharangovich-Mercer-Holtz line in the first two periods. Subban and Siegenthaler’s CF% was 0 with Holtz and Sharangovich.
I believe Subban looked particularly bad on the first Sharks goal and nearly got caught out of position again moments later, but I can also acknowledge that Siegenthaler and Subban were more likely victims of the poor play by the forwards they were with and had to do heavier lifting, especially with Dougie Hamilton still sidelined. I’m inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt, as they’ve played fine for the most part this season. Both players finished with more respectable numbers once Holtz was benched and I don’t think that was by accident.
Final Thoughts from me
Ty Smith and Colton White played a strong game as a defensive pairing, which would support the theory that Smith might be better suited with a more defensive defenseman. I’m not really sure how the Devils can provide that when everyone is healthy, but its something to file away in the mental rolodex.
Jesper Bratt continues to look like a completely different player since his benching. He barely edged out Hischier for most ice time among forwards and once again, was all over the place on the ice in a positive way. He appears to have gotten the message of what is expected of him from the coaching staff, and I’m wondering if Ruff has anymore tricks up his sleeve to get some of the Devils other underperforming forwards going (looking at you, Yegor Sharangovich), since the bottom six continues to be a mess.
Let’s hear from you!
Lindy Ruff made some key lineup changes in the second period and the Devils were able to respond in a big way with a strong third period to beat a depleted Sharks team. However, many of the issues that have plagued the Devils in the early part of the season with their poor special teams play continued to plague them. I’m pleased that Severson redeemed himself after Friday’s poor outing and that the Devils got the win tonight, but they’ll need to be much sharper than what we’ve seen recently when they return home for Tuesday’s date against the red hot Florida Panthers.
Are you pleased with the win tonight? Would you like to see the Devils top two lines remain together going forward? What can the Devils do to fix their awful special teams play? Have we seen the last of Alex Holtz in a Devils uniform for now? Please feel free to leave a comment below, and thank you for reading.