Coming off of their first loss in regulation 24 hours earlier, many would have expected the league-best Florida Panthers to come into Tuesday’s game against the New Jersey Devils and take out their frustrations on one of the youngest teams in the league to get back on track. Florida played well, but the Devils were better on this night and New Jersey came away with a big 7-3 win on home ice.
The Devils got things started early down a man as Alex Holtz went to the box for hooking Anthony Duclair, but New Jersey did a nice job keeping either one of Florida’s power play units from getting set up and they killed the penalty relatively easily. Moments later, Carter Verhaeghe carried the puck into the Devils end and dumped the puck off to Owen Tippett, who found Sam Bennett behind Blackwood’s net. Blackwood stopped the initial wraparound attempt, but Bennett buried the second chance opportunity and the Panthers took an early 1-0 lead.
Florida continued to look impressive after the first TV timeout with a relentless forecheck and driving down the middle for legitimate high-danger scoring chances. That’s not to say the Devils didn’t have their chances though, but Pavel Zacha and Ty Smith missed the net on their opportunities. Verhaeghe nearly found Sasha Barkov on a great hustle play out of the second TV timeout that got turned away.
Lucas Carlsson went to the box for tripping at the 14:08 mark and the Devils power play got their first opportunity of the evening. Florida won the ensuing faceoff and cleared. Alexander Holtz, who was paired on the top line this evening with Pavel Zacha and Nico Hischier, put a long distance shot from the blueline on the mark for Spencer Knight to make the easy save. The Devils spent most of the rest of the man advantage struggling to gain the zone but Damon Severson carried it in and passed to Andreas Johnsson, who found Jesper Bratt all alone in front of Knight. The Panthers netminder stopped the initial attempt, but Johnsson wouldn’t miss the empty net off the rebound and the Devils scored a rare power play goal to tie the game.
Andreas Johnsson is an unstoppable force of nature. pic.twitter.com/qevWLdSiwG— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) November 10, 2021
The Devils added to their lead moments later as Nico Hischier deflected a Ty Smith long-distance shot past Knight for the 2-1 lead.
Florida woke up immediately after the Hischier goal and nearly tied the game themselves but Blackwood finally managed to cover the loose puck up after a few tense seconds. The Panthers finished the first with a slight CF% edge, but a fairly significant 5-1 advantage in the high danger corsi attempts and a 71.35% xGF%. The Panthers pushed hard in the first, so the Devils would need to tighten things up defensively and not allow so many high danger chances.
Unfortunately, the Devils did not tighten things up defensively to start the second, as Florida got an odd man rush seconds into the period. Jonas Siegenthaler laid out to block the initial shot but Verhaeghe found Barkov streaking in front of Blackwood to tie the game. Just over a minute later, Gustav Forsling picked on the Graves-Severson pairing and dished the puck to Owen Tippett, who got in behind Graves, for his third of the season and a 3-2 lead.
The Devils kept their composure though and bounced back right away with Johnsson’s second of the night.
The run of play continued to go back and forth over the next few minutes. Florida got their chances but couldn’t finish their passes. Alex Holtz nearly got his first NHL goal before the first TV timeout. Janne Kuokkanen sprang Jesper Boqvist for a shot that was turned away.
Johnsson went to the box with 8:08 to go in the period for tripping Bennett. The Devils got a quick clear and got a second clear off of a Barkov shot that was turned away by Blackwood. Patric Hornqvist tried to find Jonathan Huberdeau but the pass was intercepted and cleared. Florida only got one shot on goal and the Devils penalty kill improved to 2-for-2 on the evening.
The Devils regained the lead late in the second period as PK Subban took a feed from Dawson Mercer and fired his patented long-distance. Subban’s shot deflected off of a Florida Panther and went in past Knight for the 4-3 Devils lead.
Tempers flared late in the second period as Radko Gudas finished a hard check on Ryan Graves along the boards. Gudas received two minutes for charging and had a lot to say as he went to the box. Ty Smith found Holtz for a shot on net that was stopped but the Devils didn’t score to finish off the second period and carried over 39 seconds of power play time to begin the third.
Florida opened the third killing off the remainder of the Devils power play and getting a short-handed shot as Blackwood deflected an Anton Lundell shot out of play. The referees decided to swallow their whistles as Sam Reinhart tripped Michael McLeod, but the Devils got a power play moments later anyways as Bennett tripped Zacha. Bratt found Subban for a wide open look from the point but Subban was off the mark. Towards the tail end of the power play, Hischier and Holtz played the ol’ give-and-go, with Holtz sending the puck back to the captain. Hischier found Zacha on Knight’s right side, who stayed with it and buried the power play goal for the 5-3 lead.
The Devils kept the pressure on after the Zacha goal. Tyce Thompson, playing his first NHL game this season, nearly added to the Devils lead moments later with a shot off the post. Ty Smith took his shot off of an offensive zone draw and deflected off of a Panthers defenseman behind Knight. 6-3 New Jersey.
The boys are absolutely on a roll. pic.twitter.com/4Y3pdkI9sU— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) November 10, 2021
Florida continued their chippy play as Hornqvist went to the box for roughing with 11:30 to go. PK Subban was caught on the hot mic asking “What about Gudas”, but the Devils would have to settle for the old fashioned 5-on-4 power play. The Devils powerplay was uneventful and Smith was lucky his pass in the neutral zone didn’t end of as a short-handed opportunity the other way. Subban found the pipe late in the power play off of a feed from Tatar for the only real threat the Devils generated with the man advantage.
The Panthers pulled Knight for the extra skater with 5 minutes to go. Jimmy Vesey buried the clearing attempt slash shot at the empty net from his own zone for his third of the season, and the Devils put an exclamation point on this one. The Prudential Center crowd gave the Devils a well-earned standing ovation in the final seconds as the Devils won 7-3.
The Opposition Opinion: Visit Litterbox Cats for the Panthers perspective on tonight’s game.
Just try it, it might work?
One of the oldest hockey cliches is “throw the puck on the net and good things will happen”. Tonight, that’s exactly what happened for the Devils as they scored three goals off of deflections.
We rarely see the Devils get one of these types of goals where someone either gets a stick on it or it takes a fortunate bounce off of an opposing player, so to get three of them would suggest the Devils got lucky in this one. And maybe to an extent, they did get their share of puck luck. That said, sometimes you have to create your own luck. The Panthers made the decision to play a 20 year old rookie in net on both ends of a back-to-back and the Devils took advantage of it by firing the puck at him as much as they could. Sometimes, the bounces go your way when you do that.
Holtz’s best game so far
Lindy Ruff had the cojones to put Holtz on the top line tonight despite his struggles in the previous two games, and he was rewarded for that decision. Holtz easily looked more comfortable tonight than he did in the previous two games and even picked up his first NHL point with a secondary assist on the Zacha PPG. Holtz did a good job getting to areas where he could get his shot off and looked more confident as the game went along.
If we continue to see THIS version of Holtz and not the one we saw during the California road trip, he’ll score that first NHL goal soon enough.
Scoring in bunches
Six Devils players registered multi-point games, with Ty Smith leading the way with his first three points of the season. Hischier, Johnsson, Subban, Mercer, and Jonas Siegenthaler were the other Devils who got on the scoresheet multiple times. Even some Devils who have been struggling offensively like Tomas Tatar picked up a point and can feel good about themselves off of this game.
I commented in the gamethread how it might be overly simplistic of me, but I essentially viewed the Panthers as a more polished, more experienced, and better passing version of the Devils. I wasn’t overly impressed with the Panthers defensive play but I was very impressed with their passing and the scoring opportunities they created for themselves. It was refreshing to see the Devils get punched in the mouth by an explosive team like Florida and have a response like they did tonight, and you hope the Devils can carry this momentum going forward against a much more stout defensive team like the Islanders.
Special Teams gets it done for a change
The much-maligned Devils power play finally ended their goal scoring drought with two power play goals. I wouldn’t say that any of the Devils power play chances looked particularly great, but hey, they got the desired result and this is a results-oriented business.
The equally-maligned Devils penalty kill denied the Panthers on the two opportunities they got. To make things even better, they actually looked......good? They did a good job denying the Panthers from getting set up in the offensive zone and cleared the puck when they needed to. I’m not sure Florida got one legitimate scoring chance with the man advantage. And to the Devils credit, they didn’t push their luck and avoided engaging with the Panthers as Radko Gudas and Patric Hornqvist tried to goad them into doing something foolish.
Blackwood got better as the game went along
Mackenzie Blackwood, making his second start of the season, let in a couple goals that he might want back, but he also made a lot of big stops for the Devils when it mattered, turning away 35-38 shots.
Florida did not go away in this one as they won the corsi battle throughout this game, so Blackwood had to be sharp to keep the Panthers from getting back in this game even as the Devils built their lead. And he did just that, with 14 saves in the third period.
Boqvist and Thompson impress in their season debuts
Jesper Boqvist picked up an assist on the Ty Smith and played what Lindy Ruff called “one of the best games I’ve seen him play.”
Tyce Thompson was noticeable in a good way with his added size and nearly scored a goal of his own in the third period.
Now, I’m not saying the bottom six is fixed all of a sudden because the Devils decided to replace bad players with better players, but I would say that I am a simple man who consistently has good opinions, and I might have been right all along once again.
John Tortorella, who was on the postgame panel for ESPN+, made a great point about how the Devils kept their composure when Florida scored two quick goals early in the second period to retake the lead. The Devils teams over the last few years probably would’ve packed it in at that point and gotten steamrolled against a much better team because they lacked said composure. Not only did the Devils keep their composure, they scored 5 unanswered goals against one of the best teams in the NHL and ran the Panthers out of the building. The Devils got a bit of puck luck with several goals going in off of deflections, but they also created their own luck by throwing the puck on the net and getting some fortunate bounces. The end result was a hard-earned 7-3 win and a big two points as New Jersey tries to keep pace in the best division in the league with their two best players out of the lineup.
What did you think of the Devils win tonight? Are you pleased to see the Devils explode for seven goals on home ice? Can the special teams build off of this performance? Please feel free to leave a comment below, and thank you for reading.