That’s what I like to see.
Changes were finally made by the coaching staff, which were clear to see. The young players were told to let their shot loose more, which was evident right away. Players like Sharangovich, Bratt and Zacha shot the puck with authority.
The first period started with the Devils setting the tune early, with pressure from the Zajac line. Just 19 seconds in, Sharangovich ripped a shot off the pipe which cleanly beat Jarry but could not find twine. Additional pressure then came from the Jack Hughes line, where he and Palmieri did their best in getting some more shots on the net. What can’t be accounted for, however, is the amazing Sidney Crosby. I can’t truly fault anyone too harshly on this goal, as it was just an excellent pass from Rust which found Crosby at a sharp angle, where he bounced it off the post and Blackwood into the net.
From here, the Devils did NOT wither away, as they continued their pressure while trying to find a way to beat Tristan Jarry. Johnsson was robbed by Jarry in front of the net, before Blackwood quickly recovered to stop the speedy Kasperi Kapanen. With this non-stop pressure, the first period ended with a 1-0 Penguins lead, but no bitter feeling as per the usual Devil games.
The 2nd period saw the Devils continue the pressure whilst also showing some improvements on the power-play. Instead of their usual trickery plays and weird entry maneuvers they typically attempt, the Devils kept it simpler and chose an earthshattering tactic - skating into the zone. Despite no goals on the power play, it was infinitely more successful, as they could make the simple passes and shoot when there were openings available. Bratt was robbed on a blistering one-timer, but it was an excellent shot regardless.
After this power-play the Devils maintained their pressure on the Penguins with help from the Zajac line. A couple of Sharangovich and Kuokkanen shots were either stopped or missed the net, but those shot opportunities caused Pittsburgh defenders to watch them more carefully, leaving Sami Vatanen wide open at the point. Vatanen ripped a shot past Jarry, and just like that the game was tied.
Again, Travis Zajac has redeemed himself in my eyes as the veteran player who has actually shown up and performed. His work against the board directly led to the Devils regaining the puck to set up the shot.
From there, there were chances galore for both teams.
Sidney Crosby had a one-on-one with Blackwood after a poor defensive read from the Devils, but slapped a shot wide. PK Subban was then called for an interference penalty, where a hectic series of play started with Pavel Zacha slapping a one-timer off the post before Jared McCann had a half-empty net with Blackwood down, but missed the easy shot. Dmitry Kulikov then went 0 IQ and immediately interfered Lafferty after the penalty was killed, forcing the Devils to hold their bearings again and kill off another power play. I still believe, despite the previous games penalty-kill goals, that the Devils penalty kill looks a lot better.
Kyle Palmieri was then hauled down by Matheson while driving the net. Despite not being as successful as the first power-play, the second power-play was still significantly better than any of the four yesterday, as the play was much smoother.
After this, Bryan Rust crashed into Blackwood while driving the net, with the puck trickling by Blackwood. As it should have been, there was no goal on the play. In terms of whether it should have been a penalty, I actually found myself agreeing with the no-call, as the drive seemed more debatable than the typical Miles Wood goalie interference call.
With that, the second ended with the score tied 1-1.
The 3rd period alone saw many chances for both sides, which saw my heart rate jump up throughout the period. Zacha and Sharangovich were firing pucks at will, with some missed shots dangerously close to the net. On the other end, the Crosby like were causing their usual chaos, with Kris Letang getting a couple of good looks which were stuffed by Blackwood. A Severson shot found its way through the body’s in front, but deflected off something before sliding inches away from the goal. To close the highlights, PK Subban made a desperation dive which stopped a pass to an open Kapanen, before Blackwood did the splits to rob Letang in the slot, to send the game to overtime.
The overtime period was all Devils, as it started with a Jesper Bratt breakaway which Letang did a good job of backchecking. Sharangovich then had a one-on-one against Jake Guentzel and ripped a shot at Jarry, which he iced with some difficulty. The Devils then showed the importance of puck possession, as Jesper Bratt and Pavel Zacha were able to find each other while driving the net, before Bratt controlled the puck behind the net and scored an amazing wraparound goal, to give the Devils the win!
The Game Highlights:
The Opposition Opinion:
Pensburgh credits the Devils for their play, particularly highlighting Yegor Sharangovich.
I’ll just say it - Sharangovich has the best shot on the team. Sharangovich rang the post on two separate occasions while also making shots that hit Jarry’s chest seem difficult to handle. Furthermore, he’s also great on the penalty kill! This is a player the Devils have so desperately needed for a while now, which is crazy to think about considering he should only get better from here on out! Kuokkanen is also sneakily picking up points and looks the part of a future 3rd-line player for the Devils. Maltsev was a bit more quiet, but again showed himself capable at the NHL level.
I love that Ruff told the kids to shoot more. Zacha and Sharangovich are players we know have excellent shots, but it was somewhat surprising to see the zip that Bratt can put into his slapshot. He was unlucky to get robbed by Jarry on the power-play, but if he utilizes his shot more whilst still maintaining his passing and dekes more, he can be a real problem in a top-six role.
Hughes is still bad at face-offs, but it is what it is at this point. I’d rather he learn through failure than be utilized as a wing.
Michael McLeod played limited minutes but did a great job on the penalty kill today. He intercepted a lazy pass from Guentzel before nearly contributing to a Zacha goal that was unlucky to hit the post.
Vatanen has looked a lot better in these recent games, goals aside. I haven’t hated him on the ice recently, which is an improvement given how bad he was previously.
Severson threw hits!
Lastly, and most importantly, is that Blackwood may finally be back. I attribute his struggles recently as a result of COVID issues, as athletes in other sports have demonstrated that even athletic freaks of nature could have devastating after effects from it. He looked a lot quicker and aware today, and was unlucky to have not recorded a shutout as a result of the somewhat fluky, somewhat Crosby first goal.
Let me know what you thought in the comments below. Who played well? What changes did you notice today? What additional changes would you like to see?
Next game is Tuesday against the Flyers. Take care until then, and have a good day!