Wow, what a game.
If you had told me after the second period that the Devils would end up only losing by one, I would have laughed at your face while simultaneously fighting back the urge to scream at a wall.
After a horrible - and I mean HORRIBLE - first two periods, the Devils somehow were able to put up a six spot in the third period, to make an embarrassing game much more respectable while simultaneously showing the promise that the kids have.
Even with this loss, I can’t help but smile at the fact that this team full of forwards not even over 26 years old were oh-so-close to coming back against a strong Penguins team, again showing why Devils fans have a lot to look forward to in the future.
The game started with Wedgewood robbing on a two-on-one opportunity off of Sidney Crosby’s stick. It was a good job by Ryan Murray to actually guard the other forward instead of being in no-mans land, a mistake which Devils forwards seem to make way too often. As such, he provided Wedgewood the opportunity to steal a goal from Crosby.
Unfortunately, this would mark the start of a series of bad which would prevail for 40 minutes.
Mike Matheson blasted a shot from the point which beat a cold Wedgewood tonight to open the scoring for the Penguins. While Wedgewood wasn’t really screened, the shot was admittedly a perfect location, and just like that the score was 1-0.
Following this, the Devils were given their first power play of the game. Despite some opportunities - including a Yegor Sharangovich wrist shot which led to a Nico Hischier rebound opportunity - the Devils were unable to take advantage.
Sidney Crosby, on the Penguins second goal, then did Sidney Crosby things and passed a perfect bank pass to the speedy Bryan Rust. Rust used his speed to skate around Wedgewood, beating him around his blocker, to give the Penguins a 2-0 lead.
After this, Wedgewood proceeded to gift the Penguins a goal on a harmless dump, as he missed the bouncing puck. Not much more to be said here, other than 3-0 Penguins.
With the swing of play clearly on the Penguins side, Miles Wood tried to shift the momentum as he found himself on a breakaway. He took a blast of a shot, which unfortunately hit the crossbar, and the Devils still found themselves down 3-0.
The 4th Penguins goal came off of a Jeff Carter slapshot, to give the veteran forward his first goal with the Penguins. Matt Tennyson struggled to clear the puck, which led to the Carter knuckler bouncing off Tennyson into the net.
With that, the first period ended with a 4-0 Penguins lead. It was all Penguins, all pain.
Wedgewood was taken out after his disaster of a first period, with Aaron Dell being brought in to play.
The second period started with some nice pressure from the Devils, but also a 5th goal for the Penguins. An amazing play by Evan Rodrigues to both fake a shot and also accurately complete a no look pass to Blueger resulted in confused Devils all-around, and a 5-0 lead.
Some nice play by the McLeod line kept the Penguins on watch for the majority of the second period, before the referees gifted the Penguins an elbowing call on Siegenthaler. It was NOT a penalty, as the Penguin skater quite literally fell into Siegenthaler’s backside himself, but it is what it is. The Penguins power play was held at bay until the very last second, when Evan Rodrigues was given a clear pass in the slot, which beat Dell for a 6-0 Penguins lead. Thanks ref.
When the 3rd period started, most Devils fans (myself included) were likely half paying attention to the game, waiting for the pain to end. Even with a power play to start the period, it seemed like the game was over. What a gift we were given.
The referees gave the Devils a makeup call to start the 3rd to give the Devils a 5-on-3 chance. The Devils instantly capitalized, when the inconsistent yet occasionally dazzling Nick Merkley gave a beauty of a saucer pass to Captain Nico, who slammed the puck past Jarry for a 6-1 game.
From this, the Devils and Nathan Bastian were then fairly called for tripping. However, Yegor Sharangovich was able to singlehandedly embarrass Kris Letang early in the penalty kill by A) Deflecting his pass B) bodying him so hard his stick flew out of his hand and C) scoring a goal. It was, at the time, a somber yet beautiful goal, as it brought the Devils down a 6-2.
The Devils then killed the rest of the Penguins power play with no real opportunities.
The 4th line was then brought out to do their typical scrappy play, but this time wes rewarded this time. A Will Butcher shot which was going wide was beautifully tipped by Bastian low, resulting in a sliding puck beating Jarry on his blocker side.
To dim the mood a bit in the 3rd, Sidney Crosby decided he needed to take the game over for at least a little bit, and score to get the game closer. It was a very good pass by Jake Guentzel, and an even better shot by Crosby, and just like that it was 7-3 again.
In recent games, Jack Hughes has played incredibly well only to see no reward in the points column. In today’s game, Hughes yet again played well, but happened to be rewarded this time. A pass which deflected off a Pittsburgh defender’s stick found Hughes driving down the left side, and his shot was able to trick Jarry under the arm for a 7-4 game.
Immediately after this, the newest toy on the Devils, Nolan Foote, was probably inspired by Studenic’s first goal in the previous game and decided he wanted in on the fun as well. Nick Merkley somehow became a passing god yet again, as he tricked Jarry to find Foote across the ice, with his snapshot beating Jarry to make it 7-5. Congratulations to Nolan Foote for his first NHL goal!
After this, Jarry robbed Andreas Johnsson on a shot which could have made the game 7-6 (though it likely wouldn’t have counted anyway due to interference on McLeod), but it showed the Devils weren’t looking to quit. The Devils then pulled their goalie, before Andreas Johnsson was finally rewarded with a goal. His pass intended for Sharangovich deflected off of Ceci and in, to bring the Devils to a 7-6 game. The goal was a result of an excellent pitch by Butcher to stop a clearance attempt.
Unfortunately for the Devils, it was too little too late. The rest of the game saw no real opportunities for the Devils, and the Penguins escaped 7-6.
With that, the Devils are now mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, if that mattered anyway.
The Opposing Opinion: Read it here at Pensburgh
Honestly, I’m proud of this team for how they played in the 3rd. While the first two periods were.... disappointing to say the least, this team, which we have to remember is incredibly shorthanded, responded well against a playoff team in the Penguins to come back and give them quite the scare. The kids showed that they have potential offensively, and will only continue to get better as they adjust to playing with each other more. Nolan Foote was rewarded with his first goal, and Jack Hughes again showed why he was THE top draft pick.
Wedgewood was bad today, and Dell wasn’t tested too much. However, with Blackwood out, we as Devils fans need to accept that this is what we’re going to get, and it isn’t an inclination of the future if the goaltending is rough and its not Blackwood in net.
A lot of these young players are playing for increased roles in next seasons campaign. I genuinely believe in the growth of Michael McLeod, as he has become much more willing to throw his body around and cause pressure on opposing forwards. I liked his play on the penalty kill, as he refused to cease his mayhem.
The defense showed why they need improvement in the coming campaign, with Carrick and Tennyson repeatedly proving themselves as not being the answer. While I did like the play of Will Butcher in previous campaigns, Ty Smith’s increased role has proven him redundant, so it is likely time for him to leave as well. I wouldn’t mind if the Devils resigned Ryan Murray, if he wanted to stay.
I love Yegor Sharangovich. His shot is only getting better as the games continue, and todays goal now puts him at 11 on the season. As he gets older, his play should only get better for the Devils.
Am I upset? For the first two periods, I was more disappointed than upset. I had already accepted that this team was basically an AHL team, so to get exposed by Pittsburgh wasn’t necessarily surprising to me. What was shocking, however, was the tenacity of these young forwards to play the way they did in the third period. Overall, I would say I’m more pleased than not with the game, even if the majority of the game saw me displeased.
What a wild game. Let me know what you thought about it in the comments below. Who played well? Which players would you like to see have increased roles? Did you think the power play and penalty kills looked better?
Next game is Pittsburgh yet again, so lets hope to continue this momentum and steal a victory! Have a good night.