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Devils Fail to Support Jon Gillies’ Performance in 3-2 Loss to Islanders

Jon Gillies played well enough for a Devils win tonight. Unfortunately, the Devils could not capitalize on enough of their chances.

New Jersey Devils v New York Islanders
That guy again.
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

First Period

Michael McLeod won the initial draw for the New Jersey Devils, and Jonas Siegenthaler dumped in for the Devils. Bastian played the puck across the offensive zone, but turned the puck over. At the other end, Noah Dobson sent a point shot that made Jon Gillies scramble a bit as Cal Clutterbuck tried to score from the sharp angle for the New York Islanders. A couple shifts later, Nico Hischier picked off a pass from Andy Greene that Ilya Sorokin made a big stop on. They got another rush later in the shift, on which Hischier forced Sorokin to kick out a rebound to Pavel Zacha, who was just behind the puck and had to shoot around Andy Greene - and it went off the side of the net.

Nearly three minutes in, Casey Cizikas had a clean breakaway on Jon Gillies after a bad turnover by Colton White. Cizikas fired the puck over the net. The Islanders shortly after took a penalty for an illegal hit to the head, with AJ Greer taking an elbow to the head from Ross Johnston. It could have been more than two minutes.

The Devils struggled mightily on the power play. They were unable to complete passes in the offensive zone, leading to multiple turnovers by the first unit. Nonetheless, the second unit would have one of their better looking second minutes. Tatar had a redirection chance from Mercer and a one-timer, but Sorokin saved both.

Anthony Beauvillier got a breakaway opportunity seven minutes into the game after the Devils pushed the Islanders down ice with a missed pass from Zacha to Vesey on the rush. Gillies made a glove save and froze play as Beauvillier raced past Siegenthaler.

After Jack Hughes shot the puck off the glass on a quick snap shot, Yegor Sharangovich scored a wicked seven hole goal on the rush, off a long feed from P.K. Subban. Sharangovich made Scott Mayfield look like a bit of a fool with his right-to-left move. 1-0, Devils.

Pavel Zacha set up Jimmy Vesey in the offensive zone, and he was all alone around Sorokin’s net. Vesey went to the backhand as he cut in front, but shot it wide. Mat Barzal took the puck down the ice the other way, but Ryan Graves was back to defend and Barzal went flying into the net, knocking it off its moorings. The crowd at UBS wanted a penalty, but Barzal initiated contact on his own as he lost the handle on the puck and tried to work around Graves. He did not fare well.

The referees would call Ryan Graves for a penalty later in the period, with 6:19 to play, as they called him for tripping. It was a bad call, as Beauvillier tried to hop around Graves as Graves went for a body check.

The Devils delayed the Islanders getting set up for about twenty seconds, and Brock Nelson took a penalty for tripping Jonas Siegenthaler low in the zone, as they both turned into each other as they went for the puck. Also not really a penalty, and I would prefer if they called neither. Play was halted for 1:22 of four-on-four time.

Jack Hughes had a shot on the rush against Sorokin with about 50 seconds to play in the four-on-four. The Devils mostly controlled play with the game at even strength, and Colton White’s shot was gloved and frozen by Sorokin with seven seconds left in the four-on-four.

Nico Hischier lost the draw, and Pelech dumped in as Graves left the box. The Devils turned the puck over in their own zone before Jack Hughes was successfully defended on another breakout attempt, and the Devils did not get a shot off on their power play.

Colton White was called for hooking Beauvillier in the neutral zone with 2:53 to play in the period. Beauvillier seemed to be going down on his own already, and I felt like he was going down a bit easy for these calls to be made.

Mat Barzal operated from the half-wall and the Devils were happy to play the passing lanes. Brock Nelson did get a shot at the end of the first minute, and Gillies deflected it to behind the net. Graves was able to push the puck up to Jimmy Vesey, who shot it wide. Sharangovich picked off a pass coming off the bench and forced Sorokin to raise his shoulder up to make a save. At the end of the Islanders power play, Gillies was unable to track the puck after a one-timer was deflected down, and Josh Bailey cleaned up the rebound. A bad goal on a bad penalty call.

Second Period

The beginning of the second period was delayed by the UBS crew needing to fix the Islanders’ net. The players took this as an opportunity to skate around the ice as the delay lasted about five minutes.

When play resumed, the Devils won the puck from the Islanders in their own defensive zone, before bringing the puck down ice and dumping in at the blue line. McLeod was pushed off the puck and dove at it in the neutral zone with Cizikas racing him for it, and he failed to poke it far enough away. Jonas Siegenthaler dove at the loose puck too, and Cizikas was taken down after the puck was cleared away - and he crashed into the net. He asked Jon Gillies if he was okay as play was frozen, but Cizikas only hit the net and seemed to be fine himself.

The Barzal line had an excellent shift about two and a half minutes in, getting a couple shots on Gillies before Barzal missed the net on a one-timer. Jonas Siegenthaler was then called for high sticking Anders Lee in front of the net. Earlier in the play, shown on the MSG broadcast following the penalty call, Kieffer Bellows delivered a hard hit from behind to Ty Smith that went uncalled.. Subban and Graves were on the kill, and held their own early on before Noah Dobson nearly scored on a one-timer from above the faceoff circles, as he rang one off the post. Ryan Graves appeared to take some sort of contact high when he was playing the puck down low, and no call was made. Gillies froze the puck with 45 seconds left on the power play off a long shot. Nico Hischier won the following draw and the Devils cleared. Ryan Graves made a block late in the kill before the Devils cleared for a final time. Siegenthaler stayed on with Graves and Jaros. He made a play behind the net to Nico Hischier to allow the Devils to get the puck out, and I appreciate Siegenthaler’s confidence to stay on the ice to make plays in the defensive situation.

Dawson Mercer slid a beautiful pass around two defenders on the rush to Andreas Johnsson, and Johnsson went to the far-side but could not beat Sorokin’s pad. A few minutes later, Kieffer Bellows had a chance on the rush that was saved by Gillies. Adam Pelech got the puck at the point, and his shot deflected down off of Ryan Graves and then off of of Zach Parise to beat Gillies. 2-1, Islanders. Both of Parise’s goals this year have been against the Devils.

Nico Hischier danced into the slot after fighting off Zdeno Chara and Casey Cizikas and fired a shot that Sorokin clamped down to freeze past the halfway point of the period. Josh Bailey nearly scored after a turnover around Gillies’ net, as Graves’ pass was to the corner and Siegenthaler fell down as he turned, and the puck was centered for Bailey, who was denied by Gillies’ glove.

After McLeod missed the net with a shot, AJ Greer went for the puck as Sorokin gloved it to the side of the net. Adam Pelech went into Greer with a crosscheck and they both fought on the ice. Pelech was called for crosschecking.

Jack Hughes missed an early chance on the power play as he could not finish Bastian’s feed from the goal line. The Islanders had a few clears after that. The second unit took the ice for the second minute. P.K. Subban took as shot for a deflection, but Sorokin did not have to deal with one as he froze the shot with 38 seconds to play. Sharangovich had a good look at the end that went wide, and after the penalty expired he set Johnsson up around the high slot - and that shot went wide. A minute after the power play ended, Mat Barzal danced around the Devils on the rush and forced Gillies to kick out a big opportunity for the Islanders.

Jack Hughes set P.K. Subban up after cricling the net, but Subban missed the net. Jimmy Vesey was taken down from behind as he had an opportunity in the slot, but the referees left it uncalled despite him not being able to get a shot off on what should have been a clear shot on Sorokin.

Third Period

At the start of the third, the Devils changed the top pairing, switching Siegenthaler from left to right and Graves from right to left. This was a good move, as Graves looked very uncomfortable on his off-side.

Jack Hughes had the puck in very dangerous territory after he beat Beauvillier from behind the net to shoot from the low slot - and Sorokin padded it away. The Islanders slowed the Devils down in the following couple minutes. With the puck in the offensive zone, P.K. Subban fell on his frontside while handling the puck and Colton White defended a two-on-one. White gave Gillies the shot and Clutterbuck could not beat him.

Jimmy Vesey took a hit from Oliver Wahlstrom up high, knocking the helmet cleanly off - and McLeod and Bastian went after Wahlstrom. Nathan Bastian took the sole penalty for roughing.

McLeod lost the draw, and Dobson’s shot was fought off by Gillies, who went down on his back to deny Anders Lee the loose puck. Play was frozen. With Hischier and Sharangovich then on the kill, Gillies gloved a soft flutter shot from Dobson, who was just trying to hold the zone for the Islanders as the Devils pressured.

Hischier took the next draw and beat Beauvillier for the puck, but Graves could not get the puck out. Sharangovich did at the point. Hischier sent a soft shot that went wide as he was held off from the low slot on the rush. Siegenthaler took Beauvillier out on the following rush, and the Devils cleared. The Islanders had a late chance for Lee after a blocked shot by Subban, but Subban fought him off. Nathan Bastian came out of the box and the Devils flipped the puck high for him, but the pass was too far and Sorokin played it. Adam Pelech later went off for tripping Nathan Bastian high in the Devils’ offensive zone.

On the power play, Ruff sent out Bastian with Hischier, Vesey, Hughes, and Smith. Smith played the puck to Hughes on the far-side, but the pass was too slow and the Devils had to go for support. They won it back, and Smith shot it wide - and Bastian could not get a shot on goal after it bounced out to him. The Islanders cleared. In the second minute, Hischier played the puck to Smith, who sent it to Hughes cutting low, and he centered it for Vesey - but he was unable to get a shot off as the puck slid off his stick. The second unit, with little time, did not get a shot until the last second, as Tatar cut from the boards to the middle of the ice after a chip pass from Graves to shoot - and Sorokin struggled to freeze the puck.

After McLeod chased a rebound from Boqvist and took the puck from Graves, Brock Nelson checked him into the boards and the referees called him for a penalty as McLeod was down on the ice. McLeod stayed on the bench, and the Devils sent out the same first unit. Nico Hischier played the puck up high to Ty Smith, and his blast was deflected by Nathan Bastian to tie the game!

Not long after, Ryan Graves blasted a shot on goal that hopped up high, deflecting off Tatar’s shoulder and just went wide of goal as Tatar tried to dive at the rebound - but he could not reach it. The Mercer line had some possession, but Boqvist losing his footing behind the net killed their opportunity.

Ruff played Jack Hughes at left wing for McLeod and Bastian with under seven minutes to play. Ross Johnston got tied up with Bastian and McLeod as play was whistled dead for a puck out of play with 6:33 to play. Bastian and Johnston went to the box. Jack Hughes and Mat Barzal matched each other up at four-on-four, and Ryan Graves backhanded the puck just a bit too far to Hughes on a rush, who then played it back to Sharangovich at the point with a blind backhand. Sharangovich moved it back to Hughes as he skated around the zone - and his shot was gloved by Sorokin.

Pavel Zacha and Nico Hischier took the ice. Zacha was denied a move to the netfront by two Islanders, and Hischier was fought off as his pass went past Zacha behind the net. They then defended a rush against - but could not connect on a counterattack of their own. Josh Bailey sent out a puck for Mat Barzal in the middle of the ice, and his one-timer beat Gillies to give the Islanders the lead with 4:53 to play, as Hughes and Sharangovich converged on Bailey - leaving Barzal open for the shot.

Hughes and Sharangovich had chances at five-on-five, but Sorokin stopped both chances. Andreas Johnsson settled a high flip at the blueline, and Boqvist set Mercer for a cross-ice one-timer - but Mercer fanned on the shot. Johnsson had a chance in front, but the Islanders disrupted him adn the puck went wide. Graves dumped in with 2:45 to play, but the Hischier line could not hold possession down. They had to take the puck back, but Hischier was spun about and lost the puck as he crossed the blueline. Ruff pulled Gillies with 2:15 to play, and the Devils denied an early empty net chance. They struggled to break out of their own zone. Hughes finally entered for Andreas Johnsson. Subban handled high and faked shot. The Devils moved the puck around but did not shoot until there was 1:05 to play. Bastian and Johnsson had chances at the rebound but their shots went wide.

The Devils failed to get another chance at Sorokin. The Hischier line could not get a shot off, as the Islanders defense clamped down very well and kept them out of the middle of the ice.

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: Check out Lighthouse Hockey.

Not Cohesive Enough

The problem with the Devils tonight was not a lack of individual effort, or being short of usual players at forward. That was more of a problem for the defense and, obviously, the goaltender position - but it was the forwards’ lack of cohesion that seemed to kill the Devils tonight. The Devils are not completing enough passes low in the zone, especially on the rush. This led to playing the puck up high too often tonight, and they did not get enough rebounds on goal for those shots to matter. Yes, Sorokin gave them chances to score. Pavel Zacha missed the net early in the game. Tatar’s reach was just too short to change the path of a puck that deflected off his shoulder into the net. Bastian and Johnsson could not bury the rebound as the Islanders frantically scrambled late in the game, when the net was pulled. Bastian did a good job on the deflection, but you can’t often ask for more than one goal as a result of point shots.

The Devils had plenty more of attempts that came close to Sorokin’s goal, but they could not cleanly beat the goaltender. Again, wide shots hurt them here. One in particular was a chance for Jimmy Vesey, who was down near the goal line and had enough time to skate out to the netfront and shoot a backhand, but it went well wide of goal.

Lindy Ruff also mentioned that the hit on AJ Greer should be looked at by the league. He was elbowed in the head by Johnston and returned to play. Later on, he was crosschecked by Adam Pelech. It seems Greer was pulled from the game by concussion spotters some time after the penalty he drew from Pelech, but I suspect the penalty Ruff is talking about was the one by Johnston.

RUFF: Yeah. I didn’t like the hit on AJ tonight. I think that that’s a hit that - probably has to looked at. Um, you know we got a player now that’s not right. And you know they’re trying to eliminate those kinds of plays. And I think that uh, what he’s been bringing to us is that hard physical play he’s been strong on the walls...and he’s been an asset when he’s been on the ice. He’s a hard guy to play against

(REPORTER: Is he doing okay out there?)

RUFF: I would use the word ‘okay.’ Just okay. Uh, he’s still being looked at. Uh, so...we’re hoping that everything will be okay.

Ruff looked a bit uncomfortable when discussing this. I suspect he does not want to call out illegal plays too often, at risk of upsetting the league or its officials. But he still seemed rather annoyed that Greer had to be pulled from the game as a result of penalties from the Isalnders.

Regarding the performance of other skaters, Pavel Zacha also looked completely lost. The team had concerns about Nathan Bastian and treated him like a game-time decision based on how he felt at warmups after his return from COVID Protocol, but I think they had the wrong guy. Zacha looked like he had absolutely nothing in his motor tonight. Nico Hischier was still able to create a few dangerous chances for himself, but working all by himself meant that he often had a few Islanders defenders to beat in addition to Sorokin. Vesey is out of his league on a top line, and Zacha looked like a guy with an illness trying to use his energy in spare moments. Andy Greene boxed him out of the netfront area when Zacha tried to take the puck there from the goal line. Their line did well defensively, at least, and they had a well-sized advantage in quantity and quality of shots. However, I would say that most of that was Nico.

Playing Graves on his right side was pretty rough. I think Siegenthaler did better there when they switched sides in the third period, which made me wish Ruff thought to do that from the start. Graves does not have the speed or the decisiveness to make the switch on the spot like that, and I think it is not surprising that the more proactive Siegenthaler fared better in that spot. Still, I would have rather played Ty Smith higher in the lineup on his right side and just accepted that either him or Subban would have to play the top pairing.

I am not going to say the Devils “deserved it” tonight. In terms of what the goaltenders had to deal with, this was a tossup of a game. The fact that Jon Gillies kept them in it that long should have them disappointed at the lack of two points. He made plenty of good saves tonight, and was stone cold against a few breakaways and odd-man rushes. He gave up three goals on 3.14 xGA according to Natural Stat Trick - you cannot really ask for much more.

You could hope for a big stop on the Barzal shot from a number one. The team has to play tighter with their fourth-stringer in net. Sharangovich went over to play Bailley on the wall where Hughes already had him covered, leaving Barzal completely alone. You can’t be surprised that he got a hell of a shot on goal.

The Devils also needed to play more decisively with the empty net. After that great entry by Hughes, it was disappointing to see the Devils move the puck between three guys up high. Johnsson might have scored that rebound on a different game, but you can’t expect that type of play off a center point shot to work consistently. With Jack Hughes on the ice, it’s also disappointing to see them work from the point and not get the puck on a shooter’s stick. Not sending out multiple shooters at once until the final 40 seconds was also a head-scratcher. Sharangovich was not on the ice with Hughes - Tatar, Bastian, Johnsson, Subban, and Smith were. With the net empty, there is no excuse not to run Hischier, Hughes, and Sharangovich as the 6v5 crew. With a timeout to use, I would trust them more to get at least shot attempts, which might lead to a stoppage to allow Ruff to keep them on for longer. Ruff only had these players on the ice together for the last 40 seconds, instead, and they could not get anything going. The Devils pulled Gillies with over two minutes to play and took about 1:20 at 6v5 to settle on a shot from Subban.

The Devils need to do better. They have a big chance to do so in six days when they play the Arizona Coyotes. Hopefully, by then, Bratt, Kuokkanen, and Severson are back. I hope AJ Greer is alright and did not make matters worse by staying in the game too long. Hopefully Pavel Zacha has enough energy to play the game. They can definitely use the next few days to get some good practices in. At 4-3-0 after the break, they need to do better if they want to get back into the race. This is one they could have at least gotten to overtime.

Your Thoughts

What did you think of tonight’s game? How did you feel about the Devils’ effort compared to their execution? What did you think of the last five minutes? How did you feel about the hits by Johnston and Wahlstrom? What did you think of Jon Gillies? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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