The New Jersey Devils got things going by getting pinned back for about 30 seconds before an eventual clear. Dougie Hamilton shot towards the cage of Ducks starter Anthony Stolarz but it was redirected away by former Devil Dmitry Kulikov. The fourth line of Tatar-McLeod-Bastian got the puck deep couldn’t do much with it. Hamilton sent the puck towards the net but Nico Hischier couldn’t put the rebound past a sprawling Stolarz. Jack Hughes came back and set up Sharangovich for a shot that Stolarz was able to handle. Stolarz was able to poke check a loose puck that bounced in front to deny Dawson Mercer a chance. Hughes found Smith at the point for a shot that Stolarz denied to take us to the first TV timeout.
After a Devils icing, Jakub Silfverberg put in a quick wrister off of a Isac Lundestrom faceoff win to make it 1-0 Ducks lead.
The Devils got a power play after Derek Grant knocked the stick out of Jonas Siegenthaler’s hands. They got the puck in deep for Hughes, who couldn’t put it past Stolarz. Miles Wood was stuffed in front at the tail end of a 3-on-2 odd man rush. The second unit didn’t get much going as time expired on the power play. Mercer was set up in front for a redirection that went off his skates and wide of the net. Anaheim came right back with Silfverberg beating Blackwood again to make it 2-0 Ducks. Big tip of the cap to Damon Severson who decided not to cover the front of the net. The boobirds and “Fire Lindy” chants have returned.
Erik Haula, with Cam Fowler on his tail, took out Stolarz while going in hard on the net. Stolarz didn’t get called for a dive, but Haula did get an interference call. The Devils were lucky not to get scored on again on the ensuing possession before a hand pass forced a whistle. The Devils finally got a late clear with McLeod pushing the puck ahead for Nate Bastian. Stolarz stopped the shot by Bastian as time expired. 2-0 Ducks in a period the Devils outshot the Ducks 12-4. Sounds about right.
The Devils killed off the rest of the Haula penalty, but went right back to the box as Brendan Smith interfered with Trevor Zegras for some reason. The Devils did a nice job on the penalty kill before Dawson Mercer lost track of Ryan Strome, who broke for the front of the net. John Klingberg found Strome, but Blackwood made a good stop to keep the deficit at two. The Devils got a fortuitous bounce as the puck trickled wide of Blackwood’s net as the penalty expired. They came right back with Ryan Graves ripping one off of the pipe. The Devils regained the zone as Hughes made a nice spin move to find Graves joining the attack. Graves was stopped by Stolarz, but Ondrej Palat buried the rebound to cut it to 2-1 Ducks. His first goal as a Devil.
His first as a Devil and we like it Palat. pic.twitter.com/HGGCGzXhwe— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) October 19, 2022
Palat took a feed from Bratt on his next shift and almost tied it but couldn’t bury the backhander. After the Ducks iced the puck, the Haula line worked the Ducks over but the Devils iced it themselves after Anaheim got it back to the neutral zone. Also of note, the Devils are basically rolling three lines at this point with Palat-Hischier-Bratt, Sharangovich-Hughes-Mercer, and Wood-Haula-Tatar.
The Ducks connected on a stretch pass to spring another former Devil Adam Henrique on a breakaway. Henrique beat Blackwood, but the Devils got bailed out when the puck hit the post.
Blackwood made a big stop in front as Lundestrom was denied by the left pad off of a rebound by Silfverberg. Brendan Smith caught Lundestrom at center ice late finishing a check, Max Comtois took exception, and Smith and Comtois earned penalties for fighting, instigating (Comtois), and misconduct (Comtois).
Palat worked the puck along the boards for Bratt, who worked it back to Hamilton. Hamilton sent it towards the net and Hischier was on the doorstep to knock in the rebound to tie the game at 2.
Oh, Captain My Captain! WE’RE ALL TIED UP. pic.twitter.com/7pXu4htUaU— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) October 19, 2022
The energy from the fans picked up as “Lets Go Devils” chants broke out. The Devils kept up the attack as John Marino nearly tapped one in on the doorstep. Hughes had a breakaway chance but was just off the mark, hitting the post.
The Devils kept throwing the kitchen sink at the Ducks with Sharangovich, Haula, and Severson all getting strong looks. The crowd gave them a hand after a much better second period as the final buzzer sounded. 2-2 after 40 minutes of play.
The Devils picked up where they left off as a Hamilton shot was deflected away. Bratt retrieved the puck, retreated up along the boards, came back towards the net, and found Hamilton on the backdoor and buried it to make it 3-2 New Jersey.
Max Jones tripped up Miles Wood to give the Devils a power play. Wood negated that 1:26 into the power play with an interference call in front of Stolarz. The Devils did a nice job on the kill though. Hughes missed burying another chance off of a setup from Sharangovich.
Hamilton tripped up Lundestrom and the Ducks went back on the power play with 11:59 to go. Anaheim couldn’t connect on a pass and cleared the puck themselves and the Devils got their own clear 30 seconds later. Hischier broke his stick off of a faceoff which led to a brief chance for the Ducks but nothing came of it. Troy Terry received a pass down low and made a move to get to the dirty area but Blackwood made the stop. The physicality picked up as Smith laid a big hit on Leason. Hischier was taken down hard along the boards by Jones on a borderline dangerous hit but no call.
Hughes made a good play along the boards to keep a play alive in the offensive zone after losing a draw. The Devils worked the puck along the boards to Mercer, who sent it back along the wall for Sharangovich. Sharangovich chipped it in front for Mercer who shot it off the crossbar and in to make it 4-2 Devils.
Awesome Dawson at it again! pic.twitter.com/JWC8CBQx0H— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) October 19, 2022
The Devils did a nice job keeping the puck in the offensive zone to prevent the Ducks from getting Stolarz off for the extra skater. Anaheim finally got the puck in deep and pulled the goaltender with roughly 1:40 to go. Siegenthaler made a big block to let the Devils get a clear. Mason McTavish slashed John Marino with 37.7 seconds to go. The Devils didn’t do much on the abbreviated power play, but the game is already in hand. The final seconds ticked off and the Devils celebrated a 4-2 win.
The Opposition Opinion: It might (but probably won’t) be posted over at Anaheim Calling.
Things I Liked and Didn’t Like From The Game
- I didn’t think the Devils necessarily came out flat in the first 20 minutes, even though the result was certainly deflating. So I LIKED that the Devils came out strong with a response. I’d point to a few factors as the Blackwood save on Vatrano was key. I thought the Devils got a noticeable lift out of the Smith-Comtois fight as well. The toughness and physicality debate, to me, is a tired one. If this team ever gets good, I don’t doubt they’d go out and address such things at the deadline. With that said, I thought little things like Smith finishing his hit and not backing down when challenged to throw down are good examples of this team needing to be tougher to play against.
- There hasn’t been a bigger critic of Lindy Ruff around here than me, but I do have to give credit when something works. I LIKED the lines that they ultimately settled on with Palat-Hischier-Bratt, Sharangovich-Hughes-Mercer, and Wood-Haula-Tatar playing the bulk of the rest of the game. I’d like if he stuck with that as the top 9 vs. the Islanders, but who knows anymore? Unfortunately, I DIDN’T LIKE that this came at the expense of Alex Holtz when I’m not sure exactly what he did that warranted a benching, as Ruff confirmed postgame. If Holtz isn’t going to be playing regularly up here, they should send him back to Utica to do that and find not-Geertsen to give them competent 4th line minutes. Perhaps Tyce Thompson can get a look now that he’s healthy.
- The Ducks were notably tired as the game went on as they’re at the tail end of a back-to-back. I don’t care. The Devils have lost enough games to teams in a similar position to what Anaheim dealt with when they were the rested team. So I LIKED that they took advantage and didn’t let up. The Devils have talent, but they’re not yet good enough to take the foot off the throat of any opponent.
- I was told that the Devils aren’t good because they’re a small team that won’t go to the dirty areas. I LIKED that the Devils did exactly that as they were able to consistently get to the front of the net. I noted in the loss to Philadelphia that they didn’t do enough of this despite the space the Flyers provided, so I’m glad to see an adjustment in this regard.
- I DON’T LIKE that Hughes seems to be a little snakebit at the moment. But he’s creating plenty of offense, as per usual. He’ll be fine.
- I LIKE that Jesper Bratt has 5 primary assists already. He looks like he is on top of his game. I liked Hischier and Hughes’s play with the puck, but also thought they were very good away from the puck. I like that John Marino has been arguably the Devils best defenseman through three games. I like that Dougie Hamilton is healthy and playing well offensively as the Devils sorely missed that last season.
- I DON’T LIKE that I might have been wrong on Palat in the sense that maybe he is better on Hischier’s wing than Hughes’s. But I’m ok with that if we see more of what we see over the last two periods tonight. We know Sharangovich and Mercer can play with Hughes. We know Hischier and Bratt can play with just about anyone. Having two lines that are clicking would be such a big lift for this team.
- I’d want to see another replay but I DIDN’T LIKE the Jones hit on Hischier in real-time. It looked to me like it was along that curvature in the boards at the end of the bench and those plays can be really dangerous. Fortunately, Nico came out of it fine so maybe it was one of those things that just looked bad.
- I DON’T LIKE the power play at the moment, as I’m not a fan of the 1-3-1 formation they seem to insist on running. But at least the Devils are clearing the comically low bar of not having the power play be a momentum-killer and not giving up short-handed goals left and right. Progress, I guess.
- I DIDN’T LIKE how accurate this take appeared to be after 20 minutes. To his credit, Blackwood settled in and played much better over the final two periods. He also got a little lucky, but such is life. Is the good Mac back? Probably not. Way too early to say. But he got the win tonight. Hopefully he can build on this.
This game had potential to get ugly after a rough start. The Devils fell behind 2-0 and looked like this game might get away from them like the previous two. Fortunately, they came out stronger in the second period, got some timely saves for once, relentlessly attacked Stolarz, and came away with a deserved 4-2 win as a result. Is this the beginning of something? Can they build on it? Who the hell knows? We’ve seen this car start and stop so many times before, its hard to keep track. But it is preferable to the alternative, which is another loss.
What did you think of the game today? Please feel free to leave a comment on tonight’s game and thanks for reading!