The New Jersey Devils came out the gate dominating the New York Islanders. Anders Lee took the first penalty of the game for tripping Nico Hischier a couple minutes in. The Devils were able to get a few shot attempts from the first unit, but they could not capitalize. Ondrej Palat made an excellent strip of the puck in the second minute to prevent the Islanders from creating a two-on-one, and Palat fanned a bit on a one-timer shortly after. Tomas Tatar then shot one off a cross-zone feed right into Sorokin’s chest. As the penalty was winding down, Nico Hischier set up a one-timer for Erik Haula on the rush, who had a wide open net - but he could not bury it. Through the first six minutes, the Devils were leading the Islanders in shots, 11-0.
Near the halfway point of the period, Miles Wood split the defense and shot the puck wide on a breakaway. The Islanders got away with some interferences on Nico Hischier a couple minutes later, as the UBS crowd grew restless over the fact the Islanders still did not have a shot on goal. Kyle Palmieri had a one-timer chance off a great pass from Barzal in the corner, but he shot it over the top of the net. Blackwood finally made a save on a long-range shot with three minutes to play, and John Marino proceeded to take a hooking penalty for taking Palmieri down.
McLeod lost the draw, and Palmieri sent a pass across that got deflected out of play. Erik Haula took the second faceoff, and lost it. Blackwood had to stare down a big slap shot by Noah Dobson, and Haula went out for the third faceoff after the puck stoppage. The Devils were, yet again, unable to get the faceoff. Brock Nelson took a one-timer from the top of the facoeff circle, but the shot was a bit weak and overly centered - so Blackwood had no trouble. Off the fourth faceoff, won by Nico Hischier, the Devils cleared the zone. Hischier stayed back at the blueline, interrupted an entry feed, and cleared it again. On the Islanders following rush, the Devils sent it down yet again, leading the Devils to make a couple more plays to kill the penalty, with two shots allowed in the two minutes.
Jack Hughes got the scoring going for the New Jersey Devils a minute and a half into the period. Damon Severson made an amazing stretch pass from the Devils’ goal line to the far blueline, giving Hughes a breakaway chance that he buried on a backhand through the five-hole. 1-0, Devils.
Filthhy with two Hs cuz Hughes is HIM. pic.twitter.com/TclBHZJ45t— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) October 21, 2022
While play slowed down for several minutes, the Devils were still dominant offensively. Finally, they would be rewarded for the overage of chances they had in comparison to the Islanders. Nico Hichier took the puck away from Brock Nelson behind the net, sending it back to Jesper Bratt, who quickly slid it for Ondrej Palat to his immediate right for a one-timer past Sorokin. 2-0, Devils, as Nelson crunched Hischier late, in vain.
The Devils had an array of chances to score past the halfway mark. Nathan Bastian was shut down by Sorokin after McLeod found him all alone at the mouth of the crease. The Hughes line made Sorokin scramble and turn over trying to get an erratic puck following a shot off the post from Graves, but they could not shoot on target from close range.
Brendan Smith took a bad tripping penalty right behind the Devils’ net with a bit over five minutes to play in the period. McLeod won the draw, and Siegenthaler cleared the puck to start the penalty kill. After Palmieri took a couple shots on goal, the penalty kill ended prematurely as Anders Lee took a high sticking penalty on Nico Hischier. They saw four-on-four for 40 seconds before the Devils went to an abbreviated power play. They only got one power play shot, off a poorly located one-timer for Bratt.
Second intermission Sevy pass appreciation tweet. pic.twitter.com/JEWob9jBRZ— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) October 21, 2022
Right after Matt Martin nearly scored for the Islanders, as he was stuffed by Blackwood in front - Cal Clutterbuck cross checked Jonas Siegenthaler along the boards as they chased the rebound that Cizikas chipped high and wide. The Devils went to the power play, and had trouble creating chances early, as they dealt with a couple clears and an offsides call. The second unit got the bulk of this power play, and Severson created the best chance with a rebound in front for Haula and Bastian. They were handled well by the Islanders, and the penalty was killed.
Mackenzie Blackwood made the play of the game a bit past the halfway point. Zach Parise sent it across to Jean-Gabriel Pageau, who had much of the net to shoot at. Blackwood sprawled to his left to smother the shot, keeping the Devils at a two-goal advantage. On the other end a couple minutes later, Sorokin faced down Tatar and Haula, who were hunting for a dirty goal around the crease. Damon Severson looked great on this shift, cutting down an attempt by the Islanders to clear the zone, leading to another chance for the Devils.
Ondrej Palat got his second of the game with four and a half minutes left, and it was a beautiful goal. Nico Hischier chipped it into the zone for Bratt, who reached for the puck with a backhand pass across to Palat. Palat, speeding in, ripped the puck high on the stick side, sweetly inside the post to make it a 3-0 game. On the first stoppage after the goal, Dawson Mercer was barreled over by Adam Pelech, and both got roughing minors.
At four-on-four, Sorokin went to the bench for the extra attacker. Haula, Sharangovich, Marino, and Severson saw the initial rush with the empty net. Anders Lee stopped a Palmieri shot before Blackwood could save it, and chipped it under his arm to make it a 3-1 game.
The Devils then sent out Hischier, Palat, Siegenthaler, and Marino. With the extra attacker again, the Islanders got into their five-on-four power play set up, getting a few shot attempts before the Devils got the puck out of the zone as the penalties expired. With under two minutes to play, Erik Haula just missed the empty net, a touch wide right, with a nearly full-ice shot. The Islanders chose to take their timeout, allowing the Devils to gameplan the defense following the icing call.
Haula, Mercer, Wood, Graves, and Siegenthaler took to the ice. Siegenthaler blocked a shot and sent it out of play, allowing the Devils to bring McLeod, Bratt, Hischier, and Severson to the ice with Graves. Severson sent it out of the zone from behind the net, and Graves shot from the neutral zone at the empty net - but it was blocked by Dobson. Nico Hischier then picked off a pass from Brock Nelson high in the defensive zone, chipping the puck past the Islanders’ sticks at the blueline and into the net. 4-1, Devils. That would be the final score, with the Devils deserving their rout over the New York Islanders.
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A Few More
I am very pleased with how the Devils handled themselves tonight. In fact, they have been excellent since the second period of their game against the Ducks in Newark on Tuesday - so they have been on a run of five periods of excellent play. The Devils cannot stop here. They need to keep proving themselves. Earlier this week, I was pretty sure that Ruff was on his last legs as coach of the Devils, but the team has responded well. We need to see more of that.
Palat, Hischier, and Bratt
While the scoring started with Jack Hughes tonight, it was the Hischier line that stole the show tonight. Ondrej Palat, who was brought in to be a veteran answer in the locker room, fulfilled his role to perfection tonight with two goals, a few hits and two shot blocks. I think the line as a whole could have been better in the defensive zone. But, each time they took the puck into the offensive zone, they quickly became a headache for the Islanders. In addition to their two goals (plus the empty netter), Nico drew two penalties and probably could have drawn one or two more. With how dominant the Hughes line was with possessing the puck, I would like to see this line stay together. When they get chances, I expect them to finish.
3 goals in his last 2 games. nbd. pic.twitter.com/eXuCOTRaCU— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) October 21, 2022
And just to note, Nico Hischier is now up to five points - two goals and three assists - in three games played. It took him 10 games to get to five points in 2021-22, and he finished with 60 points. Nico could really go on a tear this year if this line stays together.
Another Bounceback Night for Blackwood
After his first four periods of action this year, Mackenzie Blackwood looked like another guy who might not last much longer in red and black. Like the team, he has been much better since the second period on Tuesday. He did not have to face a shot on goal until the 18th minute of the first period - so it might seem like he had an easy night. But he did not allow himself to be rusty against those first shots on goal, and by the end of the night he had robbed the Islanders a couple of times and stopped everything that could be reasonably expected of him. Like the team at large, Blackwood is going to have to keep proving himself. Tonight is a good start, and we can only hope for more solid play moving forward.
Sharangovich and Hughes Double-Shifted
In addition to their time together on the second line, Yegor Sharangovich and Jack Hughes both played over three minutes each on the fourth line with Michael McLeod and Nathan Bastian. Sharangovich, who had previously not been great with the fourth line, created a decent chunk of offensive opportunities for only three minutes and change in that role. Hughes, too, was able to combine with the fourth liners for a decent chance or two. With how loaded the Devils are on defense, including players who aren’t even on the team yet - I would watch for these types of lineups in the future. I think they give the chance to give defensemen rest while spreading ice team more effectively across the forwards group. With how many forwards the Devils need to get 16, 17, or upwards of 18 minutes on the ice - I like this approach. I just wish it didn’t come at the expense of Alex Holtz seeing the ice. But as long as the team is winning, there really is not too much to complain about.
What did you think of tonight’s game? Were you able to watch? Who did you think was best for the Devils? What did you think of Nico’s three-point night? How do you feel about Jesper Bratt leading the league in five-on-five primary points and all-situation primary assists? What did you think of Blackwood tonight? How much better does the defense look to you than the first couple games? Leave your thoughts in the comments below, and thanks for reading.