The New Jersey Devils got things going by getting the puck in the offensive zone. After the Devils regained the zone, Jesper Bratt fired a puck five-hole that Kappo Kahkonen smothered up. The Sharks third line of Svechnikov - Sturm - Labanc outworked the Devils third line and managed to get a couple shots in on Mackenzie Blackwood. Michael McLeod set up a double-shifting Jack Hughes in front and the Sharks iced the puck. Hughes made a spin move along the boards and found Ryan Graves for a shot from the point that Kahkonen gloved. Yegor Sharangovich won a battle along the boards and fired a shot from the high slot that was stopped. The Sharks and Devils got tied up along the boards in the Devils offensive zone but the Sharks eventually took control of the puck. San Jose connected on a stretch pass slash caught the Devils botching a defensive assignemnt. New Jersey was fortunate that the Sharks didn’t cash in on a couple scoring chances before Blackwood covered up the loose puck.
The Devils iced the puck shortly after the first TV timeout. They eventually got a clear after the Sharks fired a couple of shots at Blackwood. The Devils eventually dug the puck out of their corner and gained the zone but Dougie Hamilton sent a pass for Hughes directly into the skates of Logan Couture and the other way. As MSG play-by-play voice Bill Spaulding, the Devils have gone 5+ minutes to this point without a shot as they were offsides going into the commercial break.
The Sharks continued to slow the pace and outwork the Devils along the boards, but they iced the puck with 7:32 left in the first. Matt Benning had some space in front to get a shot that Blackwood denied. The Devils got their best chance to this point as Bastian rang one off the pipe and Palat drew a penalty with Matt Nieto hooking him. Hughes found Bratt in the slot for a good scoring chance that Kahkonen stopped. The Devils second unit came on but didn’t do much aside from a sharp-angle shot by Wood in the closing seconds of the power play.
Bastian broke up a pass in the slot to deny the Sharks a scoring chance. The Devils stole the puck in the offensive zone and Bastian had a chance that was deflected away. They got their best chance moments later as the Palat-Hischier-Bratt line had some grade A chances that they couldn’t quite hit the net on. Hughes gained the zone and fed Hamilton from the high slot that Kahkonen kicked away. The Sharks turned it over in the neutral zone and Hertl hooked Ryan Graves to give the Devils another power play with 45.3 seconds left in the frame. They didn’t get much going though as the Sharks cleared the puck at the end of a scoreless, methodical period.
The Devils took control off the opening faceoff and Kahkonen stopped a shot from Hamilton through traffic. Nick Bonino made a nice play to jump in front of a Hughes pass to send the play the other way. Two shots but no goals on the power play. Bastian sent a pass in front for Palat that got tipped away and Hamilton missed an empty net after Palat’s shot left a big rebound. Kahkonen made a highlight-reel save denying Miles Wood after he received a feed from Erik Haula. The Sharks pinned the Devils back deep but that didn’t stop Blackwood from gloving an Erik Karlsson blast from the point.
The Sharks fourth line pinned the Devils back some more and after Bratt failed to clear a puck, Blackwood smothered up a Benning shot. Hughes made a nice play to create something out of nothing but fired a puck into a defenseman’s shins. Severson connected with Hughes on a stretch pass for a breakaway chance but just lost the puck off the edge of his stick to miss five-hole on Kahkonen. Brendan Smith got caught with a cross-check to give the Sharks a power play opportunity. San Jose didn’t do a whole lot on the power play before the net got knocked off the moorings.
Palat and Hischier had a scoring chance late in the Sharks power play. Palat tried to feed the puck across to Hischier, but the puck hit Karlsson’s skates and off of Hischier’s skate as he adjusted and went in. The officials looked at it and ruled a distinct kicking motion so no goal. I disagree that anything about that was conclusive or distinct since Hischier was adjusting to the redirected puck, but alas.
The Devils continued to press the issue as Hughes tried a spin move and flipped it towards Kahkonen, but he stopped it. The Sharks won the ensuing faceoff but Sharangovich stole the puck from Vlasic, made a move, and beat Kahkonen to make it 1-0 Devils.
Steal, snipe, celly Yegor is our favorite Yegor. pic.twitter.com/aA7licNKQy— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) October 22, 2022
Hughes was stripped in the neutral zone which led to Svechnikov carrying the puck in close on Blackwood. Svechnikov absolutely leveled the Devils goaltender though, so goaltender interference was called. Hughes nearly atoned for that error with a feed down in front that they couldn’t connect on. Fortunately, the Devils did add to their lead as Hamilton and Bratt worked the puck to Hischier behind the net. The captain found Mercer down in front, and while Kahkonen stopped the initial shot, he couldn’t get the rebound. 2-0 New Jersey.
Dawson with his own assist. You love to see it. pic.twitter.com/s8q0YVsvPi— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) October 22, 2022
The Sharks had a response shortly as Hamilton couldn’t keep a puck in the offensive zone which led to a Sharks 2-on-1. Jonas Siegenthaler and Mackenzie Blackwood couldn’t do much as Kevin Labanc fired a laser and roofed it to cut the deficit to 2-1.
Kahkonen got clipped by his own defenseman, but was still able to deny Hughes on a point-blank opportunity as he couldn’t elevate it enough. The Devils sprung Haula as he was gaining the zone but Haula couldn’t shovel it past Kahkonen. Simek leveled Hughes in the neutral zone in the closing seconds and the Devils didn’t bother to get in his face as the period came to an end.
Blackwood needed to make a big stop early in the period as Hertl found Scott Harrington, who fired the puck into his chest. The Devils did a nice job boxing out the Sharks to keep them from doing much, but whiffed on a stretch pass to Sharangovich for an icing. San Jose took control off of the faceoff, but the Devils eventually cleared and got the puck deep. Severson flipped a puck through a mass of bodies towards Kahkonen, forcing a stoppage. Kevin Bahl nearly scored a nifty wraparound goal that died on the post. Couture flipped the puck into the Devils zone but the Devils did a nice job digging it out along the boards and getting it out. Labanc collided with Bonino in the neutral zone, with the veteran Bonino going down the tunnel. Severson fed Tatar for a one-timer that Kahkonen got a piece of with the glove. Blackwood made a stop on the other end off of a Lorentz shot on a 3-on-2. McLeod and Bastian got tied up with the Sharks along the boards in the offensive end before McLeod’s pass got picked off. Blackwood knocked the net off the moorings as he sprawled out to make a stop on Hertl with 12:05 left.
Kahkonen turned the puck over the Dougie Hamilton on a clearing attempt, but he made up for his own mistake as Hamilton didn’t handle it cleanly and tried to make a move. Hughes, Graves, and Sharangovich caught the Sharks in a 3-on-2. Sharangovich’s shot was blocked and directed to Hughes, who couldn’t bury the sharp-angle rebound as Kahkonen knocked the net off its moorings. We had a little bit of a delay with 10:55 left as the ice maintenance crew had to break out the power drill to get the moorings to stay. The Devils won the ensuing draw and Kahkonen adjusted to McLeod redirecting a Severson shot from the blueline. Tatar picked up a loose puck in the neutral zone and fired it towards Kahkonen who made the save with 9:41 remaining.
Sharangovich made a seam pass to Hughes that he couldn’t bury to restore the two-goal lead. San Jose iced it with 5:40 left. The Devils won the draw but had a shot deflected away and Sharangovich got tripped up after recovering a puck in the neutral zone. No call. The Devils continued to be smart with the puck and chip it out until they weren’t as Hamilton went to the box for cross checking Kunin with 4:19 left.
San Jose took control off of the faceoff but Bastian blocked a Karlsson shot and cleared it. The Sharks tried to work the puck down low but Blackwood stonewalled Meier. Marino cleared the puck off of the ensuing faceoff. Sharks coach David Quinn made the decision to pull Kahkonen to make it a 6-on-4 with a minute left in the power play. The puck was deflected out of play with :32 to go in the penalty, giving the Devils a much needed change. Timeout Sharks. Hischier got a big faceoff win for a clear. San Jose got back in set up as Hamilton exited the box. Karlsson ripped a shot off of the pipe. Marino flipped a puck towards the empty net but the puck ran out of momentum about 5 feet shy of the goal line. The Devils fans loudly chanted for the home team and the Devils finally got a big clear off of a block by Tatar with about 40 seconds to go. San Jose regained the zone and Blackwood redirected a Labanc wristed into the netting with 18 seconds left. Hertl beat McLeod on the faceoff, but Blackwood survived one final Sharks barrage and the Devils win 2-1.
The Opposition Opinion: You can read the Sharks perspective of this game over at Fear The Fin.
Things I Liked and Didn’t Like From The Game
- I DID NOT LIKE the slow start that the Devils got off to, although they did pick up the pace later in the period and generated some nice scoring chances. I’m gonna chalk that up to the 1pm matinee start time and a feeling out process against an unfamiliar foe.
- I do think the Devils are asking a lot of their forwards by playing 11-7, as Hughes, Palat, Tatar, and others have been tasked with double-shifting with McLeod and Bastian. It might work in spurts, but I’d like to see that experiment come to an end. Kevin Bahl has flat out looked better than Brendan Smith, so I DON’T LIKE the continued insistence of shoe-horning Smith into the lineup. I ALSO DON’T LIKE the Devils refusal to insert an energy guy like Fabian Zetterlund on the fourth line. If there is that little trust in your depth and your fourth line, its not exactly a ringing endorsement of the decision to go with them on the roster in the first place.
- With that said, I LIKED that the Devils gave Bahl more playing time at Smith’s expense as the game went on. If the Devils do go back to a 12-6 lineup, I expect Bahl to be in and Smith out.
- Since I mentioned the fourth line earlier, I LIKED how Bastian played even though he appears to be dealing with something physically. Bastian made a lot of plays in this game.
- I was told that the Devils are too small (never mind that they’re bigger than the Sharks) and are therefore, no good at hockey. So I LIKED that the Devils consistently did the little things that don’t show up on a score sheet. Forechecking, backchecking, getting bodies in traffic, tying up sticks without being careless with their sticks, and boxing out opponents to maintain puck possession. Nobody will confuse these Devils for the 1995 version from a physicality standpoint or their defensive prowess, but the 2022 edition did what they needed to to hold on against a Sharks team that played hard and get two points. The Devils are going to need to learn how to win games like this and learn how to hold on to a lead, and for the most part, they did a good job.
- I LIKED that the Devils, for a change, were lifted by the play of their goaltender. Blackwood didn’t have to do a lot of work through the first two periods of the game, but got stronger as the game went on and particularly late in the game when the Devils played the final four minutes or so in their defensive zone. As Bryce Salvador astutely pointed out in the postgame show, Blackwood needed to be the Devils best player in this game. And he was. MORE OF THIS, PLEASE.
- I LIKED that the Devils found a way to get a win when Jack Hughes wasn’t quite on his A game. And that’s fine. There will be a time and place where the Devils need their best players to be their best players, so the fact they found a way to get two points when their best player was off his game is a promising sign.
- Lastly, I LIKED that special teams was mostly a net positive. The Devils scored a power play goal. They did not give up a goal while on the power play, which they did repeatedly last season. They did not give up a goal while killing penalties, which they did often last season since they gave up a lot of goals in general. Heck, they even managed to score a short-handed goal before Toronto took it away for a supposed “distinct kicking motion”. I have still yet to see a replay that actually shows said distinct kicking motion, but I digress.
The Devils got off to a bit of a lethargic start against a Sharks team that, to their credit, played hard. They finally broke through in the second period with a couple goals against Kappo Kahkonen and did the little things as the game went on to hold on to that lead. The end result is a well-deserved two points and a three-game winning streak with the Capitals up next on Monday.
What did you think of the game today? Are you as pleased as I was with how the Devils won this game? Please feel free to leave a comment on tonight’s game and thanks for reading!