Earlier today, the New Jersey Devils announced that Ondrej Palat underwent groin surgery, and that a timeline for recovery would “be provided as it becomes available.” Presumably, Ondrej Palat will be placed on Long-Term Injured Reserve, allowing Andreas Johnsson to stay on the roster - at least until Jonathan Bernier is ready to come off of LTIR. You can read more about Palat’s situation and the effects on the team here. Continuing to slot Fabian Zetterlund in Ondrej Palat’s spot on the top line with Nico Hischier, the Devils took on the Vancouver Canucks to kick off their western road trip. The Canucks were coming off two straight wins and the return of star defenseman Quinn Hughes, who came back from a short-term injury. The Canucks also saw the debuts of Jack Studnicka and Ethan Bear.
Mackenzie Blackwood made his first big save of the game, as Ilya Mikheyev had Jonas Siegenthaler beat and was all alone going to the net. Mikheyev went for a backhand move, but Blackwood stuck with it to bail out the defensive lapse, keeping it a 0-0 game early on. Brendan Smith later drew the first penalty of the game, as Tanner Pearson went off for hooking Smith as they chased the puck toward the New Jersey goal line.
Starting off the power play, Nico Hischier won the draw back to Dougie Hamilton with the help of Bratt. After Jack Hughes got the puck from Hamilton, Jesper Bratt got ready for a one-timer, and Bratt instead sent the puck to Nico Hischier for an awesome redirection goal to give the Devils a power play goal. With a quick strike, it was 1-0, Devils.
Just a shift after Damon Severson stood up Bo Horvat in a one-on-one situation, John Marino deflected a pass across on a two-on-one after his partner, Ryan Graves, slipped to the ice at the far blueline. This gave the Canucks an opportunity, which Marino played perfectly, and Jack Hughes almost extended the lead as he was sprung with a good pass for a chance on Thatcher Demko, which was whistled wide.
Damon Severson was called for what I thought was a questionable holding call to the side of the net, and the Devils went to the penalty kill nine and a half minutes into the first period. The Devils survived the first wave, as the Devils were able to earn a couple clears in the first minute or so. They successfully clamped down low, refusing to give the Canucks shots from in close - and then they held the Canucks to the wall on the following possessions (with two more clearings) until Nico Hischier took the puck up the ice with Severson coming out of the box.
The Devils’ fourth line cycled the zone late in the period, with Miles Wood ramming into the boards to free the puck for Nathan Bastian to fight it out to the point. Bastian got the puck back along the wall and sent it on net, and it was deflected by Miles Wood. The rebound came to Michael McLeod at the side of the net, and he put it in to give the Devils a 2-0 lead.
Bo Horvat was absolutely robbed by Mackenzie Blackwood a few minutes into the period, as Horvat had Blackwood scrambling just outside of the top of the crease to make a save on the backhand move by Horvat.
After the Devils and Canucks traded offensive possessions, Luke Schenn threw two hits into the numbers - one on Bastian in the neutral zone and one on Michael McLeod behind the net into the boards. Miles Wood dropped the gloves with Schenn, and Schenn continued to punch Wood after he had gone to the ice. This led to the linesmen taking awhile to get the situation under control, as both Wood and Schenn got misconducts for the fight - and Wood got an extra two minutes for instigating, served by Zetterlund. Luke Schenn got a 10 minute misconduct. Dakota James received a game misconduct for also getting involved, yet the Devils went to kill a two-minute penalty for instigating.
Nico Hischier wasted quite a bit of time at the start of the penalty kill by taking the puck through to the offensive zone, fighting Quinn Hughes for the puck below the goal line after Hughes blocked his pass attempt to Sharangovich on the rush. The Devils continued to do well on the kill afterwards, with Vancouver being unable to get set up. At the very end of the power play, Yegor Sharangovich jumped up and slowed down a pass to the point man, and Dawson Mercer took the loose puck and passed it up to Sharangovich. Yegor waited out Oliver Ekman-Larsson, threatening the shot until he could slide a pass around Ekman-Larsson to Mercer - and Mercer redirected the puck into the net. 3-0, Devils, on a shorthanded goal.
Yegor Sharangovich continued to have a good night. Jesper Boqvist received a stretch pass from John Marino at the blueline, drawing the defenseman and Demko to his side and opening up the lane across to Sharangovich. Sharangovich collected smoothly and whipped it past Demko, giving the Devils a 4-0 lead and causing Bruce Boudreau to call a timeout as his team spiraled out of control.
The Devils took another penalty late in the period, with less than four minutes to play. As the puck got past Brendan Smith at the blueline as the Canucks chipped the puck in, Smith checked Tanner Pearson and did not play the puck, earning an interference minor. Bo Horvat made the Devils pay right off the draw, getting the puck from J.T. Miller and ripping a shot from the slot past Blackwood to make it a 4-1 game.
Jonas Siegenthaler then took an interference minor with 2:36 to play in the period. After an early clear, the Canucks whipped the puck around the zone and Horvat forced Erik Haula to be alert down low to break up a scoring chance. Nathan Bastian later blocked a shot from Elias Pettersson, leading to a Devils clearing. Nico Hischier intercepted the puck and sprung Yegor Sharangovich, who split two Canucks. Sharangovich ripped a wrist shot that Demko gloved and continued to play, but Vancouver could not recuperate after Sharangovich’s chance. The puck came to Siegenthaler coming out of the box, and he led a three-on-one leading to a one-timer from too high by Brendan Smith, whose shot was gloved by Demko.
Protecting a three-goal lead, the Devils looked to shut the Vancouver Canucks down in the third period. They were able to hold them off early on, disrupting their puck movement in the offensive zone and keeping their lines fresh with frequent changes. The (Jack) Hughes line got hemmed in for quite awhile after a few minutes had gone by, as the Canucks took the puck away a couple times to prevent the Devils breakout. However, they kept missing the net with their shot attempts. A couple minutes later, Jack Hughes was denied by Demko when Hughes got around the defense following a pass by Dougie Hamilton to gain the zone for the Devils.
Bo Horvat nearly scored for the Canucks past the halfway point of the final frame, as Mackenzie Blackwood scrambled in the crease at the loose puck from J.T. Miller’s pass, which was one-handed past him by Horvat off the far post. The post kept the Devils in front by three goals, and Vancouver kept hunting for scoring chances. Still, with over half the period gone by, they had only actually hit Blackwood with two shots on goal despite their numerous chances and attempts.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson crashed into Nico Hischier by the boards, causing both to awkwardly hit the ice. HIschier slowly made his way right to the bench, while Ekman-Larsson took awhile longer to get himself off the ice as he hobbled to the dressing room. Hischier, meanwhile, stayed on the bench despite the fact the collision only happened because Ekman-Larsson seemed to come close to making a dirty play. It was fortunate that Hischier got the better of it.
Not long after, Ryan Graves took a holding penalty with 3:34 left in the game. He grabbed J.T. Miller in the corner. The Canucks pulled Demko and took the power play as a six-on-four. Bo Horvat scored practically the same goal that he scored in the second period to make it a 4-2 game, with a screen in front, off a pass from J.T. Miller for his eighth goal of the season.
With over two minutes to play, the Canucks pulled the goaltender again - and this time Jack Hughes almost scored on a long shot, but it instead went for an icing. Erik Haula lost the draw, and Quinn Hughes’ first shot was blocked away. After a couple more shots went awry, Blackwood made a stop on a shot by Elias Pettersson. With the Hughes line absolutely exhausted, Jack took the puck after a pass deflected off Tatar’s skate to him - and he sent it straight down the ice into the empty net to make it a 5-2 game with a minute and a few seconds remaining. With that, the Devils held on to beat the Vancouver Canucks - and they had them the whole way.
The Opposition Opinion: Check out Nucks Misconduct for their coverage of the Canucks.
No Problems Here
Nico Hischier became the first on the Devils to reach the 5-goal mark for the team this season with his first period power play goal. Reaching this mark in just nine games played and 10 team games, I hope this is a sign of a broader goal scoring breakout year for Nico Hischier. I also hope that he did not injure his leg in the third period. With the Devils’ centers scoring four of the five goals tonight, this team continues to thrive under the recent leadership-by-example from Nico. Hughes and Mercer had great nights as well, and I look at this game, yet again, as a template for winning.
While the Devils were outshot early, they ended up dominating the Canucks in the shots column for the remainder of the game. As Vancouver had 19 shots on goal after two periods, one might have expected the Devils defense to finally give up more than 25 shots in a game. They did not, as the Canucks finished with 23 - getting just four of their 20 shot attempts in the third period on goal. Despite not having their legs early, the defense bounced back and adjusted by being willing to get into shooting lanes. Siegenthaler led the defense with five blocked shots, and all three of Hamilton, Marino, and Severson made good plays on the puck throughout the game - especially Marino and Severson. I have been very happy with the defense lately, and they did not give much to complain about tonight with just a five-on-four goal and an empty net power-play goal given up.
Lastly, Mackenzie Blackwood did his job tonight. It ended up not being much on the scoresheet - just 21 stops on 23 shots - but it felt like a lot early on. The Devils’ defensive structure was more gelatinous than usual in the early stages, and Blackwood stayed solid as a rock in the face of some respectable offensive talent from the Canucks. However, Quinn Hughes’ impact on Blackwood’s life seemed limited, which was helpful, while John Marino was matched against the Miller-Horvat-Garland line and held them in check. It was a team effort tonight, and they got it done. I truly have no complaints for the way they played.
What did you think of the Hughes Battle tonight? What did you think of the Devils’ young talented center trio tonight? How about Yegor Sharangovich? Mackenzie Blackwood? How are we feeling about Lindy Ruff right about now? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
And whether you followed along in the gamethread, or on Twitter @AATJerseyBlog, thanks for reading. This is Chris - goodnight.