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Devils Quash Oilers With 4-3 Comeback Stunner

A five game win streak! That’s the first time in five years the Devils have pulled one of those off.

NHL: New Jersey Devils at Edmonton Oilers Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

First Period

The New Jersey Devils got off to a good start when Nico Hischier drew a penalty on the first shift of the game, as Brett Kulak went off for cross-checking Hischier around the slot. On that power play, the first unit had a few chances to score on Stuart Skinner, but a connection between Hughes and Bratt just missed. The Oilers, however, were able to get in front of a couple shots, preventing the Devils from barraging Skinner with shots and cashing in on rebounds. The second unit worked against McDavid and Kane, but they were unable to properly get set in the offensive zone.

After Ryan Graves deterred Connor McDavid at full speed in the defensive zone, after McDavid blew through all three zones, the Devils turned play around and the third line gritted out a good shift against McDavid’s line. The Devils then seemed to be more on top of the Oilers at five-on-five, spending more of their time in the offensive zone.

That was until Jesper Bratt passed back on an odd-man rush, leading to a quick transition goal from Connor McDavid after Brendan Smith could not take the pass from Zach Hyman. 1-0, Oilers, on a play that should have been an offensive opportunity for the Devils.

Moments after Jonas Siegenthaler beautifully swiped the puck away from Connor McDavid in front of Blackwood, Nathan Bastian worked the puck up the wall and set up Miles Wood with a perfect pass for a one-timer goal past Stuart Skinner to tie the game at 1-1.

Derek Ryan took a penalty with 4:35 to play in the period, going to the box for tripping Nathan Bastian in the neutral zone. Nico Hischier had a golden opportunity at the end of the first minute, as Nathan Bastian loosened the puck when the Oilers were trying to skate it from behind Skinner’s net, leading to Jack Hughes flipping the puck out in front for Nico - but his shot was chipped up by Cody Ceci over the crossbar. This proved to be the best chance for the Devils, who only had one shot on their second power play.

Ryan Graves almost made a fatal error at the end of the period when Mackenzie Blackwood lost his stick fighting away Warren Foegle at the tail-end of Leon Draisaitl’s shift, which was mostly spent in the Devils’ defensive zone. The Devils had the opportunity to exit the zone for a rush the other way, but Ryan Graves took the puck and skated so slowly to the blueline that he was pickpocketed before crossing it, forcing Blackwood to make a stickless last-moment save on Draisaitl. This kept the game tied at one apiece, with the Edmonton Oilers getting the better of individual chances, but the Devils a vast more quantity of shot attempts and possession time.

Second Period

The Oilers and Devils traded chances throughout the first three minutes of the second period, but neither team could capitalize at the breakneck pace. This pace continued until Yegor Sharangovich was called for hooking, sending the Oilers to the power play. The Devils sent out Nico Hischier with Bastian, Siegenthaler, and Marino. The Devils got a couple clears in the first minute, the latter of which was rather hard-fought after the Devils had possessed the puck and failed to get it out twice. The kill, after that point, gave the Oilers enough trouble that they did not really get to have another scoring chance.

The Devils began to have trouble possessing the puck for long enough to escape the defensive zone. After being held in for what seemed like forever, Tyson Barrie took a shot that was deflected down and past Blackwood by Derek Ryan. 2-1, Oilers. Not long after play resumed, Evander Kane got behind Damon Severson and was stopped by Blackwood on the breakaway, drawing a hooking penalty from Severson in the process.

Mackenzie Blackwood went down with an audibly painful injury just 15 seconds into the power play, sustaining a lower-body injury as he split across the net to make a rebound save. Play was stopped after the Devils cleared the zone, as Blackwood was in too much pain to even consider staying in the game.

Vitek Vanecek quickly came in, with play resuming with the Oilers power play. After Connor McDavid missed on a one-timer, he skated around the zone and sent the puck down low to Leon Draisaitl, who ripped a shot right through Vanecek to give the Oilers a 3-1 lead.

While Vanecek let a weak one through to start, he made up for it. One particular chance came from Kailer Yamamoto, who the Devils completely lost in their defensive coverage. Yamamoto, at a remarkably slow pace in the low slot, received a pass and tried to deke Vanecek out for a backhand shot. Vanecek stuck with him and steered the shot wide.

Third Period

Miles Wood scored right off the draw only a minute and 14 seconds into the period. It was so quick that MSG’s camera feed hadn’t even gotten back to the game before coming back to the puck already being swept out in frustration by Skinner. 3-2, with nearly a whole period left for the Devils to work with.

Not long after Cody Ceci failed to tap-in a pass off a two-on-one rush into an open net, Miles Wood drew a tripping penalty from Tyson Barrie. The Devils did not have the best chance in the first minute of the power play - that distinction belonged to Leon Draisaitl, who was sprung ahead by Ryan McLeod and calmly shook off Dougie Hamilton around the high slot to force Vanecek to make a straight-up save.

The Oilers had a two-on-one opportunity after Nico Hischier was up-ended in the offensive zone. Leon Draisaitl, working against Siegenthaler, set up Tyler Bouchard with a pass across, whose shot was gloved by a sprawling Vitek Vanecek, keeping the Devils in the game. Play returned to its original back-and-forth flow, with both teams skating fast and dangerously, with single chances responded to by single chances until Skinner gloved a shot by Miles Wood and froze play.

The Devils then largely took control for much of the final several minutes. The problem I had with their approach was that they were taking a lot of shots from low-danger areas, which seemed to give Stuart Skinner an easier time as only Nico Hischier seemed to deflect shots for the Devils (and he wasn’t out on every shift). Miles Wood continued trying to generate offense, giving the team chances to jump on his rebounds and centering passes - but nobody did.

That was until Ryan Graves emerged from the bench to score his best goal yet in a Devils uniform. With under four minutes remaining, Vanecek had just survived a wraparound chance by Hyman and a hard shot from Puljujarvi. Coming out of the shadows with a head of steam, Ryan Graves got the puck high in the zone for the Devils, beating his man with a move from the backhand to the forehand, barreling through the Oilers for the shot that got even Stuart on his heels. Stuart slid too far back into the net as he could not contain the shot by Graves, which trickled through with 3:15 to play. 3-3.

Then Jesper Bratt struck. Right off the draw, won by Hischier, to resume play, John Marino sprung Bratt past the defense. Bratt rang the shot off the bar and in! 4-3, Devils, with 3:07 to play. With this incredible play, Bratt broke the franchise record for longest point streak to start a season.

With the Oilers suddenly pressing for a tie game, McDavid was stood up by Siegenthaler with the empty net, and the Devils forced an offsides with 1:08 to play. At this point, the Oilers called their timeout. When the puck was dropped, Erik Haula nad Nico Hischier worked together to clear the zone a first time with under 50 seconds to play. The Oilers, pressured by Bastian, sent the puck into the Devils’ bench, giving a neutral zone draw. Vanecek made a big stop on McDavid with about 20 seconds to play as he rushed to Vanecek’s right, and the puck was sent into the Devils’ bench again - this time giving the Oilers an offensive zone draw, as the Devils called timeout.

Nico Hischier won the final draw, helping work the puck with Marino and Siegenthaler into the corner. The Oilers fought it out for a final shot that went wide from the stick of Zach Hyman as the clock hit zero, sealing the Devils victory at 4-3.

The Game Stats: The Game Summary | The Event Summary | The Play by Play Log | The Shot Summary | The Natural Stat Trick Game Stats

The Opposition Opinion: See Copper n’ Blue for their recap.

Looking Up for Lindy

I was convinced in the first week of this season that Lindy Ruff would have been gone by Thanksgiving, if not Halloween. Instead, the Devils just got their first five-game win streak since December 2017. It’s pretty sad on a franchise level to go that long between five-game win streaks, but Ruff whipped his team into shape when the going got rough today. His late-game shuffles pushed the perfect buttons to elicit the comeback from his team. Now, the streak needs to become a pattern. Instead of looking at a new coach, Lindy Ruff has saved himself and is getting outstanding wins out of his team.

A big part of the team’s success tonight was the intensity of Miles Wood. Even when the team seemed sluggish, Wood always took it to the Oilers. With two goals, an assist, and a drawn penalty, I think it’s fair to say that this was one of Miles Wood’s finest moments as a Devil so far. Without him, the comeback does not happen. I am delighted to see this year has brought back the Miles Wood we knew and loved watching as Devils fans before his injury - and he seems even better now.

An Amazing Third Period

In the third period, Lindy Ruff rearranged the lines to have Jesper Bratt skating with Nico Hischier and Tomas Tatar - though Tatar was replaced by Boqvist later on. Tatar-Hischier-Bratt got a couple shots on goal and did not allow any attempts against, while Bratt-Hischier-Boqvist was the line out there for the game-winning goal by Bratt, putting up seven shot attempts in just 1:33 together and not allowing any for the Oilers.

Miles Wood, Erik Haula, and Fabian Zetterlund also became the third line. They played a tick over three minutes together, outshooting the Oilers 6-0 and being on the ice for the goal at the start of the period. In all, the Devils had 18 shots on goal in the third period, as they simply barraged Skinner with shots. Still, I was uncomfortable with how much range the Devils were willing to put on their shots for most of the period - and they did only score late once Ryan Graves forced his way into a scoring area.

Vitek Vanecek was a huge part of the third period success. He was tested in some scoring opportunities that threatened to totally kill the Devils’ momentum, but he came back stronger with each passing chance. In total, Vanecek earned a .947 save percentage on 19 shots and 2.06 expected goals against in only 31:19. With the Devils forcing the offensive issue late, there were plenty of odd-man rushes and back-and-forth exchanges that Vanecek had to fight through.

Mackenzie Blackwood’s Woes

Vanecek’s arrival into the game was unfortunate, however. Mackenzie Blackwood has struggled with injuries over the past few years, and was coming off a strong performance in Vancouver before injuring his lower body during tonight’s game. Despite the two goals, Blackwood was not really playing that poorly when considering the types of chances and shots he was facing down. He was playing hard, and it was in a moment of making a save that Blackwood seemed to go a bit too far, as he fell onto the ice in a heap of pain. It was not a pretty sight. If Jonathan Bernier is not ready to go, the Devils must be ready to call Nico Daws or Akira Schmid up early enough that he can get to Calgary for the game tomorrow. I doubt they want to be walking into that game with an EBUG or a backup goaltender that shouldn’t be dressed for injury concerns, whether that be Blackwood or Bernier.

Your Thoughts

What did you think of that game? How did you feel about Miles Wood today (two goals, an assist, and a penalty drawn)? What did you think of Ryan Graves’ goal? What about the performance of Vitek Vanecek? Are you excited about this Devils team? Leave your comments below.

Whether you followed in the gamethread, or along on Twitter @AATJerseyBlog, thanks for reading.