The New Jersey Devils had an unfortunate start, as an early turnover led to Ryan Johansen getting around Jonas Siegenthaler and shooting on Vanecek - and he picked up the rebound to give the Nashville Predators a 1-0 lead just 11 seconds into the game. The Devils largely dominated the run of play after the goal, however, and by the 10-minute mark they were outshooting the Predators 7-4, with over twice as many shot attempts.
The best line for the Devils in the first period was the Tatar-Hischier-Bratt line. Tomas Tatar had a few chances by Juuse Saros’ net that seemed like the closest the team came to scoring for much of the period. On one such chance, Tatar was pulling the puck from near to goal line out to the top of the crease - but the puck got away from him before he could whip it around Saros. After the halfway point, however, play began to sputter and slow down until Fabian Zetterlund was high sticked in the face when he was trying to take the puck away from Ryan McDonagh.
The Devils did not score on the power play. They came rather close when Jack Hughes put the moves on the Predators as he danced around the right faceoff circle, cutting to the middle and throwing the puck at the crease. Tanner Jeannot chipped the pass to Mercer at the netside, and the puck seemed like it was going past Saros into the net until it was whacked out of mid-air, allowing the Predators to kill the rest of the penalty.
The curse of John Hynes was apparent as the period came to an end. As the Devils allowed a goal off the opening draw, they allowed a last-minute goal was Roman Josi spun at a puck on the blueline and sent it on goal, giving Colby Sissons a rebound to beat past Vanecek. The Predators took a 2-0 lead going into the second period, with the shots at 10-9.
The Devils were on a mission coming out of the first intermission. Kevin Bahl ripped his first goal of the season when he received a pass from Jack Hughes, after Hughes had skated the puck around the zone and net. Bahl was fired up, and the crowd at the Rock was as well.
Soon after play resumed, Yegor Sharangovich drew a tripping penalty. On the power play, Hughes and Hischier combined for a beautiful passing play resulting in a Jesper Bratt chance on Saros that Bratt went five hole on, tying the game at 2-2!
Kevin Bahl did make a rookie mistake leading to a breakaway for Cody Glass that Damon Severson chased after, whacking his stick but failing to prevent a shot. Vanecek stuffed the shot, though, and Severson flung the rebound immediately down the ice. The Predators continued to pressure, and Vanecek made another good save before Jesper Bratt was sprung on a breakaway. Bratt tried to cut from his backhand across the net to his forehand, but Dante Fabbro hooked him, giving the Devils another power play.
On this power play, Damon Severson, with the second unit to start, set up Alex Holtz for a one-timer blast that beat Saros, through the moving screen of Fabian Zetterlund. 3-2, Devils, just six minutes into the period. Truly, this game was getting all sides of the John Hynes experienced.
Brendan Smith also seemed to be shifted to forward in this period, as he was on a line with Boqvist and Holtz, nearly drawing another hooking call as he drove to the net. Fabian Zetterlund, on the following shift, fought through the Predators in the neutral zone and nearly scored through a maze of them around Saros, but to no avail. The Devils forced Vitek Vanecek to make some saves in the final several minutes, as the Predators tried to fight back. However, the Devils kept their lead into the third period.
The Devils came up with pressure again to start the third period. They nearly expanded their lead when Dawson Mercer caught the Predators in a line change and dragged at the mouth of the crease, but could not sneak it past Juuse Saros. The Devils got a bit cute with their passing at times afterwards, moving a bit too much side-to-side and giving the Predators too many chances to break up passes.
Nearly six minutes into the period, Brendan Smith drew a tripping penalty from Mark Jankowski. Dawson Mercer was robbed again when Nico Hischier set him up for a redirection at the front of the net. Saros gloved it, and the second unit took the ice for the next faceoff. They moved the puck plenty, but their only attempt was a Severson slap shot that went high and wide.
The Predators nearly tied the game when a puck got out to Tanner Jeannot shot the puck off the bar. After play resumed following the stoppage for the puck going out of play, Dougie Hamilton hit Filip Forsberg away from the play and went to the box for interference with under seven minutes to play. The Devils got a couple early clears. On the second, the puck went right to Nico Hischier off the boards, giving him a breakaway. The puck bounced on him as he stickhandled, and Saros made a pad save on his backhand shot. Vanecek made just one save late in the power play, and the Devils successfully killed it.
With under four minutes to play, Juuse Saros had lost his goalie stick poking the puck away, and the Devils whipped the puck around the zone and broke down the Predators’ structure until Jack Hughes took a one-timer in the slot that was stoned by Saros. About a minute later - with 2:46 to play, Nashville was called for too many men on the ice. The first unit did not get much in the way of shot attempts with John Marino making an appearance. The second unit took over for the final 40 or so seconds of the power play, and play had ground close to a halt by this point. The penalty expired without anything from the second unit, but Saros could not get to the bench as Hischier broke up the initial play through the neutral zone. He got off for the final 20 seconds, and Mikael Granlund tied the game with 9.8 seconds remaining off a rebound from a point shot from Forsberg.
To start overtime, Lindy Ruff sent out Nico Hischier, Dougie Hamilton, and Yegor Sharangovich. John Hynes sent out Ryan Johansen, Roman Josi, and Ryan Duchene. Hischier won the draw, but the Devils turned the puck over in the offensive zone. After getting the puck back in the defensive zone, they fell victim to pressure in the corner by Matt Duchene. Duchene won the puck and sent it out for Johansen, who roofed the one-timer. 4-3, Nasvhille.
The Opposition Opinion: Check out On the Forecheck.
Too Content to Kill Time
I did not really have a problem with the New Jersey Devils for much of the first or second periods. The truth is, though, they let themselves get John Hynes’d. They let themselves believe that his team’s second period collapse would stop him from winning a game off of two goals in the final minutes of the periods - one of those being in the last 10 seconds - along with their first goal that was a mere 11 seconds into the game. You just never know when John Hynes is behind one of the benches. His teams might get into clunky, ill-paced games - but there always seems to be something dramatic about them.
That said, it was not a good time to sit back on the power play with John Marino in the dying minutes of the game. The Devils were in dire need of an insurance goal, and they really should have tried to close out the game then and there. This strategy was reliant on the idea that the Devils could hold off a Predators team running rampant for the final 30 or so seconds, which turned out to be a bad idea. Hindsight and all, sure - but this should be a lesson for future late-game situations. It’s better not to wait for the empty net and hope to wait it out - just let the power play do its thing.
Usage is not the primary evil at hand here. The ultimate reason they lost tonight is turnovers. Let’s go through the final goal here:
So Hischier makes the wrong play by sending it backwards, but Vanecek really compounds the error by sending the puck into the near corner where Duchene is rather than just wrapping it around the other side of the net. It does not seem like the ideal move is to send the puck right where the forechecker is going. But then Dougie Hamilton drops too low to the goal line, giving Johansen the passing and shooting lane. And that was the end of the game.
At the beginning, Dougie Hamilton turned the puck over to Cole Smith at the blueline, leading to an easy pass and entry for Johansen, who got past Siegenthaler and cashed in his own rebound. This was another play where the Devils were too careless getting the puck away from pressure, and they got burned.
If There’s Going to Be a Loss...
The Devils cannot win every night. Sad, I know - but they at least made it an entertaining game tonight. I would have liked more consistency, but I also would have been more annoyed if they lost a game where they looked much better than they did tonight. The truth was that the game was sloppy and the Devils never really sustained domination of the run of play for more than about half a period before they would get hemmed in for a few shifts themselves. I think they still should have won this game, as they had more good chances than Nashville did. But Nashville made the Devils pay for turnovers, while the Devils had a few big-time opportunities where they just couldn’t make the Predators pay for a turnover, defensive breakdown, or breakaway. The killer instinct was not there tonight, save for those moments at the start of the second period.
What did you think of tonight’s loss? Do you think they deserved that fate? How did you feel about the late-game power play? What about the overtime goal? What is going on with the slow starts and second periods? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.