The first few minutes of the period were calm for the Devils, as they got their legs under them with lots of possession time in the first few minutes. Akira Schmid, getting another start in the midst of a few unlucky games for Vanecek, made a nice save off the faceoff with his pad four minutes in, after seeing little action at the start. After the five and a half minute mark, Nico Hischier sprung Jesper Bratt with a tap pass in the neutral zone, and Bratt went flying at Wedgewood with a hard shot, but Wedgewood knocked it down.
Michael McLeod took a kneeing penalty for a missed hit on Joel Kiviranta. The Devils got an early clear on the penalty kill, and the Stars did a poor job of regaining the offensive zone for rest of their power play. The Devils never seemed to spend more than 10 seconds in the defensive zone before sending the puck out, and play returned to even strength with the score still even.
Past the halfway point of the first, Dawson Mercer nearly scored as Scott Wedgewood went sprawling when Mercer was stickhandling through the defense low in the zone. Mercer nearly worked the puck from below the goal line and back to tuck it past Wedgwood, but he got the glove to the post in time.
After several minutes of back-and-forth play, including some promising shifts from Kevin Bahl, who played with great confidence, Mason Marchment was about to have a last second chance in the low slot when he got behind the defense on a broken play. John Marino saved the day at the last second, knocking Marchment and jarring the puck enough to prevent a shot on Schmid. The Devils entered the first intermission tied at 0-0.
Erik Haula had a wide open net after Michael McLeod worked Wegdewood to the ice as both teams scrambled around the crease. Ryan Suter, of course, got in front of Haula’s shot, keeping the score tied despite the Devils getting their best chance of the game. The Devils had an excellent shift with the Hischier line on, and before five minutes had passed they were at nine shots on the period.
Akira Schmid made the save of the game five and a half minutes in, as he rose across the crease to save a Jason Robertson shot at an open net after an excellent passing play. The Dallas Stars would still score the first goal of the game, as Ty Dellandrea knocked down a point shot when only four players were in the zone. The puck bounced of the ice and over Schmid’s shoulder, putting the Stars up one.
The Devils would not stay down for long. Off a draw win by McLeod and a backhand pass back from Sharangovich, Kevin Bahl drifted a bit and blasted a puck off Miles Wood and past Wedgewood! 1-1.
Akira Schmid had a Brodeurian save off a rebound from a two-on-one shot not long after the goal. The Devils’ home crowd grew electric - and as the crowd seemed to be trying to come up with a chant for his name, he made another big pad save.
Kevin Bahl nearly created another goal with six and a half minutes to play, as his blast was kicked out by Wedgewood - and the puck skidded past Miles Wood as he was trying to beat it back into the open net. A minute later, Miro Heiskanen went to the box for tripping Nico Hischier, and the Devils went to their first power play. Akira Schmid had to make an early save on this power play, and the Devils could not get set up with the first unit.
The second unit pulled off a nifty breakout after a defensive zone faceoff when Hamilton played the puck with a high stick, with Severson sweeping around and sneaking a pass up the ice to Fabian Zetterlund. Zetterlund made a nice move, but Wedgwood stayed with it and got his blocker on the backhand shot. The power play finished unsuccessful with two shots, but the second unit was pretty good in their minute or so of ice time.
The Stars scored with only 1.1 seconds to play in the period, as Nico Hischier had lost the final draw of the period, and the Dallas top line worked the puck around to the point, and a point shot led to a backhand rebound swat that put them up one again. Roope Hintz got the goal from the point shot by Heiskanen. 2-1.
Can't spell Hintz without "in". pic.twitter.com/twxSlkNIEX— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) December 14, 2022
The New Jersey Devils knew what they had to do in the third, and they continued to pepper Wedgewood with shots in the first few minutes as the Stars struggled to hold them off. Jesper Bratt got through the defense with another burst of speed about six and a half minutes in, but Wedgewood barely stayed with his backhand shot, as Bratt was protecting against the puck on the rush and got good lift on the shot.
Joe Pavelski ripped a shot off the bars from a sharp angle at the halfway point of the period, and on the other end Bratt went below the goal line and set up Sharangovich for a netfront tap chance - but Wedgewood made another big save. Bratt put another shot on Wedgwood after a break - and the Stars immediately took it the other way. Luke Glendening seemed to have an opening for his backhand, but Schmid made another ridiculous save - this one with his blocker.
Michael McLeod had a partial break behind Ryan Suter, but his sweeping backhand was knocked away by Wedgewood. Tatar was set up with under eight minutes to play by Fabian Zetterlund - and his shot nearly beat Wedgewood, but he drew a high sticking penalty from Mason Marchment.
The first unit came out firing this time. They had three attempts in the first 25 seconds, but the third from Hamilton was blocked and cleared. The first unit was able to set up again, but Hischier’s wraparound chance was stuffed - and Mercer was looking the wrong way for the rebound. With the second unit on afterwards, Tatar drove the net and Haula tried to get a loose puck into the net - but the whistle was blown prematurely. And when the Devils continued to pressure after the power play ended, Wedgewood kicked the net off its moorings, killing play again.
The Devils struggled to get their offense going for another couple minutes, and Akira Schmid was pulled with over two minutes remaining to play, and they had to defend their empty net from Marchment, who was racing at the cleared puck following the faceoff. Hamilton was able to keep it moving, and the Devils controlled play going into the final 90 seconds. Dougie Hamilton was loaded up for a one-timer by Hughes, but Wedgewood fought it off and
Anton Lundell Esa Lindell sent it all the way into the empty net with a bit over a minute to play. To add insult to injury, Marchment added a second empty netter to make the final score 4-1.
The Opposition Opinion: Check out Defending Big D for their recap.
Akira Schmid Should Be Here to Stay
The Devils were able to stay in the game tonight because of Akira Schmid’s excellence. They might not have been outshot, but Dallas got plenty of dangerous chances throughout the game. Time after time from the second period on, the Devils were allowing odd-man rushes and had poor defensive breakdowns. Schmid stopped 24 of 26 shots with 2.48 expected goals against - and both of the goals he allowed were as close to unstoppable as it gets. Mackenzie Blackwood just started his conditioning stint in Utica, and I hope games like this are taken into account when determining what should happen to Schmid when that stint is over. The Pittsburgh Penguins are now fast on the Devils’ trail atop the Metropolitan Division, and they need to keep the pedal to the floor by putting the best available goaltender in net.
Shake It Off
I have the inkling of an instinct toward being pissed off at back-to-back losses to start the week, but the Devils have been due for a game in which their subpar finishing comes back to haunt them. Scott Wedgewood saved 2.49 goals above expected tonight on 35 shots against - they certainly got the puck to the net enough. However, the Devils struggled at creating openings with Wedgewood, as their puck movement was not as crisp as it could be - certainly not up to the standard of the Robertson-Pavelski-Hintz line.
There were some bright spots. The Wood-McLeod line looked better with Sharangovich compared to Zetterlund. Zetterlund, too, looked better apart from them. Kevin Bahl was excellent with Damon Severson - and I hope to see them together on Thursday night as well. If the Devils can get a bounce back game from their top six, they should be in business again as the season goes on. I did not think this was Jack Hughes or Nico Hischier’s best game. They were not bad, really - but the Devils will not win any game that their top six isn’t scoring in. It’s just a fact.
What did you think of tonight’s game? Were you annoyed? Did Schmid make it worth it? What should Ruff do about Boqvist’s line? Is it time for Zetterlund to get back with Hischier, and Bratt back with Hughes? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.