The New Jersey Devils dominated the opening minutes of their game against the Philadelphia Flyers. Three and a half minutes in, Fabian Zetterlund drew a hooking penalty from Kevin Hayes, sending the Devils to the power play. Jack Hughes was denied twice by Carter Hart in the first minute, but Dougie Hamilton blocked a clearance in the neutral zone to spring him at the end of the first unit’s shift. Hughes caught the penalty kill flat-footed, and danced Hart out of his skates as he put the Devils up one! 1-0, Devils.
Vitek Vanecek made his first bgi save of the game five and a half minutes in when a pass from Brendan Smith, below the goal line - to Yegor Sharangovich, who was at the blue line - skipped past Sharangovich to Travis Konecny. Konecny, with momentum, got past Smith and had a short break on Vanecek. Vitek, however, pulled Konecny’s shot out of the air with a big glove save.
With just over three and a half minutes to play, in the midst of a strong first for New Jersey, Miles Wood took a high sticking penalty when he tried to lift Noah Kates’ stick as he carried the puck into the slot. The Devils went to a four-minute penalty kill - and Hischier got the clear off the opening draw win by McLeod. They did a rather good job in the first minute and a half of the kill, pushing the Flyers back multiple times and not giving them an inch to work with offensively. IN the final minute of the period, John Marino blocked a shot off the glass, and McLeod sent Boqvist ahead for a one-on-one chance. Boqvist cut wide and handcuffed Hart a bit - but the shot was right in the chest. With this strong play down a man on the double minor, the Devils maintained their 1-0 lead going into the intermission.
The Devils successfully killed the rest of the penalty to Miles Wood and continued to put pressure on Philadelphia over the first few minutes of the period. However, Ryan Graves would put the Devils back to the penalty kill, as his stick got between Travis Konecny’s skates as he drove the net. It looked like a dive, but the Devils went down a man anyway less than four minutes into the second.
On the kill, the Devils blocked the first shot by Sanheim - but McLeod could not clear the puck. The Flyers worked it to Owen Tippet, whose shot through a screen was partially blocked and Vanecek snagged it out of the air. Unfortunately, Scott Laughton would even the game for the Flyers after the next faceoff, as his one-timer deflected off Jonas Siegenthaler and into the top corner. 1-1.
After Dougie Hamilton put the Devils down a man again for cross-checking Travis Konecny, just past the five-minute mark, the Devils won their opening penalty kill draw in the neutral zone (yes, the neutral zone) and cleared the puck. Erik Haula got another penalty for tossing his stick to Jonas Siegenthaler when Siegenthaler broke his stick, putting the Devils on a five-on-three for a minute. Hischier, Marino, and Smith did well on the five-on-three, with Marino and Hischier working a clear before Mercer finished the five-on-three for Hischier. Vanecek made a big save as play returned to five-on-four, and Brendan Smith found an opening for a clear. When the Flyers’ entry was disrupted Yegor Sharangovich got a loose puck and had a clean breakaway - but Hart gloved it. Sharangovich intercepted another pass at the blueline and fired in at Hart again.
After the penalty kill ended, McLeod got in Deslaurier’s face in the corner when they came together. Deslauriers and McLeod dropped the gloves and had a marathon fight, with the linesmen deciding that they could chuck hands at each other for awhile before finally breaking it up as Deslauriers pinned McLeod into the boards. On replay, it looked liked Deslauriers should have received an instigator for crosschecking McLeod multiple times when he was looking for his loose stick.
Fight!— Ryan Novozinsky (@ryannovo62) December 16, 2022
McLeod vs. Deslauriers pic.twitter.com/dCiTR07D6e
Brendan Smith and Joel Farabee got into a scrap of their own with nine minutes to play in the period, squaring up way behind the play. Smith seemed to have a pretty easy time, throwing a couple shots and taking Farabee down before nonchalantly heading to the box. Farabee had went at him behind the play and lost his stick, dropping the gloves first - and Smith obliged.
After play settled down, Carter Hart had to make an array of big saves. First was John Marino, who was set up with a cross-ice pass at the blueline by Jesper Bratt. His shot sailed out of play. Second was Nico Hischier, who took the shot at the pads on the two-on-one - and Tatar was spun off before he could wrap the rebound onto his stick and into the net. Third was Jack Hughes, who zipped through the zone and had a partial break. Hart had trouble with Hughes’ shot, but stayed with it and covered.
The referees finally decided to call a minor penalty on Philadelphia in the second period with under five minutes to play. Jack Hughes drew a call for tripping. Hamilton, Hughes, Hischier, Holtz and Zetterlund took to the ice for the Devils. The Flyers played low, and the best chance of the first unit came at the end of the first minute when Hischier protected the puck and backhanded from the goal line. The referees had missed a penalty on Konecny early in the power play for high sticking, but called him for slashing and/or cross checking Hughes into the boards with 40 seconds left in the original penalty.
At five-on-three, the Devils replaced Zetterlund with Bratt. Hughes set up Holtz at the side of the net, but Holtz whiffed. Bratt’s shot was then deflected high. After the puck deflected to Seeler coming out of the box, Vanecek saved the breakaway and the Devils continued working. Holtz rang a shot off Hart’s mask. Severson set Zetterlund up for a one-timer as the penalty ended, but Hart made the save. The period ended at 1-1.
The Devils started the period with a couple offensive shifts. The Flyers iced the puck two minutes in, with play taking a more reserved look than the previous frame. Michael McLeod had a chance on a rebound from Siegenthaler at the end of the post-icing shift, but Hart stuck with it after McLeod’s stick was initially tied up. Jesper Bratt was later robbed by a flamboyant glove save by Hart, who went down onto his stomach in the motion.
The Devils continued to control play, with Hischier’s line hemming the Flyers in repeatedly for a rather long shift after Jack Hughes threw a body check on Owen Tippet in the neutral zone to free up the puck for them. Carter Hart continued to make saves, and Tortorella’s Flyers were blocking a ton of shot attempts. Still: they put little pressure on the Devils, looking reliant on the hope of a cherry pick or lucky bounce.
And that’s exactly what happened. Damon Severson’s pass was deflected past Hamilton to Travis Konecny, who ripped the puck past Vanecek with over eight minutes to play. 2-1, Flyers.
Michael McLeod rang a shot off the bar when he gained the offensive zone on the following shift, and the Devils remained down. The Devils continually created chances for themselves, but were mostly shooting straight on rather than working passing lanes to open up Hart. As a result, their shots were continually fought off without anyone getting on rebounds.
With over two minutes to play, Vanecek left the ice for the extra attacker when the Flyers took an icing call. Tatar stole the draw from the Flyers, but Philadelphia won it back momentarily to ice the puck again. The Devils set up with their six-on-five crew on the ice, carrying the puck around for a long time before Hughes set up Zetterlund at the side of the net. Hughes’ pass was in his skates, allowing Hart to get over. Philadelphia iced the puck off the following draw with 1:17 to play. Hughes’ one-timer was saved by Hart and deflected out of play with 1:05. The Flyers iced with 57.5 to play. The Devils were unable to capitalize on any of their chances for the remainder of the game, locking in at a 2-1 loss.
The Opposition Opinion: Go to Broad Street Hockey.
Physicality? We Had It. Shooting? We Need It.
I’m only making one section for this recap, because this is all that needs to be nailed down about this game. The Devils outshot the Flyers 49-24. Every Devils player, coach, and fan should be absolutely livid about the way tonight went down. But let it be known that the Devils, unlike their first match this year against Philly, met them when the bell rang. They were not down for the count at any point because the Flyers did something stupid to take someone out during, after, or behind a play. They even didn’t look bad in the fights. They lost tonight because they were bad at scoring.
The only way the Devils could have won tonight is if Vanecek pulled the shutout.
Could he have? Maybe. The Laughton goal was tough, and it’s not like he only dealt with two difficult situations during the game. He played well enough to come away with the victory. Even without the Severson turnover, the Devils would have actually had to score another goal. They had a five-on-three and tarried about with peripheral puck movement - and Vanecek still had to bail them out there.
But the Severson turnover is what finally led to the killer goal, and everyone will predictably bash and blame him. He should be ashamed of making such a bad decision in a tie game at the blueline, but the Devils still need to score to win. I’m not going to get too into the myriad reasons Vancouver or San Jose would never trade for Severson as a UFA (or why I don’t think they should trade him) - but I want to get that out of the way now. Regarding the game winner against - the game should have been 5-1, Devils, by then. Ruff is right that those plays can’t be high-risk, though.
Tom Fitzgerald might want to think about trading for a finisher, regardless of the method. If he does, he should strike while the iron is hot - and figure this out rather than rely on the hope Palat and Bastian will be able to stop the bleeding when they come off of tough injuries. An earlier acquisition would also allow more time to gel with an addition compared to at the deadline. While I don’t want Fitzgerald to trade for any too-small forwards, this team only needs a finisher at most - not a bruiser.
Otherwise, the Devils are going to need to teach Alex Holtz how to handle the puck a lot better than he did tonight, aside from his good centering pass during the six-on-five stretch. He lost the puck in motion a few times, and he whiffed on what would have been a tap-in goal during a power play. Yegor Sharangovich is going to have to take the next step he looked poised to take with Jack Hughes centering him. Erik Haula is going to have to return to his goal scoring ways. The scoring depth needs to step up more often if the Devils want to stay atop the division. The power play, run by heir apparent Andrew Brunette, needs to get results.
I’m not sure how many of us are not pissed off at the moment. To that end, let’s talk about the game in the comments below.