Hamilton had the first shot on goal for the Devils. A moment later Hughes pulled a nice move on Ekblad on the far boards. The Panthers then had a good shift including a tip that just went wide. The Devils had a 3 on 2 the other way. Marino passed to Wood who shot it. Marino tried to bang the rebound home but Bobrovsky’s pad was there. Lomberg had a chance the other way but Smith got back to break it up, although he took a questionable slashing call. Reinhart passed across the slot to Tkachuk for an open net. 1-0 Panthers. (Later on the goal was changed to Reinhart, I believe it deflected off a Devil rather than Tkachuk) Dalpe had a chance from the circle off the next play and Schmid made the save. Lomberg got behind the defense again and this time Graves stopped him without a penalty call. Hischier lost an edge trying to pull a move on Barkov. Tkachuk and Luostarinen had a 2 on 1 and Schmid stopped Luostrarinen. The Devils had a 2 on 1 and Hischier’s backhand was off Bob’s mask. The Panthers had a 2 on 1 and Hamilton closed off Reinhart and knocked the puck away. The Devils had a 2 on 1 but Hughes’s pass jumped right over Haula’s stick. Schmid made a glove save on Verhaeghe with 22 seconds left in the period.
Barkov was not there to start the period, after he received an accidental cross-check to the knee from Hischier off the last faceoff of the first period. The Panthers were not happy about that this period. The Devils iced the puck shortly after the puck was dropped. Wood beat out the next icing and McLeod fanned on a good centering pass from Zetterlund. Tatar centered for Hamilton on the next shift in the OZ and he hit the post. The Devils got their first power play with Staal off for cross-checking. The panthers had a 2 on 1 within the first 10 seconds. A minute in Hughes centered for Zetterlund and Bob kicked the shot away. Hamilton passed to Holtz and he fanned on the one timer. Forsling cleared to bring the PP down to its final seconds. The Panthers made the kill. With 12:10 left Forsling walked in from the point to the circle and his shot went off Schmid’s glove and past it, 2-0 Florida. Mercer was wide open in the slot and his shot was blocked by Denisenko. The Devils had a 3 on 2 a few minutes later and Haula shot it wide. Hughes got the puck and shot it wide. Marino got the puck at the point and he scored. The ref said good goal, but Bobrovsky immediately complained. Mercer had clipped his skate and knocked him down, but it looked like Staal pushed him, and the contact was outside the blue paint. Florida challenged. The refs ruled the contact was caused by Staal, good goal. Power play Devils. The power play was not very good. Panthers kill. Sharangovich had a chance with about 4 minutes left and he shot it wide. Haula, Boqvist, and Holtz had a 3 on 2 and Haula’s shot may have been going high, but it looked like Bobrovsky got a piece of it either way. With less than a minute left, Reinhart tipped an Ekblad shot past Schmid. The Devils had a chance to clear, but Hischier lost his stick and the clearing attempt bounced off him and stayed in.
The Devils had a good start to the third, with a great shift. Holtz’s line had the next shift and he had a shot. Off the faceoff Sharangovich, Boqvist, and Holtz passed around and Holtz had a chance in front but Bobrovsky robbed him. The Panthers controlled the next couple shifts, and then Hughes set up Bratt but Verhaeghe blocked the shot. Staal had a chance and Schmid stopped him. Hamilton tried to clear the puck away but it bounced off Siegenthaler’s skate and towards the open net. Siegenthaler recovered and spun around and cleared the puck away at the last second. With 9 minutes left in the period Denisenko hit the post. McLeod had a chance in front and a scrum followed, and the Devils ended up with a power play. With 32 seconds left, Hamilton got called for interference because Staal skated into him backwards. Terrible call, and that brings an end to the pp. The Panthers PP was quiet. After it was over, McLeod looked like he was gonna go for a wraparound, changed direction, and then centered to Haula who scored his second of the season, cutting the deficit in half. With 2 minutes left Schmid left the goal. The Devils had some chances. Wood tipped a point shot from Hamilton just wide. Marino was taken down along the boards with no call. The puck was cleared for an icing. The Devils called their timeout. The Panthers got the puck off the faceoff and cleared, and Verhaeghe scored on the empty net. With less than a minute left the Devils emptied their net again. Hughes set up McLeod for an open net but he fanned entirely on the shot. Panthers iced. The final seconds ticked away and the Panthers are victorious, 4-2. Close game, unfortunate result.
Who Deserved to Win?
This was a very close game. Expected goals are almost perfectly even if you don’t include the ENG, which in my opinion, shouldn’t count for deciding who deserves to win. Expected goals are again pretty even at 5v5 only, but adjusting for score and venue, the Panthers were better. I believe the deserve to win o’meter includes the ENG, but it gave the Panthers the win in 55% of simulations. With this information, and the fact that Barkov only played 1 period, I give a very slight edge to Florida, but it was still a very close game and the Devils fought hard with an empty net.
Lindy Ruff scratched Damon Severson tonight after a bad giveaway that may have cost them at least a point against the Flyers. However, that did not seem to be a good decision, as the Devils gave up several 2 on 1s early in the game. The game was close and having Severson playing over Bahl could’ve been an advantage they needed. Smith and Bahl were both under 40% xG, with Smith a team-low 31%. I think Severson has to be back in the lineup for the next game.
Time to Bounce Back
The Devils started flaming hot, and that has put them in a very good position. They had a rough stretch for a few games, but the game vs Philly and tonight’s game were a good response. They didn’t win, but they played well in both. They won some games they shouldn’t have during the win streak, and you’re always gonna lose some you deserve to win to balance things out. Tonight starts probably the hardest 7 game stretch of the year. They play the Panthers again, Carolina twice, Boston twice, and the Penguins. Pittsburgh and Carolina are almost up to the Devils’ .710 points percentage and Boston is still #1 in the league, the first team to 50 points. If there’s a time to play top quality hockey, it’s the next 6 games. None of these teams are going to be easy to beat and you don’t want to let a big points lead start to slip away with a losing streak here. The Devils have it in them to win, but only if they play their best.
I’m not worried at all though. The last two games were pretty good and the 13 game win streak, again, has put them in a great place. Losing Bastian for a long time isn’t great, but Palat should be back in a couple weeks and that should be a nice boost for this team. Don’t forget we get Luke Hughes once the NCAA season is over, too.
One last thought, Erik Haula finally scored his second of the year. I’m happy for him and hopefully this will be the start of better puck luck for him. He has 7.85 individual expected goals and only 2 real goals!
What did you think of the game? Thoughts on the next 6 games? What did you think about Severson being benched? Leave your thoughts in the comments below, and thank you for reading.