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Devils Put Up a Touchdown Twice in a Row, Beat Blues 7-4

Nico Hischier had himself a night, and the Devils showed unexpected strength with five third period goals in their comeback after coughing up an early lead.

Chicago Blackhawks v St Louis Blues
The scenes after Nico’s go-ahead.
Photo by Scott Rovak/NHLI via Getty Images

First Period

The New Jersey Devils dominated the St. Louis Blues in the early parts of the first period. Pavel Zacha had a backhand chance off a turnover that Binnington gloved on the first shift of the game, and a couple minutes later the fourth line had the Blues pinned back for quite awhile before they cleared down the ice. The Mercer line came on, and Andreas Johnson made a quick move to the backhand from the faceoff circle and tried to pass into the slot. The Blues broke it up, but could not clear the zone - and P.K. Subban blasted a slap shot back at them, beating Binnington and giving the Devils a 1-0 lead.

Jesper Bratt had Justin Fault beaten about three and a half minutes into the period going through the neutral zone, and Faulk took him out of the play to prevent Bratt from having a rush chance on Binnington. The Devils went to the power play on an interference call, and the first wave of the power play took the ice. Nate Bastian was taken down (it seemed by a trip) in the corner, leading the Blues to clear the ice once - and then another time - bringing the second unit on for the last 45 seconds of the power play. Dawson Mercer tried to create a tap-in for Sharangovich on the rush, but Brandon Saad deflected the pass and the teams traded transition plays leading to no shots for either. The Devils re-set as the power play expired, and Ty Smith took a point shot that was smothered by Binnington.

Mason Geertsen had a great chance to the side of the net, as Michael McLeod set him up from behind the net for a backhand redirection that was gloved by Binnington after McLeod fought to preserve the zone for the Devils. Geertsen, a few minutes later, took the offensive zone by himself, as chipped the puck around two defensemen and split them with speed, negating an icing and giving the Devils possession once more. This only led to a Ryan Graves point shot that resulted in a long rebound and a Blues transition the other way. Graves later made up for this by lifting the stick and taking the puck away in support of a great backcheck against an odd-man rush by Tomas Tatar.

With five minutes to play, Michael McLeod followed a good shift by the Zacha line and zipped through the enitre Blues team off a set play from the defensive zone. McLeod made an amazing move on Binnington as he was hooked on a breakaway, still scoring despite the deterrence as he pulled to the forehand with Binnington getting caught at the top of the crease. McLeod has doubled his season goal count in the last two games.

The Blues would quickly follow this up, just 30 seconds later before Klim Kostin ripped a shot from the slot that Gillies could not stop. The Devils led 2-1 with four and a half minutes to play. The Devils ended up on the power play with 32 seconds to play as David Perron took a slashing call. Severson spun a backhand to Bratt, who played it back high before going cross-ice to Zacha - but Bratt sent it too high and Zacha could not reach back for it. The Blues cleared and the zone and time expired as the Devils regained the zone.

Second Period

Damon Severson took an interference early in the second period, killing the Devils’ power play as he was called for a neutral zone pick play. It seemed inadvertent on his part, but it was called. The Devils were able to fight off the Blues’ power play, and Binnington nearly took a penalty for handling the puck at the edge of the trapezoid as he lost the handle and just got it back in time. As the Blues came back up ice, they were fought back by Nico Hischier and Yegor Sharangovich, and the penalty was killed.

Not long after Jon Gillies made a big kick save on a point shot, the Blues tied the game. Brayden Schenn scored a rebound goal off a point shot by Colton Parayko, which was off of a faceoff win by Ryan O’Reilly. 2-2.

The game became much less cohesive for the Devils after this, as they forced Jon Gillies to make a few saves on dangerous chances for the Blues. The Devils occasionally answered with rushes were they either got single shots or none at all, as they could not sustain possession. With just over six minutes to play in the period, P.K. Subban raced back to defend a partial breakaway for Vladimir Tarasenko, who shot wide. Jordan Kyrou followed the wide shot up, as it bounced off the end boards back to the other side of the net. However, Ty Smith was in the right place at the right time as he blocked the shot at the open net with his skate.

Michael McLeod and Pavel Zacha could not clear the zone despite having opportunities to, and Justin Faulk took a shot that rang off the post and rolled to the goal line before the officials originally ruled that Pavel Zacha sweeped it out just in time. The net came off the moorings, and the referees went to review, ruling that the puck did cross the goal line. 3-2, Blues.

Andreas Johnsson drew a penalty with under two minutes to play, as Niko Mikkola went off for holding. The Blues cleared quickly off the draw, and Damon Severson dropped a puck too slowly to Zacha, and the Devils had to fight off the Blues. The Devils then gained the zone and missed connections from Hischier to Zacha and from Bastian to Hischier. The Blues had an odd-man rush the other way to follow, and Damon Severson hooked Rob Bortuzzo’s hands, and Bortuzzo went to the ice to help draw the call. Severson was having a rough night on the power play, and play went to four-on-four for the remainder of the period. Jonas Siegenthaler followed up a shot by backhanding another in front as he hunted for a goal, and play expired not long after with the Blues up 3-2.

Third Period

The Devils started the period at even strength, dumping the puck in as the Blues went to the power play. Nico Hischier had a chance for a breakaway, but went down in the neutral zone as he lost an edge. Sharanogivch had a chance to score soon after, but missed the net. Jordan Kyrou raced Subban on the rush, but missed the net with a clean shot. Gillies made a couple of stops on Robert Bortuzzo as the Blues sustained pressure.

Jonas Siegenthaler took a penalty for batting the puck over the boards with his glove in the defensive zone just under four minutes into the period. Hischier lost the draw, and Barbashev shot the puck off the side of the net as he had an opportunity in a dangerous area. Hischier won the next draw, and Graves worked it back to him for a clear. Yegor Sharangovich picked a pass out of the air on the following zone entry by the Blues and flung the puck back the other way. After gaining the zone again, Michael McLeod dove to the ice to block a shot out of play from Kyrou to the right of the high slot. Off the next draw, David Perron shot wide with a slap shot, and Graves cleared the puck. Gillies made a save on Vladimir Tarasenko as time was winding down, and the Devils survived the penalty.

The Blues made it through a chaotic sequence with Binnington well out of the crease, on the ice trying to cover the puck as Andreas Johnsson and Dawson Mercer dug away for it to try to shoot on the open net. They got it back to the point, but Binnington got back in the crease before they could shoot. As Binnington played without a stick, Jonas Siegenthaler stepped into a shot that...went right into his chest padding. Binnington froze it and received his stick from a teammate during the stoppage.

With Michael McLeod joining the first line, Ty Smith won the puck from the boards as the Blues counterattacked and sprang Nico Hischier ahead. Hischier had two Blues to contend with as Sharangovich took the far side, and Hischier snuck a backhand pass through that Sharangovich buried! Tie game, with around 11 minutes to play.

Play went to four-on-four with around nine minutes to play as Dawson Mercer took a coincidental roughing penalty defending Jesper Boqvist following a hit from Mikkola. P.K. Subban fed Nico Hischier on a three-on-two rush with Yegor Sharangovich cutting up the middle. Nico shot the puck off of Binnington - but Binnington’s blocker could not stop the shot and the Devils took a 4-3 lead with over eight minutes to play!

Michael McLeod took a boneheaded penalty with 5:36 to play, as Nico Hischier shrugged off a hit to create a rush chance for the Devils. Nico dropped the puck for Ryan Graves, whose shot was blocked as McLeod ran right over Jordan Binnington. Nathan Bastian won the draw, but the Devils lost the puck for a second before Severson cleared the puck down ice. Bastian later picked a pass off in the defensive zone before clearing it, giving himself a chance to get off the ice for Yegor Sharangovich. Sharangovich took the puck off a board fight and slung a shot at Binnington, but Torey Krug fought it off. Gillies covered the puck with 25 seconds left on the penalty. Ryan Graves slammed the puck around the glass from behind the net - sending it all the way to behind Binnington - to kill the final seconds.

The Devils found a bit of a veteran capability to give the Devils a cushion, as Dawson Mercer flipped the puck ahead to Johnsson, who sent the puck just a bit too far for Zacha. The Devils came right back from behind Gillies’ net after being pushed back, and Jimmy Vesey made a move to his backhand from the high slot, beating Binnington cleanly with the shot to make it 5-3!

The Devils did not keep it there, though, as they had a lapse in the defensive zone as Pavel Buchnevich cut through the neutral zone to the corner, and he centered it to Brayden Schenn, who beat Gillies on the redirection. 5-4. With the goalie pulled, Damon Severson went for the Hail Mary shot - but it went wide. However, Jesper Bovist beat Krug to negate the icing and scored on the empty net! 6-4, Devils.

The Blues kept Binnington on the bench. The Devils iced the puck with 41.5 to play, and Jon Gillies flashed a quick glove save with 29.3 to play. Severson iced the puck again with 18.7 to play. The Devils won the puck high in the zone following the next draw, and Sharangovich moved the puck to Hsichier in the neutral zone. He had McLeod with him, but went for the shot through the man back and scored on the empty net to make it a 7-4 score. What a finish.

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: Check out St. Louis Game Time for their recap.

Bratt Benched or Hurt

I’ll start with the weirdnews first. Jesper Bratt did not play the end of this game, last taking a shift in the first few minutes of the third period. He was still on the bench, but Lindy Ruff did not see it fit to play him when the Devils were trailing or hotly contesting the Blues late in the game as they defended their lead.

Great Start, Great Finish. The Middle Could Use Some Work.

The New Jersey Devils got out to a hot start in this game, limiting the Blues to just nine shot attempts in the first period. It seemed Craig Berube had Lindy Ruff’s number, fighting back in the second period with a resounding 14-9 shots advantage that gave the Blues a 3-2 lead. Did anyone think the Devils would score five in the third period? I sure didn’t. I was expecting to write an angry recap before the Devils tied the game on Sharangovich’s shot.

Fortunately, the Devils played rather well at five-on-five in the third period. They outshot the Blues 7-5 in 12:01, with a 77.91 xGF% and two goals to show for it. Tonight, the Devils really knew how to finish, with seven goals on a total expected goals of 3.47 (which was buoyed by the empty-netters). On Binnington, the Devils scored five on an expected goals of 1.98, as Binnington only faced six “dangerous” shots, stopping five - but allowed three medium-danger goals on only five such shots according to Natural Stat Trick. This was a rough night for Binnington, as Blues fans would understand tonight what it’s been like to watch the Devils’ goaltending all year.

And when you have a goaltending situation like the New Jersey Devils, you’re going to have to win games like this. And I do not think Gillies was “bad” tonight. The numbers are against him, with a 2.67 expected goals against, but I saw him make some great saves. There’s definitely a case for whether or not Lindy Ruff should have challenged the first goal against, where Gillies was run over before the rebound was shot. But Gillies was fine tonight, giving the Devils a chance to get back in it - but it’s a good think Vesey scored the insurance goal before Schenn scored his second of the game, because this might have ended up being a 5-4 overtime loss otherwise.

Captain For A Reason

Nico Hischier and Yegor Sharangovich really showed up in a big way tonight, as did P.K. Subban and Jimmy Vesey. Subban opened the scoring and set up the go-ahead goal, and Vesey scored what will be tallied as the game-winner while Nico and Yegor were responsible for taking the game back with their three-point efforts. Nico is up to 12 goals and 17 assists in 42 games, which puts him back into a career-best scoring pace of 0.69 points per game with four goals and an assist in the last three games. Hischier’s shot percentage, meanwhile, is up to 13.6 - which matches his percentage in 21 games coming off of injuries last season. This would be a full-season career high for him, and it’s funny to remember the first couple months this season where many were concerned about his unsustainably low goal production. Sharangovich, meanwhile, now has 21 points in 42 games as he scored his first goal since January 13 against the Islanders. It would be nice to see Sharangovich put up a sustained time period of consistent production this season, and I think the Devils should consider keeping him with Hischier when Hughes returns. Nico and Yegor have shown chemistry on the penalty kill as well, which was perfect against the second best power play in the league tonight. Hischier and Sharangovich played 2:43 and 1:40 at 4v5, respectively, as Nico led the Devils forwards in shorthanded ice time.

In all, this was a fun watch. It will be interesting to see how the Devils play the upcoming trade deadline, as they seem committed to trying to prove that they can be a good team as they currently are. We will see, as their next test will be home games with the Penguins and Lightning on Sunday afternoon and Tuesday night.

Your Thoughts

What did you think of tonight’s game? Did you enjoy the roller coaster? How did you feel about Lindy Ruff in the second and third periods? How did you feel about the games from our veterans, especially Vesey and Subban, who have been mentioned in trade speculation by fans? How did you feel about the game from Nico Hischier? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

As always, whether you followed in the gamethread, or on Twitter @AATJerseyBlog, thanks for reading. This is Chris - goodnight.