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Devils fail to have third straight offensive explosion, fall to Pittsburgh 4-2

The Devils didn’t play horribly, but were unable to stop the new division leaders in a loss Sunday afternoon

NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins at New Jersey Devils
Former Devil Brian Boyle scored the game-winner against his old team
Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

After putting up seven goals two games in a row, the New Jersey Devils could only put 2 past Tristan Jarry on Super Bowl Sunday against the Pittsburgh Penguins

1st period

The Penguins controlled play for the first few minutes of the game. The Devils did not get much going while the Penguins had themselves some offensive zone time. The Devils did a good job of preventing the Penguins from getting any dangerous chances, though. At 16:50 Tomas Tatar took the first Devils shot of the game.

The Devils would get their first grade-A chance of the game as Vesey knocked the puck loose and passed it to Tatar, who passed it to Zacha, who passed it back to Vesey, who was stopped on a backhander in tight.

Pittsburgh’s defense was notable early on. The Devils couldn’t get much going offensively. The first decent rush chance I noticed was Jesper Boqvist at 13:04, and he took the shot when he was still far out and missed the net.

Gillies prevented Crosby from getting his 500th on a backhander from the slot with 12:26 left in the period

The game was being played the way the Penguins wanted - low-event hockey in which the Penguins often had the puck.

Danton Heinen had a good chance with 10:27 left but ripped the shot wide far side

Boqvist got hit hard by Pettersson against the near boards with 10:14 left

With 10:07 left, Jeff Carter caught Ty Smith flat-flooted and snuck behind him to the net for a high-danger chance. Gillies came up with the pad save to keep donuts on the scoreboard.

Shots on goal were 3-2 Pittsburgh halfway into the period

The Penguins started getting their share of chances late in the period, but could not convert. Marian Studenic had one of his own but could only get one hand on the backhander, which was stopped by Jarry. Bastian had another chance on a partial 2 on 1 with McLeod, but Jarry made the blocker save. The Devils finally got some sustained pressure afterwards, including a Vesey shot off the outside of the post, but eventually Pittsburgh regained possession.

New Jersey would have one last chance before the buzzer as Boqvist got to a loose puck and sent it to Mercer who set up Studenic, but Studenic’s return pass was deflected away. He probably should’ve shot that himself.

2nd period

Colton White would take the first penalty of the game as he tripped Evgeni Malkin 2:19 into the period

The Devils didn’t give the Penguins any time or space on the PP and got several clears. Sharangovich had a shorthanded opportunity but Jarry made a shoulder save

P.K. Subban went end to end, dancing past some Penguins and drove to the net. Jarry made the initial stop, but after several pokes, the puck went into the net. However, the goal was immediately waved off for goaltender interference.

The Devils would still strike first as right after the no-goal, Sharangovich would find an open Jack Hughes, making his return to the lineup known, as he fired one past Jarry blocker-side to make it a 1-0 NJ lead.

A couple minutes later, A ZAR shot would rebound up in the air behind Gillies, but McLeod batted it away and out of danger.

Right after the next faceoff, Guentzel hit the post

Vesey had a great chance to double the lead with 8:40 left in the 2nd off a feed from Hischier, but Jarry closed the 5-hole

At 6:44, Matheson would tie the game on a blast from the point

At 6:10, Studenic would draw a penalty. He had a chance in front, which was stopped by Jarry, but got hooked, sending New Jersey to the power play.

Pittsburgh would get another power play and would get some zone time, but were mostly kept to the outside.

3rd period

The Penguins were kept scoreless on the continuation of their power play, but unfortunately, just after Tatar came out of the box, Bryan Rust tipped a Letang point shot past Gillies for Pittsburgh’s first lead of the game.

With 17:09 left in the 3rd, the Captain would tie the game for the Devils, as an attempted shot or pass went off the skate of Kris Letang and through Jarry’s 5-hole.

Nico Hischier now has goals in 4 consecutive games.

Bastian would clip the skates of Jarry for a tripping penalty with 16:05 left

On the PK, Gillies came up with a huge save on Guentzel after a cross-ice feed from Rust.

Severson made a glove save on Rust to keep the game tied

There was all kinds of chaos in front of the Devils’ net but a combination of blocks and saves

With 13:30 left, a Brian Boyle shot handcuffed Gillies and just trickled wide of the net.

Boyle wouldn’t stop there, as he tapped in a rebound after mauling Ty Smith to put Pittsburgh back in the lead.

With 12:12 remaining, Nico Hischier tried to take matters into his own hands once again. Pettersson tipped the initial shot off the rush, although Jarry still had to come up with a save. Vesey was unable to put the rebound home, and the Penguins just managed to hold onto their lead.

Mercer, Boqvist, and Tatar got something going in the offensive zone. Eventually, Tatar was knocked down, and the Devils went to the power play.

Outside an early chance by Hischier, the Devils didn’t get any good looks on the power play.

The Devils would empty their net. They got set up, but Zacha would miss receiving a pass and the puck would bounce out of the zone, where Guentzel would pick it up and seal the deal.

Final Thoughts

The Devils were okay but couldn’t get much going offensively in the first period. They played well in the second period and came out of the first 23 with a 1-1 tie. A strong 3rd period could’ve won them the game. Instead, they failed the stop Pittsburgh’s offense and couldn’t get much offense of their own. In the 2nd period, they played well against a top team in the league. Even just turning 20 minutes of that play into 40 minutes, not even 60 minutes, and the Devils would win a lot more games.

Nico Hischier had himself a very good game. He tried to will the Devils to a win, but did not succeed. He still ended up with a goal and a 5v5 xGF% of 58. Ryan Graves, Marian Studenic, Jesper Boqvist, and Tomas Tatar all finished with +50 all-situations GF%. Those 5 players were also the top 5 Devils in Game Score.

Tomas Tatar was quite good last season, but has been a bit of a disappointment this season. It would be very nice for him to get on the right track and carry it over to next season. Marian Studenic continued to look like a good bottom-6 forward and got a chance or two offensively. Jesper Boqvist had another solid game, and hopefully he’s finally turned the corner towards becoming a productive, full-time NHL player. Nico Hischier had a strong performance as well. Good showing for the captain.

I didn’t think Siegenthaler had his best game. Usually I notice him shutting down plays, but not today. He finished low on the game score board as well. Just an off game for him. Bounce back next time.

Hughes scored a goal, but I’d like to see some more dynamic playmaking. I honestly think Hughes was better last season. He couldn’t put the puck in the net last year, and he’s fixed that this year, but it seems like some of the volume and quality of his setups have disappeared in return. I’d like him to put the playmaking of last season and goal-scoring of this season together and build on it. I have confidence in him to truly become an elite 1C, perhaps as early as next season. The arrival of Alexander Holtz as a true shooting threat on Jack’s wing should definitely help matters.

Ty Smith once again didn’t have a good game. I still believe in his potential and that this will just be a season to forget for him, but he needs to be better if the Devils want to be better.

Overall, the Devils were decent. They won the second period. Excluding the empty netter, they only lost 3-2 to the #1 team in the Metro without either of Johnsson or Bratt. Keep building on the young players. The future still looks very bright for this team.

The Game Stats: The NHL.com Game Summary | The NHL.com Event Summary | The NHL.com Play by Play Log | The NHL.com Shot Summary | The Natural Stat Trick Game Stats

All stats in the article are from NHL.com, naturalstattrick.com, or hockeystatcards.com

Anything stand out to you? Leave your thoughts in the comments below, and thank you for reading.