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Zetterlund and Bahl Net First Goals in 6-2 Devils Win over Coyotes

A win! A fun one, at that.

New Jersey Devils v Arizona Coyotes
I hope we see this type of celebration 20 times next year.
Photo by Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images

First Period

The Arizona Coyotes did not take long to strike, as Travis Boyd collected a pass to the side of the slot and ripped a shot low on Nico Daws. 1-0, Coyotes, as Daws had traffic in front. The New Jersey Devils looked a bit haphazard, as Zetterlund had a pass picked off at the blue line not long after the goal against - and Ryan Graves played too low to stop the rush pass across, forcing Daws to make a save.

Two minutes and 44 seconds in, the Devils took a penalty, with Michael McLeod going off for interfering with Cam Dineen. Boyd had a great redirect chance in the beginning of the second minute, but Daws kicked it out. Later, at even strength, Kevin Bahl was all over on both ends, using his surprising speed to cover a lot of ice after being the furthest man in on the forecheck. He got back in time to challenge and block a shot away, leading to a partial two-on-one for Boqvist and Zacha where Boqvist shot wide. Later on the shift, Boqvist took a high stick to the face and the Devils went to the power play, with Dysin Mayo going to the box.

The Devils had a chance to score with a netfront scramble, and as Pavel Zacha was taking the puck out of the crease to backhand a shot into the maze of players, the referees blew the play dead. With the puck entirely outside of the cluster, the play was blown dead. Great stuff, especially after McLeod took a phantom interference penalty earlier. Nathan Bastian had a chance at the end to bury a rebound off a Severson one-timer, but the shot was sent wide inadvertently by Vejmelka, who was looking in the entirely wrong direction for the puck.

The Devils scored an absolutely amazing goal to tie it up, coming off the stick of Fabian Zetterlund, who has gone from playing under six minutes a game in previous call-ups to riding shotgun with Nico Hischier. Nico made an excellent play to bat down the puck in the neutral zone, calming the bouncing and drawing the man on the two-on-one. He slid it over to Fabian, whose shot deflected off of a sprawling Vejmelka and went top shelf.

Phil Kessel had a chance after P.K. Subban got caught at the blueline in the offensive zone with a bad pass that immediately deflected out, and Ty Smith raced back to challenge Kessel. Kessel opted to shoot from range and shot off the post. Tomas Tatar was then called for interference after the Devils retook the offensive zone. On the penalty kill, Nico Daws batted a shot from Schmaltz down with his glove and then had to stretch his pad all the way out to stop a rebound shot from Boyd at what was an open net. Kessel later took a pass off an entry and rang another shot off the pipe. Jesper Boqvist danced out of the defensive zone with the puck and ripped a shot way off the mark on a one-on-one rush.

Second Period

A couple minutes in, Andrew Ladd took a penalty for hooking. The Devils had some good cross-zone puck movement, and Nico Hischier set up a Hamilton shot from above the circle - and the Devils thought they scored on the rebound. Vejmelka had his glove in the goal, but it as hard to tell if the puck was ever in it.

Kevin Bahl joined the party with his first NHL goal a minute after the power play expired. Nate Bastian sent the puck off the boards to Bahl up high, and he blasted it through the screen by McLeod to put the Devils up 2-1.

Just a minute after the Coyotes hit another post with a point shot, they took another penalty - this time for interference in their offensive zone. Nathan Smith hit Ty Smith after the puck was gone in the corner. The Devils did not get a chance until after the penalty expired, as a late one-timer from Zacha was blocked away to Bratt, who skated across the blueline and sent the puck on net for Mercer to jab at.

The third line had a pretty good shift late in the second, as Pavel Zacha made a silky move to Jesper Boqvist, who had space to dart in and rip a shot that Vejmelka kicked out. The Coyotes cleared the rebound out, and Zacha raced back to give the Devils three men in the defensive zone to turn play back around. Dougie Hamilton carried up ice, and he passed into Zacha’s skate on the rush - but Zacha was able to quickfire it and nearly scored as Vejmelka fell back for a scraping save.

Zacha coming close

After a stretch of great play by the Devils, Ty Smith took a slashing penalty with 1:59 to play in the period. Nick Schmaltz tied the game on a screened shot from the circle. Nico Daws never saw it. 2-2.

The Devils would fight back, though. Jesper Bratt collected the puck on the wall after it wrapped around - and he ripped a pass through the edge of the crease to Tomas Tatar, who kicked it to his stick and poked it in on an open net. 3-2, Devils.

Jesper Boqvist then made use of an opportunity. Janne Kuokkanen worked the puck low to Boqvist, who sent it up high to Subban, whose shot rebounded right to Boqvist on the far side - and Boqvist finally buried one. The Devils went into the second intermission up 4-2.

Third Period

After a rather uneventful first few minutes, Ty Smith went to the box yet again for a high stick. The Devils won the draw and cleared the puck. The Devils survived this penalty kill without incident, and AJ Greer got a shot off on the rush following the play that was smothered by Vejmelka.

Nico Daws had a good show of saves around the middle of the period, robbing the Coyotes of chances to capitalize on poor coverage down low by the Devils. Nico Hischier then drew a penalty as he was dogged by the Coyotes going into the offensive zone - he could have drawn a few of those tonight. Kyle Capobiacno went to the box for the infraction. Nico Hischier had an early shot blocked away, leading to Brett Hayton leaving the game with a hand injury. Dougie Hamilton took a point shot later on, and it was sent away as the second unit came on. Tomas Tatar redirected a shot on net with a feed from Severson - and Tatar went for a loose puck as Vejmelka did not seem to know where it was. The lay was blown dead, and the Coyotes converged on Tatar. Jay Beagle was not playing tonight, though, so Tatar did not have the living hell beaten out of him and only had to fight off some crosschecks from Nick Schmaltz and company. The Devils, yet again, failed to get a really good chance on the power play and did not score.

The Devils’ top line got a second goal for their efforts on the night. Damon Severson sprung Nico Hischier into the zone, who dropped it back for Fabian Zetterlund. Zetterlund sent the puck across, leading to Vejmelka committing to the ice a bit too hard as the puck bounced off a skater. Yegor Sharangovich calmly collected the rebounding puck and roofed it to give the Devils a 5-2 lead.

Ty Smith took Michael Carcone out along the boards as the puck went out of play, and Smith was chopped down by a hook around his ankles. Both were sent to the box, as Smith was called for embellishment. At four-on-four, Nico Daws made a great save on Galchenyuk, keeping the blocker raised to send the shot away. On the other end, Kevin Bahl circled the net and centered the puck for Yegor Sharangovich, who smoothly backhanded the puck past Vejmelka. 6-2.

Pavel Zacha continued to try to join the scoring, as Boqvist found him on a two-on-one - but Vejmelka cheated for the pass and gloved the catch-and-release shot from Zacha’s strong side. AJ Greer had the puck all alone and cut to the netfront to shoot on a following shift, but Vejmelka made the save. Nick Ritchie came flying in and Greer gave him a shot with the elbow, and Ritchie dropped the gloves and went for him. The referees seemed to not want another Coyotes incident and only sent Ritchie to the box. Damon Severson blasted a shot off the top of the crossbar, and the Devils maintained their lead to win, 6-2.

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

The Opposition Opinion: Check out Five For Howling.

Offense From All

The Devils offense was firing on all cylinders tonight, with 11 skaters picking up at least a point. Four Devils - Sharangovich, Hischier, Zetterlund, and Bahl - had multi-point nights. Even some players who did not get on the scoresheet, such as Dawson Mercer, Pavel Zacha, and Damon Severson had plenty of moments offensively. Mercer led the team in all-sitations individual expected goals with 0.67, with 0.6 of that coming on the power play as he tried to cash in on rebounds - though his line was rather poor at even strength. Zacha was most effective at even strength, probably deserving a finish from Boqvist - who took ended up scoring on a rebound from Subban. Zacha had some good backchecks and neutral zone puck pressures, contrary to the usual perception of him as a lazy player. Severson had an excellent game, having sprung the zone entry on the first Sharangovich goal and sporting a 80.60 xGF%. The real story, though, was the rookies and their first goals.

Fabian Zetterlund has been an electric player for the Utica Comets in the AHL, and there is no reason to prevent him from taking a roster spot next season. In my opinion, it would be rather stupid to trade or bury a speedy, skilled forward built like an absolute tank of a human at 5’11” and 220 pounds of a whole lot of muscle. He was second on the Devils in xGF% with an 85.13, second only to Bastian’s 90.10. He scored a point on each goal he was on the ice for, and is up to a goal and three assists in six games. It’s a wonder what can happen when a coach gives a young guy ice time. When a guy can score a goal and throw hits around while flying all over the ice, you keep him.

Kevin Bahl, maligned on the internet for some reason, had a pretty eventful game on both ends as well. He threw four hits (I saw him effortlessly flatten someone early in the third - when he lines them up they have no chance), had two points and a timely shot block that led to a counterattack. Despite his 35.71 CF%, he had a 53.26 xGF%. Bahl seemed to have chemistry with Hamilton, whom he had a 28.57 CF% and 41.62 xGF% with (and the goal against from Boyd). Those numbers rose to 57.14 and 74.14 when skating without Hamilton on the ice. This is just another example of Ruff not having much of a pulse on what pairings work best - as he went back to Severson and Graves tonight. When Severson skated with Graves (9:43), they had a 55.56 CF% and 69.98 xGF%. Sounds great, right? Well, in 3:42 without Graves at even strength, Severson had an 87.50 CF% and 94.34 xGF%. I guess it does not matter much tonight, but they play Colorado on Thursday and should roll their best matches. Ryan Graves and Damon Severson are a bit redundant in terms of play style and flaws, so putting them together against good teams is probably inadvisable.

Offense Firing on All Cylinders...Except the Power Play (...Fire Recchi)

The Devils power play went 0 for 5 tonight. They are now 0 for their last 19 opportunities across the past seven games. In their last fifteen games, the Devils are 3 for 43 with 3 SHGA (3/15 and two on 3/23). So, that’s basically a 0% effective power play over fifteen games. Do I even need to write more than that to get this point across? How many low point shots can Hamilton take in a game? I mean, he did not even get many of those off tonight. It would be one thing if the Devils fired away and created chaos, but the chaos tonight was because Vejmelka was terrible with rebound control - not because the Devils were particularly good. In fact, they actually look more cohesive with puck movement at even strength.

Milestone Watch

Tonight, Nico Daws got his 10th win of the season and of his young career. This marked the first time a New Jersey Devils goaltender reached the 10-win mark in the 2021-22 season (isn’t that something?) - but it is a remarkable achievement for a 21-year old goaltender that was not supposed to even sniff the NHL this season (I always had faith, though).

Nico Hischier had three assists toniht, bringing his assist total to 37 on the season and his points to 57 in 64 games. He also has 33 points in his last 25 games. This is quickly turning into a sneakily ridiculous production year for Nico Hischier, who probably would have ended up at a point-per-game had he not had a foot injury earlier this season. With nine more games on the schedule, I hope to see Nico Hischier reach the 65-point mark - and I think he can do so.

Your Thoughts

What did you think of tonight’s game? Did you watch? If so, what did you think of the performance? How did you feel about Bahl and Zetterlund? What about Nico Hischier? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.