The New Jersey Devils got things started against the Vegas Golden Knights winning the opening draw, but Vegas wasted little time gaining possession and the zone. Fabian Zetterlund got a clear though. Shea Theodore chipped the puck past Colton White and got a shot on Andrew Hammond that he stopped. After a Devils icing, Jack Eichel won the ensuing faceoff but the Knights sent the shot wide and the Devils cleared. Nate Bastian picked up the puck along the boards and found Dougie Hamilton for the shot, but Robin Lehner made the pad save. The Knights found Nicolas Roy who split the defense on a nice stretch pass, but he lost the handle at the last second and didn’t get a clean shot on net. Not much happened over the next couple minutes until Nico Hischier and Tomas Tatar caught the Knights in a 2-on-1. Hischier elected to shoot and Lehner kicked the puck away into the corner. Vegas came back with Zach Whitecloud springing Keegan Kolesar, but PK Subban did a nice job getting back on defense to prevent him from getting a shot off. The fourth line came on and the Knights turned the puck over in the offensive zone. The end result? Damon Severson got the puck on net and Nathan Bastian was there in front to poke it in for the 1-0 Devils lead.
The Devils regained the zone after the first commercial break with Alec Martinez blocking a Hischier shot attempt away. The Devils found Dougie Hamilton in front on a centering try that he missed the net on. A few minutes later, they sprung Jesper Bratt for a potential scoring chance, but he pulled up and his pass to Pavel Zacha was tipped away. The Devils maintained the zone but Dougie Hamilton again missed the net.
The Devils second line of Zacha-Mercer-Bratt did a nice job maintaining sustained offensive zone pressure with a couple shots on net, the most notable being a Bratt shot off of a Brayden McNabb turnover. Vegas eventually cleared the zone though and reset. Kolesar set up Martinez the other way but the veteran defenseman missed the net. The Devils came right back in transition with Lehner making a sprawling stop on Bastian and poking the puck out of danger. Ty Smith hauled down Evgenii Dadonov with 4:24 left in the first to give the Knights their first power play.
Vegas did a nice job early in the power play to set up Mark Stone in front but he was off the mark. After Hammond saved a shot on Max Pacioretty, the Devils got a clear. Vegas regained the zone and caught Hammond out of position, but Severson got a much needed clear. Vegas came right back with William Karlsson firing a shot that Hammond got enough of to deflect off the post. The Devils survived the rest of the Vegas power play (4 shots on goal for the Knights) and got back to even strength, but Vegas kept attacking. Hischier blocked away a shot attempt to give the Devils a much needed clear and change. The Devils finally gained the zone with a minute to go but Bratt and Hamilton missed the mark. Vegas won an offensive zone draw with 18.1 seconds left but Hammond was up to the task stopping an Alex Pietrangelo shot from the point. The Devils won the following draw, with PK Subban flipping the puck out of the zone, and Hischier fired the puck towards Lehner as time expired. 1-0 Devils after the first period in a period where the Devils mostly played well, although Vegas got some late momentum with a strong power play.
Vegas controlled the opening faceoff to start the second, with Mark Stone missing a cutting Jonathan Marchesseault and the Devils getting a clear. The Knights regained the zone and Hammond covered up a loose puck off of Hamilton’s stick that went near the crease. Nate Bastian laid out to block a McNabb shot attempt. Jake Leschyshyn high sticked Dougie Hamilton to give the Devils power play their first chance. Hischier got an early shot that Lehner easily caught in his glove. Vegas cleared after the ensuing draw and did a nice job keeping the Devils from getting set up. The Knights nearly scored on the Devils with Martinez flipping the puck ahead to Karlsson, but his backhanded attempt just went high. Tatar tried to set up Mercer in front in the closing seconds but was tipped away and the Devils are 0-1 on the power play.
Dawson Mercer almost made a really nice play as Nate Bastian found him in a 2-on-1 and Mercer knocked it down and got a backhanded shot on net that Lehner was able to handle. The Knights came right back with Hammond making a save on a shot by Mathias Janmark and Severson blocking Michael Amadio’s followup on the rebound.
Vegas spent most of the next few minutes after the first TV timeout in the Devils zone, with Andrew Hammond channeling his inner-Martin Brodeur, turning away Ben Hutton and Jake Leschyshyn.
After some more offensive zone time for the Knights, the Devils finally got a clear with Tomas Tatar getting a shot on net. The teams went back and forth for a few minutes until Hammond made a stop on a Hutton shot from the high slot with 5:51 to go in the second.
Vegas continued to apply pressure with Hammond stopping a Marchesseault shot from the point. The Knights got a golden chance with about 2 and a half minutes to go as Roy had a partial breakaway and ripped it off the crossbar. The Knights kept the play alive with Kolesar sending the puck in front, off Subban’s skate and in to tie the game.
Vegas continued to besiege the Devils over the final minute of the second with Stephenson missing the net, Hammond denying Mark Stone, and Theodore missing the net. Ty Smith blocked away a Pacioretty shot in the final seconds and the Devils avoided any further damage to go to the room tied 1-1 after 40 minutes of play. Just a terrible period by the Devils, with the Knights posting an xGF of 1.61 in the second period and thoroughly controlling the run of play throughout.
The Devils won the opening draw to start the third but the puck was quickly deflected out of play 8 seconds in. Vegas controlled the ensuing draw but the Devils eventually got control of the puck and settled things down. Zetterlund fed Tatar for a backhanded attempt that Lehner stopped and Lehner also made a glove stop on a Zetterlund shot from the high slot. After a few uneventful minutes, Kevin Bahl did a nice job keeping the puck in the offensive zone and working the puck down low, firing on net. Bastian got the loose puck to Andreas Johnsson on the doorstep and he roofed it to regain the lead for New Jersey.
Mango cleans up the trash in front and now we're in front. pic.twitter.com/Rb4tj4j2zD— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) April 19, 2022
The Knights nearly tied the game moments later as the puck was loose on the doorstep but someone from the Devils (I think Zetterlund) “cleared da crease”. Shortly after, the Knights regained the zone and almost tied it again but they couldn’t get the puck through a mass of Devils bodies in front and Hammond laying on his back and they got a critical clear.
Jesper Boqvist intercepted a Vegas pass in the neutral zone, made a beautiful move to get a step on Pietrangelo, and got himself a highlight reel caliber goal to make it 3-1 Devils with 12:03 to go.
Yegor Sharangovich had a decent look in front of Lehner’s crease, but was a little too unselfish and deferred to his linemates. It didn’t go well. Vegas came back and continued to play with the desperation we saw from them in the second period but Hammond continued to frustrate the Knights, picking up his 36th save with 8:02 to go on a shot from the point by Pietrangelo.
After the commercial break, Tatar missed on a centering try for Hischier to give the Knights more extended offensive zone time. Mercer eventually collected the puck after the Devils won it along the boards and got a clear.
Amadio tried to sneak one by Hammond from a sharp angle, but it didn’t work and the Devils got a clear. Hutton had a shot blocked by McLeod that deflected out of play with 5:23 to go.
The Devils picked up a key defensive zone faceoff win and Hischier did a nice job pinning the puck along the boards in the offensive zone to kill some time. Vegas had a chance with just under 4 minutes to go after Subban failed to lift the puck out of the defensive zone but it appeared the shot hit Mark Stone in the leg and deflected out of danger. Kuokkanen iced the puck with 2:41 to go and Vegas used the opportunity to get an extra attacker on down two goals. Severson put a little too much on the puck trying to chip it out of the zone and iced it again 8 seconds later. Vegas lost the zone with just over two minutes to go to give the Devils a chance to get fresh skaters on. McLeod and Sharangovich combined to chip the puck out of the zone. Vegas regained the zone with Dadonov feeding Karlsson, but Hammond was sharp as he’s been all night and made the stop. Vegas took their timeout with 1:25 to go.
Vegas won the offensive zone draw and brilliantly set up Stone down low who got it across for Pacioretty. The initial shot was blocked away but Chandler Stevenson was on the doorstep to knock it into the empty net with 1:14 to go to pull Vegas within one.
The Knights regained the zone off of the faceoff and pulled Lehner again but the puck was deflected out of play with 43.2 seconds left. Vegas won another critical offensive zone draw and sent the kitchen sink, but the Knights seemed to lose track of the puck as it was under Marchesseault for several critical seconds. Severson blocked away a shot from Stevenson in the closing seconds and the Devils would survive and come out of the desert with a 3-2 victory over the Vegas Golden Knights.
The Opposition Opinion: Visit Knights on Ice if you want to read the Golden Knights perspective of this game.
Things I Liked
- Obviously, we have to start with the story of the game, which was the brilliant performance in net by Andrew Hammond. Games like this are what Tom Fitzgerald had in mind when he made the decision to trade Nate Schnarr for him at the deadline. For as much as the Devils have struggled in net, it was nice to see them be on the other side of it for a change. Its tough to really pin either goal against on him either, as one goal went in off of Subban’s skate and the other was in a 6-on-5 desperation situation. Job well done.
- Dougie Hamilton did a really nice job in the first period getting to areas to get his shot off ....he did not do a great job actually getting the puck on net as much as he could have. But he had a little more spring in his step than he has in previous games, which was notable. He at least looked more like the defenseman he was earlier in the season that was an offensive force than the afterthought he’s looked like since returning from a broken jaw.
- For the bulk of the first 20 minutes, the Devils looked like the hungrier team. Considering the Devils have been out of the playoff race for months and Vegas is scratching and clawing for every point they can get, I don’t know if this says more about the Devils or Vegas at this point, but it was good to see either way. I’ll have more to say on the push Vegas made over the final two periods in a bit.
- I thought Kevin Bahl stood out in a good way defensively, using his big frame to separate Knights players from the puck and making sound reads. His style of play seems to compliment Hamilton well.
- It was nice to see the Devils get an early goal in the third to regain the lead. Johnsson roofing one on the doorstep was about as unexpected as Boqvist juking Pietrangelo out of his skates and beating Lehner, but it was still welcomed nonetheless.
- I’ve been critical of the bottom of the Devils lineup for not doing enough, but the 4th line deserves some credit these last few games. McLeod has 3 assists in his last two games, Bastian had a goal and a helper, and Johnsson picked up his 4th goal since his 4 point night back on November 28th.
- The Devils went from being the worst road team in the NHL to.....just another bad road team in the NHL with a 3-1-1 mark on this road trip, including a couple wins over fringe playoff teams in Dallas and Vegas. I don’t know what you can really take from that long-term, but its nice to play spoiler in the short-term.
Things I Did Not Like
- For as good as the first 20 minutes were, the middle 20 minutes were atrocious and the Devils are fortunate that Andrew Hammond of all people kept them in the game. You figured the Knights would make a push, but the Devils had little response for what Vegas did in the second.
- The Devils won’t win a lot of games if they get destroyed at 5v5 as much as they did over the final 40 minutes, since its tough to count on their goaltending night in and night out. While it was nice they got a win on this particular night, that’s not a recipe for success.
- If Jesper Boqvist didn’t score in the manner he did, I would’ve guessed the line of Sharangovich-Boqvist-Kuokkanen was invisible tonight. I don’t think I noticed any of them until the third period, which isn’t what you want to see.
- Its a minor nitpick, but with the game on the line late, the Devils really struggled to win defensive zone faceoffs when they mattered and made things harder on themselves as a result. Mike McLeod in particular wasn’t great in the dot, winning 20% of his draws.
- There wasn’t much of anything special teams wise in this game as each team only got called for one penalty each. I didn’t think either Devils unit looked good though, as they were lucky not to get scored on when Vegas had the man advantage and they were lucky not to get scored on when the Devils had the man advantage. For those keeping track at home, the streak of PP ineptitude is now extended to 10 games and 0 for their last 25.
Vegas coach Pete DeBoer had this to say earlier this season when asked by a reporter about how he manages a team that is playing shorthanded offensively.
When asked how he manages to coach a team that is missing it’s offensive firepower, Pete DeBoer quips, “I coached the New Jersey Devils for four years.”— Ryan The Hockey Guy (@RyanHockeyGuy) November 12, 2021
I’m sure Pete was in a jovial mood back then with the playoffs a foregone conclusion that he’d toss a little dig in there at his old team. Unfortunately for Pete, I have a long memory, I’m petty and I have receipts. So let’s just say its pretty sweet that a shorthanded Devils team put one of the final nails in the coffin for Vegas and their playoff chances in 2021-22. The fact Vegas has pretty much all their big guns back on offense, except for Reilly Smith, and they couldn’t beat Andrew Hammond and the Devils with their season on the line is just **chefs kiss**. Beautiful. Couldn’t happen to a better organization.
What did you think of the win tonight, and in particular, the brilliant performance of Andrew Hammond? Are you pleased that the Devils played spoiler on this night? What else stood out to you, positively or negatively? Please feel free to leave a comment on tonight’s game and thanks for reading!