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Devils Cough Up Another Late Lead, Lose To Hurricanes 3-2 in OT

Once again, the New Jersey managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory and lose a game they probably should’ve won. Today’s recipient of good fortune? The Carolina Hurricanes.

NHL: Carolina Hurricanes at New Jersey Devils
All smiles for Carolina as they became the latest team to comeback to stun the Devils
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Game Recap

The New Jersey Devils got things started against the Carolina Hurricanes by losing the opening draw and chipping the puck into the bench area. The Devils eventually got a clear and Yegor Sharangovich backhanded a sharp-angle shot that Pyotr Kochetkov denied. The Devils kept the pressure on with Nico Hischier working it in front for Dawson Mercer and Kochetkov covering up a Damon Severson shot. The Devils got another chance a few moments later with Fabian Zetterlund collecting a loose puck and working it to a cutting Dougie Hamilton but he was in too tight. The Canes came back and worked the puck back to Brendan Smith who fired it from the point, with Gillies making the stop.

Carolina picked up the pace after the first TV timeout with Gillies stopping another shot by Smith and Andreas Johnsson blocking a shot attempt by Ian Cole. Both teams dialed up the physicality a little bit over the next few minutes. After a prolonged meeting of the minds along the boards, the Canes poked the puck loose for a shot by Brady Skjei that Gillies denied.

Severson found Nico Hischier to gain the zone and the captain did a nice job controlling the puck until it was eventually poked away. The Devils got their first power play with 4:21 remaining in the first when Vincent Trocheck tripped Nikita Okhotiuk.

Carolina got a quick clear to start the Devils power play and the Devils were offside trying to regain the zone. The Canes top ranked penalty kill did a good job keeping the Devils from getting set up. The Devils got a chance late in the power play as Michael McLeod harassed Kochetkov behind the net and forced a turnover, but Janne Kuokkanen couldn’t get enough on the centering try out front. Devils now 0 for their last 30 on the power play.

Sharangovich carried in for Hischier late but Hamilton’s shot was blocked away. Carolina came right back with Nino Niederreiter trying to sneak one in from a sharp angle but Gillies did a good job hugging the post. No score after 20 minutes of play, which wasn’t exactly the most eventful period the Devils have played this year.

The Canes controlled the draw to start the second and Jaccob Slavin working the puck down low for Niederreider, but Gillies made the stop. After a Carolina icing, the Canes blocked a Graves shot attempt. The Devils regained the zone and Kochetkov denied Hischier and Mercer on a wraparound attempt. Carolina came back and nearly punched one in with the puck loose in front of Gillies, but the Devils eventually cleared the puck out of the high danger area. The Canes have really picked up the pace in the early portion of the second period.

Carolina got their first power play chance with PK Subban interfering with Trocheck. The Canes easily moved the puck quickly with Teravainen sending a no-look pass to Andrei Svechnikov that he rang off the pipe. The Devils had more luck against the Canes second PP unit and got a clear as time expired. PK Subban collected the loose puck after exiting the box and had it poked away from him, but Dougie Hamilton almost connected with Dawson Mercer on the doorstep.

There was a brief delay with 9:37 in the second as Brendan Smith lifted Dawson Mercer’s stick, inadvertently causing friendly fire with Mercer’s stick clipping his face. The officials looked at the play and determined no penalty. Carolina hemmed the Devils again in their end but the Devils eventually cleared it. The Canes got caught with too many men to give the Devils another chance on the power play with 5:40 left in the period.

Carolina wasted no time hounding the Devils and getting a clear. The Devils regained the zone but the Canes tied up the puck along the boards and Fabian Zetterlund misplayed the puck once it came towards him, clearing it. After an offsides, Damon Severson found Jesper Boqvist alone, who fired it towards the net. Yegor Sharangovich tipped it to redirect it in and the Devils score their first power play goal in their last 31 attempts. 1-0 Devils.

Michael McLeod had a faceoff violation to put the Canes right back on the power play. The power play was quiet until the final minute or so when the Canes threw the kitchen sink at the Devils, with Gillies making saves on Slavin, Staal, and Slavin again in succession. Slavin had a glorious follow up opportunity that he sailed wide and the Devils finally iced the puck just to get it out of the zone. The final 2 minutes of the period was quiet and the Devils took a 1-0 lead to the room despite being outshot and mostly outplayed through 40 and especially the last 20.

The Devils started the third period getting the puck deep but not much came from it. Carolina came back with Gillies making a save on Brendan Smith. Zetterlund flipped a puck towards the net that was punched to the corner and Zacha nearly found Zetterlund in front to go up two, but Kochetkov made the stop. Carolina caught the Devils in a 2-on-1 with Gillies doing a nice job moving laterally to deny Brett Pesce. Frustrations for the Canes finally started to boil over with a scuffle behind the net. Max Domi was in the middle of it because of course he was, so he and Okhotiuk go to the box for two minutes each.

The Devils added to their lead with 11:30 to go with Sharangovich picking up a loose puck along the boards and working it ahead to Nico Hischier. Hischier fired the wrister and beat Kochetkov glove side to make it 2-0 New Jersey. The goal gives Hischier a new career high with 21 and puts him one point shy of 60 on the season.

The Devils nearly made it 3-0 moments later with Severson connecting with Jesper Boqvist on a stretch pass. Boqvist made his move but Kochetkov caught enough of the puck to deflect it away. Sharangovich gained the zone and fired a wrister that Kochetkov stopped for a whistle with 9:55 to go.

Severson sent a puck towards the front for Sharangovich that he nearly redirected past Kochetkov. Carolina came back with their fourth line and Lorentz getting a shot on net that Gillies stopped. Ian Cole tripped up Pavel Zacha to give the Devils a power play with 8:21 left. Carolina did a good job keeping the Devils from getting anything going until the closing seconds of the power play with Zacha feeding Sharangovich for a one-time blast that Kochetkov gloved.

Carolina finally made a push with about 5:30 to go but Ryan Graves made a hand pass in the defensive zone and got a needed clear. After a Devils icing, the Canes got a fortunate bounce after Dougie Hamilton failed to clear the puck along the boards. Brady Skjei fired it towards the net, bouncing it in off of Kevin Bahl’s leg to cut the deficit to 2-1 New Jersey with 4:36 to go.

Hamilton put a little too much sauce on a pass for Sharangovich the other way to deny the Devils a chance to make it a two goal lead again with about 2:30 to go. Carolina got the extra skater on with two minutes to go as they tied the puck up along the boards. Slavin collected the puck and made a brilliant no-look pass to Tony DeAngelo, who got the puck down low. Nino Niederreiter knocked the puck down and scored the dirty goal to tie the game at 2 with 1:56 to go in regulation. That would be the score heading to overtime as well, as Severson’s pass to Graves in the offensive zone was tipped away in the closing seconds of the third.

The Devils won the opening draw to start overtime and took their time getting set up. They eventually found Boqvist coming on the ice who beat his man but couldn’t get a shot off. Carolina got set up with Tony DeAngelo getting some space and firing a shot that Gillies stopped. Sebastian Aho hounded Damon Severson into making a critical defensive zone turnover, DeAngelo found Seth Jarvis, and bam. Carolina wins 3-2.

Highlights

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: Visit Canes Country if you want to read the Hurricanes perspective of this game.

Things I Liked Until Everything Predictably Went Bad

  • Nikita Okhotiuk continued to make his presence known with his physicality and brings a dynamic we haven’t seen at all this year from the Devils blueline. Granted, its two games. Granted, the advanced stats aren’t pretty, but I’d like to see more of this going forward please.
  • Jesper Boqvist continued his impressive run of play of late, picking up a point in his 6th game out of the last 7. I don’t know what his role is going to be long-term with this team, but with 22 points in 52 games, he’s looking more and more like a player who might be part of the solution.
  • With his goal, Nico Hischier set a new career high and is now a point shy of 60 on the season. I really hope Tom Fitzgerald finds better wingers to play with him (and Jack, depending how you want to draw up the Top Six going forward) this offseason.
  • The Devils power play finally scored a goal to snap a 0-30 skid and their first PPG in 12 games. Don’t let that brief moment of success distract you from the fact that Mark Recchi should still be fired at the end of the season along with the rest of the coaching staff.
  • I hadn’t noticed it until the third period but the Devils did a nice job not giving up a billion 2-on-1 breakaway chances the other way like they usually do. And for a change, it was nice to see Gillies bail the Devils out of that mistake.

Things I Did Not Like

  • Jon Gillies was very good until he wasn’t, as he failed to cover up shortly before the first Carolina goal. To make matters worse, his body language after giving up the first goal was atrocious between the shoulder slump and the “here we go again” look towards the rafters. I wouldn’t go as far as to specifically blame him for the loss, but its just another reminder how badly the Devils need to upgrade at the position this offseason.
  • I get its literally Okhotiuk’s second NHL game, but he played two shifts in the final five minutes of regulation. I know that guys like Damon Severson, Ryan Graves, and Dougie Hamilton can blow late leads when you’re trying to hold on. I’ve seen that many times already this season. That said, if you’re trying to learn about some guys, can we actually learn about some guys? Kevin Bahl didn’t see much time either in the closing moments after the puck went in off of his leg. Again, let’s see how the guys who may have a long-term future here respond. Just more questionable coaching from Lindy Ruff in a season full of baffling decisions.
  • Speaking of Lindy Ruff putting guys in a position to fail, Nolan Foote predictably did nothing playing with McLeod and Bastian and only played in 4 shifts total in the final two periods. I’m skeptical that Foote will be anything long-term for the Devils, and I get there’s not a lot of good options if you want to play him higher in the lineup, but can we at least try to put him in a position to succeed if you’re gonna bother calling him up? Mason Geertsen could’ve done the same amount of nothing with the same ice time. It’s Game 78 of a long lost season. Let’s learn about some guys.
  • If you want the quintessential Damon Severson game, today was it. He picked up an assist, soaked up a lot of tough minutes, and made some good passes, but made a critical mistake late that wound up in the back of the net and ultimately cost the Devils the game. I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying, but I would NEVER sign Damon Severson to a long-term contract extension if I ran this team.
  • Tomas Tatar played his 700th NHL game today....or so I’m told. He was invisible today.
  • Because I have that kind of time on my hands.....here’s a list of previous losses this season where the Devils coughed up a multiple goal lead in the third to lose. January 31st in Toronto, April 2 vs. Florida, and now today. I get these are great teams the Devils are going up against, but you gotta find a way to close out these games. That’s not even counting the bunch of other times where they blew a 1 goal lead in the third.

Final Thoughts

According to MoneyPuck, the Devils had a 98.02% chance of winning when Cole tripped Zacha with 8:21 to go and the Devils up 2-0. Needless to say, they lost the game because that’s what they continue to do under this coaching staff, with this roster, and with this goaltending. I would’ve hoped that previous horrible losses like this earlier this season would’ve been deemed unacceptable and they’d find a way to win a game like this for a change, but the only thing the Devils have built in recent years is a culture of losing. Perhaps things will be different next year, and ideally with a new coaching staff hammering home that message, but I won’t hold my breath.

What did you think of the loss today? What stood out to you, positively or negatively? Please feel free to leave a comment on tonight’s game and thanks for reading!