The New Jersey Devils gained the zone early with a 3-on-2 where Nico Hischier couldn’t handle a feed from Jesper Bratt cleanly and the puck deflected into the corner. The Devils got their top line on against the New York Islanders but couldn’t actually get a shot on net. The Islanders came back and Nico Daws made a blocker stop off of a wrister by Oliver Wahlstrom that deflected out of play. Nico Hischier gained the zone and fed Jesper Bratt for a wrister from the right circle, but Cory Schneider made the stop. Mat Barzal found Grant Hutton for a good look but Daws made the save. The Isles won the offensive zone draw and Andy Greene nearly connected with Zach Parise on the doorstep for a backhander that went just wide of the net.
Dougie Hamilton gave the puck away in the neutral zone which led a JG Pageau shot the other way that Daws deflected into the corner. The Devils came back with their fourth line of Vesey-Zacha-Bastian with Zacha finding Bastian in front, but he was in a little tight and couldn’t get a clean shot off. Noah Dobson got caught with a retaliatory cross-check after Zdeno Chara knocked one of the Devils forwards into him, negating a Barzal breakaway opportunity and giving the Devils a power play. The Devils had a couple setups in front for Bastian that they couldn’t quite connect on and Jack Hughes got a shot through a screen, but that was about it for anything notable on the power play as Dobson exited the box.
The Isles caught the Devils in transition as Dougie Hamilton connected on a pass to Adam Pelech in the offensive zone for some reason. Pelech found Palmieri along the boards who sprung J.G. Pageau for a clean look in front and he ripped it five hole it for his 11th of the season. 1-0 Isles.
Ross Johnston caught Nate Bastian with a cross check up high. Bastian went down the tunnel and would not return. Jesper Boqvist tripped up Zdeno Chara behind Schneider’s cage to give the Isles their first power play. The Isles wasted no time making the Devils pay for this mistake. Jonas Siegenthaler made a bad pass or clearing attempt along the boards, with Anders Lee collecting the loose puck with space. Lee made his move in front of the crease and bobbled the puck, but Pageau was there on the doorstep to clean it up for his second goal of the game and a 2-0 lead for New York.
The Devils struggled to generate much of anything in transition over the next few minutes. Jonas Siegenthaler wiped out behind the goal line which led to a dangerous feed in front for Anthony Beauvillier that was blocked away. Barzal just missed finding Parise for a clean look in front. The Devils ended the period with a relatively helpless flip into the offensive zone and a smattering of boos came down from the stands as the Devils went to the dressing room down two goals.
The first period was not good, especially when you remember that Cory Schneider was making his first appearance in the NHL in two seasons in the other net and the Devils did NOTHING of note to test him. Unfortunately for the Devils, the Isles did a good job clogging up the neutral zone, denying the Devils clean entries, and waiting for them to make mistakes so they can capitalize. Can the Devils do better over the final 40 minutes and make an adjustment?
The short answer? Eventually, but not soon enough.
The Devils lost the opening draw in the second period but they did manage to spring Nico Hischier for a shot attempt. Unfortunately, the Isles got a stick on it and deflected it out of danger. Ty Smith sent one towards the net that appeared it was heading wide of the net, but Andy Greene caught a piece of it in front and Schneider had to make the stop.
Oliver Wahlstrom caught Jack Hughes with a big knee-on-knee hit. Hughes was slow to get up and PK Subban was fired up going after Wahlstrom. Subban got himself 17 minutes of penalty time for being an aggressor and a game misconduct for instigating. The Isles ultimately got a power play out of that fracas but didn’t do much of anything with it. Hughes would return to the game briefly after testing his leg during a stoppage, but seemed to have issues putting weight on his leg and went down the tunnel once more, ending his night.
The Islanders got another chance on ther power play with Siegenthaler going to the box for tripping Barzal on a 2-on-1. The Devils did a nice job killing off the penalty despite some good puck movement by the Islanders. Ty Smith had a clean look from the point but fanned on the shot because of course he did.
Pageau completed the hat trick after parking in front of the net for a feed from Adam Pelech from the corner. Nico Hischier got caught out of position adjusting his helmet and getting his second hand on the stick late and Pageau tipped it home for the hatty. 3-0 New York.
The Devils finally got on the board as Yegor Sharangovich made contact with a referee and fed the puck ahead for Janne Kuokkanen as he gained the zone. Kuok dropped the puck for the point shot by Damon Severson and Jesper Boqvist redirected it past Schneider to get the Devils on the board.
Casey Cizikas got called for goaltender interference to give the Devils a power play with 2:43 to go. Needless to say with Hughes and Bastian injured, the makeshift PP1 unit didn’t do much. 3-1 Isles after two periods of play and another lifeless 20 minute effort by the Devils.
The Devils finally woke up in the third period and attacked, as they got the puck towards the front of the net to start the third. Schneider denied Hischier on the doorstep, however, and followed that up with a save off of a Tomas Tatar shot on the ensuing faceoff. The Devils continued to apply pressure early in the period with a sharp angle shot by Sharangovich denied, as well as a blast from the point by Kuokkanen. The Devils finally got rewarded for their efforts, as they caught the Isles in transition and Andreas Johnsson finding Tomas Tatar in front, who roofed it to make it 3-2 Isles.
Tuna reeling us back in this thing. pic.twitter.com/l569RvIxOy— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) April 3, 2022
The makeshift Devils lines (Zacha-Hischier-Bratt, Johnsson-Mercer-Tatar, Kuokkanen-Boqvist-Sharangovich with some Jimmy Vesey sprinkled in here and there) continued to apply pressure. The Mercer line gained the zone off of a neutral zone turnover but Tatar’s shot attempt got blocked away, leading to a rush the other way with Daws stopping Wahlstrom and Matt Martin. Kyle Palmieri fired a shot off of Daws’ mask that literally caught him between the eyes and left a scuffmark. Hischier had a look off of a defensive zone turnover by the Isles but sailed the shot high. The Isles caught the Devils in transition but the drop pass for Pageau was tipped up high and ultimately cleared.
The Isles effectively put the game out of reach as Ryan Graves looked to send a stretch pass up along the boards. Pelech was there to intercept it and fed it ahead to Kyle Palmieri, who snapped the wrister past Daws to make it 4-2 Islanders with 5:07 to go.
The Devils pulled Daws for the extra skater with just under three minutes to go. Zacha broke his stick sending a puck towards the net and Hischier was unable to redirect the knuckler past Schneider. They stayed with it as Mercer tried to redirect a shot from the point in. The puck was punched into the corner, but Nico Hischier was in front to pull the Devils within one and give the Devils a chance with 1:06 to go.
After a Devils timeout, Hischier nearly tied it as he did a little give-and-go with Hamilton and Schneider just got a toe on it to deny him. That would be the Devils best look in the final minutes. Andreas Johnsson bobbled a puck in the offensive zone and the Isles got a critical clear with about 15 seconds left. The final seconds ticked off the clock and the Isles held on for a 4-3 win to get Cory Schneider his first NHL win since March 6th, 2020.
The Opposition Opinion: Visit Lighthouse Hockey if you want to read the Isles perspective of this game.
Hughes Injured, Bastian Injured, Subban Tossed
It’s frustrating that the Devils lost yet again, especially when they did little to nothing to challenge old friend Cory Schneider for the first two periods of the game. But losing three players in the game, including their most important player, was the last thing the Devils needed as they inch closer to the finish line of the 2021-22 season.
Let’s start with the Wahlstrom hit on Hughes. You can watch that whole sequence below and make your own judgments.
I thought the hit was clean after seeing it on replay numerous times, but I can also see the argument that Wahlstrom led with his knee and that that is what makes it a dangerous play. Either way, if you’re holding your breath for the Department of Player Safety to chime in and discipline Wahlstrom, good luck with that given their inconsistent history. Hughes came back out on the ice after a TV timeout to test his knee/leg, but clearly looked hobbled, fell down, struggled to put weight on his left leg, and went down the tunnel, ending his night.
I have no issue with PK Subban going after Wahlstrom to get his pound of flesh and having Hughes’s back. The players in the heat of the moment don’t have the benefit of multiple angles and instant replay. Simply put, you can not allow your star player to be injured, clean or not, and let the perpetrator get away with it scott-free. Subban presumably saw the hit, saw that Hughes was slow to get up, and did what leaders should do and have your teammates back, so good on him. You might see some clown takes in tomorrow’s papers by the media elite looking to push an agenda, but that’s not what this was at all. This wasn’t Jay Beagle going after Troy Terry because he was mad Trevor Zegras “skilled it up” and embarrassed the Coyotes, so don’t let people try to draw parallels there either. And it’s also not Barry Trotz issuing not-so-thinly-veiled threats of retribution either.
#Isles Barry Trotz says - twice - that P.K. Subban is probably lucky he got kicked out of the game.— Andrew Gross (@AGrossNewsday) April 3, 2022
(Which means Ross Johnston would have been on call)
Says he thought Wahlstrom played through check and that Hughes turned, which made hit look worse.
For all the criticisms I’ve had of Lindy Ruff and the poor job he’s done coaching this team, he seemed to see things the same way I did in regards to Subban’s response.
It’ll get overshadowed due to the importance of Hughes in the lineup and the Devils plans going forward, but Nate Bastian also got knocked out of this game early after catching a cross-check by Ross Johnston. We didn’t get an update on the status of Hughes or Bastian after the game from Lindy Ruff, but with the Devils hosting the New York Rangers on Tuesday, consider them questionable at best. And in #86’s case, don’t be surprised if this is a season-ender with 13 games to go and the Devils already eliminated from playoff contention. If it’s a multi-week injury, there’s no sense in pushing the issue.
Other Things I Didn’t Like
- The Devils looked mostly lethargic over the first 40 minutes and made numerous critical mistakes in regards to puck possession, yet again, that put them in yet another hole. They’re not talented enough to overcome self-inflicted mistakes like this and expect to win games, yet they continue to make them on a nightly basis. Tonight did nothing to change my opinion that Lindy Ruff and the entire Devils coaching staff needed to go months ago and need to go after Game #82.
- Jean-Gabriel Pageau became the seventh player to record a hat trick against the Devils this season. He joins Mark Scheifele, Cam Atkinson, Dylan Larkin, Auston Matthews, Patrick Kane, and Brandon Hagel on that list. Pageau’s hat trick is the 86th in the league this season, meaning the Devils are responsible for 8% of them. This is another byproduct of the Devils poor goaltending, poor puck management, poor decision making, and poor everything else that is a hallmark of a Lindy Ruff coached team.
- As a Devils fan, I’m frustrated that Cory Schneider came in and got the better of us in a win, especially after the Devils did such a poor job testing him early. As a hockey fan and a Cory Schneider fan and general well-wisher, I’m happy for Schneider that he made the most of his opportunity and got a win. I would’ve preferred it didn’t come at the Devils’ expense, but add it to the long list of things that I prefer wouldn’t have happened to the Devils in the 2021-22 season.
- Lastly, if you’re keeping track, the Seattle Kraken no longer have the worst goaltending in the NHL. WE DID IT!!!!!!
Team Goaltending Ranking - April 3— JFresh (@JFreshHockey) April 3, 2022
SEATTLE IS NO LONGER THE WORST pic.twitter.com/Wb6uKbCzFb
What did you think of the loss tonight? Are you as annoyed as I am over more poor puck management and decision making? Or perhaps the no-show the first 40 minutes and “too little, too late” comeback? What did you think about the hit on Hughes, the injury, and Subban’s response? Do you think the Devils should play it conservatively and shut down Hughes?
Please feel free to leave a comment on whatever that was we watched tonight and thanks for reading!