Shortly after Michael McLeod ran into a linesman at the blueline, ending a potential rush chance, the Nico hischier line was out — and Hischier was checked into the boards by Cal Clutterbuck. No penalty was called, and Jonas Siegenthaler took a retaliation penalty for crosschecking Clutterbuck. On the penalty kill, John Marino made a big block on an early slap shot. Later, Akira Schmid made a big save on a redirected puck, and he dove out of the crease to freeze the loose puck. Jesper Bratt ended the kill, getting a nice pass ahead on the boards from Hischier and getting deep into the offensive zone. He took the puck back behind the net after being harassed by a couple Islanders, and he passed it all the way back to Dougie Hamilton by the Devils’ bench to kill the final 10 seconds.
Brendan Smith had a couple shot attempts with the Hischier line, which got into a quick cycle. After his second shot, Luke Hughes spun away from Casey Cizikas and drew a slashing call. On the power play, the Islanders got a couple early clears, and Luke Hughes led a three-on-two after the second. Hischier passed back to Toffoli in the high slot, but his shot was blocked. The second unit took over for the second minute, and they too had trouble getting pressure. Dougie Hamilton had to activate on the rush and take the puck down low to open a lane to Meier, who just couldn’t get the shot off under pressure. They were able to keep their possession alive late, and Dougie blasted a slap shot for their first shot of the power play, which was saved by Sorokin.
Akira Schmid had to make a big save on a Pierre Engvall shot from right in front, as he was centered the puck from below the goal line. But he was not able to stop Brock Nelson on a rush shortly after, as Nelson picked his spot under Schmid’s glove. 1-0, Islanders, with over seven minutes to go in the first.
Ilya Sorokin made a giant save on Jack Hughes to preserve the Islanders lead. The first opportunity for Hughes came on a two-on-two rush with Timo Meier (and a third Islander not far behind). Hughes cut to the middle, and his shot went over the net. The second came when Hughes got a chance to slap at the puck down low — but Sorokin turned it away. The Devils continued to pressure, and Tyler Toffoli slipped the puck right back to Hughes after everyone touched back for a delayed offsides. Hughes lost the handle, but had so much time he was able to pull it back and stickhandle in front. Sorokin went down onto his stomach and gloved his backhand shot out of the air. Ilya Sorokin later stretched his leg out to deny Jesper Bratt a wide-open goal off a cross-ice feed from Nico Hischier.
Late in the period, Tyler Toffoli was taken down during a Hughes line rush against three Islanders back. Adam Pelech went off for interference with 2:20 to play. Nico won the draw, but Jack Hughes turned the puck over from the wall, and the Devils had to regroup. Again, the first unit struggled to create pressure, with the second unit coming on for the second minute. Timo Meier sped into the offensive zone and set up shop in the corner. Dougie Hamilton trailed with a head of steam, and absolutely blasted a one-timer past Sorokin as he went flying onto the ice. 1-1, with just a minute to go in the period. The Devils finally scored a first period goal.
Tie game courtesy of a Dougie Dinger™️ pic.twitter.com/acFUyg5Gg0— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) October 21, 2023
The Devils would go to the power play yet again with just 15 seconds to go, as Casey Cizikas was called for crosschecking Nico Hischier in the hip off the faceoff.
With 1:45 to work with on the power play, the Devils won the puck back and got going, Jack Hughes came into the zone with speed, and passed to Tyler Toffoli on his right. Toffoli slowed it down and dragged into a shot through Adam Pelech, and he found the corner! 2-1, Devils.
Holy Toffoli! His first as a Devil gives us the lead. pic.twitter.com/0OihadR65W— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) October 21, 2023
Brendan Smith got caught behind the net with his stick in Brock Nelson’s midsection, and the referees did not call a hooking penalty. Luke Hughes then turned the puck over to Kyle Palmieri while Smith was retrieving his stick, and Brock Nelson was all alone to tie the game with a low shot. 2-2.
Adam Pelech went to the box for delay of game shortly after the goal. The Devils went back to the power play, and Jack Hughes won the draw. Hughes took it around the point himself, and set up a couple chances in front for Toffoli. The Devils slowed it down into a cycle, and Luke Hughes decided to end it with a sudden turn and blast on goal...and he beat Sorokin through a maze, above the blocker! 3-2, Devils.
We have Luke Hughes and you don’t. pic.twitter.com/W2QXeJxIM8— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) October 21, 2023
The Hughes line got into a back-and-forth with the Islanders’ fourth line, and they ended up being out for a bit too long. With Bo Horvat coming on, Noah Dobson faked a shot and passed low to Horvat, who slammed a one-timer past Akira Schmid. 3-3.
Alex Holtz nearly had the most beautiful play of the game when he intercepted a pass at the blueline and stepped around an Islanders defenseman, putting the puck behind him and getting in on Sorokin for an open shot. Holtz ripped it, but Sorokin gloved it and froze it.
Matt Martin and Timo Meier came together by the boards, as Martin crosschecked Meier in the face. They got matching penalties. The Islanders got the better of chances during the four-on-four sequence, with Mat Barzal coming closest to scoring by almost chipping the puck off Schmid’s stick — but the puck bounced up and hit the post.
Nico Hischier was not on the bench to start the third. McLeod moved up to the line with Bratt and Palat. After the Devils controlled play for the first four minutes, the Islanders went back to the box, with Pierre Engvall going off for hooking John Marino. Ondrej Palat rejoined the top power play unit with Nico out. Jack Hughes lost the draw, but Ondrej Palat won the puck back in the corner. Jesper Bratt and Ondrej Palat passed it back and forth a couple times, from the wall to the goal line. The second time, Palat turned and whipped the puck across to Jack Hughes, who gave the Devils the lead! 4-3, with 15:30 to play.
Jack Hughes is inevitable. pic.twitter.com/ZWExZM4B5J— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) October 21, 2023
The Islanders were able to get behind the Devils a couple minutes later, with Brock Nelson (of course) getting a pass from Engvall through the neutral zone. With Dougie Hamilton coming back, Nelson’s shot trickled through Schmid, wide, and was swept out of the crease after Nelson tried to throw it back in front from behind the net.
Ondrej Palat was shaken up when he went flying over Kyle Palmieri in the neutral zone, hitting his knee on Palmieri when Kyle slipped down. However, he did not miss his next shift, and he still went down to one knee in an attempt to block a point shot — and he later pressured the puck out of the zone.
With 4:28 to play, the Devils went to the penalty kill, as Michael McLeod was called for tripping. With him in the box, Curtis Lazar took the draw, with Bastian on his left, with Bahl and Marino. Bahl’s first clearance failed to get out of the zone, but Nate Bastian was able to get to the puck and whack it out. The Islanders came back and cycled for nearly 40 seconds before Mat Barzal was set up for a one-timer, which Schmid stopped. Dawson Mercer took the next draw, and won it back — but the Devils could not clear the puck. Brendan Smith made a great read down low to break up a pass from the point, leading to a clearance from Mercer’s stick. Smith made the final clear with a shot down the ice, and play returned to five-on-five.
Ilya Sorokin went off with under 1:45 to play, and the Islanders called timeout with 1:38 left on the clock, with a stoppage for the puck out of play. The top line, with McLeod, took to the ice with the net empty. The Devils were able to get the puck down the ice, but could not get open for the empty net. Coming back, the Islanders got a shot from up high, which came off Schmid and bounced off Mat Barzal. With Schmid down, the puck bounced off him from a wide-angled Horvat shot and in. 4-4, with over a minute to play. The game eventually went to overtime.
Michael McLeod lost the draw and headed off for Bratt. Luke Hughes made a huge poke on the puck carrier to give Jack Hughes a chance for a rush shot — but Sorokin stood strong with the blocker. Barzal then beat Luke Hughes the other way, and Schmid made a great save on him.
With over three minutes to play, the Devils sent out Meier with Mercer and Marino. The Devils took possession after an Islander slipped in the neutral zone, but they regrouped a couple times before Hughes and Bratt came back on. Hughes went out and in, dancing into the slot and ripping a shot off one foot — above Sorokin’s glove! Devils win, 5-4 in overtime!
The Opposition Opinion: Check out Lighthouse Hockey.
After their loss to the Panthers, coach Lindy Ruff called his players out for their lack of drive — for the fact that too many skaters looked like passengers for the ride. It was different from the get-go tonight, with each Devil engaging the Islanders physically and being aggressive with the puck. The result? The Devils took 30 shot attempts in the first, to the Islanders’ 10. This could have been an 8-4 win. By the end of the game, the Devils outshot New York 38-31 and out-chanced them 41-24.
With Hischier hurt in the third, lines were mostly in a mishmash. Jack Hughes skated with bottom sixers on more than one occasion, and he praised each of them by name in his postgame interview. They deserved it — Chris Tierney saw the Islanders get zero shots on goal, with just one attempt, in 7:34 of ice time. Nate Bastian and Curtis Lazar, whether with Alex Holtz or Michael McLeod, drove play into the offensive end. Bastian had 3 shots and 0.47 ixG, the latter of which led the Devils at even strength. The energy guys did their job in setting the tone for the rest of the team. We saw New Jersey Devils hockey tonight.
Jack Hughes is Out of His Mind
With two goals and two assists, Jack Hughes is up to a league-leading 10 points in 4 games. Tonight, we saw his magic on the power play, with three primary points — a goal and two assists — out of the Devils’ four power play goals on the night. And he was all over the ice. When the Devils need a break from play after trading back-and-forth rushes, sometimes Jack can just skate the puck back around the defensive zone like a puck-moving defenseman. He slows the transition game for a moment, getting the opponent on their heels and then striking with either his own speed or a quick pass up the ice. I saw that from him a few times tonight, going along with some timely defensive plays to help keep the team from unraveling in their own end at times.
Imagine the relief of the opposition when they see Jack Hughes pass the puck, only to realize that he gave it to Luke Hughes. pic.twitter.com/AYrMSTvN4M— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) October 21, 2023
His duo with Luke is only going to get better. Luke has more heaviness to him than Jack, but just about as much speed (even with the puck). I think Luke really needs to clean up his defensive and neutral zone puck movement, but he is still incredible. He had a 68.75 CF% and 65.36 xGF% tonight, drew a penalty, and scored a goal. I would like to see more time with both Luke and Jack on the ice at even strength, though — then, I think, we’ll see Luke start breaking through there, too.
Nico Hischier’s Injury
After taking some big hits from Cal Clutterbuck and Ryan Pulock in the first and second periods, Nico Hischier did not return to the bench for the third. I was a bit surprised he sat out, considering he never missed his shifts or seemed to be slowed down by the hits. In 13:19, Nico had three shots and an 86.96 CF%, as the Devils out-chanced New York 11-1 with him on the ice. Lindy Ruff said that Nico has an upper-body injury, and we just have to hope that it is not a serious ailment, so that he can play on Monday.
The team struggled a bit without Nico. After the Devils outshot the Islanders 28-17 in the first two periods, the Islanders had 13 shots in the third, as Michael McLeod had to play higher in the lineup, and the lines lost a bit of energy and punch as a result. Still, considering the third was played almost entirely with the lead, the goal was surviving. And if not for a questionable, fluky late goal — one that maybe, could have been overturned for goaltender interference — they did alright.
An Up-and-Down Game For Schmid
It can be hard to criticize a goalie after a win, but Akira Schmid needed to come up with another puck or two in the first two periods. With three goals allowed on 0.87 xG, Schmid had let nearly every dangerous chance he faced past him. However — credit where it’s due — Schmid had an excellent third period, late goal aside. In the third, he faced 10 high-danger chances and stopped 0.77 goals above expected on 13 shots. And with that big save to keep Barzal’s shot out of the five hole in overtime, Schmid kept the Devils alive for long enough for Jack Hughes to win the game.
The Power Play and Timo Meier
While I have previously stated my opinion that Luke Hughes and Dougie Hamilton should switch on the power play, the power play was integral to the win tonight, with three goals from the top unit and the one-timer goal from Dougie. I will say that I loved Luke Hughes’ shot and goal, which I think was a lot harder than many fans expected. And I loved watching Timo Meier and Dougie Hamilton take it upon themselves to carry the second unit. As far as the current set-up goes, you cannot really have it better than it was tonight.
Ain’t no celly like a Dougie celly. pic.twitter.com/U9rWoE4WJp— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) October 21, 2023
Timo’s power play assist was a big step in getting going. He played fast and physical tonight, and it seemed like he was reading the ice a lot better than the first few games. His passing was excellent, and I think he is going to put his slow start behind him with tonight’s game. He was on the ice for three goals against, and his even strength metrics thus don’t look great, but, I still think some of those shots were stoppable.
And A Milestone
Tonight was Lindy Ruff’s 100th win as coach of the New Jersey Devils, tying Doug Carpenter for fourth all-time on the Devils’ coaching wins list. He is now 14 behind Pete DeBoer, 50 behind John Hynes, and 176 behind Jacques Lemaire. I’m willing to bet he passes Hynes this season.
What did you think of tonight’s game? How does it feel to be back in the win column? How did you feel Schmid did? How would you rate the team’s effort? What did you think of the penalty kill and power play? What should they do if Nico cannot play on Monday? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.