The San Jose Sharks iced the puck off the opening draw, but the Sharks began to play back-and-forth with the Devils, as neither team got a shot until Simon Nemec took a low shot through a screen on Kaapo Kahkonen. Nemec, in his New Jersey Devils debut, caused a bit of a stir around the net for the puck, but the Sharks got it out. On the other end, Mario Ferraro got a pass after a failed Devils breakout, driving down low to pass it right across to Jacob Macdonald for the first goal of the game. 1-0, Sharks. Timo Meier’s play was unacceptable here.
Nearly six minutes in, Simon Nemec sent a shot on goal that deflected high on Kahkonen, but it was stopped and frozen. After a faceoff, the Devils won a lengthy board battle and Siegenthaler skated the puck closer to the center of the zone. Nemec was calling for a one-timer, but Siegenthaler wristed the puck on goal for an easy glove save. A few minutes later, Nico Hischier lifted a puck to get it through for Ondrej Palat on the rush, but Palat could not beat Kahkonen. The Devils retained possession, and Nemec blasted a one-timer that was padded out. Siegenthaler followed this up with another shot that was blocked high over the bar. The Devils changed lines and kept up the attack with the Hughes line and the Hughes pairing, but Kahkonen stopped everything.
With over eight and a half minutes to play, Matt Benning went off for holding Alex Holtz behind the net. The Devils went to the power play with the Hischier-Hughes-Bratt-Toffoli-Hughes group. The top unit had a few shots in the first minute, but the rebounds were just going too far to score on. The first unit stayed on into the second minute, and Kahkonen finally got the puck frozen on a netfront shot from Toffoli. All the forwards on the first unit had chances to score. The second unit came out for 37 seconds, and had to recollect after a clearance. Nemec took a huge one-timer that deflected high off Meier’s stick, off the glass and back in front — and Dawson Mercer whacked it out of the air into the net! Tie game! And a first point for Simon Nemec!
With a couple minutes left, Luke Hughes drove to the net and wrapped it around to pass out front to Nico Hischier, who just couldn’t lift the puck enough to beat Kaapo Kahkonen. On the next shift, Jack Hughes weaved up, down, and around the offensive zone to take a shot, which drew a roar from the crowd but was turned away and back up the ice. Anthony Duclair had a partial breakaway with Kevin Bahl chasing. Bahl reached around and poked the puck away without taking a penalty. The game went to intermission tied at 1-1.
Ondrej Palat was turned away on an early one-timer, and the Devils continued to push the attack on San Jose. Timo Meier had a dangerous shot saved a couple minutes later. But the Sharks would still get the first goal of the period, as Luke Hughes had a bad defensive zone tunrover leading to an extended shift. Matt Benning got the puck after it came out to him by the blueline, near the boards. Benning shot on goal, and it deflected past Schmid. 2-1.
Halfway through the period, Jack Hughes had a terrible neutral zone turnover right to Mikael Granlund, forcing the Devils to defend a two-on-one. Jonas Siegenthaler went diving into no-man’s land, and Anthony Duclair blasted a one-timer past Schmid. 3-1. Just fantastic stuff from Siegenthaler here.
Alex Holtz had a wide open net with just minutes to play in the period when Colin Miller beat a defender down low with a pass to the slot. Holtz shot off the post on the backhand and then shot the rebound off Nikita Okhotiuk’s stick. After an icing, a Hughes-Nemec pairing took the ice. After a lengthy shift, where Holtz, Hughes, and Nemec did great work on the boards, the Sharks should have been called for another icing, but they got a mercy wave-off. Of course, this led to an opportunity for the Sharks after the Devils were unable to reestablish possession.
In the final minute, Simon Nemec caught up with Duclair, who was breaking away again, and poked the puck away to turn play around. On the other end, Nemec started great puck movement up top, but Hughes skated the puck into a turnover trying to get to the middle of the ice. He yelled at the ref for some sort of uncalled stick infraction on the play, but the Devils went to intermission down two goals as the fans booed them off. In that period, they gave up two goals on three shots.
End of two.— Amanda Stein (@amandacstein) December 2, 2023
1:✖️MacDonald (Ferraro, Emberson)
1: Mercer (Nemec, Holtz)
2:✖️ MacDonald (Benning, Bailey)
2:✖️ Duclair (Granlund)
Shots 25-11, NJ
A minute into the period, a Mike Hoffman shot went wide and went out for a Devils three-on-one. Timo Meier chose to shoot with Hughes and Toffoli with him, and it deflected off the defenseman’s stick and off the crossbar. A couple minutes later, Jack Hughes was preying for a loose puck and zoomed in on one when the Sharks lost the offensive zone with a blueline pass. Hughes stole the puck from Addison, and he roofed it with Meier on the other side. 3-2, with 17 minutes to go.
Jack Hughes is electric.— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) December 2, 2023
*send tweet* pic.twitter.com/t9RM38UVaw
A couple minutes later, Ondrej Palat took an elbow to the head from Givani Smith, as Palat was low to the ice and Smith hit him into the boards. After a faceoff, Anthony Duclair broke away and scored. John Marino flubbed the puck in the neutral zone. 4-2, with 14:53 to play.
With 13:03, Okhotiuk went off for delay of game. The power play came out, and Jack Hughes lost the draw after Nico Hischier was chased by the linesman. The Devils took the offensive zone and had one weak shot before the puck was cleared. On their second possession, a pass across was deflected out of play. The second unit came on for the last 52 seconds. After a Nemec one-timer that deflected wide, Ondrej Palat lost the zone with a bad pass to Nemec. Meier took a couple shots on goal before the power play expired, and Holtz hit the crossbar after Okhotiuk came out.
The Devils had a huge rush by the net, and it appeared that Nico Hischier pushed the puck completely past the red line. No goal, though, as the whistle blew, at best, simultaneously. Of course. Eight minutes to play.
Tough break for the Devils not being awarded the goal on this one pic.twitter.com/juqJi4ApqA— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) December 2, 2023
A minute later, Ondrej Palat tipped a shot from Simon Nemec, and Jesper Bratt got on the rebound, faked a shot, and passed back to Palat in the slot. Palat scored! The Devils then had seven minutes to tie the game. Nemec picked up his second assist on the play.
Palat puts one home from the slot! pic.twitter.com/1TBxWSuPtY— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) December 2, 2023
After an icing, Anthony Duclair went racing down the ice again. Nemec was the only man back, and he deterred the shot, but Schmid poked it away from Luke Hughes right to Mikael Granlund. 5-3, and this one was definitely Schmid’s fault.
Akira Schmid was pulled with 3:57 to play after an icing call. Jesper Bratt took a one-timer that was saved, but they hardly had any chances the first minute. The Devils were able to get some shots in the second minute, but they couldn’t move Kahkonen enough. Nico Hischier took an uncalled high stick as the puck was frozen with 1:57 to play. Michael McLeod was then kicked from the faceoff circle, and Mercer won it back to Nemec for a wrist shot that was gloved. Lindy Ruff called timeout with 1:52 to play. After the timeout, it was more of the same issues, as the Devils took plenty of point shots but could not get enough movement or any rebounds to score on. William Eklund scored an empty netter with 17.9 to play. The Devils lost 6-3.
17 shots against. 5 goals. 6 high danger shots against. 4 goals. Akira Schmid should have had the night off tonight, as he had just played on Tuesday in relief in addition to facing 47 SHOTS LAST NIGHT.
Personally, I’m not surprised he didn’t have it. This was on Lindy Ruff to know he wasn’t capable of playing back-to-back nights, and to pull him after he got to three goals. He was not moving the way he was moving in Philadelphia. He was slow, unreactive, and had a hard time handling the puck. Maybe Vitek still would have given up four goals. The Devils were playing horribly in the few situations that the Sharks had any chance at all to score. They didn't have many, but the Devils still found ways to make the worst mistakes in those few moments.
How many times do we have to watch the Devils fail to move the puck with urgency, leading to a goal against? That exact issue bookended Schmid’s night, as Meier’s failure to pass the puck led to a turnover and goal against to start the game. Then, at the end, he and Luke Hughes could not agree on who would handle the loose puck, and Schmid gave it right away for the back-breaking goal.
But I’m also disgusted with Jonas Siegenthaler for being completely out of position on the first goal and believing that he can do anything just by sloppily diving onto the ice. For a guy that was an outstanding defensive defenseman over the past couple years, he has completely lost his edge to the point that the game just rolls right over him whenever he has to deal with tough defensive situations. He had a good moment in the third period where he kept the puck in during the six-on-five situation with a nice strip, but where is that proactive play in the defensive zone? On the first goal, he drifted like a pylon as Nemec stayed close to his man, screening Schmid and letting the puck carrier just sit in the circle to create from. Similarly, he dove into no-man’s land on the one-timer goal from Duclair, even though he could have taken Duclair out as an option in totality with two Devils cutting down on the puck carrier. Just a terrible game, even if the Devils out-attempted the Sharks 4-1 with him on the ice.
I was gritting my teeth watching the forwards play at times, as if they just gave up on a couple occasions when their shots were not going. Jack Hughes skated himself into trouble too many times tonight, and this directly led to a goal against. When Jack has the puck, the whole team practically shuts off and just waits for him to do something. Because of that, he’s just going to be closed in on from time to time, and the Devils need to learn a new play other than “let Jack skate circles around the whole rink for a single shot where we don’t even jump on the rebound.”
Tonight was not the night for Michael McLeod to sleepwalk through the game. It was not the night to have Samuel Laberge in the lineup, who only played 2:10 as the rest of the team was gassed from the night before. It was not a good night to not be able to trust Nathan Bastian, who only played 4:52. It was not a good night for every Devil to pass the puck into Nico’s skates each time he was down low. It was not a good night for Jesper Bratt to be forcing it without his usual precision. It was not a good night for Tyler Toffoli to wait for shots on offense and not be very active on defense. It was not a good night for Timo Meier to forget all of his defensive zone responsibilities. Combine that forward play with the terrible defenseman coverages, and you have a 6-3 loss to the San Jose Sharks.
Kaapo Kahkonen did not steal this game. He did great, saving 45 of 48 shots. He saved 2.40 goals above expected. But Akira Schmid saved 3.45 goals below expected. The goaltending from the Devils was simply worse than how good the goaltending was for San Jose. At the end of the day, when your top line outshoots opponents 17-2 and only outscores the opponent 1-0, you just have to learn to win the tight game. The ONLY skaters not to be on the ice for an even strength goal against were Bratt, Hischier, Palat, and Laberge. Laberge did not play enough to do anything good or bad. But that top line was on point, and they probably would have had another goal if either the “intent to blow the whistle rule” was launched in a rocket ship to the sun or if Bratt and Palat hit Nico’s stick once with a pass during the game.
Clean it up. It’s time to scrutinize Ryan McGill and Dave Rogalski and the jobs they’ve done with this team. It’s beyond sickening to watch. I feel sorry for Simon Nemec. He played as well as you can jumping to the top pairing as a 19-year old, and the team allowed his effort and spark to go to absolute waste.
What did you think of tonight’s game? How angry are you? Leave your thoughts in the comments below, and thanks for reading.