Vanecek made a solid save on Guentzel and a moment later the Penguins got the first power play of the game. Crosby tripped by Marino. The Devils won the faceoff and cleared. Malkin passed across to Rakell, who returned the favor as Malkin rushed to the net. The pass got past Graves and Smith and Malkin put the puck past Vanecek for a 1-0 Penguins lead.
The Devils would respond less than 2 minutes later. Tatar got the puck to the net with Mercer and Hischier causing chaos in front. Tokarski made a pad save on the first whack but Mercer put the rebound past him to tie the game. Always good to see 91 and 13 going to the net.
The Penguins hemmed the Devils in their zone for a while with the top line. Marino saved a Crosby wraparound and the Devils finally got it out.
A point shot went off Vanecek’s pad and bounced off the endboards to Blueger who kicked it in. Refs call is no goal.
Penguins have the lion’s share of puck possession so far. Smith now takes a penalty for interference. Penguins back to the power play.
The Devils had better positioning on this PK. Marino broke up a dangerous pass and Haula killed 30 seconds by holding on to the puck rather than dumping it in.
Hughes turned the puck over in the d zone and Vanecek had to make a save. Graves took another penalty, already 3 power plays for Pittsburgh and we’re not 3⁄4 of the way through the 1st period.
The Devils had a 2 on 1 and Haula fed Mercer, but Tokarski made the save. Devils with some shorthanded possession.
Jeff Carter takes an OZ penalty for high-sticking. 4 on 4 for 35 seconds.
Boqvist centered for Mercer in the paint and Tokarski shut the door.
Graves is out of the box, Devils to the power play. A Hughes pass went off Hischier’s skate and wide of the net. Pittsburgh kills the rest but ices the puck.
Severson took a shot that Tokarski gloved down. Hughes almost got the rebound but it skipped over his stick.
Haula took a slapshot alone in the high slot but Tokarski made the save
Hamilton knocked a pass away on a Penguins rush to end the chance
Vanecek made a shoulder save on a sharp angle Crosby shot
Pittsburgh takes a penalty. Bratt taken down by Pettersson. 2nd Devils power play of the game. Devils win the faceoff and set up. Hischier takes the puck behind the net and feeds Hamilton who walked in to the dot and he beats Pettersson. Devils lead 2-1. Hughes with the secondary, points in 10 straight for him.
Devils with 6 of the first 7 shots of the period.
Penguins have the top line that hemmed the Devils in twice in the first out. Marino blocks a shot and Haula clears. Much better than the 1st.
Devils with a quick transition out of the zone after a faceoff and Hischier and Mercer get a 2 on 1. Tokarski makes a big save on Mercer, who pokes at the rebound. Carter takes offense and they have a shoving match.
Vanecek with a blocker save on a quick Carter shot on a 3 on 2. Up to 14 saves today.
Penguins top line out there again and they draw a penalty. Graves called for interference on Guentzel.
Hischier pressures a pass back to the point and gets the puck. 2 on 1 with Sharangovich. Hischier feeds Sharangovich who gets past the defender and passes back to Hischier who has an empty net for career goal number 100!
Devils kill off the rest of the power play. At the end McLeod pressures Tokarski who almost puts the puck in his own net trying to clear it away.
Palat tripped by Carter along the boards. Devils to the power play up 3-1. Penguins with several clears and they kill. Devils never really got set up.
Bratt went 1 on 4. Haula got the puck and fed Palat for a turn and burn but it was knocked out of play by Tokarski.
Zucker caught the Devils flatflooted and had a 2 on 1 but his backhander went wide
3 minutes in and the Penguins get their 5th power play. Kevin Bahl off for high-sticking Archibald behind the play. He kind of went for a cross-check, except the height difference meant it was in Archibald’s face rather than his chest.
Letang went for an air pass to Crosby who almost batted it in.
Penguins are set up with a minute left. Devils intercept a pass and Sharangovich has a breakaway. He faked and went left and Tokarski lifted his pad up to make a fantastic save.
The Hughes line had a good shift and Bratt batted a rebound out of midair just wide of the goal
Tatar with a quick shot on the rush that Tokarski gloves for a faceoff with 12:22 left.
Sharangovich gained the line and made a spinaround pass to Hughes, who fed Bratt for an easy goal. Devils now up 4-1.
Shots started 11-5 penguins, have been 33-13 Devils since then
The Hughes line had a 3 on 1 but Bratt’s pass skipped through Hughes
Vanecek made a sprawling save on O’Connor. The Devils cleared, but then Malkin went right down the middle and fired a shot past Vanecek. Bahl was just coming on the ice and Smith was too ready to join the attack.
Bahl made a good play to keep the puck 1 on 1 and get the attack started for the Devils
Penguins call timeout down 2 with 2:52 left
Tokarski to the bench with 2:25 to go. Vanecek made a pad save on Guentzel in the crease. Mercer clears to Hischier with 2:10 left and that’s a tap in. 4 point game for Captain Nico.
How Were The New Line Combinations?
Ruff had some new lines today. The top line was Tatar-Hischier-Mercer and the 2nd line was Sharangovich-Hughes-Bratt.
Clearly, something went right, with 5 goals on the board for the Devils. It also seems like the first game in a while where the Devils had a good lead over the opponent in every analytic. Not only did they get the win, but they really deserved it today. The first pretty was pretty even, with a slight edge to Pittsburgh, but the Devils really turned it on in the 2nd period, which they dominated. That period saw the game go from a 1-1 tie to a 3-1 Devils lead. Deserve to win o meter gives the Devils the win 82% of the time. I’m very happy with this game and hopefully it leads to some of the dominant hockey we saw the Devils play early in the season. The top 2 lines were the big drivers for the Devils, as both lines were well over 50% in xGF. The Hughes line was over 80%. The bottom 6 did not do nearly as well, however. The 4th line was especially awful, with an xGF% below 10! That’s quite bad. Mixing up the top 6 worked, but the bottom 6 probably needs a shake up too. Benching Nate Bastian but keeping Miles Wood and Mike McLeod in was one of the more interesting lineup decision of the season, and clearly, it did not work.
Hughes is Back
This was Jack Hughes’s first game back after missing a few games. He made a couple nice plays, including a great pass to Jesper Bratt for an insurance goal. He wasn’t at 100%, which is to say, he wasn’t as noticeable as usual, and still made a great play and had 2 assists. I am very glad to have him playing for the New Jersey Devils. His line, as mentioned, had a 5v5 xGF% of over 80%. Not bad for your first game back from injury.
Hischier and Mercer
The most noticeable Devils today were Nico Hischier and Dawson Mercer. Mercer had 3 grade A chances in the first, one of which was the first Devils goal of the game. He added an assist on the empty net goal for a multi-point game. He and Hischier went to the net a few times, which they are very good at and I would like to keep seeing.
Speaking of Hischier, he had an absolutely fantastic game. He became the 2nd player from the 2017 draft class to score 100 goals, and had 3 more points after that. First 4 point game for a Devil since Andreas Johnsson at the beginning of last season. He had a nice primary assist on Hamilton’s PP goal, the empty netter, and an assist on Mercer’s goal. Seems to be a good pairing, so I figure they’ll be on the same line again tomorrow.
What did you think about the new line combinations? What would you like to see as the bottom 6 in the next game? Leave your thoughts in the comments below, and thank you for reading.