Early in the game, Dawson Mercer had Nico Hischier and Ryan Graves on a three-on-one, and Mercer dropped it back for Graves. As Graves rang it off the post and turned up the ice, Tom Wilson blindsided him and play had to be stopped to allow Graves to leave the ice. Of course, no penalty was called. Justin Kea and Dan O’Rourke had their first no-call of the game. They would get the call later on, when Timo Meier drew a penalty for slashing or hooking as he split Ovechkin and a defenseman, getting alone on goal but not being able to get a shot.
On the power play, Timo Meier had a one-timer saved by Darcy Kuemper. A point shot from Dougie Hamilton was later saved through a screen as well. The power play did not get anything past, and the effort was inconsistent on the whole. Back at even strength, the Capitals actually started to bring some pressure toward Akira Schmid. However, it was nothing the young goaltender couldn’t handle.
Ryan Graves returned to the ice after a lengthy absence later in the period, and Tom Wilson went over to talk to him after Schmid froze a puck. Play seemed rather slow to me as the play dragged on into the last few minutes, but the Devils were doing a good job of backchecking whenever the Capitals tried to counterattack. Jesper Boqvist got a nice shot from the high slot off a feed from Meier, but Kuemper made the save. Of course, the Capitals would push in the last 30 seconds after a terrible failed entry by the Devils. Trevor van Riemsdyk threw it on net after a bad clearing attempt, and Schmid was beat as it deflected off a skate. 1-0, with 9.9 seconds left to play.
team overview stat percentages - 5v5 (sva) after the 1st period (via @natstattrick).#njdvswsh pic.twitter.com/Sye4cko5AI— NJDevils Game Bot (@NJDevilsGameBot) March 10, 2023
Evgeny Kuznetsov took an early penalty for the Washington Capitals when he stuck his elbow out at Akira Schmid during a pass-by, after Nico Hischier dispossessed him of the puck. The Devils returned to the power play. This power play had nothing to it — even worse than the first power play. Five and a half minutes in, with the Devils struggling to get any momentum, Nico Hischier drew another penalty when he was spun around by Tom Wilson, who was falling to the ice. Without the penalty, Nico would have had a two-on-one.
Back on the power play, Hughes’ first shot was blocked. Jesper Bratt later broke a penalty killer’s ankles, but decided against his straight-up shooting lane and passed to Hischier for a one-timer, which was blocked. The second unit then came on. Severson’s slap shot was marked for the top corner, but Haula got in the way of it and it deflected out of play. But Haula made up for it! Right after the next faceoff, he banked it off the defenseman on the goal line to get it past Kuemper! Mercer and Severson got the assists. 1-1.
Haula with the PPG! pic.twitter.com/ZAuL2wDW6k— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) March 10, 2023
The Devils continued to up the pressure. The top line had excellent rotation and puck movement, and they kept it moving after a rebound back up to the point. Siegenthaler dropped it for Tatar for a point shot. It got through, and Nico banked the puck off Kuemper’s pad to Mercer, who scored! 2-1! Haula almost followed this up with another goal, but he hit the post as he dove into a shot in the low slot.
Mercdawg doing what Mercdawg does pic.twitter.com/4s6Oej5VDq— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) March 10, 2023
Of course, the Capitals would soon tie the game. T.J. Oshie, beating Dougie Hamilton to the puck, banked a pass from the corner off Miles Wood. It went right to the front of the net, where Dylan Strome beat Akira Schmid to tie the game at 2-2: quite an unfortunate bounce.
The Devils almost took the lead again when Tatar and Hischier had a two-on-one. Tatar dropped it for Mercer, in traffic, and Mercer ripped a high shot that Keumper barely saved. Tatar worked it back to Hischier on the far side, and Nico fought through the tough defense to try to swing at the loose puck, but Keumper sprawled to his side for the save.
Michael McLeod took a two-minute minor for interference with 2:47 to play. He lost the puck, and Oshie came up behind him and they got tied up. Of course, that meant McLeod went to the box. Akira Schmid made a big save on Backstrom, who got into the slot with the puck and tried to shoot it low. The Devils were able to kill this penalty, and went into the second intermission with the game tied at 2-2.
Damon Severson thread a pass through for Jesper Bratt, who almost split the defense for a breakaway. He was tied up a bit, though, and dropped the puck for Ondrej Palat, whose shot was saved by Kuemper. The Devils had the better of the Capitals again after a lively second period, as they were finally playing at full speed. Washington could not keep up with their puck movement, and the Devils were still getting back to cull chances against.
Akira Schmid made a huge save on Alex Ovechkin a bit past seven minutes into the period, as Kuznetsov worked the puck from the corner to Ovechkin in the circle. Ovechkin went for a rebound, but Mercer boxed him out. The Capitals’ legend got in Mercer’s face, but I’m not too sure what else he wanted Dawson to do.
Schmid made his best save of the game when a point shot was deflected from high, down to the left by Sheary, but Akira kicked out his right pad to stop it from crossing the line. Nico Hischier later received a pass from Dawson Mercer, and Hischier cut down the middle into a hard shot that began to trickle through — but Kuemper reached back with the glove and grabbed the loose puck before Nico could bat it in.
With four minutes to play, the Devils just started doing their best to stop the Capitals from breaking out. They were not very aggressive on the forecheck, but kept sending the puck back until Washington turned it straight over. From this type of strategy, the Devils got a couple offensive zone shots and faceoffs. At one point, Mercer took the puck around the low zone and got Kuemper completely out of the net, but they could not work the puck back to Tatar on the far side in time. The Hughes line followed up their pressure, with Meier getting a couple shots on goal as Tom Wilson took a run at Jack Hughes. In the final minute, Jesper Bratt took the zone — but this only resulted in a point shot for Siegenthaler that was deflected away. Neither team would get another chance, as the game went to overtime.
Nico Hischier, Jack Hughes, and Dougie Hamilton faced Dylan Strome, Rasmus Sandin, and Tom Wilson. Hischier won the draw, and Hamilton sent it back for Hughes. Nico gained the zone, spun back, and passed to Hamilton at the slot. Hamilton sent a bad pass for Jack Hughes, who lost it. Tom Wilson shot high on the other end, but it was saved by Schmid. Meier and Bratt came on. Severson joined.
Severson later found Bratt with a huge stretch pass, and Bratt dropped it for Meier. Meier passed back, but Bratt had too little room to shoot. On the other end, Schmid made a huge save on Van Riemsdyk.
Mercer, Boqvist, and Marino took the ice with half the period to play. Boqvist got off for Hughes after awhile, and Hughes got a rush shot that was saved low by Kuemper. Nico Hischier came on for Mercer. They eventually changed for Meier and Tatar as Washington wasted nearly a full minute. Timo Meier tripped up Tom Wilson with under a minute to play, and Washington went to the power play with 45.8 to kill.
Nico Hischier lost the draw, and the Capitals took control. John Marino made a great breakup, and skated the puck to the offensive zone before dumping it in. Washington was called for offsides with 5.2 seconds to play, sending the game to a shootout as Ovechkin threw one more shot on Schmid before time expired.
T.J. Oshie stepped up to start the shootout. Likely the best shootout player in NHL history, he went for his usual schtick but backhanded the shot wide.
Jack Hughes went first for the Devils. His shot was gloved by Kuemper.
Evgeny Kuznetsov went next for the Capitals. He went very slowly, whipped the puck to his forehand, and shot it off the post. Schmid gave him little to shoot at.
Jesper Bratt followed up. He beat Kuemper with the move to the backhand, but lost the puck.
Nicklas Backstrom went third. He went straight in, and was stopped by Schmid.
Nico Hischier, the captain, went third for the Devils. His shot was saved by Kuemper’s glove, but just glancing off.
Ovechkin went next. He went right, backhanded the shot, and missed wide.
This gave the Devils another chance to win. Timo Meier stepped up. On just his fifth career shootout attempt, Meier circled up, danced in and shot off his left foot. It got through! Devils win!
FOR THE DUB!!! pic.twitter.com/FFXHqWz2iA— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) March 10, 2023
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: Check out Japers’ Rink.
Might of Mercer
For the past month, Dawson Mercer has been the best player on the New Jersey Devils. Tonight continued that trend. Not only did he bring two more points to the table — bringing his total to 19 during his 11-game point streak — Mercer was active all over the ice. He created turnovers, played solid defense close to the net, and was a key component of the top line’s continual offensive pressure. He helped create many chances for Nico Hischier, who I think is feeling a bit snakebitten with his shot in addition to Hughes. That top line outshot the Capitals 12-4 and posted a ridiculous xGF% of 85.85.
Mercer now looks set for 60 points this year as his chemistry with Tatar and Hischier is reaching unstoppable levels. With how hellbent he is on scoring, though, I would keep an eye on if he makes a run at 70 points. He would need 22 points in the next 18 games — but that would be a regression (one to be expected at the very least) from his pace during the 11-game point streak.
Meier Looking More Comfortable
He does not get credit on the scoresheet for the shootout winner, obviously, but the Boqvist-Hughes-Meier line was clicking tonight. In 11:55 together, that group outshot the Capitals 9-1 and had an xGF% of 85.45. The were not creating as many chances as the Hischier line (they only had 0.38 xGF to the top line’s 0.95), but Washington did not have a hope or dream of possessing the puck when the Devils’ top six was on the ice. Meier simply adds a great element to them — he is not easily moved and has the speed and hands to keep up with Jack Hughes.
“Luckily I could finish the game off like that and get us two points.”— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) March 10, 2023
Meier ⤵️#Sponsored | @Genucel pic.twitter.com/MgvlcyDrUk
Of course, Timo needs to stop taking bad penalties. It would not have been fun if I had to write two nights in a row about how his late penalty cost the team the game. It is much more enjoyable to say Timo Meier made a mistake and made up for it just as well when he was called upon in the shootout. I hate shootouts. But when Timo Meier stepped up, it might have been the first time I felt legitimately intrigued by one in years. Of course, I would have liked it if he got to play an overtime against a much less cowardly team so he could have gotten another scoring chance or two, just to see if he could have ended it in overtime.
The Laviolette Capitals are a tired bunch to watch. No team tries harder to scrape wins out of 15 or 20 cheap shots, and they almost pulled it off again tonight. While Kuemper had to make 40 saves, Schmid only made 22. Of course, Schmid came up big when it mattered most — and the two goals he gave up were unfortunate or fluky at best. So was it a great game for Akira Schmid? No. But without a stupid bounce off Miles Wood to an uncovered Dylan Strome, and without a piss poor defensive breakdown and deflection off a Devils skate to end the first period, he could have walked off with a shutout tonight.
But he did not, and he had to come up big in the third with the game tied. Saving that deflection and being ready for each of the Capitals’ passing plays in the third made all the difference in the world. Schmid is so calm — so smooth in net, and he does not give opponents anything to shoot at. This is, I think, why the Capitals could not break him in the shootout. Oshie could not get him to open up, Kuznetsov a tough angle to work with and shot off the outside post, and Backstrom had no chance of beating him. I am happy with Schmid’s play, and I think he should be given the net until Vanecek shows again that he can be trusted with a number one’s workload.
Moving forward, I think a good way to split the schedule is to have Schmid play on Saturday against Montreal, followed by Vanecek in Carolina on Sunday. Give Vanecek a chance against a really good team. Then, I would like to see Schmid play all three games against the Lightning on Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday the 19th, with Vanecek starting against the Panthers on Saturday the 18th and the Wild on Tuesday the 21st. Out of the next seven games, that would give Schmid a total of four games and Vanecek three. I think this would be fair, considering Vanecek’s recent struggles. It would give Schmid a chance to show how he can handle a serious team like Tampa in a kind of mini-series format, while Vanecek would still get to battle two solid teams and the best team in the league as he gets a bit of rest with the playoffs on the horizon.
Michael McLeod was benched in the third period after making a heinous backhanded turnover at the end of the second period. He also had a team-worst 24.22 xGF% (nobody else was below 50). I doubt he will get scratched at any point, but I would really like to see a Sharangovich-Lazar-Bastian fourth line in the near future. Miles Wood has had his recent moments, but he looked a bit rough to me today. And while I think the second line really worked with Jesper Boqvist, I am not sure if it is worth nixing the former third line’s chemistry.
I would also like to see Kevin Bahl back in the lineup. Brendan Smith had a decent game, but the Devils were dominant in general. I think it’s apparent that Bahl frees up Damon Severson much more effectively than Smith does. Bahl is more mobile, and Severson was absolutely rolling in the offensive end over the past few games before Ruff decided to scratch Bahl. He still made some nice passes from the defensive zone tonight, but he never looks as dynamic when he has to handle more defensive responsibility with Smith on the ice.
The Devils cannot dominate possession much more than they have been, though. The bottom six was not amazing tonight, but I felt like the top six should have scored at least two more times than they did. However you slice it, though, it’s nice to see more than a couple combinations capable of such fantastic chemistry.
What did you think of tonight’s game? Were you happy to beat Laviolette and the Capitals? How did you feel about the Wilson hit on Graves? What do you think of Schmid possibly taking more of a role in goal? How many points will Dawson Mercer finish the year with? Leave your thoughts in the comments below, and thanks for reading.