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Devils’ Strong Effort Prevails in 3-1 Win Over Undisciplined, Sloppy Kraken

On the first half of their back-to-back, the Devils controlled the game for the most part from start to finish.

NHL: FEB 12 Kraken at Devils Photo by Andrew Mordzynski/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

After a hard collision with Kailer Yamamoto, in which his left skate was taken out by Yamamoto, John Marino crashed face first into the boards, causing a stoppage in play as Marino had to get himself off the ice and down the tunnel. After play resumed, Colin Miller was called for kneeing at the blueline, as he stuck out the leg on Jaden Schwartz. I think there was a bit of retaliation at play here, as some Devils were chirping Jared McCann after the play. I think they saw Yamamoto clipping Marino down as intentional.

NHL: FEB 12 Kraken at Devils
It wasn’t looking great for the Devils early in the game.
Photo by Andrew Mordzynski/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The New Jersey Devils’ penalty kill was excellent to start, getting the puck out and down the ice to prevent the Kraken from generating movement in the zone or chances to score. Nico Daws first really saw a shot from Eeli Tolvanen, which hit him in the chest with 18 seconds to kill. This was also when John Marino had returned to the ice after missing a couple of his shifts.

The Devils then drew a penalty after Timo Meier blocked a shot and sprang an odd-man rush the other way. Toffoli’s initial shot was saved, and Meier disrupted Joey Daccord, allowing Simon Nemec to poke the rebound. As Nemec just missed the net, the official’s arm was raised for an apparent hold or hook — but the Devils kept possession, keeping the puck moving for awhile until a pass through the slot was intercepted. Jamie Oleksiak was called for slashing Timo Meier.

On the power play, Nico Hischier was stick lifted just as he was about to hve a golden opportunity to score. Alex Wennberg got him. After a reset, another of Hischier’s shots from a passing play down low was deflected wide. Towards the end of the power play, Simon Nemec went coast-to-coast and put the puck through Adam Larsson’s legs, giving him the space to put a backhanded move on Daccord, who came up with the big save.

Near the halfway point of the period, Timo Meier had a big collision with Brian Dumoulin, who went down in a heap of pain, leading to him exiting the game after a stoppage. Some time later, Jesper Bratt avoided several hard checks, glancing off them to will the puck deep in the offensive zone. From the corner, he took a blocked point shot and put it right through the crease from his backhand, zipping the puck perhaps too fast for Nico to react to. Not long after, the Kraken had a bad change and were called for having too many men on the ice. This was a rare time they literally had six guys playing.

Seattle Kraken v New Jersey Devils
Meier standing up against Dumoulin's pressure led to the latter's injury.
Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Back on the power play, the Devils nearly scored off the opening draw, but the shot just went wide. After getting the puck back in, Tyler Toffoli got the puck in the high slot and ripped a slap shot that rose up, hit the post, and into the net! 1-0, Devils. Hischier and Hughes had the assists.

Second Period

With the Kraken reeling from the loss of Dumoulin, the Devils looked to extend the lead early. Erik Haula snuck up from behind to steal the puck right before the Kraken broke out, sending it to Jack Hughes on the wing. Hughes waited for Toffoli to cut to the net, but used the diversion to score off of Daccord’s head! 2-0, Devils!

On the other end a few minutes later, Oliver Bjorkstrand tried to bank the puck off Daws when Nico came out to play the puck and was a bit slow back to the net. The Devils took it the other way, and Timo Meier got himself a partial breakaway after Santeri Hatakka sent him ahead. With a Kraken player all over him, Meier drove right through the crease, making Daccord go down to the ice. But the puck was still loose — and Dawson Mercer buried it! 3-0.

As Santeri Hatakka was giving Tomas Tatar the works below the Devils’ net, play was whistled dead as Tatar took off Hatakka’s helmet. While that could have been a penalty, Kailer Yamamoto was called for roughing Colin Miller with a crosscheck. Either way, the Devils went to the power play. Off the draw, Luke Hughes sent it on goal, and the Kraken were able to work it away. After a tough breakout and re-entry, Daccord made two big saves on a Toffoli toe drag to the low right corner and a Jack Hughes rush shot at the five hole. With the second until on, Haula won the puck back, giving Nemec the chance to blast. His shot’s rebound gave Haula a golden chance to get a shot at an uncovered goal, but Haula hit the side of the net. Then, Meier set Palat up for a one-timer right in front of Daccord, but Palat missed the net. After another regroup, Simon Nemec blasted the puck past Daccord — but Haula clipped Daccord’s arm as he went to set a screen. The goal was taken off the board, and Yamamoto went back in the box for another six seconds.

Seattle Kraken v New Jersey Devils
Daccord was not too enthused about being upended.
Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

The Devils went right back to the power play after Jesper Bratt created a lengthy board battle in the Kraken’s offensive zone, forcing seven skaters to battle for about 10 seconds before Ondrej Palat worked it the other way. He was held over the boards by Will Borgen as another battle for the puck took place. But after the puck was gone, Borgen lost his cool and started punching Palat, who never got a chance to get off the boards. On the replay, you can see Lazar tell Borgen to let off before stepping back and shaking his head.

This power play was not as robust as the one after the Yamamoto penalty, but the first unit stayed on for much of the second minute, getting possession back and taking a couple cracks at it before more of the second unit came on. At the end of the power play, Nemec sent a pass back to Jack Hughes through the seam, which was a bit behind. Hughes sent it blindly back, but Nemec had cut to the net. Timo Meier went for it, but Borgen came out of the box and the puck was poked ahead for a breakaway. On his first shot faced of the period, Nico Daws made the stop on Yanni Gourde! Not long after, he made another save and froze play.

Kevin Bahl took a tripping call late in the period for tripping Jared McCann. I didn’t really like the call, as Bahl had the position for quite awhile before McCann engaged with him by the net. On the kill, Beniers’ shot was deflected by Schwartz — and the puck had to be shoveled from the goal line to underneath Daws by Tomas Nosek. The Kraken kept pressuring, and Nico Daws came up with one last glove save in the final second of the period.

Third Period

The Devils killed the remainder of the penalty, and play slowed down for a bit as the Kraken tried to pick the Devils apart on the breakout. After sitting in their own end for a few seconds, they did move it up the ice for a Jaden Schwartz wrist shot that Nico Daws was right on top of. After play resumed, Alex Wennberg took a tripping penalty for clipping Curtiz Lazar’s ankle with his skate.

On the power play, the Devils nearly had their fourth when they broke the Kraken forecheck, with Jack setting up Bratt, who was cutting down the middle. Daccord made the stop, and the Devils were unable to set back up until after taking the puck back into the zone. The Kraken stayed strong down low, though, and the Devils were unable to put much pressure on Daccord after Bratt’s shot.

Nico Hischier drew the ire of the Kraken by pressuring them on the forecheck, as Kraken players went at him a bit in the middle of play by the benches, and then again after Daccord made a save on his point shot with Bratt in front, when he received a high shot after the whistle. The Devils did not retaliate. Kevin Bahl was called for interference in front of the net with 14 minutes to play when he knocked Brandon Tanev down in front of the net. Bryce Salvador was incensed, calling out that it was a dive on the broadcast. It certainly looked so.

Nonetheless, the Devils were strong on the penalty kill. Late in the kill, not long after Lazar made a big block, Luke Hughes and John Marino stepped up at the perfect moment to take the puck away on the entry, trapping and converging on the puck carrier. The Devils nearly created offense with Bahl coming out of the box, but their puck movement wasn’t crisp enough to take the offensive zone cleanly.

With exactly 10 minutes to play, Nico Daws let one past him when Will Borgen was left alone on the upper edge of the faceoff circle, ripping a shot under the arm. The Devils broke structure a bit here, overloading towards the wall and leaving the middle of the ice weak and the far side completely uncovered. 3-1.

Nico Hischier had a chance to extend the lead when he had a two-on-one on his off-wing, with Palat on the other side. However, his pass through was deflected by Vince Dunn, and the Devils didn’t get a shot. Seattle then pressed them back and forced Nico Daws to make a couple of big stops. After stopping play with a glove save on a hard point shot with traffic in front, Nico Daws’ workload eased up a bit, with the Devils doing a good job of preventing chances until they iced the puck with 1:51 to play.

Daccord came off for the draw. The Kraken won it back, and Dunn shot the puck wide of the net. Then, he set up a Burakovsky one-timer that was swallowed up by Daws. The Devils did a great job of tying sticks up after play resumed, preventing the Kraken from pulling off a pass from the point to across the crease. Seattle then struggled to get the puck into dangerous space for the remainder of the game, as the Devils sealed the 3-1 victory.

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

Much Needed

While the Devils won’t get much help in the standings tonight, they really needed to put their best foot forward to begin this week of a back-to-back amid four games in six days. They did exactly that, dictating the pace of play for the first half and then playing to shut the game down as best they could. At one point, they had a 27-7 shots advantage in the second period, not allowing a shot on Daws until the final minutes of the period. The Kraken did put 21 shots on Daws in the final 26 minutes or so minutes, but they only amassed 2.29 xG to the Devils’ 4.42. The goalies, for what it’s worth, had a pretty good night — but the Kraken just gave up far more chances than the Devils.

Nico Daws comes out of this game with a .964 save percentage in his first game after the break. This brings him up to a 4-5-0 record on a .903 save percentage and 3.14 goals against average on the season. I assume that Akira Schmid will get the start tomorrow night, barring a surprise move, but I think there’s a good chance that Daws ends up starting on Thursday and Saturday this week. If he can play as solidly as he played tonight, I have high hopes for the next three games. That said, Daws needs to be more careful about skating around the net when the other team has the puck. If he stays sharp and keeps his eye on the puck a bit better behind and around the net while maintaining this level of rebound control, he will continue to get starts.

Hischier, Hughes, and Hatakka

Three of the most exemplary skaters I saw on the ice tonight were Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier, and Santeri Hatakka. Hughes and Hischier fed off of the support from their linemates to put a lot of pressure on Joey Daccord. And while Hischier is probably disappointed he didn’t get a goal on any of his chances tonight, the Kraken generally posed no threat to score when he was on the ice. Jack Hughes, meanwhile, looked much more like himself than the previous two games. His freewheeling ways were back, and it looked less like he was holding himself back.

Meanwhile, Santeri Hatakka played the best game on the back end. The Devils had 12 of their five-on-five shots with him on the ice, only allowing six. Hatakka’s on-ice 1.42 xGF also far surpassed the second highest total (Toffoli and Hughes at 1.07), as the Devils had a 9-2 high-danger chance differential during his even strength ice time. He imposed himself with physicality without taking a penalty, as well, getting under the skin of a couple Kraken players. This was only his seventh game with the team and his 16th in the NHL, but it would be very difficult to justify removing him for the lineup for anyone at the moment.

Missing Fourth Line

The Devils’ fourth line of Alex Holtz, Tomas Nosek, and Nathan Bastian generated a grand total of 0 shots tonight while allowing the only goal against. Not only did they not get a shot on goal, they did not get a shot attempt, with Nosek and Bastian being on the ice for four and five shots against, respectively. Alex Holtz ripped a shot attempt with other skaters on the ice during a change, but he missed the net, and was on the ice for six shots against. Like I said in my article earlier today, the Devils really need to establish a bigger presence in their bottom six — performances like these cannot happen. If these are the guys that are supposed to set the tone tomorrow night on the back end of a back-to-back, Lindy Ruff might want to think about playing Chris Tierney or Brendan Smith in place of one or two of the fourth liners.

Your Thoughts

What did you think of tonight’s game? Are you excited to see them follow this up tomorrow night? Who had the best game in your eyes? Leave your thoughts in the comments below, and thanks for reading.