The Devils look to rebound against Buffalo and put an end to this losing streak.
The New Jersey Devils enter Thursday’s game against the Buffalo Sabres on a season-worst three-game losing streak. Two of those losses came against the last-place Sabres, which isn’t ideal.
Thursday’s game would be a crucial one for the Devils, who actually had a chance to contend for a playoff spot before falling into this ditch.
The rookie Yegor Sharangovich was brought back into the lineup for the Devils after two games off and MacKenzie Blackwood, who came into this game tied for second in the league in save percentage, got the start in net.
Lindy Ruff switched up some of the defensive pairings, putting P.K. Subban alongside Dmitry Kulikov and Ryan Murray with Sami Vatanen to kick things off.
It was also revealed shortly before puck drop that the Sabres would be without their best player and captain, Jack Eichel. This loss would be one the Devils would have to take advantage of.
1st period: The Devils successfully killed a penalty?!
Blackwood looked very sharp to start the game. Unfortunately, so did Sabres goalie Linus Ullmark.
The Devils applied some great offensive pressure early and got a significant amount of shots off, but Ullmark made a spectacular sequence of saves to keep New Jersey at zero. Sadly, Ullmark was injured while moving laterally to make an excellent save on a Nico Hischier shot.
He finished the first period in net, but wouldn’t return for the second. This guy really does look like Dominic Hašek when he plays the Devils.
A bad turnover involving one of the Devils’ worst players, P.K. Subban, allowed the Sabres to get on the board first. The Devils were tested on the penalty kill late in the first.
As we know, the Devils have the worst penalty kill in the league and the Sabres are now tied for the best power play in the NHL.
The Devils miraculously killed the penalty without conceding a goal, something that surely came to the relief of everyone watching.
New Jersey came out of the first down a goal, but at least we saw some type of improvement in their play. Baby steps.
2nd period: Surprise, surprise. Special Teams.
Ullmark was injured in the first (mentioned above), and was replaced by Carter Hutton for the second. Could the Devils take advantage of this goalie change?
Some nice passing down the ice and nifty moves by Jesper Bratt allowed him to score his first of the season, one that he and the team desperately needed. Pavel Zacha also recorded his ninth point in his last 11 games.
The Devils did well on their only penalty kill in the first, but that wouldn’t be the case on Buffalo’s next power play.
The shorthanded Devils looked good for most of the kill and were getting bailed out by some excellent goaltending from Blackwood, but fell victim to another goal with fewer than 10 seconds remaining.
There was a great deal of special teams action this period. The Devils were shorthanded once again, but did an excellent job killing that penalty off. They were given their first chance on the power play, but that was disastrous.
They were given another chance on the power play at the end of the period. This power play was more organized, but they weren’t able to tie the game.
Losing faceoffs, especially on the power play, is killing the Devils.
3rd period: Surprise, special teams… did well?
Taylor Hall came through for his old team by getting booked for a double minor. The Devils were miraculously able to score two (!!) goals on the man advantage and take the league.
Will this get the power play going for the future? Of course, the penalty kill had to concede the game-tying goal, though, and this game would head to overtime.
Overtime: Have a game, Pavel
Pavel Zacha, who has been on fire and was dominant this game, scored the game-winning goal in overtime on a beautiful drop-back pass from Bratt.
This was a huge win for the Devils, and credit must be given to Zacha for doing so much for his team throughout the game. It was only fitting that he would score the game-winning goal.
The Devils must put their losing streak in the rear-view mirror and build on this crucial victory.
Key Moment: Zacha for the W
The key moment of the game was Zacha’s overtime goal. The goal won the Devils the game and embodied how well the Devils played as well as how well Zacha has been playing.
Player of the game: Pavel Zacha
Who but? Zacha was phenomenal this game and continues his excellent play. He was involved in all but one of his team’s goals and made some excellent plays in the offensive zone all game.
His numbers on the night: 16:04 TOI, one goal, two assists, 75.76 CF%, 0.27 iXG, 1.48 xGF, 0.37 xGA, 2.07 GF, 0.94 GA, and 1.64 offensive rating.
Stats courtesy of Hockey Stat Cards and Natural Stat Trick.