Can the Devils build off of impressive comeback against Capitals?
The New Jersey Devils lost yet another game on Tuesday, but their performance was one of their best in recent weeks. They rallied all the way back from 4-1 to take the game to overtime.
The fact that they came out with a point not only in a game where they were trailing by so much, but also against one of the best and hottest teams in the league, is extremely impressive and a testament to how hard-working this group is.
The fight, effort, and talent are there, they’re just going through a rough patch. With the season beginning to slip away and an appearance in the playoffs becoming more unlikely by the day, the Devils look to get something going in a tough division.
On Thursday, they’ll be taking on another extremely tough opponent in the New York Islanders.
The Devils will be facing the Islanders at Nassau Coliseum, which will be hosting 1,000 healthcare workers for the game. This marks the first time in over a year that Islanders fans have been in the building to cheer on their team.
Lindy Ruff, who is still working on coming up with effective line combinations, did make some changes to the lineup. Mikhail Maltsev would play at center with Miles Wood and Jesper Bratt on his left and right, respectively.
Jack Hughes would move to the left wing to join Pavel Zacha and Kyle Palmieri. Andreas Johnsson would slot in where Wood was on Tuesday, alongside Michael McLeod and Nathan Bastian.
MacKenzie Blackwood would return to the net in hopes of having a big bounce-back game.
1st period: Ugly defense
Unfortunately, this period was representative of how the Devils had been playing lately. The Devils conceded two goals, and both were the result of the skaters leaving lanes open and not putting bodies in the way to prevent the Islanders from scoring.
The Devils were tested on the penalty kill this period and did well, the only good news heading into the second.
2nd period: More ugliness
The good news: Blackwood looked much stronger in net and came up with some really good saves. The bad news: everything else. The Devils conceded two more goals this period and continued to get absolutely nothing done offensively.
They created no chances, made no plays, and had no momentum in New York’s zone.
The Devils showed us on Tuesday that they’re more than capable of coming back against top teams, but heading into the third period down 4-0 to possibly the hottest team in hockey is never ideal.
3rd period: Almost…
The Devils made the third period interesting and, for a second, looked like they were going to replicate what they did on Tuesday night. They scored two quick goals 40 seconds apart and cut the deficit down to two.
The goals were scored by two of the kids, Janne Kuokkanen and Maltsev. The kids continue to play well. Zajac had an assist on Kuokkanen’s goal, and he’s seen his play improve significantly lately.
The Devils did end up conceding another goal, but Hughes scored a beauty for the last of the game.
Things would’ve likely gone much better for the Devils had they played 60 minutes instead of just 20. They were, by far, the more dominant team in the third, but the three goals they scored there weren’t enough.
This is an issue they’re going to need to resolve. The power play has been another problem practically all season long, and was abysmal on Thursday, as well.
The Devils will have two more chances in the next few days to get some wins against the Islanders.
Key Moment: Goal number three for the Islanders
The third goal that the Islanders scored was the key moment of the game for the Devils. At that point, they were already down 2-0 and even though Blackwood was coming up with some great saves, it wasn’t enough.
This goal allowed the game to slip away from the Devils, even though they did go on to score three in the third. They’re going to have to start showing up in games much earlier than they have been if they hope to go back to their winning ways.
Player of the game: Ryan Murray
Ryan Murray was due for a strong game. He wasn’t spectacular by any means, but he was New Jersey’s best player. He wasn’t bad offensively, but his own zone is where he stood out.
He was the team’s best defender, by far, and was one of just two Devils’ players to have a positive defensive rating. Playing this well in New Jersey’s zone on a consistent basis is crucial for both himself and his team.
Murray’s numbers: 15:55 TOI, 34.78 CF%, 0.03 iXG, 4 blocks, 0.3 xGF, 0.4 xGA, 2.01 GF, 0 GA, 0.7 defensive rating, 0.17 offensive rating, and 0.22 individual rating.
Stats are courtesy of Hockey Stat Cards and Natural Stat Trick.