The New Jersey Devils had trouble early against the Boston Bruins, getting pinned back in their zone a couple times in the first few minutes without creating any good counterattack. Scott Wedgewood made a dangerous play with the puck at one point, but the Bruins were still unable to score. However, the referees missed an early penalty by the Bruins when Jesper Bratt was blatantly held from behind as he diced into the offensive zone. Not that it would have mattered, but nobody in the broadcast even cared about it.
Michael McLeod had the first good chance for the Devils, zipping into the offensive zone with just under seven minutes gone by in the game, shooting high on Rask which seemed to deflect off his mask. Miles Wood nearly got on the high-bouncing rebound, but the Devils would go on the powerplay less than a minute later as Janne Kuokkanen was high sticked in the neutral zone.
In the first minute, the power play struggled to keep possession of the puck, fighting along the boards, unable to get into open space. On the second unit, Andreas Johnsson gloved down a high rebound and had a good opportunity to score – but did not. They were too slow to get going, and yet another power play could be chalked up as a failure.
The Bergeron line had an excellent shift with eight minutes to play, but Scott Wedgewood stood strong against two opportunities for David Pastrnak. If not for Wedgewood, the Bruins would have been up 1-0. The Hughes line was completely outskated in the defensive zone, and the defensemen made little impact low, near the goal.
The Devils got a second power play after Chris Wagner tripped Mikhail Maltsev. With Hughes, Zacha, Kuokkanen, Palmieri, and Smith still as the first unit, the Devils struggled to keep or gain the offensive zone. The Devils’ second unit came on about 40 seconds in, and proceeded to battle for the puck for about 10 or 15 seconds, before the Bruins created an odd-man rush the other way that produced no shot due to a missed pass. The Devils attempted to get something going in the final seconds between Sharangovich and Kuokkanen, but Rask denied their netside attempts as the penalty expired.
The end of the period wasn’t noteworthy. After Jack Hughes got a good chance on Rask not long after the power play ended, the final minutes of the period were without any dangerous opportunities for either team. After one period, the Devils were being out attempted by a two-to-one margin at even strength, while the shots were 12-10, Bruins, in all situations. While the Devils struggled at even strength defense, they were credited for both high danger opportunities of the period by Natural Stat Trick – with Kuokkanen and Hughes being credited for the chances as both got shots near Rask after the second power play. Nine of the Bruins’ 10 credited shots, meanwhile, came from defensemen.
The Devils got the first prime chances of the second, as the Smith-Severson pairing led a good transition game for the Zajac line, who got multiple shots on Tuukka Rask after Smith softly played the puck toward the goal line, jumping on rebounds and not letting the Bruins control the early period. They were very close to breaking the ice, but at least it was a sign of better play in the second period.
Miles Wood sowed chaos when he got onto the ice as he used his speed to get in on Rask, creating a rebound for McLeod and Bastian to fight for. However, the Bruins got to it first and iced the puck. While the Devils didn’t make much use of the following offensive zone faceoff, they forced the Bruins to ice the puck a second time.
While the Bruins had plenty of offensive zone time due to a terrible bounce off the end boards, the referees turned a blind eye to a high cross check to the back of Ty Smith from Brad Marchand after Scott Wedgewood gloved a point shot. The referees then ignored multiple holds from the Bruins as Pavel Zacha was held on a breakaway, and Zacha’s backhand nearly still got past Rask. Kyle Palmieri then joined in, getting a chance of his own as Maltsev was blatantly held as he drove the net.
Ty Smith intercepted a pass in the defensive zone to David Pastrnak, preventing Wedgewood from having to deal with him all alone as Smith was the only Devil with two Bruins in the zone. After the Bruins had a good offensive zone shift, Travis Zajac denied a Bruins entry and was high-sticked while doing so. That penalty was called. Jake DeBrusk went to the box after Subban wasted the Devils’ sixth-man advantage with a point shot.
On the power play, the Devils had to breakout from their own zone early, and Pavel Zacha set Kyle Palmieri so he could split into the middle of the offensive zone. He got to the slot, shot, and deflected the puck off Charlie McAvoy’s skate and out of play. The Devils lost the next faceoff, and managed to enter the zone before a pass got a little beyond Hughes’ reach – and the puck was cleared. Yegor Sharangovich was set up by Jack Hughes after a re-entry, but he played it across to Miles Wood rather than shooting, and the Devils had to re-enter again. P.K. Subban blasted away a one-timer from the high edge of the faceoff circle as the penalty expired, and the Devils looked better but still ultimately could not execute. They got into the space they needed to on this power play, but got no shots out of it.
David Pastrnak zipped past Ryan Murray in the neutral zone and danced around Sami Vatanen with four and a half minutes to play, getting a great shot on Wedgewood. Wedgewood made the save, and then covered the puck after it came out in front after a board scrum.
Miles Wood created even more chaos on the following shift, creating an opportunity for Michael McLeod to chop away at the puck right in front of Rask. The puck bounced high – was batted down by a leaping Bruin, and Miles Wood recovered the puck before the Bruins could start their counterattack. He drove back toward Rask, and the line fought hard for a goal but was denied.
Jack Hughes beat Rask cleanly with a shot, but play was blown dead for a hand pass. Ryan Murray’s shot was gloved down by Bratt, but he never actually held it and it deflected right to Hughes. The goal was waved off immediately, and the game remained 0-0. The period ended without much more to speak of, as Scott Wedgwood and Tuukka Rask stood strong in the face of not-so-dangerous shots. After two periods, the Devils were much closer in the possession battle – out-attempting the Bruins by one in the second, while the total shots were 22-19 in favor of the Bruins.
The Devils started with the Zacha line in the third period, and they had an offensive zone shift that resulted in no shots despite Pavel Zacha getting the puck behind the net with nobody around him. They changed off for the McLeod line, who continued the pressure behind Boston’s goal before the Bruins successfully got the puck all the way down the ice. Nathan Bastian cleared the zone, and both teams changed lines.
Andreas Johnsson created a turnover right by Tuukka Rask, but he left the puck below the goal line while Jack Hughes waited for a pass on the other side of goal. Nonetheless, they kept possession in the zone, and P.K. Subban took a couple attempts at goal which both missed.
Pavel Zacha put a good shot on Tuukka Rask, absorbing a hit while nearly beating Rask on the glove side. Rask just barely deflected it off his shoulder. On the following shift, Nathan Bastian got a slap shot in wide open space from the faceoff dot, and it went off the glass high and wide. Perhaps a wrist shot would have been a better idea.
After Jack Hughes was taken down in the neutral zone, the Bruins entered their offensive zone and Dmitry Kulikov was called for hooking Brad Marchand in the corner. On the penalty kill, the Devils got two clears in the first minute while only allowing a couple shots that Wedgewood kept good position on. In the second half, however, Brad Marchand created a juicy rebound that the Bruins whacked away a couple times at, getting some shots on Wedgewood. Ryan Murray then took it all by himself against multiple Bruins, getting a shot that deflected out of play, giving the Devils an offensive zone faceoff. After they re-entered, the Devils got a clear – and Wedgwood made a flashy glove save on DeBrusk after they came back. The penalty expired with the game still 0-0.
The Bruins, still, maintained possession for awhile. Miles Wood set Jack Hughes up on a counterattack, but Connor Clifton made a huge block. The Devils were unable to keep possession long, and Damon Severson had to make a great defensive play on the Bruins’ rush, knocking the puck away from goal.
With the Zajac line on the ice, Wedgewood made a solid save on attempts low in the zone before Dmitry Kulikov led a counterattack that led to some pressure, but no shots. The Devils got possession with the McLeod line on, a couple shifts later. Ty Smith got a point shot as a Devil cut across Rask, but Rask made the glove save.
Mikhail Maltsev took a terrible penalty with eight minutes and 47 seconds to play, as he hooked Anders Bjork in the neutral zone. The Bruins’ power play set up high, playing catch before Krejci took a shot that hit Patrice Bergeron in the head, and was cleared. The Bruins’ re-entry attempt was turned aside, and Michael McLeod nearly slew footed Rask, and the Bruins iced the puck. Despite probably needing a concussion protocol check, Patrice Bergeron stayed on the ice. Nick Ritchie nearly had a goal driving the net, but Wedegwood kept it out, as he made a final great save as the penalty expired on Craig Smith.
Back at even strength, Pavel Zacha had a prime rebound off a Miles Wood shot, but could not pull the trigger as he was pressured. Then, P.K. Subban centered it from the goal line, and Zacha backhanded it past Rask. 1-0, Devils. Kyle Palmieri made it tough for Rask in front, and was later credited for deflecting Zacha’s shot into the net. So it ended up being scored as Palmieri from Zacha and Subban, so ignore the Devils’ caption below.
With four minutes to play, the Bruins got some offensive zone possession, but the Devils made a great clear that was not called for icing as it bounced off the corner boards above the goal line – and the Hughes line got some chances in close on Rask. The Bruins then counterattacked, but could not get close to Wedgewood.
Brad Marchand hooked Ty Smith away from the puck, allowing the Bruins to get another possession with under two minutes to play. Patrice Bergeron tipped a shot from Charlie McAvoy, but not enough as Wedgewood made the save. With play stopped, the Bruins got a sixth attacker in front. With the empty net, Patrice Bergeron was set up just outside the low slot for a one-timer that Wedgewood closed the five hole for. Afterward, the Bruins called timeout with one minute and 17 seconds to play.
After the timeout, the Bruins got a point shot but it was steered away by Wedgwood. The Bruins then got on a rebound on another chance, but the shot went wide of goal. The Devils iced the puck with 28 seconds to play after an offsides went uncalled for the Bruins. The Bruins won the draw, and Scott Wedgewod made multiple saves before Brad Marchand spun around and sent the puck out of the zone – sealing the game for the Devils.
Wedgewood, the Wall
Scott Wedgewood has two victories this season – both have been shutouts. According to Natural Stat Trick, of Wedgewood’s 40 saves tonight, seven of those were against high danger shots and 10 were against medium-danger shots. So, the Devils successfully kept the Bruins to the perimeter for most of the game, but Wedgwood was impenetrable when it counted most. He did not even need to rely on posts – he was perfect for the Devils tonight. Even when his rebounds got dicey, Wedgewood had great movement in net tonight on top of great positioning. He might not be conditioned to be a starter, but I do not think any other Devils goalie would have won tonight, given the way they’ve been playing. Wedgwood stopped the bleeding for the Devils tonight, and he might spell another day off for Blackwood to allow further rest and practice for our number one.
Zacha (and Palmieri), Ever so Timely
In my mind, Pavel Zacha’s shot was what broke the ice for the Devils tonight. It deflected off Palmieri – and his net-work while Zacha got into the perfect spot at the right time made that goal happen. It continues what looks like a breakout year for Pavel Zacha, while Kyle Palmieri chips away at his snakebitten state. They didn’t have the best game I’ve ever seen, as they struggled against Charlie Coyle’s line in terms of possession, but not quality of chances – and they got it done when it mattered most. I have to tip my cap to them for that – they got the break the Devils needed.
The fourth line, reunited, had a great game for the Devils – and possibly their best of the year in games where they did not score. In 8:34 together, the McLeod line had a 63.16 CF%, five shots and only three allowed, and a 73.14 xGF%. The Zajac line, mostly playing against the Craig Smith line, only allowed two shots at five-on-five. That works, as they gave Wedgwood a pretty good break when they were on the ice. Dmitry Kulikov and P.K. Subban also had a much better game, as they had a 64.29 CF% and 75.58 xGF% in 14:03 played together as Subban assisted on the game winning goal. That’s good to see.
Leading up to that play, the Devils’ strategy seemed to be to survive and grit out a goal. It worked. The Devils allowed the Bruins to outshoot them from the point in the first period, before breaking even at even strength in the second and third periods. However, they ran into some penalty troubles in the third. The Bruins were able to get 18 shots on goal in the third despite only having six at five-on-five, thanks to their five power play shots and seven shots with Rask pulled. It won’t work every night – but it did tonight. Prior to the goalie pull, the Devils led in high danger chances nine to four at even strength. The Bruins had four more in the final minutes – and score effects can kill a team if they’re not careful. The Devils just could not get possession against the sixth skater, and I hope Lindy Ruff works on that a bit if the Devils ever get another practice.
Goalies keep getting hurt against the Devils. When Rask went off the ice, he was seen holding his lower back, as he seemed shaken up a couple times throughout the game and had trouble with the Devils driving the net in the third.