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Devils Goaltenders, Scorers Paltry in 5-1 Loss to Penguins

First Period

Zacha, Hischier, and Bastian started for the New Jersey Devils, and they iced the puck 14 seconds into the game. After the faceoff, Aaron Dell misplayed a puck and had to make a tight save. The Devils were unable to regain the puck, and Sidney Crosby ripped a puck from faceoff dot off of Dell’s shoulder and in to give the Pittsburgh Penguins a 1-0 lead. That was not a good goal to let in. Right after the next faceoff, Cody Ceci hit a shot off the post.

After Kasperi Kapanen missed the net on an odd-man rush, Nico Hischier set Nathan Bastian up in front of Tristan Jarry. Bastian rang a shot off the crossbar and out. A couple minutes later, the Boqvist line forced the Penguins to take an icing. Nico Hischier took the puck away behind Jarry, but his attempt to move the puck to Zacha was taken away. They got back into the offensive zone, and Zacha took a shot on the rush that went wide.

Eight and a half minutes into the period, Nathan Bastian was reunited with the Wood-McLeod line. After playing with a higher intensity, Michael McLeod was called for interference in front of the Devils’ net.

On the penalty kill, Crosby missed a one-timer at the side of the net early. The Penguins had a cycle going for awhile, but Nico Hischier took the puck away and cleared it, allowing Zacha and Bastian to come on for the second minute. The Penguins moved the puck high in the zone and tried to get deflections and rebounds, and nearly got a goal off a rebound as the penalty expired. However, Dell was able to keep the puck out.

Matt Tennyson missed the net from the high slot with under eight minutes to play in the period, and the Boqvist line pushed the issue on Jarry. Boqvist missed the net with a turnaround shot, and right after Ryan Murray missed with his shot and made the puck go around the boards, Matt Tennyson blasted the loose puck past Jarry from the blueline to make it a tied game at one.

After the Devils were hemmed in their defensive zone, Janne Kuokkanen took the puck down ice and had Jack Hughes on an odd-man rush. Hughes got the puck and drove the net, drawing a trip as he set Kuokkanen up for a one-timer that was just stopped by Jarry’s pad. The Devils went to the power play.

On the power play, Jack Hughes made a nice play to keep the puck in the zone early, allowing Zacha to move it across to Hischier, who missed the net with a low shot. The Penguins then cleared the puck multiple times, killing the whole first minute without a shot attempt on goal. The second unit then came on, and the Devils were called for knocking the puck down in the offensive zone with a high stick. The Devils finally got a shot with six seconds left in the penalty, as Bratt passed across to Kuokkanen for a one-timer. However, Kuokkanen’s shot was right into Jarry – though he had plenty of net to shoot at.

Cody Ceci got something back for his shot early in the game that hit the post, as he took a shot from the blueline with just two minutes left in the period, and it went right over Aaron Dell’s right arm and blocker. 2-1, Penguins.

The McLeod line pushed play in the offensive zone for much of the last minute of the period. Damon Severson took an attempt at a deflection that didn’t make it to the net, and the Devils played it back to Jonas Siegenthaler, who faked shot, recollected, and then shot high on Jarry. However, the Penguins took a penalty, as Bryan Rust went off for holding in front of the net. On the power play, Pavel Zacha set Jack Hughes up from behind the net, and Hughes shot it right into Jarry. The Devils would have 1:43 of carryover time for the second period.

Second Period

The power play successfully set up early in the period, but Yegor Sharangovich lost the zone with a bad pass from behind the net. Jesper Bratt took a low slap shot that was steered aside, and Brian Dumoulin threw the puck over the glass. However, they called it a deflection. The Devils lost the puck off the following draw, and the power play got nothing going.

Michael McLeod dodged a hit as he entered the offensive zone, off a takeaway in the neutral zone, and nearly created a goal for Nathan Bastian when he drove the net and left the puck on the doorstep. A couple minutes later, Jack Hughes and Yegor Sharangovich almost connected for a great redirection goal on the rush, but the puck just hopped Sharangovich’s stick.

Jesper Boqvist drew a penalty eight and a half minutes into the period, as he had a chance to bury a rebound chance and was slashed by Colton Sceviour as he tried to shoot. On the power play, Jack Hughes sent a bad pass to the point 35 seconds in, killing the cycle that they set up to begin the power play. On the following entries, a shot was blocked and cleared out, and then the Penguins cleared it again. With the second unit on, the Devils failed to get into open space and the Penguins cleared as the penalty expired.

Just after the Devils failed to make anything of a rush, as Kuokkanen sent a backhand over the net, Jack Hughes missed with a pass from the blueline. He turned it over to Sidney Crosby, who passed ahead to Jake Guentzel. Guentzel had Bryan Rust on the two-on-one, and Rust scored to make it 3-1.

On the following possession, the Penguins took the puck through all three zones, and Kasperi Kapanen ripped a shot right through Aaron Dell on the rush to make it 4-1. Jonas Siegenthaler tried to push Kapanen to the outside, and the shot went through a wide open five hole. Scott Wedgewood was then called to come into the game. The fourth goal allowed was quite terrible on Dell’s end.

With six minutes to play in the period, Sidney Crosby was called for holding the stick. On the power play, the first unit cycled a lot but could only get a shot attempt for a deflection, which did not work – before Zacha ripped a wrist shot from the circle at the end of his shift. The second unit lost the puck before they could get a good shot on goal, giving a partial two-on-one to Teddy Blueger at the end of the power play. His shot went past Wedgewood to make it 5-1.

Third Period

The McLeod line started the period for the Devils, and Ryan Murray turned the puck over right off the draw before the Devils blocked a Guentzel shot out of play. The Hughes line then came on, and Scott Wedgewood made his first save of the period on a long shot.

Andreas Johnsson was set up by Jesper Bratt for a one-timer on the rush over six minutes into the period, but Johnsson couldn’t get the shot above Jarry’s pad. A couple minutes later, after Johnsson created a turnover on the forecheck, Jesper Bratt sent a shot wide.

Nick Merkley had a chance to stuff the puck into the net, after Pavel Zacha loosened the puck from the boards behind Jarry’s net. However, the puck stayed out, and the Devils stayed down four.

Jesper Boqvist finally got the Devils back into the offensive zone with 6:55 to play, after the Penguins and Devils played back and forth in the neutral zone for awhile. He went in on two Penguins, and skated toward the outside for a wrist shot, which was gloved and frozen for the faceoff by Jarry.

Andreas Johnsson hit the post after taking a feed from Nico Hischier low in the offensive zone. He one-timed a shot from the faceoff dot, and hit the outside of the far post.

With under three minutes to play, Bryan Rust hit the post with a shot on the rush. The Devils had trouble entering the offensive zone, as the Penguins’ defensive structure suffocated their puck movement. The Penguins iced the puck with 1:42 to play. However, they were able to take the puck back following the draw.

In the final minute, the Hughes line tried and failed to enter the offensive zone and set up, as the Penguins continually chased them off the puck. The Devils lost 5-1.

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: Pensburgh has it.

By The Grace of Matt Tennyson

Had Matt Tennyson not been lucky enough to score his first goal since 2015, the Devils would have been shutout tonight by Tristan Jarry. According to Natural Stat Trick, the Devils had an expected goals for of 2.83 in all situations, far outpacing the Penguins’ 1.69. So what went wrong for the Devils’ goal scorers?

The first bad move of tonight was to take Nolan Foote out of the lineup. I think this was a good time to take an extended look at Foote, and it confuses me why they would want to take him out after the goal-scoring ability he showed in his second NHL game.

The second mistake I noticed was how much Lindy Ruff shuffled the lines tonight. With no practice under their belt, Jesper Bratt and Pavel Zacha returned to play tonight. Did Ruff keep them on consistent lines? Nope. Ruff’s original configuration, Zacha-Hischier-Bastian, played just 2:28. Zacha-Hischier-Bratt played 2:04. Zacha played another 2:04 with Boqvist and Merkley, while Bratt played another 4:07 with Hischier and Johnsson – mostly in the third period. Their third period lines were by far the most effective, with Zacha’s line sporting 0.16 xGF to 0.1 xGA, and Hischier’s line with a 0.16 xGF and 0 xGA. However, the Penguins were mostly sitting back.

Given the lack of practices, I don’t think it’s a particularly good idea for Ruff to play so loosely with the lines – especially when multiple forwards are returning from injury. When the Penguins started scoring, the Devils didn’t really seem to find their footing again, and being able to stay on consistent lines could have helped them tonight.

Backup Goaltenders

The Devils need serious help this offseason in the goaltending department. Were all the goals tonight bad ones? No, but the Devils counted on their goaltenders for some not-too-extreme saves to keep the team in it tonight – and Dell and Wedgewood could not do it. Perhaps it’s unfair to lump Wedgewood with Dell tonight, but a goal allowed on eight shots and 0.48 expected goals isn’t great. As for Dell, his four goals on 15 shots and 1.32 expected goals against was tough to watch. The goaltending really could not get worse than what the team’s gotten this month.

Let’s take a look at the statistics for our goaltenders playing for Binghamton-in-Newark:

  • Gilles Senn, 12 GP, 2-7-2 with an .894 save percentage and 3.67 goals against average
  • Evan Cormier, 7 GP, 2-2-3 with an .879 save percentage and 3.48 goals against average.
  • Jeremy Brodeur, 1 GP, 0-1-0 with a .940 save percentage and 3.07 goals against average.

Gilles Senn has had to face a lot of rubber as the Binghampton goalie, and has not been completely broken down by his team’s poor defensive play. At least, he hasn’t been rocking an .838 save percentage. I think Senn is worth a look as this season winds down – because Wedgewood and Dell are not much of an answer for beyond this year, and the team needs to be evaluating its options moving forward.

Missing Zajac

The Devils could really use Travis Zajac to shadow Sidney Crosby in these games. Crosby’s line feasted on the Devils at even strength today, with a 63.16 CF% as they outshot the Devils 14 to eight and outscored them two to one. Nico Hischier fared poorly against Crosby with a 31.25 CF% in 4:43 with a goal against, while Jack Hughes only played against Crosby for 2:30.

There’s a few ways the Devils can approach this moving forward. They could get Hischier and Hughes a better group of wingers so one of them can more easily play against top competition. Or, they can sign a center to use in a shutdown role, giving Hischier and Hughes the chance to play easier competition. However, those shutdown players don’t grow on trees. Unless the Devils are willing to sign some older veterans, they’re going to need to develop a shutdown line or acquire more scoring wingers to help keep play in the offensive zone.

Your Thoughts

What did you think of tonight’s game? Did you watch? Were you hoping for a comeback? How do you feel that Matt Tennyson prevented the shutout? How do you feel about Dell and Wedgewood? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Whether you followed along in the gamethread, or on Twitter @AATJerseyBlog, thanks for reading.

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