Tag Archives: Blake Coleman

Pastrnak and Grzelcyk score a pair in B’s, 5-1, win over Devils

David Pastrnak and Matt Grzelcyk had a pair of goals in the Boston Bruins’, 5-1, victory over the New Jersey Devils Tuesday night at Prudential Center.

Tuukka Rask (9-2-2 record, 2.06 goals against average, .930 save percentage in 13 games played) made 25 saves on 26 shots against for a .962 SV% in the win for the Bruins.

Devils goaltender, Mackenzie Blackwood (7-5-3, 2.94 GAA, .899 SV% in 15 GP) stopped 23 out of 28 shots faced for an .821 SV% in the loss.

Boston maintained the Atlantic Division lead, while improving to 13-3-5 (31 points) on the season and 6-3-1 on the road.

New Jersey fell to 7-9-4 overall (18 points) and slipped to last place (8th) in the Metropolitan Division.

The Bruins were without the services of Kevan Miller (knee), John Moore (shoulder), Karson Kuhlman (fractured tibia), David Backes (upper body), Torey Krug (upper body) and Zach Senyshyn (lower body) on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Boston welcomed Jake DeBrusk and Brett Ritchie back to the lineup after the pair of forwards missed the last five games due to injuries.

Patrice Bergeron (lower body) was a game-time decision and did not participate in warmups. As a result, he missed his 2nd consecutive game this season.

With a laundry list of injuries hampering the lineup, Paul Carey and Trent Frederic were reassigned to the Providence Bruins (AHL) on Sunday.

Urho Vaakanainen was originally sent down as well in a paper transaction, but later recalled from Providence on Monday.

Brendan Gaunce joined Vaakanainen on Monday’s recall as the forward was added as an extra body for the B’s in their short trip to New Jersey in case DeBrusk or Ritchie were not ready to go.

Gaunce has four goals and three assists (seven points) in 11 games with Providence this season and signed with the Bruins as an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2019.

He was later reassigned to Providence before warmups in New Jersey.

Bergeron and Krug did not practice on Monday, but Krug skated earlier in the morning before Monday’s full practice group. He is likely to return later this week.

With Bergeron out of the lineup for the second game in a row, David Krejci resumed his status as the first line center with Brad Marchand and Pastrnak as his wings.

Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, left Anders Bjork with Charlie Coyle and Danton Heinen on the second line.

Par Lindholm remained in charge of centering the third line with DeBrusk on the left side and Ritchie on the right side in their return to game action, while Joakim Nordstrom, Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner comprised the fourth line as usual.

Cassidy left his defensive pairings alone from Saturday night’s, 3-2, shootout loss to the Washington Capitals, while Steven Kampfer remained the only healthy scratch for Boston on Tuesday.

Midway through the opening frame, DeBrusk tripped up Pavel Zacha and was assessed a minor infraction at 12:12 of the first period.

New Jersey’s ensuing power play did not go as planned.

After Boston killed off DeBrusk’s minor, the Devils found themselves trapped in their own zone as a fresh from the box– fresh off a quick change– Bruins team pounced.

Grzelcyk (1) fired a shot from the point that rang the iron, bounced off of Blackwood’s back and ended up in the twine to give Boston the game’s first goal.

Marchand (20) and Krejci (10) had the assists on Grzelcyk’s goal as the Bruins jumped out to a, 1-0, lead at 14:26 of the first period.

New Jersey barely had enough time to reset before Boston was again on the offensive– this time with Marchand setting up Pastrnak (18) for a one-timer blast that gave the Bruins a two-goal lead at 14:40.

Marchand (21) and Krejci (11) had the assists once more as the B’s took a, 2-0, lead with a pair of goals in 14 seconds.

Seven seconds after Pastrnak scored, Heinen tripped up Blake Coleman and was sent to the penalty box at 14:47.

The Devils didn’t convert on the ensuing skater advantage.

With less than two minutes left in the first period, pending-unrestricted free agent, Taylor Hall, caught Charlie McAvoy with an errant stick and tripped the Boston defender, yielding a power play for the Bruins for the first time of the night at 18:06.

Through one period in New Jersey, the Bruins led, 2-0, on the scoreboard and held the advantage in shots on goal (6-5), hits (5-2) and faceoff win percentage (59-41), while the Devils led in blocked shots (4-3) and giveaways (9-2) entering the first intermission.

Both teams had two takeaways aside heading into the second period as New Jersey was 0/2 on the power play and the Bruins were 0/1.

An almost uneventful (on the event sheet anyway) second period wrapped up with a late goal in the middle frame from Coleman (5).

New Jersey defender, Will Butcher, led a rush up-ice and completed a short pass to Nikita Gusev as the Devils entered the attacking zone.

Gusev found Coleman as Coleman cut to the low slot– where he was able to ring a shot off the post and in over Rask’s blocker side to cut Boston’s lead in half and put New Jersey on the scoreboard, 2-1.

Gusev (3) and Butcher (5) tallied the assists on Coleman’s goal at 18:11 of the second period.

After 40 minutes of play, the Bruins led on the scoreboard, 2-1, and in shots on goal, 18-16– including a, 12-11, advantage in the second period alone.

Boston also maintained an advantage in blocked shots (10-7), takeaways (5-4) and faceoff win% (56-44), while the Devils led in giveaways (14-5) and hits (12-11).

New Jersey was still 0/2 on the skater advantage and the B’s were still 0/1 on the power play as there were no penalties called in the middle period.

Early in the final frame of regulation, P.K. Subban tripped up Pastrnak and was assessed a minor penalty at 3:11 of the third period.

Eight seconds later, Pastrnak (19) scored his 2nd goal of the game with a one-timer blast from the point on the power play.

The B’s won the ensuing faceoff, moved the puck quickly to Marchand along the boards, then flipped it back to Pastrnak for the one-timer goal at 3:19.

Marchand (22) tallied his third assist of the night, while Coyle (7) picked up the secondary assist and the Bruins led, 3-1.

Midway through the third period, Grzelcyk (2) danced around Subban while entering Boston’s offensive zone, then snapped a shot bardown over Blackwood’s glove to make it, 4-1, Bruins.

McAvoy (7) had the only assist on Grzelcyk’s 2nd goal of the night at 10:33– marking the first two-goal game of Grzelcyk’s NHL career.

A few minutes later, Connor Clifton (2) rocketed a slap shot from the point while preventing the puck from clearing the zone– sending it over Blackwood’s glove, off the iron and into the twine in the process.

Clifton’s unassisted goal made it, 5-1, for Boston at 13:42 as the New Jersey native notched a goal in his home state.

At the sound of the final horn, the Bruins had won, 5-1, and finished the night leading in shots on goal, 28-26, despite both teams amassing ten shots on net aside in the third period.

The Devils finished the game leading in giveaways (15-6) and hits (18-15), while the Bruins wrapped up the action with the advantage in blocked shots (14-7) and faceoff win% (60-40)

New Jersey went 0/2 on the power play, while Boston finished 1/2 on the skater advantage Tuesday night.

With his goal in the first period, Pastrnak (341 games) became 2nd fastest to score 150 goals with the Bruins among players who made their NHL debuts with the franchise. Only Barry Pederson (316 games) did it faster.

The Bruins improved to 11-2-3 when scoring first this season, 10-1-0 when leading after the first period and 8-0-2 when leading after two periods.

Boston begins a two-game homestand against the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday and hosts the Minnesota Wild on Saturday.

The B’s close out November with back to back nights in Montreal (Nov. 26th) and Ottawa (Nov. 27th) before finishing the month at home against the New York Rangers in a Black Friday matinee on Nov. 29th.

DTFR Podcast #166- New New New York

Nick and Colby recap the headlines from the last month as well as take a look at all of the New York market teams and try to figure out if any of them are actually any good as Season Six of the podcast begins.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts (iTunes)Stitcher and/or on Spotify. Support the show on Patreon.

Bruins first line bedevils New Jersey, 5-1

The Boston Bruins are flirting with the 100-point plateau this season after their 5-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center on Thursday.

Boston can reach 100 points on the season in Saturday night’s tango with the Florida Panthers as the B’s roll on with their four-game road trip.

Patrice Bergeron had two goals in Thursday’s effort, while David Pastrnak, Danton Heinen and David Backes each added a goal and Brad Marchand had three assists for Boston.

Drew Stafford had the lone goal for the Devils.

Tuukka Rask (26-10-5 record, 2.35 goals against average, .918 save percentage in 42 games played) made 21 saves on 22 shots against (.955 SV%) in the win for the Bruins.

New Jersey goaltender, Cory Schneider (5-12-3, 3.18 GAA, .898 SV% in 23 GP) stopped 22 out of 26 shots faced for an .846 SV% in the loss after entering Thursday night, 3-1-1, in his last five home games.

The Bruins improved to 45-20-9 (99 points) on the season and in control of 2nd place in the Atlantic Division, while the Devils fell to 27-39-9 (63 points) and remain last (8th) in the Metropolitan Division.

Boston also improved to 17-13-6 on the road this season, 30-6-5 when scoring first this season and 27-1-3 when leading after two periods.

Bruce Cassidy told reporters he wasn’t going to make any changes to his lineup for Boston on Thursday, while also informing them that Kevan Miller (upper body), Marcus Johnasson (lung contusion) and Matt Grzelcyk (upper body) would all be joining the club in Florida on Friday.

There’s a chance all three skaters rejoin the lineup for Saturday night’s matchup against the Florida Panthers.

Meanwhile, Torey Krug (concussion) skated on his own after morning skate on Thursday, but is not yet ready to return to game action.

Paul Carey served as the only healthy scratch for the Bruins on Thursday.

Late in the first period, Bergeron (29) scored the game’s first goal after the B’s alternate captain received a pass from Pastrnak and buried the puck while Schneider was caught in desperation behind the play– diving across the crease.

Pastrnak (36) and Marchand (57) had the assists on Bergeron’s goal and the Bruins led, 1-0, at 18:34 of the first period.

After 20 minutes of play, Boston led, 1-0, on the scoreboard and was tied in shots on goal with New Jersey, 7-7.

The Devils led in blocked shots (5-2), giveaways (6-0) and hits (13-6), while the Bruins held the advantage in takeaways (5-2) and face-off win percentage (67-33). Neither team had yet to see time on the power play entering the first intermission.

Almost midway through the second period, Steven Santini cross checked Pastrnak and was assessed a two-minute minor penalty at 8:58.

Boston did not convert on their first power play opportunity of the night.

A couple of minutes after the power play expired, Pastrnak (32) made it a two-goal game with a goal shortly after the Bruins won a face-off in the offensive zone at 12:58 of the second period.

Marchand (58) and Bergeron (41) tallied the assists on Pastrnak’s goal and the B’s led, 2-0.

For the 2nd consecutive game, the Bruins increased their lead to two-goals after scoring the first goal of the game.

Almost two minutes later, former Bruin, Stafford (3) got a quick one-timer past Rask as the Boston goaltender dove across the crease a la Schneider back in the first period after the Bruins flubbed an attempt to clear the puck out of the defensive zone.

Stafford’s goal– his first in 35 games– cut the lead in half, 2-1, and was assisted by Pavel Zacha (7) at 14:51 of the second period.

Zacha had his first point for the Devils in his first game back since missing the last 16 games due to injury.

Through 40 minutes of play, Boston led, 2-1, on the scoreboard and, 16-15, in shots on goal. Boston also maintained an advantage in face-off win% (67-33), while New Jersey led in blocked shots (11-4), giveaways (8-0) and hits (23-11).

Both teams managed five takeaways aside after two periods and the Bruins were 0/1 on the power play entering the second intermission.

Sean Kuraly blocked a shot less than a minute into the third period and the puck caromed off the Bruins forward back into the neutral zone and onto Heinen’s stick blade.

Heinen (10) beat Schneider high on the blocker side on the ensuing breakaway 29 seconds into the third period.

Boston led, 3-1, thanks to Heinen’s goal. Kuraly (13) was tabbed with the only assist in the effort.

Less than a minute later, Blake Coleman was penalized for interference at 1:21 of the third period.

Boston’s resulting power play was cut short when Pastrnak committed his own interference infraction at 3:01.

Despite an abbreviated skater advantage for New Jersey after a brief 21 seconds of 4-on-4 action, the Devils did not score on their only power play of the night.

Travis Zajac hooked Bergeron at 7:11 and served a two-minute minor penalty, but the B’s did not capitalize on their third and final power play opportunity of the evening.

With about two minutes left in regulation, Devils head coach, John Hynes, pulled his goaltender for an extra attacker.

Bergeron (30) pocketed the empty net goal– his second goal of the game– for Boston from the neutral zone at 18:42, while Marchand (59) and David Krejci (45) were credited with the assists.

With his 30th goal of the season, Bergeron reached the 30-goal plateau for the 5th time in his 15-year NHL career and for the first time in back-to-back seasons.

He became the 4th player to record at least three 30-goal seasons after age 30 in Bruins franchise history, joining Johnny Bucyk (7x), Phil Esposito (4x) and Rick Middleton (3x).

Bergeron also became the 3rd 30-goal scorer for Boston this season, joining his linemates, Pastrnak and Marchand, as the Bruins have now had at least three players with 30 or more goals in consecutive seasons since last season.

Marchand, meanwhile, became the first Bruins player to record 90-plus points in a season (31-59–90 totals) since Marc Savard did so with 22-74–96 totals in 2006-07.

With almost 20 seconds left in regulation, Backes (6) fired a shot past Schneider’s glove from near the goal line along the boards to make it a four-goal lead for Boston, 5-1.

Noel Acciari (7) had the only assist on Backes’ first goal in 23 games.

At the final horn the Bruins secured the, 5-1, victory and finished the night leading in shots on goal (27-23), as well as face-off win% (53-47).

New Jersey capped off Thursday night leading in blocked shots (15-7), giveaways (9-1) and hits (26-14).

The Devils went 0/1 on the power play, while the B’s finished 0/3 on the skater advantage.

Boston is now 2-0-0 on their current four-game road trip and outscoring their opponents, 10-1.

The Bruins head to Florida on Saturday and Tampa next Monday before returning home to face the New York Rangers on March 27th. Boston hosts the Florida Panthers on March 30th before traveling to Detroit on the 31st to close out the month.

Bruins mount OT comeback win in Buffalo, 3-2

The Boston Bruins didn’t lead Saturday night at KeyBank Center until the game was over at 3:44 of the overtime period– after Sean Kuraly pocketed the game-winning goal, 3-2, over the Buffalo Sabres.

Tuukka Rask (9-8-2 record, 2.67 goals against average, .912 save percentage in 19 games played) made 26 saves on 28 shots against for a .929 SV% in the win for Boston, while Carter Hutton (13-11-3, 2.65 GAA, .916 SV% in 27 GP) turned aside 38 out of 42 shots faced for a .929 SV% in the loss for the Sabres.

Rask improved his career record in the month of December to 44-20-9 and tied Tiny Thompson for the most games played by a goaltender in Bruins franchise history, having appeared in his 468th career game.

Hutton entered Saturday night 7-1-1 in his last nine home games and 9-3-1 on home ice this season. As a result of the loss, Hutton has fallen to 9-3-2 at KeyBank Center this season– his first season in Buffalo.

He also went into Saturday night 0-3-1 in his last four games with a 3.22 GAA and .899 SV%. He’s now 0-3-2 in his last five games.

The B’s improved to 21-14-4 (46 points) on the season and jumped ahead of the Montreal Canadiens for 4th place in the Atlantic Division standings.

Buffalo, in the meantime, fell to 21-12-6 (48 points) and remain in 3rd place in the Atlantic.

Prior to Saturday night’s matchup with the Sabres, Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, indicated that Brad Marchand and Charlie McAvoy would be out of the lineup on Saturday and may be possibilities to play in the 2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on Tuesday at Notre Dame Stadium against the Chicago Blackhawks.

McAvoy was placed on the injured reserve Friday (retroactive to about a week ago) and will be eligible to return in time for Tuesday, while Marchand remains day-to-day with an upper body injury.

David Backes was suspended three-games by the NHL Department of Player Safety on Friday after violating Rule 48.1 in Thursday night’s matchup with the New Jersey Devils.

Backes caught New Jersey forward, Blake Coleman, with an illegal check to the head in the final two minutes of regulation and received a two-minute minor penalty on the play.

He sat out of Saturday night’s action and will miss the Winter Classic, as well as next Thursday night’s game at TD Garden against the Calgary Flames as a result of his suspension.

With no Marchand and no McAvoy, Cassidy juggled the lines a bit by placing Danton Heinen alongside Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak, moving Joakim Nordstrom to the second line with David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk and shuffling the bottom six forwards with each other.

Kuraly skated to the left of Colby Cave with Chris Wagner at right wing on the third line and Ryan Donato, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson and Noel Acciari made up the fourth line unit for Boston.

On defense, Zdeno Chara was paired with Brandon Carlo, with Torey Krug and John Moore rounding out the top-four blue liners.

Matt Grzelcyk and Kevan Miller were limited to the bottom pair on defense, but played a vital role in the build up to the overtime, game-winning goal, in the long-run.

DeBrusk and Grzelcyk both played in their 100th career NHL game on Saturday, with Steven Kampfer as the only healthy scratch for the Bruins.

Early in the first period, after making the initial diving save on Jeff Skinner, Rask let up a rebound that Marco Scandella (2) quickly scooped up and fired into the open twine with Rask in desperation.

Skinner (13) and Sam Reinhart (30) had the assist’s on Scandella’s goal at 4:40 of the first period and the Sabres jumped out to a quick, 1-0, lead.

About five minutes later, the Bruins responded.

Boston capitalized on a misstep by one of the Sabres skaters behind Buffalo’s own net, whereby the puck trickled freely into the low slot for Acciari (1) to bat it off a defender and past Hutton to tie the game, 1-1, on an unassisted goal at 9:30.

The goal was Acciari’s first in 33 games, dating back to the last weekend of the regular season, last season.

Less than a couple of minutes later, Zach Bogosian hooked DeBrusk and the B’s went on the power play for the first time of the night.

Boston did not convert on their first skater advantage of the evening.

Late in the first period, Cave hooked Skinner and sent the Sabres on the power play for their first time in the game at 16:48. The Bruins made the kill.

Both teams entered the dressing room tied, 1-1, heading into the first intermission. Boston led in shots on goal (14-7), blocked shots (7-4) and face-off win percentage (71-29) after 20 minutes of play, while Buffalo led in takeaways (4-1), giveaways (4-1) and hits (9-7).

Each club was 0/1 on the power play entering the second period.

Krug tripped Johan Larsson at 2:53 of the middle frame, but the resulting Sabres power play wouldn’t last long as Jack Eichel caught Chara with a high-stick and drew some blood, yielding a four-minute double-minor infraction at 3:11 of the second period.

As a result of Eichel’s penalty, both sides skated 4-on-4 for the next 1:52, then Boston had an abbreviated double-minor power play for the remainder.

The Bruins couldn’t generate a zone advantage on the ensuing power play and allowed Larsson (4) to gain entry on a 2-on-1 shorthanded bid for the Sabres and score.

Evan Rodrigues (9) and Scandella (5) notched the assists on Larsson’s goal at 5:43 of the middle frame and Boston allowed their eighth shorthanded goal against of the season as a result (tied for the most allowed this season with the Pittsburgh Penguins).

Larsson’s goal made it, 2-1, Buffalo and was the first shorthanded goal of the season for the team in blue-and-gold.

Through 40 minutes of play, the Sabres led the Bruins, 2-1, and shots on goal were even at, 21-21, with Buffalo having outshot Boston, 14-7, in the second period alone.

Late in the third period, Rasmus Ristolainen was penalized for kneeing Pastrnak at 16:17.

On the ensuing power play, the Bruins brass dominated possession in the attacking zone and worked the puck back to Krug. The Boston defender unloaded a shot from the point that was promptly tipped well by DeBrusk (11) and into the net behind Hutton to tie the game, 2-2, on the power play.

DeBrusk’s power play goal was his first goal since Nov. 24th and was assisted by Krug (19) and Pastrnak (25) at 17:31.

As time expired on regulation action, the B’s and Sabres were still tied, 2-2, and heading for overtime.

Boston led in shots on goal through 60 minutes of play, 39-26, with the Bruins holding a distinct, 18-5, advantage in the third period.

Blocked shots were even (12-12), but the Sabres led in takeaways (11-3), giveaways (13-5) and hits (20-19). The Bruins remained strong on the face-off dot, amassing a, 55-45, advantage in face-off win% through three periods.

Buffalo was 0/2 on the power play and Boston was 1/4 on the skater advantage entering overtime.

Just 46 seconds into the 3-on-3 OT action, Krejci interfered with Skinner and was sent to the penalty box. Buffalo went on the 4-on-3 power play with plenty of time to make something happen in the five-minute overtime period.

In fact, to try to craft the perfect plan for eviscerating Boston’s penalty kill and taking home the bonus point, Sabres head coach, Phil Housley, used his timeout to rally his players.

But the Bruins penalty kill stood tall and Rask made save after crucial save as the Sabres power play battered the B’s.

Late in the overtime, having killed off Krejci’s penalty and resumed 3-on-3 action thanks to the first whistle after Buffalo’s power play expired in overtime, Kuraly, Miller and Grzelcyk were on the ice to take the draw in their own zone.

Kuraly won the face-off back to Miller, who sent the puck along to Grzelcyk.

As Kuraly rushed up the neutral zone, Grzelcyk hit him with a lead pass and brought forward Boston’s attacking zone entry.

Kuraly (3) fired a quick shot on Hutton and generated a rebound, which he chased down and collected to muster an odd, elevated, backhanded tap-in while crashing the slot to beat Hutton and steal the victory on the road.

Grzelcyk (9) and Miller (3) were credited with the primary and secondary assists on Kuraly’s game-winning overtime goal at 3:44 and the Bruins defeated the Sabres, 3-2, in sudden death.

Boston finished the night leading in shots on goal (42-28), hits (21-20) and face-off win% (53-47), while Buffalo ended the night ahead in giveaways (13-5). Both teams had 12 blocked shots aside.

The Sabres went 0/3 on the power play and the B’s went 1/4.

The Bruins have now won their last four games that went into overtime this season and finished the month of December with a 7-7-0 record.

Boston improved to 4-4 in overtime this year, while the Sabres dropped to 5-5 in the extra frame.

Buffalo has now lost back-to-back games after the mandatory three-day league-wide Christmas break.

Having reached the end of the 2018 calendar, the Bruins will now gear up for New Year’s Day and the 2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Notre Dame Stadium against the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday.

After all of the festivities die down, Boston travels back home to host the Flames next Thursday, the Sabres next Saturday, the Minnesota Wild on Jan. 8th and the Washington Capitals on Jan. 10th before hitting the road for a quick trip to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Jan. 12th.

Game of the week: December 24-30

Now that the holiday break has come and gone, it’s time to get back into some hockey. Let’s take a gander at all the tilts the NHL has crammed into four days this week.

NHL SCHEDULE: December 24-30
TIME (ALL TIMES EASTERN) VISITOR HOST NATIONAL BROADCAST(S)/
Result
Monday, December 24
No Games Scheduled – Christmas Eve
Tuesday, December 25
No Games Scheduled – Christmas
Wednesday, December 26
No Games Scheduled – Boxing Day
Thursday, December 27
7 p.m. New Jersey Boston 5-2
7 p.m. Columbus Blue Jackets New York Rangers 4-3 (OT)
7 p.m. Detroit Pittsburgh 2-5
7 p.m. Carolina Washington 1-3
7:30 p.m. Philadelphia Tampa Bay 5-6 (OT)
8 p.m. Buffalo St. Louis 1-4
8 p.m. Dallas Nashville 2-0
8 p.m. Calgary Winnipeg 4-1
8:30 p.m. Minnesota Chicago 2-5
9 p.m. Vancouver Edmonton 4-2
10 p.m. Colorado Vegas 1-2
10:30 p.m. Arizona Los Angeles  1-2
10:30 p.m. Anaheim San Jose  2-4
Friday, December 28
7 p.m. Montréal Florida RDS, TSN2
7 p.m. Ottawa Senators New York Islanders RDS2
7 p.m. Toronto Columbus ESPN+
Saturday, December 29
1 p.m. Carolina New Jersey SN
4 p.m. Vegas Los Angeles SN1
4 p.m. San Jose Edmonton  
4 p.m. Minnesota Winnipeg  
7 p.m. Boston Buffalo  
7 p.m. New York Islanders Toronto Maple Leafs CBC, ESPN+, SN1
7 p.m. Washington Ottawa CITY, SN360
7 p.m. Montréal Tampa Bay SN, TVAS
7 p.m. Philadelphia Florida  
8 p.m. Pittsburgh St. Louis  
8 p.m. New York Rangers Nashville Predators ESPN+
8 p.m. Detroit Dallas  
9 p.m. Chicago Colorado  
10 p.m. Arizona Anaheim  
10 p.m. Vancouver Canucks Calgary Flames CBC, CITY, SN, SN1, SN360
Sunday, December 30
8 p.m. Vegas Arizona ESPN+, SN, TVAS

Rivalries on tap this week included Detroit at Pittsburgh, Calgary at Winnipeg, Minnesota at Chicago and Anaheim at San Jose on Thursday; Boston at Buffalo and Vancouver at Calgary today and Vegas at Arizona tomorrow.

We also got the pleasure of taking in a few playoff rematches from this spring, including the previously mentioned Anaheim at San Jose tilt Thursday night,  as well as Minnesota at Winnipeg and Vegas at Los Angeles on this evening.

Finally, a few tilts involved players making homecoming trips to former longtime homes. Now a member of the Sabres after an offseason trade, F Vladimir Sobotka made his first trip back to St. Louis on Thursday, while F Leo Komarov returned to Toronto – his former home of five seasons – today.

Of all of those, the showdown I’m most interested in is taking place in the Queen City. The Bruins are the healthiest they’ve been all season, while the Sabres are looking to once again regain the form that earned them a 10-game winning streak through much of November.

Though the 20-14-4 Boston Bruins can currently lay claim to the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot, they are far from comfortable or safe in that position considering the New York Islanders are only two points behind them in the standings with two games in hand.

However, playing in the Bruins’ favor is their previously mentioned return to good health. With the exception of D Urho Vaakanainen, Boston’s 2017 first-round pick who has a whopping two NHL appearances to his credit, D Charlie McAvoy and LW Brad Marchand, the Bruins have almost achieved full health once again – albeit with F David Backes taking in tonight’s tilt and the next two as well from the press box after he was suspended for a high hit against New Jersey’s F Blake Coleman on Thursday.

Yes, Boston fans, you did the math correctly: Backes will be unavailable for New Year’s Day’s Winter Classic at Notre Dame Stadium, nor the tough matchup with the Flames on Thursday.

Of course, there’s always the question of just how much he’ll be missed. He’s been involved in all of the Bruins’ last seven games in which they’ve posted a 3-4-0 record, contributing only four assists and a -5 rating in those outings.

Now, it might sound like I’m piling on Backes and implying that he does more harm than good when he’s on the ice. While it would certainly be a stretch to say he’d be the best player in white this evening if he were dressing, there’s no doubting the former captain’s defensive contributions. He’s top eight among Bruins forwards since December 14 in hits per game, blocks per game and takeaways (for those wondering, the forwards leading those stats in that time frame are F Noel Acciari [3.8 hits per game], F Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson [1.3 blocks per game] and Marchand [eight takeaways]).

Instead, what has been letting Boston down during its last seven games is clearly some sub-par goaltending. Despite a defense that has yielded only 28.86 shots against in its last seven showings (a mark that’s sixth-best in the NHL in that time), neither 12-6-2 G Jaroslav Halak nor 8-8-2 G Tuukka Rask – tonight’s starter – has looked all that impressive.

It goes without saying that Rask is having the worst season of his career this year. His .911 season save percentage and 2.72 GAA are both on pace to be the worst marks of his professional career (barring, of course, his four-game 2007-08 campaign). Making matters even more dreadful for the Bruins’ faithful, Rask’s last two starts have been even more alarming, as he boasts only an .873 save percentage and 4.15 GAA in those outings.

It probably goes without saying, but he lost both of those games (4-2 against Buffalo and 5-3 at Carolina).

With a 21-12-5 record, the Buffalo Sabres have settled into third place in the Atlantic Division, though just like Boston, there’s not many points separating them from teams trying to chase them down. Montréal trails the Sabres by only two points, while the Bruins could pull within a point of Buffalo with a win tonight.

Much of the reason the Sabres are starting to fall back to Earth is their playing .500 hockey of late. Over Buffalo’s last eight games, it has managed only a 4-3-1 record, losing ground on the Maple Leafs in the division standings during Toronto’s five-game winning streak.

If anyone is to blame for Buffalo’s inconsistencies of late, it’s certainly not 8-1-3 G Linus Ullmark. He’s managed a solid .922 save percentage and 2.71 GAA for the entire season, but he’s been even better in his last three starts, winning all three and posting an impressive .953 save percentage and 1.65 GAA.

Making those numbers even more impressive, he hasn’t had the luxury of playing behind one of the league’s best defenses. In fact, it’s been quite the opposite. In the Sabres’ last eight games, they’ve allowed 32.75 shots against per game, the 10th-worst mark in the NHL since December 11.

It is unclear if Ullmark or 13-11-2 G Carter Hutton will be in net tonight, but I would argue that it is this decision that will ultimately determine the outcome of this tilt. Just like Rask, Hutton has not looked particularly good lately, as he has earned only three points in his last five starts due to an average .91 save percentage and 2.78 GAA in those showings (compared to his .916 save percentage and 2.64 GAA for the season).

Should Hutton get the start, I am confident the Bruins’ offense, which has averaged 3.29 goals per game in their past eight showings, should be strong enough to earn the road victory. However, if Head Coach Phil Housley gives the nod to Ullmark, he has proven to me that he is more than able to lead the Sabres to two points.

Blackwood picks up first win, Devils beat Bruins, 5-2

With Cory Schneider out of the lineup due to an abdominal strain and Keith Kinkaid performing well below average thus far, the New Jersey Devils turned to Mackenzie Blackwood in goal for the time being and it’s beginning to pay off with a, 5-2, victory over the Boston Bruins Thursday night at TD Garden.

The win was Blackwood’s first career NHL victory in just his fourth career appearance in the crease at the top level of professional hockey in the world.

Blackwood (1-1-0 record, 2.16 goals against average, .939 save percentage in four games played) stopped 40 out of 42 shots faced for a .952 SV% in the win for the Devils.

Jaroslav Halak (12-6-2, 2.28 GAA, .928 SV% in 22 GP) made 28 saves on 32 shots against for an .875 SV% in the loss for Boston.

The Bruins fell to 20-14-4 (44 points) on the season and remain in 4th place in the Atlantic Division standings, while New Jersey improved to 13-16-7 (33 points), but stayed in 8th place in the Metropolitan.

Prior to Thursday night’s action, B’s head coach, Bruce Cassidy indicated Jake DeBrusk, Zdeno Chara and Kevan Miller would all be making their returns to the lineup, while Charlie McAvoy would be out of the action against the Devils with a lower body injury sustained after blocking a shot last Sunday against the Carolina Hurricanes.

McAvoy is considered day-to-day and there is no timetable for Saturday night’s matchup in Buffalo against the Sabres regarding his playing status.

Cassidy reunited Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak on the first line, with Danton Heinen, David Krejci and DeBrusk rounding out the top-six forwards.

Ryan Donato, Colby Cave and David Backes were kept together on the third line, with Joakim Nordstrom, Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner serving as the fourth line.

With the return of Chara on the blue line, the Bruins captain was paired with Matt Grzelcyk. Torey Krug and Brandon Carlo remained the second defensive pairing, as John Moore and Kevan Miller were reunited as the bottom pair.

Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Steven Kampfer and Noel Acciari joined McAvoy in the press box Thursday night as healthy scratches.

Damon Severson (5) kicked things off 25 seconds into the action, giving the Devils a 1-0 lead after New Jersey won a face-off in their own zone, then quickly skated the puck up ice with little pressure.

Andy Greene (8) and Travis Zajac (10) had the assists on Severson’s goal.

Moments later, Stefan Noesen hooked Miller and sent Boston on the power play for this first time of the night at 4:15 of the first period.

The Bruins did not convert on the ensuing skater advantage.

About ten minutes later, Moore tripped Kyle Palmieri and gave the Devils their first power play of the evening.

Palmieri (19) enacted his revenge on the scoreboard, capitalizing on a shot that went his way for the power play goal at 15:25 of the opening period.

Will Butcher (10) and Dan Boyle (5) notched the assists on Palmieri’s goal and New Jersey led, 2-0.

After one period, the Devils led, 2-0, on the scoreboard and, 12-10, in shots on goal. New Jersey also held the advantage in blocked shots (7-1), takeaways (6-3), hits (11-9) and face-off win percentage (53-47), while Boston led in giveaways (10-4).

The Devils were 1/1 on the power play entering the first intermission, while the B’s were 0/1.

Early in the second period, Cave tripped Greene, but New Jersey was unable to convert on the ensuing power play at 3:06 of the middle frame.

Late in the second period, while pinching deep into the offensive zone, Moore sent a tape-to-tape pass to Wagner (4) to put the Bruins on the board and cut New Jersey’s lead in half, 2-1, at 15:07.

Moore (5) and Heinen (6) had the primary and secondary assists on the goal.

Greene followed up with a tripping infraction of his own late in the period, having taken down Krejci with his stick at 19:48. The ensuing skater advantage for the B’s would carry over into the third period, as the Devils went into the dressing room for the second intermission with the lead, 2-1.

Boston rallied for a, 19-9, advantage in shots on goal in the second period, good enough to pull ahead, 29-21, in total shots on goal through 40 minutes.

After two periods, New Jersey maintained the advantage in blocked shots (9-4), takeaways (14-4) and hits (23-16), while Boston led in giveaways (17-10) and face-off win% (51-49).

The Devils were 1/2 on the power play after 40 minutes of play and the Bruins were 0/2.

Early in the third period, Blake Coleman (10) blocked a shot from Krug, then went the length of the ice as Carlo tried to wrap his stick around him.

While Carlo tried to tangle with Coleman, the New Jersey forward deked Halak out of his mind and scored on an individual effort made to look easy at 4:15 of the third.

The Devils once again had a two-goal lead, 3-1.

About a few minutes later, Miller tripped Miles Wood as Wood nearly slid the puck underneath Halak and into the twine. The Bruins successfully killed off Miller’s infraction.

Past the midpoint of the final frame of regulation, Nico Hischier (10) received a pass from Wood as Wood broke free from Krug and elevated the puck past the Bruins netminder to make it, 4-1, New Jersey.

Wood (6) and Noesen (4) tallied the assists on Hischier’s goal at 12:43.

With about three minutes remaining in regulation, Cassidy pulled his netminder for an extra attacker.

Despite Bergeron (12) notching a goal on a redirection from DeBrusk (his third assist of the season) to make it, 4-2, at 17:05– pulling Halak did not go as planned.

Backes skated by Coleman and delivered a blow to the head at 18:00 and received a two-minute minor penalty for an illegal check to the head.

While on the penalty kill in the final two minutes of regulation– and trailing by two goals– Cassidy pulled his goaltender again for an extra skater, though New Jersey was able to capitalize with an empty net power play goal at 19:12 thanks to Coleman (11).

Hischier (15) and Greene (9) collected the assists on Coleman’s second goal of the night and the Devils held onto the 5-2 victory.

Boston finished the night leading in shots on goal (42-33), giveaways (17-11) and face-off win% (56-44), while New Jersey led in blocked shots (19-4) and hits (28-20). The Devils went 2/4 on the power play, while the B’s went 0/2.

The Bruins are now 6-7-0 in the month of December with one game remaining (this Saturday in Buffalo) before the dawn of the New Year (2019).

The B’s take on the Sabres on the road this Saturday before traveling to Notre Dame Stadium for their New Year’s Day matchup with the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic.

2018 Offseason Preview: New Jersey Devils

Now that the current Colorado franchise is out of the way, next up in DtFR’s offseason previews are the former Colorado Rockies: the New Jersey Devils!

Ending a five-year playoff drought is hard, but maintaining and growing upon that success can often be harder.

Such is the situation facing this young Devils squad headlined by Hart-finalist F Taylor Hall. New Jersey finished the season with a 44-29-9 record that was good enough for fifth place in the Metropolitan Division and eighth in the Eastern Conference, staving off the Florida Panthers by only a lone point for the second wild card.

One of Jersey’s best strengths was its special teams, both of which were ranked among the top-nine in the NHL. However, the next step for this club is to improve its average play at even-strength, the status at which most action takes place.

2018 NHL Entry Draft

To help the Devils in that effort,  they have the opportunity to take advantage of this deep draft class with the 17th-overall selection. Especially given their cap flexibility (New Jersey has almost $20 million in space available for this season, and that only grows even higher until no current players are under contract for the 2023-24 season), there’s certainly potential the Devils could flip this pick for a major return in NHL-ready talent.

However, lets assume that General Manager Ray Shero wants to keep this pick, shall we?

Should he do just that, I think Shero will select D Adam Ginning (Linköping HC), D Ty Smith (Spokane Chiefs), C Akil Thomas (Niagara IceDogs) or D Bode Wilde (USNTDP).

Smith and Wilde represent yet another two-way defenseman option for a team that already employs the services of D Will Butcher and D Sami Vatanen, while Ginning is definitely of the traditional, stay-at-home variety.

Should Thomas end up being the most attractive option to Shero, he certainly won’t be disappointed. In his first two seasons in the OHL, Thomas has proven to be a 20+ goal scorer, and he’s also vastly improved at his puck distribution in this most recent season with 59 assists to his credit (32 more than his rookie campaign).

Chances are slim Thomas would be ready for the NHL this season, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he ripens a bit quicker than his peers. After all, his 81 points this season exceed that of presumed No. 2 overall pick RW Andrei Svechnikov (72 points) and barely trail Czech LW Filip Zadina (82 points).

Pending free agents

Like Uncle Ben said in Spider-Man: “With great cap flexibility comes many new contracts.”

Something along those lines.

Looking just at the Devils forwards, eight players are pending free agents that need to be addressed before July 1. F Brian Gibbons, W Michael Grabner, RW Jimmy Hayes, W Patrick Maroon and W Drew Stafford are all currently slated to test unrestricted free agency, while F Blake Coleman, RW Stefan Noesen and LW Miles Wood are of the restricted variety.

Without a doubt, signing Maroon needs to be among Shero’s biggest priorities, as the former Oiler (how many of those currently play for the Devils?) provided .58 points per game last season – a mark that is made even better when only considering his production with New Jersey (.76 points per game in 17 contests). While Maroon’s 27-goal total from the 2016-17 season did drop off by 10 tallies last year, his usual production in even-strength play is just the help the Devils could use to improve.

10 players provided .58 points per game last season, amassing an average salary of over $3.25 million (three players earned $6 million). With 30-year-old Maroon coming off a three-year, $2 million deal, any contract under $4 million should be a win in Shero’s book.

27 goals in each of the last two seasons have seen Grabner revitalize his career just in time to test free agency and improve on the two-year, $1.65 million contract he signed with the Rangers a couple summers ago.

A pure goalscorer is a weapon Jersey could certainly use for a full season (unless you consider fellow pending free agent Gibbons’ 12 goals on 72 shots [.167 shooting percentage] to qualify him for sniper status), but there has to be fear that the Devils could end up with the same Grabner Toronto did three years ago: one making $3 million, but providing only nine markers and 18 points.

An interesting note in Grabner’s contract negotiation – whether it’s with New Jersey or any of the other 30 teams – will be the status of Stanley Cup champions W Andre Burakovsky and RW Tom Wilson. Both also finished their seasons with .45 points per game and will undoubtedly be receiving raises on their respective $3 million and $2 million contracts given their new hardware. If either are signed before Grabner, he’ll surely try to use their contracts as a benchmark in his own negotiations.

On the surface, a final 30-year-old worth a look is Gibbons, the player who brilliantly returned to the NHL last season after a 2.6-year stint in the AHL. Gibbons posted a breakout campaign with 12-14-26 totals in 59 games played. However, after suffering a broken right thumb in late January that required over a month to heal, he returned to provide only three assists in his last 16 showings (that includes the two playoff games against Tampa he participated in).

If it seems like he’s fully healed from that injury and ready to be a potent scoring threat from a bottom-six position, then perhaps Gibbons is worth another contract similar to the one-year, $650 thousand deal he played on last season. If not, Shero would be wise to let another team make the mistake of signing him based on his overall season statistics.

Simply put, neither Hayes and Stafford are worth big money. Shero can certainly afford to sign them to low-cost contracts, but he could also find players of a same or higher quality on the free agent market.

Wood represents the Devils’ best RFA, and at 23-years-old (as of September 13), he’ll likely get another contract. He’s coming off a three-year, $925 thousand contract and will likely receive a $1-1.5 million bridge contract.

John Moore and Steven Santini represent Jersey’s two defensive free agents, with the former being a pending UFA and the latter being a pending RFA. Both played top-four minutes per game last season, as well as averaging at least .22 points per game. They’re both worth new contracts.

Lightning win, 3-1, eliminate Devils in five games

Unknown-3New Jersey Devils Logo

 

 

 

 

Gifted goal-scorer, Nikita Kucherov, and the rest of the Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the New Jersey Devils, 3-1 on Saturday afternoon to win their best-of-seven game series, 4-1, and advance to the Second Round of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Lightning goaltender, Andrei Vasilevskiy, made 26 saves on 27 shots on goal for a .963 save percentage in the win and Devils netminder, Cory Schneider, stopped 35 out of 37 shots faced for a .946 SV% in the loss.

Both teams swapped plenty of chances in the first period, but only one goal was scored in the first 20 minutes of Game 5.

Anthony Cirelli worked the puck behind the net and mustered a pass to the point where Mikhail Sergachev was waiting to wind up. Sergachev (1) shot the puck through a maze of traffic in front of the net and beat Schneider high glove side. Cirelli (1) had the only assist on the goal at 8:07 of the first period and the Lightning led, 1-0.

Through one period, Tampa led on the scoreboard, 1-0, but trailed New Jersey in shots on goal, 11-10. The Bolts led in blocked shots (5-2), hits (11-9) and takeaways (3-2), while the Devils led in giveaways (5-2). Neither team had seen any action on the power play entering the first intermission.

New Jersey went on a string of taking penalties in the second period, as the Devils took the game’s first five penalties. First, Pavel Zacha was guilty of holding at 5:05 of the second period.

Tampa was not able to capitalize on their first power play of the afternoon and only had one shot on goal on that man advantage while they gave up three quality shorthanded scoring chances to New Jersey.

Five seconds after killing off their first penalty of the afternoon, the Devils were guilty of too many men on the ice. Taylor Hall served the bench minor from the penalty box as John Hynes was searching for a way to jumpstart his offense from yet another penalty kill in hopes of tying the game.

Not long after, Kyle Palmieri had to serve a penalty for tripping Cirelli and the Bolts went back on the power play for the third time in the afternoon. Tampa’s scoring chances on the power play increased, but still they couldn’t buy a goal as Schneider made save after save for New Jersey.

New Jersey’s Damon Severson served a minor for holding Tampa’s Brayden Point at 13:26 of the second period. The Lightning did not convert on the ensuing power play.

As the second period wrapped up, Devils captain, Andy Greene, delivered a cross check to Lightning defender, Victor Hedman. Greene was assessed a minor penalty and New Jersey would start the third period shorthanded.

After 40 minutes of play in Game 5, the Lightning led 1-0 on the scoreboard and were outshooting the Devils, 28-15. Tampa also led in blocked shots (7-5), hits (18-14), takeaways (4-3) and faceoff win percentage (54-46) after two periods. New Jersey had yet to see any time on the power play, while the Bolts were 0/4.

Tampa started the third period on the power play, but for the fifth time on Saturday afternoon, the Lightning could not score a power play goal.

Almost five minutes into the third period, the Devils eclipsed more than 10 minutes without a shot on goal between the second and third periods (excluding intermission, of course).

At 9:02 of the third, the Lightning were guilty of their first penalty of the game. Cirelli was sent to the box with a high-sticking minor penalty against Blake Coleman and New Jersey went on their first power play. They did not convert on the man advantage.

Instead, Kucherov and the Bolts went up 2-0 a little more than a minute after killing Cirelli’s penalty.

Anton Stralman worked the puck to Kucherov (5) who fired a shot through traffic and gave the Lightning their first two-goal lead of the day. Stralman (1) and Steven Stamkos (5) notched the assists on the goal at 12:27 of the third period.

With 3:32 remaining in regulation, Hynes pulled his goaltender for an extra skater.

About a half-a-minute later, it paid off.

Kyle Palmieri (2) received a pass from Will Butcher and fired a low shot that cleared traffic in front of the goal and beat Vasilevskiy’s five-hole to cut the Lightning’s lead in half. Butcher (3) and Hall (5) had the assists on the goal that made it 2-1 and the Devils were pressing for a comeback.

Having a net front presence played into all the goals on Saturday as both Vasilevskiy and Schneider were on top of their games— truly living up to the old standard of “if a goalie can see it, a goalie will save it”.

Schneider went back into the crease only to come out with about two minutes remaining in the game and then back in-and-out again around the final minute of regulation thanks to a couple of close faceoffs to New Jersey’s defensive zone.

Hall pick-pocketed Cirelli in the closing seconds of the game, but couldn’t generate a scoring opportunity for the Devils as Ryan Callahan came away with the puck through the neutral zone.

With time ticking down into the single digits left on the clock, Callahan (1) made sure he was within striking distance of the vacant net and scored an empty net goal with 1.7 seconds remaining on the game clock.

The goal was Callahan’s first of the postseason and put the Lightning back up by two. Ryan McDonagh (4) had the only assist.

At the final horn Tampa had secured the victory in Game 5 by a score of 3-1 and in the series, 4-1.

The Bolts finished the game outshooting the Devils, 38-27, and led in blocked shots (13-8), hits (28-22) and faceoff win percentage (60-40). New Jersey finished the afternoon 0/1 on the power play and Tampa went 0/5.

Kucherov’s 5-5—10 totals in this series set a franchise record for the Lightning, surpassing Tyler Johnson’s 4-5—9 totals in the 2015 Eastern Conference Final against the New York Rangers.

Tampa will face the winner of the Boston Bruins/Toronto Maple Leafs series in the Second Round of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Bolts beat Devils 3-1 in Game 4 and lead series 3-1

Unknown-3New Jersey Devils Logo

 

 

 

 

Entering Wednesday night the Tampa Bay Lightning held a 2-1 series lead over the New Jersey Devils and after leading most of the game, 2-1, it was only fitting that Nikita Kucherov’s empty net goal at 18:52 of the third period reflected what the game and the series would be— 3-1, in favor of Tampa.

Yes, the Lightning stole Game 4 on the road at Prudential Center and the Bolts will have a chance to finish the Devils in Game 5 on home ice.

Andrei Vasilevskiy made 27 saves on 28 shots against for a .964 save percentage in the win, while New Jersey’s Cory Schneider had 34 saves on 36 shots faced for a .944 SV% in the loss.

It didn’t take long for the first penalty of the game to be called. In fact, it only took 34 seconds. Taylor Hall was sent to the penalty box with a minor penalty for hooking Tampa Bay’s Brayden Point. The Lightning did not convert on the ensuing power play and the Devils made the kill without their best player on the ice.

Alex Killorn got his name on the event sheet as a result of hooking New Jersey forward, Marcus Johansson, 7:47 into the first period providing the Devils with their first power play of the night. Cedric Paquette made his way to the sin bin shortly thereafter for tripping Hall and gave New Jersey a 5-on-3 power play at 8:12.

It only took 11 seconds for the Devils to convert on the two-man advantage.

Travis Zajac won a faceoff and the puck ended up working its way to Kyle Palmieri (1) who fired one past Vasilevskiy with Patrick Maroon providing a hefty screen in front of the Tampa netminder.

Will Butcher (2) and Hall (4) had the assists on Palmieri’s power play goal that made it 1-0 New Jersey.

Not long after, the Lightning responded with a goal of their own to tie the game, 1-1, at 11:30 of the first period.

J.T. Miller (1) rushed on a breakout and sent a pass to Steven Stamkos who dropped it back to Kucherov. With Miller heading for the goal, Kucherov lobbed the puck to his linemate and Miller sent a shot high and past Schneider’s blocker side.

Kucherov (5) and Stamkos (4) notched the assists on the goal and Tampa surged in momentum.

Cory Conacher thought he had his first goal of the postseason when he beat Schneider cleanly on the glove side, but Devils head coach, John Hynes, challenged the call on the ice and the refs reviewed the play entering the zone for offside.

After review, the ruling on the ice was reversed and the score remained tied, 1-1. Hynes’s coach’s challenge was successful.

But the Lightning had already got the ball rolling on a momentum swing and nonetheless, capitalized on their next great scoring chance as Kucherov (3) sent a shot past Schneider’s glove side to put the Bolts ahead for the first time in the game, 2-1. Braydon Coburn (1) and Miller (2) had the primary and secondary assists, respectively.

Late in the first period, Kucherov was the topic of controversy as he caught Sami Vatanen without the puck in what some may view as a shoulder-to-shoulder check, while Devils fans may see otherwise. There was no penalty called on the play and Hynes was irate behind New Jersey’s bench as Vatanen skated off the ice and left the game with an upper body injury.

It’s hard to tell via replay whether or not Vatanen’s head is the point of contact at all, but regardless of whether or not it was the principal point of contact— given the precedent set this postseason by Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty’s one-game suspension for his hit on Vegas Golden Knights forward, William Carrier— Kucherov should expect something from the league.

Once the blood got boiling as a result of Kucherov’s hit, both teams were riled up the rest of the night.

Lightning forward, Alex Killorn, hit New Jersey defender, Ben Lovejoy, from behind and was assessed a minor penalty for boarding at 16:49 of the first period. As a result of the blatant hit to the numbers, a scrum ensued prior to Killorn’s exit from the ice to the penalty box.

This scrum mentality continued a couple of minutes later when a stoppage in play resulted in every player squaring off with an opponent. New Jersey’s Miles Wood and Blake Coleman, as well as, Tampa’s Anton Stralman, were given roughing minors and the Lightning ended up on the power play with less than a minute to go in the first period.

After 20 minutes of play, the Lightning led the Devils, 2-1, on the scoreboard while New Jersey led, 13-12, in shots on goal. New Jersey had a slight edge in blocked shots (2-1) and hits (9-6) and was 1/3 on the power play through the end of the first period. Tampa was 0/2 on the man advantage.

Midway through the second period, Hall tripped up Stralman and the Bolts went back on the power play until Kucherov’s ensuing holding minor penalty ended the run of 5-on-4 hockey at 11:28. Less than 20 seconds of 4-on-4 hockey occurred and Hall was released from the box, giving New Jersey a shorter than usual power play.

Brayden Point followed up with the next penalty in the game after he bumped into Schneider and got sent to the sin bin for goaltender interference about three minutes later.

Finally, Stefan Noesen got his name on the event sheet for high-sticking Point at 18:38 of the second period.

Through 40 minutes of play, the score remained 2-1, Tampa. The Lightning led in shots on goal (24-18) and blocked shots (7-6), while the Devils led in hits (18-12), takeaways (8-7), giveaways (8-5) and faceoff win percentage (63-38). The Bolts were 0/4 with the man advantage and the Devils were 1/5 on the power play.

Miller slashed Hall at 7:18 of the third period. New Jersey didn’t get anything going on the power play.

Andy Greene tripped Stamkos at 12:52 of the third period. Once again, the Lightning didn’t get anything going with their special teams.

Finally, with Schneider pulled for an extra skater, Tampa put away the game with an empty net goal courtesy of Kucherov (4) at 18:52. Miller (3) had the only assist on the goal that put the Bolts up 3-1 in the game and in the series.

Tampa finished the night leading in shots on goal (37-28), but the Devils led in just about every other stat— hits (25-19), giveaways (11-5), faceoff win% (59-41) and even had a power play goal (1/6 on the night). The Lightning didn’t bring the thunder on any of their power play opportunities and finished the night 0/5.

Game 5 is scheduled for Saturday afternoon at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida. Puck drop is expected to be a shortly after 3 p.m. ET and viewers in the United States can tune in on NBC/NBCSN (check your local listings, because it appears they’re going to do what they did when New Jersey and Tampa were playing at the same time as Colorado and Nashville about a week ago). Fans in Canada can tune in on SN360 or TVAS2.

Hall and Devils Rally in Game 3

With a 5-2 Game 3 win at Prudential Center, the New Jersey Devils have pulled back within a 2-1 deficit against the Tampa Bay Lightning in their First Round series.

Taylor Hall was a thorn in the side of the Lightning all night long with a three-point performance. When the Devils needed a spark, he was there creating and making plays. Cory Schneider also had a strong performance, saving 34-of-36 shots faced (.944 save percentage) to earn his first win since December 27.

The first period saw the Devils feeding off the home crowd’s energy and moving their feet enough to keep up with the fast Tampa team, helping them to limit the Bolts’ chances by not giving their forwards any space or time.

Offensively, Jersey had a couple strong first period chances like the two-on-one that Blake Coleman couldn’t get it by Andrei Vasilevskiy. Hall also had a great chance as he blew by the Tampa defenseman, but he could only find the crossbar when he fell while firing his shot.

The second period started with carryover penalty on Andy Greene for slashing. It proved to be costly as Tampa found the opening goal of the game when Alex Killorn got his stick on a puck from Nikita Kucherov and deflected it by Schneider. It was Killorn’s fourth of the playoffs, with Steven Stamkos picking up the other assist. Tampa had all the momentum at this point, creating a lot of chances. Fortunately for the Devils, Schneider stood tall to keep their deficit at one.

New Jersey got a few chances around the halfway point, with Hall and Marcus Johansson missing some clear chances. Even when Tampa got another power play opportunity after J.T. Miller drew a hi-sticking penalty from John Moore on a two-on-one, the Devils maintained the positive energy as Coleman alone had not one but two shorthanded chances. Additionally, the best chance came with Pavel Zacha and Nico Hischier on a two-on-one, but Vasilevskiy had the answer.

After killing off the penalty, New Jersey’s full offense woke up at this point and was all over Tampa defense. The Devils finally tied the game with Hall getting the goal he deserved with a wrister under Vasilevskiy from the slot. It was Hall’s second of the playoffs – an unassisted marker. Tampa got physical from there with some extras after the whistle, but Jersey ended the period with all the momentum.

The third period started similar to the second with a carryover holding penalty against Coleman. Again Tampa took advantage of its extra man, scoring just 38 seconds into the period when Stamkos burried a wrister even though Schneider got a piece of it. Kucherov and Killorn picked up the assists on Stammer’s first of the playoffs, giving Tampa a 2-1 lead.

With the lead once again in hand, the Lightning became suddenly undisciplined, taking two quick penalties to leave New Jersey with a five-on-three advantage for over a minute. The Devils would not miss out on that opportunity, as Will Butcher got his shot from the point through all the skaters and past Vasilevskiy for his first career playoff goal. Hall picked up his second point of the night with the lone assist for a 2-2 game

Halfway through the period, Ryan McDonaugh found himself a breakaway opportunity, but couldn’t tuck it behind Schneider. Schneider was shaken up on the play and struggled to get up with what appeared to be left leg issue, but he stayed in game.

Now fighting even harder for its goaltender, New Jersey started to create its own good luck as Hall continued to dominate the game. He cut through Tampa, got into the zone and made a cross-ice pass to Stefan Noeson for a one-timer past Vasilevskiy, giving the Devils a 3-2 lead. A waiver wire claim from last year, Noesen scored his first career playoff goal.

Tampa did get a chance to tie the game as Hall got called for tripping with just over two minutes left in the game. They even pulled Vasilevskiy for a six-on-four, which resulted in a Coleman empty net goal from the other end of the ice.

Still trying its hardest to win Game 3, Tampa pulled Vasilevskiy once again to give the Lightning another six-on-four advantage, and the Devils were all to eager to take advantage of the gaping cage once again. This time, it was Ben Lovejoy who scored the empty netter, giving New Jersey a 5-2 victory.