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In a battle of Metropolitan Division top dogs, the New Jersey Devils came away with an impressive 4-1 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets to move to 16-7-4 on the season; good enough for sole possession of first place in the division.
The Devils got things started right away, with Travis Zajac scoring his first of the year less than five minutes into the game. From there on, it was a struggle for New Jersey in the first twenty minutes. They were out-attempted 13-4 at five-on-five after Zajac’s goal and eventually, Columbus would use that pressure to tie things up as Nick Foligno redirected an Oliver Bjorkstrand shot just as the Devils had killed off a Travis Zajac penalty. Fortunately for New Jersey, Cory Schneider stood on his head stopping 15/16 shots faced to take New Jersey tied at one into the first intermission.
After a rough first 20 minutes, it was a complete 180 for the Devils in the second period. They came out of intermission applying relentless pressure on the Columbus Blue Jackets and it would eventually pay off. Taylor Hall would give the Devils the lead less than five minutes into the second on a beautiful feed from Nico Hischier.
NICO HISCHIER, WHAT A PASS TO TAYLOR HALL! 2-1 DEVILS! pic.twitter.com/M6eAlsltCa
— NHL Daily 365 (@NHLDaily365) December 6, 2017
Hischier wasn’t done just yet. With time winding down in the second, he made a beautiful cross ice pass to Miles Wood who fired a shot towards the net, which Bobrovsky couldn’t control. Stefan Noesen found himself right on the doorstep and was able to put the rebound home to send the Devils up 3-1 heading into the second intermission.
The Devils showed no signs of letting up in the third period. Columbus came out of intermission looking to cut into their deficit. The Devils were able to weather the storm through the first seven minutes and would eventually be rewarded. Just a little over halfway through the final frame, Jesper Bratt would find the back of the net after Taylor Hall crashed the net, leaving a rebound for Bratt after Bobrovsky couldn’t control the puck. The goal put the Devils up 4-1 and sealed the deal as New Jersey would leave Columbus winning in impressive fashion.
- After drying up for a few games, the Devils offense returned in a big way last night, led by the Hall/Hischier/Bratt line. Hall and Bratt each finished with a goal and assist, while Nico Hischier finished with two assists on the night (both of which were tremendous). Needless to say, the Devils needed a big performance from this trio to beat Columbus on the road and they got more than they could ask. They’ll need it again this weekend as they face Columbus and the Rangers in some more crucial divisional matchups.
- John Hynes decided to move Stefan Noesen up to a line with Marcus Johansson and Travis Zajac and it paid off big time. Noesen had his best game of the season, tallying a goal and assist, while Zajac (1 goal, 5 SOG) and Johansson (1 assist) had their best games since returning from injury. The Devils will need scoring depth from some line other than Hischier’s going forward. If the Zajac line can provide that on a consistent basis, especially when Kyle Palmieri returns, it’ll go a long way in helping the Devils stay in a top three spot in the division.
- Steven Santini returned to the lineup for the first time since the acquisition of Sami Vatanen and had one of his best games in weeks. He just about broke even in possession and did a good job handling the minutes he was given at five-on-five and the penalty kill while logging 18:08 in total ice time. Going forward, it’s likely he’ll remain paired with Will Butcher, which will allow him to get much more favorable minutes. If so, he should be able to rebound nicely and give the Devils good defensive depth going forward.