After a deflating loss to the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday night, the New Jersey Devils rebounded strongly by winning their first back-to-back contests of the season. They beat the Pittsburgh Penguins and Montréal Canadiens, two teams currently in playoff positions, and improved to a 7-8-4 record on the season.
Friday night’s win against Pittsburgh is best described as a bail-out. Specifically, a bail-out meticulously orchestrated by 22-year-old goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood, who ended up posting a combined 0.947 save percentage in the back-to-back games. In the past, head coach John Hynes hasn’t shied away from deploying the same goalie to start on consecutive nights. It proved to be a prudent decision last night, as Blackwood again made several key saves in the third period to keep the Devils in the game.
Fortunately for him, the offense wasn’t frustratingly lethargic like it was the night before. In fact, the offense was potent. The Devils dominated the first period, even though they came out tied 1-1 after Nikita Gusev finished a slick no-look pass from linemate Blake Coleman. Gusev, who had a particularly noteworthy performance, posting a 65.63% Corsi for (CF%), has begun to round out his play. He looks competent in the defensive zone and has created more space to showcase his offensive prowess. His six goals are now second on the team. Leading the team with 7 goals is Kyle Palmieri, who defeated the Canadiens in overtime last night in his quintessential fashion: a one-timer blast from the left circle on the power play.
The Devils showed resiliency throughout the game by scoring a late goal in each period, and two of them were on special teams. With two seconds left in the second period, Nico Hischier cut the deficit in half by scoring shorthanded on a penalty kill on a 2-on-1 with Pavel Zacha. Wayne Simmonds tied the game on the power play late in the third period after finishing a crisp passing play between Taylor Hall, Jack Hughes, and Damon Severson. The third period featured 9(!) penalties, but the Devils remained solid on both special teams and managed to sustain offensive pressure throughout. To add to the bizarreness, an apparent Canadiens’ goal in the final minute was waved off, called a good goal, and then finally waved off again after a lengthy Toronto review, which found Philip Danault to have kicked the puck in the net with his leg.
It was New Jersey’s first 3-on-3 overtime win of the season, first time overcoming a multiple-goal deficit, and the first game in which they scored in the final minute of two different periods. Unlike Friday night’s win, this one was deserved. They look to continue the momentum at home against the Boston Bruins on Tuesday — a win would get them to NHL .500.