After two lifeless and demoralizing losses to start the season, the Devils dominated a tired Ducks team to get their first win
I had a very different opening to this blog written after the first period. The Ducks had a 2-0 lead after twenty minutes and it looked like more of the same from the Devils. Then, the second period started and the Devils came out with a fire under their asses to turn the game, and this young season, completely around. One of the biggest moments came on a penalty kill in the second period. The Devils were down 2-0, killing a penalty, and for some inexplicable reason, three Devils were below the goal line covering one Duck and still the Ducks controlled the puck. A pass was sent out front and one timed on net but Mackenzie Blackwood bailed his guys out and made a save for them. From that moment on, the Devils skaters took over the game. But Blackwood wasn’t done helping his team come back just yet. He made a very quick reaction save on Isac Lundenstrom to keep he Devils deficit at just 2-1. A rebound off a shot from above the circles bounced right to Lundenstrom but Blackwood threw his leg out kept the puck out of net, making a great save to boost his team’s confidence and prevent the Ducks from extending their lead to 3-1. Blackwood had an overall strong game and gave the Devils a chance to win, making 18 saves on 20 shots.
The Devils also did great job with a strong team effort in the offensive zone. The Devils fired 41 shots at the Ducks net and scored four goals. It was huge to see the Devils offense wake up like this and double their goal total from the first two games in this game. It was also really reassuring to see some new faces step up to contribute to the offense. Ondrej Palat got his first goal as a Devil to get the team on the board not even five minutes into the second period. Dawson Mercer and Jack Hughes entered the zone with speed and Hughes dished the puck to Ryan Graves, who fought through a few Ducks sticks to rip a shot on goal. Ducks goalie, and NJ native, Anthony Stolarz stopped the Graves shot but Ondrej Palat was right there to smack the rebound home. The Devils were counting on Palat to contribute to the offense when they signed him in free agency and tonight was his best game as a Devil. Not only did he score a goal, but he also had 3 hits and was a +3 in over 18 minutes of ice time. The Palat we saw tonight was the player we hoped the Devils were getting back when he was signed in July.
Devils captain Nico Hischier also made his first appearance on the score sheet this season when he scored to tie the game in the second period. Hischier and Palat both crashed the net as Jesper Bratt ripped a shot from the point. When the shot missed and bounced off the boards, Nico was right there to tap it home. Hischier had a strong end to last season and the Devils need their captain to continue to lead by example on the ice if they want to start stacking up some wins.
Dougie Hamilton would score a goal early in the third period off a beautiful cross ice pass from Jesper Bratt and Dawson Mercer would add some late insurance courtesy of a lucky bounce. All in all, this was a solid win from the Devils. A shaky first period where some defensive lapses and poor goaltending put them a a disadvantage, but they recovered with an outstanding final 40 minutes to get the win. As encouraging as this win was, I don’t want to get too high off of it. The Ducks played last night and are in the midst of a long road trip. The Devils have an important tests against the division rival Islanders coming up on Thursday night at UBS Arena. Hopefully they can keep these good feelings rolling through that game and into Saturday’s match up with the Sharks. You can follow me on Twitter at PatBoooooth. Let’s Go Devils.