Broad Street — It was Samuel Laberge’s night as the New Jersey Devils forward made his NHL debut at 26 years old. However, it was Luke Hughes and the Devils’ goaltending that stole the show in Philly. More on that later.
Continuing to deal with injuries, New Jersey inserted Laberge onto their fourth line where Brendan Smith has made a living over the last week. As a result of Dougie Hamilton’s injury, Smith returned to blue-line duties on Thursday night.
The good news? Head coach Lindy Ruff mentioned Timo Meier just might be available to play on Friday.
But first, let’s dive into the Devils’ 4-3 win over the Philadelphia Flyers.
Devils Quick Wrap
The Devils took control of the game in the first period scoring two goals on the sticks of Alexander Holtz and Jack Hughes. They took a 2-0 lead into the first intermission. The middle frame brought nothing but glee when Luke Hughes returned to the ice after an ugly hit in the first period that took him out for the remainder of the opening frame. In the third period, Tyler Toffoli added some insurance to pad New Jersey’s lead. However, goals by Sean Walker and Tyson Foerster late in the third sent the game to overtime. In a full-circle moment, Luke scored the game-winning goal in overtime.
Akira Schmid made 44 saves in the victory. Carter Hart stopped 31 pucks.
A flip has switched in Holtz. He’s suddenly the player Devils fans longed for him to be and it seemingly happened overnight.
The 21-year-old forward went from frustration and anger following a few outings in which he received low ice time. A tough conversation further frustrated the Devils forward who opened up about not playing much.
In the very next game, Holtz was put in the top six and has been playing excellent hockey from there.
His spot in the lineup hasn’t been consistent, however, following a few games in the top six, he’s back on the third line next to Michael McLeod and Curtis Lazar.
Holtz scored the first goal of the game on Thursday. It was his third goal in four games, all opening the scoring for New Jersey. Six of his second goals on the season have also been the Devils’ first in each respective game.
Holtz with the heat. pic.twitter.com/97UEyBTUIk
— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) December 1, 2023
As a reward for his positive play, Ruff even threw Holtz on the first unit power play. It seems the coach’s confidence in the young sniper is growing.
Take a Bow, Luke
You really can’t make this stuff up. The Devils are already without Hamilton, their No.1 defenseman. Erik Haula is on the shelf. Tomas Nosek has yet to resume skating. Meier is potentially back on Friday. But, man. The injuries, or the scares, just won’t stop.
On Thursday night against the Flyers, Luke Hughes appeared to sustain an upper-body injury in the first period. A hit below the goal line by Garnet Hathaway sent Luke crashing into the boards.
It was an ugly, ugly hit.
Luke Hughes went to the locker room after this hit from Garnet Hathaway pic.twitter.com/F5XYAvxjqK
— B/R Open Ice (@BR_OpenIce) December 1, 2023
Hughes stayed down on the ice for a bit seemingly holding his left shoulder. He popped up off the ice as a scrum ensued, skated to the bench hunched over still holding his shoulder, and made his way down the tunnel.
Hathaway was assessed a five-minute major and a game misconduct. His night ended with just 03:52 of time on ice.
The Devils really can’t afford another injury. Fortunately for New Jersey, Luke returned to the game in the second period.
Fortunately for New Jersey, Luke is fine. He said after the game that staying out for the remainder of the first period was just concussion protocol more than anything.
The Devils gave up two third-period goals to send the game into overtime. However, the Hughes brothers went to work in the extra frame.
It took less than 30 seconds for the Devile to score. New Jersey recovered the puck in their own end of the ice. Going the other way, Jack fed Luke on a 2-on-1 rush and the youngest Hughes brother secured two points for New Jersey.
He didn’t forget to take a bow following his strong performance.
Devils Goaltending Stable
The Devils goaltending just needed to be reliable on Thursday.
That’s exactly what they got from Schmid, maybe a little more. The Flyers put plenty of pucks on net. They ended the game with 47 shots on goal.
Here’s the thing. New Jersey’s defense did a pretty good job limiting the Flyers to low-quality chances. Most of their shots came from the perimeter in low-danger areas of the ice. As a result, Schmid turned in a strong performance.
They’ll never admit it, but the Devils are seemingly playing a lot stronger with Schmid in net rather than Vitek Vanecek. Perhaps they’re more confident in the Swiss goaltender. If they’re going to continue to collect wins, the Devils’ goaltending just needs to be reliable. At this point, Schmid is the one providing the stability.
Although they scored at the end of the third period, Schmid was strong when New Jersey was in a late 5-on-3 penalty kill. Before the Flyers scored, he stopped a plethora of chances by the Flyers.
Schmid finished Thursday’s tilt against the Flyers with one goal saved above expected. 44 saves is a career-high for the Devils goaltender.
- Holtz has scored the Devils’ first goal in three of the last four games. Six of his seven goals this season have also been New Jersey’s first goal of the game.
- Colin Miller registered his first point as a member of the Devils. A secondary assist on Holtz’s goal.
- Brendan Smith, the defenseman, recorded a team-leading 83.05 xGF%.