Newark — Is the Hughes Bowl canceled if 2/3 still play? The New Jersey Devils announced Jack Hughes would not play on Saturday night against the Vancouver Canucks after suffering an upper-body injury on Friday.
Thus, it was a battle between Luke and Quinn Hughes at the Prudential Center. Devils rookie Graeme Clarke made his NHL debut for a battered and bruised New Jersey team.
The Devils’ 1-6-1 record on the second leg of back-to-backs was something New Jersey was hoping to improve. However, the injured Devils put forth a sloppy effort and surrendered two points.
Let’s dive into the Devils’ 6-4 loss to the Canucks on Saturday.
The Canucks thought they jumped out to an early 1-0 lead on the stick of Brock Boeser. However, head coach Lindy Ruff challenged for goaltender interference and won. Heading into the second period scoreless, the Canucks took a 3-0 lead in the first four minutes of the middle frame. Elias Pettersson opened the scoring and JT Miller added two insurance markers. However, Colin Miller scored his first as a Devil and Erik Haula brought the Devils within a goal. Yet, Conor Garland wasted no time regaining the Canucks two-goal lead, scoring 14 seconds after Haula. Pettersson quickly scored his second goal of the game to start the third period. However, Colin Millier rifled his second goal over the Canucks blue line and Brendan Smith quickly followed.
The resilient third period wasn’t enough to mount the comeback after Dakota Joshua hit the empty net to secure the Canucks’ 6-4 victory.
Nico Daws made 36 saves on 41 shots in the loss.
The Devils were incredibly lucky to get out of the first period unscathed. They almost didn’t, however, Coach Ruff won a goaltender interference challenge bringing to score back to zeros.
Regardless, the Devils looked all out of sorts in the opening frame. The Canucks beat the Devils in nearly every puck battle and spent the majority of the period in New Jersey’s end of the ice. According to Natural Stat Trick, the Canucks won the scoring chance differential 12-3, outshooting the Devils 17-5.
Ruff wound up switching the forward lines multiple times in the opening frame as a result of missing a few key players and a team with no gas.
The Devils basically rolled with nine forwards in the first period. Clarke and Chris Tierney skated in just 2:10 and 3:04 of time on ice respectively. Brendan Smith played 3:32. 54 seconds of that came on the penalty kill.
Daws buoyed the Devils, stopping an absurd 1.31 goals saved above expected after the opening 20 minutes.
It certainly wasn’t the start the Devils wanted to improve on their 1-6-1 record on the back end of back-to-back games.
(The first-period theme dragged on for the remainder of the game.)
Hung Out to Dry
Easy come, easy go.
Daws had an incredible first period, however, it wasn’t sustainable. Mind you, it was not the fault of the 23-year-old goaltender. The Devils absolutely hung Daws out to dry.
It took the Canucks 4:37 to score three goals at the start of the second period. Pettersson’s deflection to open the scoring saw not one Devils defender attempt to move the Canucks forward out of the top of Daws’ crease.
On Vancouver’s second goal, Siegenthaler tried to tough out an injury he suffered earlier in the period. However, he wasn’t strong enough to move Pettersson from the net front, and with Simon Nemec out of position, Miller deposited the rebound.
Finishing off the four-plus minute onslaught, the Canucks headed an odd-man rush up-ice after Dawson Mercer and Tyler Toffoli tripped each other up in Vancouver’s end. Some tic-tac-toe passing ended in Miller finishing a one-time chance from the right circle to give the Canucks a three-goal lead.
Even after the Devils cut Vancouver’s lead to one goal, Garland took advantage of another defensive breakdown by the John Marino and Kevin Bahl defensive duo who had a rough outing.
The Canucks out-chanced the Devils 16-8, hurling another 15 shots on net by the end of the middle frame.
Sloppy, But Resilient
There’s no questioning that this was one of the more slippy games the Devils played this season.
Granted, they’re down a ton of players at this point. Battered and bruised, and on the second leg of a back-to-back, this kind of performance was not surprising to say the least.
However, you also can’t deny that the Devils are a resilient bunch. Down three goals in the second period, they came back with two on the sticks of Miller and Haula. Down three goals in the third period, they came back with another two goals, Miller’s second goal of the game and Brendan Smith’s first.
The Devils could have easily chalked this one up to a loss. They didn’t.
Their veteran depth stepped up in the loss and although it wasn’t enough to earn at least a point, it was a good sign of life in an otherwise sloppy loss for New Jersey.
- Brendan Smith registered his first multi-point (1g,1a) game since March 17th, 2017.
- The Devils record on the second leg of back-to-back games is 1-7-1.
- Devils defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler broke his foot in the second period and left the game.