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Devils Postgame

Devils Takeaways: Daws Shines, Devils Top Panthers 4-1

Nico Daws makes 35 saves propelling the Devils to a 4-1 victory.

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New Jersey Devils
(AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

See what happens when the New Jersey Devils get a save?

The Florida Panthers did all that they could to extend their nine-game win streak to 10 games. However, Nico Daws and the Devils had other plans.

On the back of an excellent goaltending performance and some gritty, timely goals, New Jersey collected two points against one of the NHL’s very best.

Let’s dive into the Devils’ 4-1 victory over the Panthers.

Devils Recap

The Devils are ensuring they at least score first on the current road trip. Alexander Holtz opened the scoring 3:50 into the first period, spinning and ripping a shot off Panthers defenseman Dmitry Kulikov. Later, Jesper Bratt crashed the net with the puck, the rebound landed on Michael McLeod’s stick, and his shot banked off Bratt to give the Devils a 2-0 lead heading into the first intermission. The Devils started the second the way they ended the first as Nico Hischier dropped a pass to Erik Haula and the 32-year-old veteran scored five-hole. The Panthers got on the board late in the third period, however. Sam Reinhart continued his torrid scoring pace and cut the Devils lead to two. Excellent goaltending by Nico Daws in the third period locked this one down for the Devils after John Marino hit the empty net to secure two points for New Jersey.

Daws made 35 saves, earning his third victory in four games this season.

Takeaways

Match Game

The Devils knew they needed to come into Saturday night’s tilt with a bit more sandpaper. The Panthers were on a nine-game winning streak to this point and they got there with constant puck pressure and by crashing the net. Without a handful of their superstars, the Devils altered their game on the current road trip to a similar style, starting with Tampa Bay on Thursday.

As head coach Lindy Ruff indicated after morning skate, the coach really enjoyed the Devils’ effort on Thursday despite the loss. In fact, he wanted the Devils to play the exact same way on Saturday night.

The Devils’ first goal was certainly a good indication that New Jersey was prepared to match the Panthers’ play. New Jersey’s third line went to work with the puck in the offensive zone. Holtz and Chris Tierney filtered in and out of net-front presence with each other until the puck found Holtz’s stick. With Tierney screening the goaltender while fighting for position with Kulikov, Holtz’s shot deflected off the Panthers defender and past Sergei Bobrovsky to give the Devils a 1-0 lead.

Instead of allowing the opposition to claw their way back into this one like last time, the Devils doubled down on their effort in the first period. With the puck on his stick, Bratt crashed the net with McLeod closely trailing him. When Bratt’s initial shot was stopped, McLeod picked up the rebound and banked it into the net off Bratt who now leads the Devils with 16 goals on the season.

Typically, the Devils win with a combination of speed and skill. This game wasn’t absent of that, however, they certainly scored their goals in a bit of a different way than we’re used to seeing.

The Devils Have Something in Daws

The Devils nearly got out of the second period unscathed thanks to the fantastic effort in net by Daws.

Florida wasn’t going to sit on their hands in the middle frame and risk their win streak ending. Despite the Devils opening the scoring in the second period, the middle frame was largely tilted in Florida’s direction.

The Panthers peppered Daws with 13 shots in the second period. Daws stopped all but one of them in the final minute, allowing Reinhart to score on the power play. Before Reinhart scored, Daws made two strong saves on the penalty kill that had Matthew Tkachuk and Sam Bennett looking to the rafters.

Daws’ 12-save second period maintained a Devils lead that certainly could have been surrendered. According to Natural Stat Trick, the Panthers totaled nine scoring chances in the second period as opposed to the Devils’ three at five-on-five. Five of those nine chances for Florida were considered high danger.

It’s not the first time Daws has buoyed the Devils in a game this season. Daws made 2.09 goals saved above expected according to MoneyPuck. He’s played excellent hockey since he was recalled to New Jersey. He’s certainly making a case for himself as the Devils’ best goaltender. And to do it against one of the NHL’s powerhouses?

Impressive.

Shut ’em Down

The fourth line doesn’t typically get a lot of love, however, today they will.

Max Willman, Shane Bowers, and Nathan Bastian are a trio of forwards that Ruff has thrown together in the wake of so many injuries. Two-thirds of that line typically plays in the American Hockey League for the Utica Comets.

However, Willman has filled in plenty for New Jersey when necessary this season. Bowers, however, has not.

With the Panthers having the advantage of the last change, Paul Maurice continually ran the Matthew Tkachuk line out against the Devils’ fourth line. That didn’t matter much, however. Bowers, Willman, and Bastian continually shut down the Panthers’ top performers, limiting the trio of Tkachuk, Sam Bennett, and Carter Verhaeghe to just five scoring chances at 5-on-5.

The trio of Tkachuk, Bennett, and Verhaeghe collected a total of 25 points over the Panthers’ last five games. However, Willman, Bowers, and Bastian forced them to walk away empty-handed tonight.

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