Goaltending the Difference in New Jersey Devils’ 4-3 Loss to Boston Bruins

First Period

Former Devils Taylor Hall, Pavel Zacha, and AJ Greer opened the game for the Boston Bruins against Erik Haula, Jack Hughes, and Jesper Bratt. This did not lead to anything on either side, but the Devils got the first couple of offensive possessions in the following action, with Nico Hischier and Dougie Hamilton driving the team ahead. The teams played according to the billing, though — looking pretty even in the first five minutes. The Devils ended up with the first great chance when Hamilton dragged into the faceoff dot and sent it low. Yegor Sharangovich got his stick on the rebound, but not cleanly, as both teams collapsed onto the loose puck before it was eventually frozen.

Pavel Zacha got behind the New Jersey Devils on a pass off the far boards, but Mackenzie Blackwood swiped the puck just as Zacha was getting on it to shoot. Blackwood later made a big save on a backhand by Patrice Bergeron, who was cutting across the slot. The Devils defense continued to make plays as well, such as when Damon Severson made a well-timed takeaway on Taylor Hall, who was coming through the neutral zone. On the other end, Severson shot for a Holtz deflection, but Linus Ullmark made the save.

Erik Haula took the first penalty of the game for tripping David Pastrnak. It was actually Severson who was guilty, but Haula went to the box. Jesper Boqvist made an excellent play in the passing lanes, stealing the puck away and generating a chance for himself the other way that went wide. Before getting off the ice, he deflected another pass to Nico Hischier, who wasted some time below the goal line.

Back at even strength, the New Jersey Devils seemed pumped up by their penalty killing success, but Michael McLeod was boarded brutally by Matt Grzelcyk. The Devils went to a two-minute power play. Jack Hughes wasted no time, helping Nico win the draw back to Hamilton, who set Hughes up for a shot from the top of the circle. He beat Ullmark low on the glove side! 1-0, Devils.

Second Period

Coming into the second period with a one-goal lead, the Hughes line took the opening raw again – this time against the Nosek line. The Bruins took possession, but Hampus Lindholm lost his balance and turned the puck over at the blue line. Jake Debrusk later had an entry poked away by Severson. After some back-and-forth neutral zone play, Miles Wood broke through for a breakaway — but Ullmark stunned him with the kick save.

Patrice Bergeron struck for the Bruins with a deflection goal as he cut across the goal crease. Debrusk took the loose puck off the draw, and his low shot at the five hole was deflected over the right pad. Tough goal — and definitely difficult to stop. 1-1.

After the goal, Fabian Zetterlund set up two near-goals. The first was a beautiful pass on a two-on-one, where Ullmark went half-spinning across to stop Nico Hischier from scoring. The second was a pass across to Tatar at the side of the net – but Tatar chipped the shot into the crossbar.

On the other end, Mackenzie Blackwood pulled a Blackwood — in the bad way. He played the puck out to the Bruins from behind the net, and made a save on the first shot at him, but he lost his stick and a weak rebound trickled through his five hole as he sprawled from a bad position in his attempt to make the save. 2-1, Bruins, with Pastrnak getting the go-ahead goal. Blackwood just doesn’t look like an NHL goalie here.

The Devils almost answered back, but they were yet again unable to clean up in the goal crease. Bratt’s wrist shot from the high slot got through Ullmark’s glove and trickled almost all the way to the goal line. With Hughes wrapping around the net trying to get to the loose puck, Ullmark reached back and covered the puck before he could get there.

David Pastrnak made Mackenzie Blackwood and the Devils pay again. Off a rush led by Pavel Zacha and David Krejci, Pastrnak dragged the puck past Jonas Siegenthaler and hit the top corner over Blackwood’s blocker. 3-1. To this point, Blackwood had made seven saves.

The Devils struggled to work back at this point. Although they held the Bruins to sparse offensive opportunities, Boston’s defensive structure held them back from getting chances of their own. Eventually, though, the Devils’ defense made a brutal mistake. Kevin Bahl had the puck below the goal line and passed it right to Marchand, who took it around for a centering feed to Debrusk, who chipped it past Blackwood. 4-1, Bruins.

With 1:33 to play, Charlie McAvoy went to the box for hooking Miles Wood, who was going for a redirection. Jesper Bratt rang a shot off the post early on in the power play. Nico Hischier had a deflection on a Hughes shot that Ullmark got his right pad on. Before the Devils could get another shot after a clear following the end of the first wave, the period ended with the score at 4-1.

Third Period

Vitek Vanecek came into the game about half a period too late, and made a few nice stops in his first minute of action. The evils looked rather lifeless in the first few minutes, and Erik Haula got their first big chance when he had a redirection past the three-minute mark. As it has gone with him this season, the redirection at a lot of open net went wide.

Nico Hischier stripped the puck and spun into the upper half of the faceoff circle around the halfway point, but he couldn’t get enough lift on his shot and Ullmark was able to smother it in his equipment. On again about a minute later, the Hischier line worked hard behind the net and worked the puck back up to the point. Nikita Okhotiuk went to the far side with a pass to Brendan Smith, who blasted a shot through a screen by Hischier. It rebounded right to Tomas Tatar — and he cut the game to 4-2 with 8:58 to play.

Tomas Tatar continued to make things happen – this time with Yegor Sharangovich. After a stretch pass from the defensive zone was deflected to the Bruins, Sharangovich intercepted a pass and spun it back to Tatar. Tatar headed into the offensive zone and cut back on two backcheckers, finding Dougie Hamilton for a one-timer. It rebounded out, and Yegor’s shot beat Ullmark to make it 4-3 with six minutes to play!

The Devils pulled the goalie with 1:30 to play, when the McLeod line was on the ice against the Bergeron line. After an offsides, Vanecek returned for a moment — but New Jersey took possession back. Nico Hischier was boarded — to no call — by Krejci, but the Devils kept the puck. After the Devils got a couple of chances on Ullmark, Bratt held the puck for too long at the end, wasting the final seconds with options to pass to. The Bruins won, 4-3.

The Game Stats: The NHL.com Game Summary | The NHL.com Event Summary | The NHL.com Play by Play Log | The NHL.com Shot Summary | The Natural Stat Trick Game Stats

The Opposition Opinion: Go to the Stanley Cup of Chowder.

Give Us Schmid (Go Celebrate and Relax) 

(Why are you reading this far? Go have fun with people.) Mackenzie Blackwood let the Devils down in the second period tonight, giving up four goals on about 1.33 expected goals by the Bruins. The deflection goal I’ll give him every night, but he has to come up with more stops on the other three. Maybe not all of them, but at least one or two.

Akira Schmid, probably iced or snowed completely in Utica right now, could have won this game tonight. He can win games like this in the playoffs. The forwards got three goals — that needs to be enough to win against top teams like the Bruins — against a goaltender like Linus Ullmark, who went to 19-1-1 with this win. Blackwood looked atrocious on both Pastrnak goals, and yeah, he’s an amazing sniper. But Blackwood was simply out of position, on both counts.

Run it back at full strength

This game told me something: this will be a hell of a team to watch in the playoffs if they are at full strength. Down one of the best shutdown pairs in the league, with two inexperienced defensemen in Bahl and Okhotiuk in their place — they should have won this game. If Vanecek or Schmid started, I think they would have. They outshot the Bruins, outworked them for most of the game, had more chances, and had two rebound goals. They fought hard, and deserved a point or more. With Palat or Bastian in these games, on top of the missing defensemen, they will only get better.

Your Thoughts

What did you think of this game? Did this game get you mad? How did you feel Bahl and Okhotiuk did? Do you think Mackenzie Blackwood should be sent to Utica? Are you planning on getting back to enjoying the holiday season? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

And whether you followed along in the game thread, or on Twitter @AATJerseyBlog, thanks for reading. Have a Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah. We’ll see you on the 28th. Hope This is Chris — goodnight.

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