The New Jersey Devils entered Thursday night’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the middle of a slump. They have been missing Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier for a few games now and that has started to impact their overall play.
It is hard to be missing your star centermen who were drafted first overall. These two guys combined for 179 points in 2022-23 and they both (in different ways) make it hard for the other team to score goals when they are out there as well.
Entering this game, the Devils lost three in a row. The defense hasn’t played been what it needs to be and they weren’t able to outscore their problems with their two stars missing.
Things didn’t get easier when New Jersey was forced to keep Timo Meier out of the lineup as well. This one is considered to be short term but they still needed to get through this game against the Penguins without him too.
The New Jersey Devils pulled off a big win without three stars in the lineup
Missing three of your four best forwards is not a recipe for success. That is especially true against an opponent like the Penguins who were red-hot following a tough start to the season. They have stars like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Erik Karlsson amongst others all firing on all cylinders.
Bryan Rust of Pittsburgh scored in the first period after Jake Guentzal made a big play to break him out. Giving up the first goal has been a big problem for the Devils this season and this one hurt even more because of the losing streak.
However, the Devils responded later in the first period as they scored a shorthanded goal. Curtis Lazar put in his third of the season after making a nice play with Erik Haula.
It did feel like they were destined to lose their fourth in a row when Bryan Rust scored his second of the game and ninth of the season early in the third period. However, when Nathan Bastian scored less than a minute later, things felt better again.
From there, the game remained tied through the second period. In the third period, the Devils took over. Jesper Bratt, Alexander Holtz, and Tyler Toffoli all scored to give the Devils a 5-2 win over the Penguins. It was a great way for the Devils to get back in the win column.
Luke Hughes deserves some extra praise for the way that he played in this game. He made an outstanding play to set up a high danger chance that Bratt buried and it stood as the game-winner. He also broke Bratt out for him to make a big play that led to the Toffoli goal.
Dawson Mercer also gets some extra credit as well. Earlier in the game, Mercer missed a pretty easy pass that would have sprung Alexander Holtz on a breakaway. He was very angry about his mistake on the bench and it was visible.
Instead of ruining his game for the evening, Mercer set up Holtz for the goal that was scored in the third. These two are developing some chemistry which is great considering they were both 2020 first-round picks by New Jersey. Hopefully, this continues.
Vitek Vanecek was great in the net for the Devils. Goaltending has been an issue but he did his job in this one. He made 21 saves on 23 shots and Bryan Rust was the only one who scored on him. This is going to be a big key for the team going forward.
Now, New Jersey is hoping to get both Hughes and Meier back ahead of their game against the New York Rangers. This will be the first time that the two teams meet since the Devils defeated them in game seven of the first round last year.
The Rangers are off to a blistering 11-2-1 start this year so it is about time that someone cools them off. The Devils could be the team that does that if they are healthy and play the way that they did in this one against the Penguins.