The New Jersey Devils took down the Colorado Avalanche 5-3 on Tuesday night at The Rock in their first game back from the All-Star break. Despite squandering a third-period lead, they found a way to grab two points with a regulation win. The Devils improved to 25-20-3 while the Avalanche fell to 32-15-4.
The Devils allowed the first goal for the 35th time this season off a defensive zone turnover. Mikko Rantanen beat Vitek Vanecek at 1:23 from Jonathan Drouin.
However, they responded less than a minute later, at 2:05, with a redirection from Chris Tierney for his first as a Devil. Simon Nemec and Kevin Bahl collected assists.
Despite the slow start, the Devils looked strong in the second half of the period. They were outshot 14-13 in the first 20 minutes.
Colorado scored just 00:38 seconds into the period, but New Jersey successfully challenged for goaltender interference, restoring the score to 1-1.
At 3:49, the Devils grabbed their first lead of the game off a beautiful passing play from Nico Hischier to Jesper Bratt, who found the net. Ondrej Palat also added an assist.
Then, at 6:47, the Devils extended their lead when Dawson Mercer buried a net-front rebound for his 14th goal of the season. Erik Haula and Timo Meier tallied the assists.
The Devils couldn’t find another goal in the period, but they outshot the Avalanche 14-8 in the middle frame.
During four-on-four play, the Avalanche drew back within one at 8:29 with a goal from Cale Makar, off a pass from behind the net from Artturi Lehkonen.
Colorado tied the game at 8:58 with a shot from distance from Samuel Girard that beat Vanecek. Drouin and Bowen Byram collected assists.
However, at 17:43, John Marino regained the lead for New Jersey with a snipe from the slot. Hischier fed Bratt from behind the net, who found Marino open in the slot for the game-winning goal.
With the goaltender pulled for the Avalanche, Haula iced the game with an unassisted tally to make it 5-3.
The Devils were outshot 17-4 in the period and 38-31 in the game.
“Resilient” is the best way to describe the Devils’ effort against the Avalanche. Even with a heavily depleted lineup, they put together extended periods of dominance and capitalized on opportunities. They had their fair share of struggles as well but ultimately found a way to earn two important points.
The third period stood out as one where the Devils faced the most adversity. They allowed 17 shots and only generated four of their own. The trend of allowing multiple goals in quick succession also resurfaced, as they surrendered two goals in just under 30 seconds. In the past, they have crumbled from giving up those bursts of goals and lost games because of it, but they were able to bounce back to win the game in regulation.
There were a lot of positives for the Devils to take away from the game. Luke Hughes had a phenomenal game defending the Avalanche’s top line, specifically Nathan MacKinnon, who had his 14-game point streak snapped. Hughes defended MacKinnon with the poise of a league veteran and eliminated multiple rush attempts from Colorado’s top line. While he is often complimented for his offensive prowess, he demonstrated that the defensive side of his game is developing very well.
The Devils also had a strong net-front presence against the Avalanche, something that hasn’t been a strength so far this season. Mercer was able to find a rebound and bury it for a goal and the Devils consistently generated second and third opportunities. On their end, they cleared pucks to help Vanecek and limited high-danger attempts. Even with the shaky third period, they didn’t fall behind and the offense showed up when it needed to.
New Jersey welcomes former Devil, Yegor Sharangovich, and his Calgary Flames to the Prudential Center for their second meeting of the season on Thursday night. The Devils won the first contest 4-2 on December 9th.
The Flames are 23-22-5 on the season and 6-4-0 in their last 10, including a big win over the Boston Bruins on Tuesday night. They sit 6th in the Pacific Division.
The puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. EST.