Another New Jersey Devils game, another game that required extra time. The club earned a 3-2 victory over their division rival after Timo Meier scored the lone goal in the shootout. It was the third time in their last four games that extra time was needed to decide a winner. The club improved to a 42-16-6 record and earned 90 points on the season, which is third-best in the league. Here are three takeaways and some quick hits.
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Entering the Game the Spotlight Was on Jesper Boqvist
Head coach Lindy Ruff did some tweaking to his lineup ahead of the game and bumped Jesper Boqvsit to the second line to play alongside Jack Hughes and Meier.
“I think with new pieces (Meier and Curtis Lazar) coming in, we have an opportunity to try players in different spots,” he said. “With the schedule that we’ve got, we’re trying to balance the lines, take a little ice time off the top, and see if we can find continuity. It may take a couple games. By switching things around you may find chemistry amongst guys that haven’t played together.”
In the first 20 minutes, the Meier-Hughes-Boqvist line was Ruff’s most consistent. The trio finished the game with 11 shots on Capitals’ goaltender Darcy Kuemper and overall had a strong outing. It was the first time since coming to New Jersey that Meier earned a plus-minus of zero and the first time in five games for Hughes. Afterward, coach Ruff told attending media members the line had a lot of really great opportunities.
All About That Swiss
For the first time in NHL history, four Switzerland players on one team played in a game, after New Jersey’s Nico Hischier, Jonas Siegenthaler, Akira Schmid, and Meier played versus Washington.
Schmid made 20 saves on 22 shots and earned a save percentage of .909. He was not overly tested compared to Kuemper who faced 40 shots, but New Jersey’s netminder came up big when it mattered most. He celebrated his first career shootout win in his 10th start of the season improving to a 1-1 record. He stopped T.J. Oshie, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Nicklas Backstrom, and Alex Ovechkin in the shootout.
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Meier became the hero of the night, along with Schmid, as the winger was the only Devils’ player to get the puck past Kuemper in a shootout that required four rounds.
“I watched the pre-scout (on Kuemper) and made (the decision to make one move) and kind of stuck with it,” he said. “Huge performance by our goaltender to shut the door on all their shooters. Schmid was great for us the whole game. … Luckily I could finish the game off like that and get us two points.”
It was a moment of redemption for the team’s newest forward as he took a tripping penalty with 45 seconds left in overtime. Luckily his teammates were able to kill it off to force a shootout. Meier was also sitting in the penalty box when Auston Matthews scored the game-winning goal late in the third period on March 7.
With their latest victory, the Devils improved to 34-4-4 when Hischier records a point in a game this season. The captain earned his 32nd assist versus the Capitals and is now only one point shy of tying his career-high 60 points, which was earned last season.
Mercer’s Reign Continues
At this point, it can’t be a surprise to see the Devils score two goals and see Dawson Mercer involved in both of them.
The 21-year-old collected the primary assist on Erik Haula’s eighth goal of the season and then quickly scored his 22nd goal of the season. The 37 seconds between Haula and Mercer’s goals were the fifth, two-fastest goals that the Devils scored in a period this season.
He matched Brendan Shanahan as the only skaters in franchise history who were under the age of 22 and
earned an 11-game point streak. Per Devils PR, Mercer is the third-youngest skater in franchise history who earned a point streak of 10 or more games. Additionally, he earned his 11th multi-point game of the season.
Quick Hits & Observations
- Ryan Graves was on the receiving end of a crushing hit from Capitals forward Tom Wilson. The 6-foot-5 blueliner was down on the ice for a few seconds before skating to the bench on his own. He missed some time in the opening frame, but eventually returned to the bench and played 20:14. It is worth noting that it looked like Wilson apologized after the incident.
- Michael McLeod rode the bench in the final frame of the game. Fans saw Hughes slot in alongside Miles Wood and Nathan Bastian in the final 20 minutes. McLeod was the player who should have covered Capitals’ forward Dylan Strome before he scored his team’s second goal of the game. The Devils’ fourth-line center finished with a little over seven minutes of ice time.
- On paper, a power play unit that consists of Hamilton, Hischier, Bratt, Hughes, and Meier should be counted on to score a goal every outing. That was not the case against the Capitals. At times the top unit struggled to transition the puck into the zone and wasted valuable time after losing an offensive zone faceoff. Associate coach Andrew Brunette still has work to do when it comes to his top unit.
- Haula provided one of the best postgame quotes: “I asked (Timo) if he was a shootout guy. He said yup, and I said sounds good.”
The Devils will have an off day today, March 10. Their road trip will continue as they travel north to face the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday, March 11 at Bell Centre.