The New Jersey Devils continued their road trip last night in the Mile High City as they faced the Colorado Avalanche for the second and final time this season. When team reporter Amanda Stein announced the goaltending tandem would be 34-year-old Andrew Hammond and Jon Gillies, fans immediately anticipated the worst. Entering last night’s contest the Avalanche had scored 280 goals as a team, which was the second-most in the league behind the Florida Panthers.
Hammond was making his third start since being acquired from the Montreal Canadiens on March 21, and in his first two appearances had given up a combined 13 goals. Gillies, who served as his backup, recorded his last win back on Feb. 10 against the St. Louis Blues. Despite the team losing by a final score of 3-1, the veteran goaltender had his best performance as a member of the Devils making 27 saves on 30 shots.
Devils’ Special Teams Could Not Get It Done
New Jersey needed two goals to force overtime and had two power-play opportunities in the third period to make it happen. Of course, fans know the Devils have struggled on the man advantage, unable to score a power-play goal in their last 10 attempts on this road trip. In fact, the team has not scored a power-play goal this entire month as it’s an area where Jack Hughes is severely missed.
Their penalty kill went one for two, as the Avalanche scored their insurance goal while on the man advantage. Devils defenseman Damon Severson skated up the ice and left an opening for two Colorado players to get near Hammond and eventually Artturi Lehkonen cleaned up a rebound. The Devils goaltender did not have a chance once he gave up the puck instead of stopping play.
A Miserable Middle Frame
The Devils simply did not have it in the second period last night. It looked like their energy level dropped and were a step behind as their opponent controlled the pace. New Jersey’s Fabian Zetterlund had an early shot on Avalanche goaltender Pavel Francouz, but the team’s second shot did not come until nine minutes later. By the conclusion of the period, they had four shots on goal, while the Avalanche had scored three goals.
“Their defense being real active in the second period caused us some problems,” said head coach Lindy Ruff. “Especially when we got caught at the end of a shift.”
The Avalanche fired 14 shots at Hammond in the second period, and a handful of their opportunities came from the faceoff circle. New Jersey only won three faceoffs while their opponent dominated winning 13. Forward Michael McLeod won 89 percent of his faceoffs, but it was a rough night for Nico Hischier, Dawson Mercer and Jesper Boqvist in the circle.
300th NHL Game for Jesper Bratt
It seems like yesterday that Jesper Bratt made his NHL debut, but it was in fact all the way back on Oct. 7, 2017. The then 19-year-old also faced the Avalanche and in addition to scoring his first career NHL goal, he finished the game with two points. Over the next couple of seasons, fans have watched him evolve into a steady 30-point scorer until he broke out this season. It only seems appropriate that he scored the lone Devils goal last night in the third period.
Currently, the 23-year-old Swede has 69 points in 69 games. His speed has become an asset to the Devils and a threat to their opponents as he leads the team in nearly every offensive category. In fact, ESPN released their most underappreciated players in 2021-22 and Bratt made the list alongside players like Matthew Tkachuk and Roope Hintz. He is a restricted free agent at the conclusion of the season and has earned a big raise after being one of the few bright spots in 2021-22.
The road trip continues on Saturday as the Devils’ next opponent will be the Seattle Kraken when they make their first trip to Climate Pledge Arena. They actually have a six-point advantage over them in the standings as they defeated them at Prudential Center back on Oct. 19. The stage is set for an interesting contest because, while Hischier’s team only has 10 road wins this season, the Kraken only have 12 wins at home. MSG Networks will have the broadcast with the pre-game show beginning at 9:30 PM ET.
Kristy has been contributing to The Hockey Writers since March of 2021. She is thrilled to be putting her journalism degree to use and is a credentialed correspondent covering the New Jersey Devils. Kristy is also a member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association. You can follow her journey on Twitter @InStilettos_NHL and Instagram SkatingInStilettos.