The New Jersey Devils (11-4-2) win a WILD one over the Chicago Blackhawks (8-8-2) at the United Center in the first of two meetings between the teams this season. The two teams combined for 12 goals (the Devils had seven); Chicago outshot New Jersey 44-38. Miles Wood tallied a natural hat trick for the first time in his career. He (NJD), Nico Hischier (NJD), and Jan Rutta (CHI) were named the three stars of the game.
The first period was a MESS, to put it lightly. The team played like complete garbage and they left many fans wondering if they’d be able to come back from a three-goal deficit. Fear not, Devils fans, this is not the Devils team that you’re used to. The team found themselves down early when Artem Anisimov got Chicago on the board first just 41 seconds into the game. The Devils would answer back about three minutes later with Wood’s first goal of the game, a power play tally. Drew Stafford and Taylor Hall had the assists.
But Chicago would score three more times in the first period to take a 4-1 lead. Alex DeBrincat, Jan Rutta, and Tanner Kero (his first of the season) all scored; Rutta’s goal was on the power play. All three goals were scored within five minutes of each other and the game looked like it was quickly getting out of hand. Many thought starting Devils goaltender Keith Kinkaid would be pulled during intermission in favor of Cory Schneider but he was not. Wood would score his second goal of the game shortly after Kero’s tally to cut the lead to two just before intermission; Pavel Zacha and Steven Santini, who both played well tonight,
The second period rolls around. There’s no way the score is going to remain 4-2 with how both teams are playing. Naturally, they score more goals. New Jersey scored four goals in the second period alone. Andy Greene picked up his second goal of the season to cut the lead to 4-3; his goal gave him 200 points in his NHL career. Greene becomes the sixth defenseman to have at least 200 points with the Devils (and the fifth since the move to New Jersey). Stefan Noesen and Blake Coleman had the assists.
2017 first overall draft pick Nico Hischier proceeded to tie things up at four goals apiece with his third tally of the season, his first on U.S. soil and his first in the arena in which he was drafted. His goal was unassisted.
Taylor Hall, who had one hell of a game tonight, decided that the Devils weren’t quite done scoring goals and tacked on another one, giving New Jersey their first lead of the game (5-4). His goal and assist earlier on Wood’s first goal gave him 400 points in his NHL career. Hischier and Greene had the assists. This was Hischier’s 10th assist of the season, which is the most by an 18-year old through their first 17 career games since 2007-08 (Kane – 14).
Brian Gibbons, the Devils’ leading goal scorer, tallied his eighth goal of the season to give the team a two-goal lead (6-4); Wood had the lone assist. Gibbons’s goal would be the eventual game-winner. But Patrick Kane, Chicago’s leading scorer, scored his sixth of the season to cut New Jersey’s lead back to one.
During the third period, Chicago pulled Corey Crawford, who had never allowed seven goals in a game (and still hasn’t) in favor of Anton Forsberg, who played last night. Wood would not be denied a hat trick and completed the feat just 2:21 into the third period. It was the first hat trick of his career. His hatty was also the first Devils hat trick since Travis Zajac’s hat trick last December in a 4-3 overtime loss to, yep, Chicago. Wood (22 years, 60 days) is also the youngest Devils player, and the youngest American Devils player, with a hat trick since Scott Gomez (20 years, 3 days), who had one against the Rangers on December 26, 1999.
This was the first time that the Devils had rallied from a three-goal deficit to win in regulation since April 18, 2006 against Montreal, the same night that they won the Atlantic Division after both the Rangers and Flyers lost. This was also the first time that Chicago had allowed seven goals in a home game since allowing seven in a 7-4 loss to Edmonton on October 28, 2010.
Chicago had the fifth-best penalty kill coming into tonight’s game but the Devils scored on two of three power play opportunities, as did the Hawks. New Jersey was better in the faceoff circle, winning 53.9% of them. Almost everyone won at least 50% of theirs, including Adam Henrique (72.2%), Hall (75%), Stafford (66.7%), Wood (100%), Coleman (50%), and Hischier (50%).
They did manage 38 shots on goal, which was a pleasant surprise. Wood had seven shots on goal, Hall had 5, and Jesper Bratt had four. The team also had 22 hits and 29 blocked shots; Steven Santini had 10 blocked shots alone. Damon Severson had five. Greene led the team in time on ice (26:15) followed by Severson (24:05) and Santini (24:01).
It was, all-around, a great game for the Devils. 11 different players found their way onto the score sheet. Wood had a four-point night (3G, 1A) and Hischier had a three-point night (1G, 2A). Greene (1G, 1A) and Hall (1G, 1A) both had two points. Seven other players had one.
And as funny as the score was, 7-5 in favor of New Jersey, Chicago actually dressed seven defensemen tonight while New Jersey had five. Mirco Mueller took a hard hit into the boards in the first and did not return to the game. He was seen in an arm sling after the game and will be re-evaluated tomorrow. He’s been playing well as of late so here’s to hoping that he’s okay.
Overall, it was not a pretty win but it was still a win nonetheless. Their defensive game needs a ton of work. Kinkaid really didn’t have a ton of help in front of the night tonight despite 29 blocked shots but he was able to get the job done.
The Devils were able to come into a very, very tough environment and leave with a win. They didn’t stop fighting after going down 4-1 in the first and did the improbable. They’re a different team this year and they’re exciting to watch. They’ll be able to sustain a high level of speed and skill throughout the season, especially during grueling stretches of games.
New Jersey and Chicago will meet again on December 23 at the Rock; the Devils will be back in action against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre on Thursday.