The New Jersey Devils and Pittsburgh Penguins met for the final time in the 2020-2021 season. New Jersey has allowed five-plus goals in the previous two matchups against the Penguins. However, Devils’ number one goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood will be back after a minor injury kept him out for two games. The Penguins will give Casey DeSmith the nod in the net after using Tristan Jarry in the two previous matchups against New Jersey. The Devils will look to be put an end to their 8-game losing streak.
The Devils would look to avoid another very early goal and try and play a consistent three periods. The first half of the period showed organized and controlled play by both teams. No team registered high-quality chances in the first ten minutes. After the even play, Jeff Carter would bury a loose puck from the hash marks after a broken play. The Penguins would take the lead over New Jersey 1-0. Then, Andreas Johnsson would take an unnecessary tripping call against Kasperi Kapanen to give Pittsburgh their first powerplay. Jared McCann would get one by Blackwood after a rebound left him with an open net. The Penguins would be up 2-0 on the Devils with New Jersey looking worse throughout the period. Though the Devils registered 14 shots in the first period, none were great scoring chances. Pittsburgh would fire 15 shots in the first.
The beginning minute of the second had the Devils on a powerplay after a Bryan Rust holding penalty towards the end of the first period. New Jersey showed good puck movement, but would not get quality chances. Only three minutes later, Rust would go back to the penalty box after another holding call. Similar to the Devils’ first powerplay, the unit would move the puck well but not fire good chances on net. After Rust left the penalty box, he would score the Penguins’ third goal after a double deflection got past Blackwood. At 12:15 into the second, Jack Hughes would bury a goal on an open net. Yegor Sharangovich and Will Butcher would be credited with the assists. The second period would end with the Devils down two and trailing shots 26-23.
Like the first period, the opening minutes were subdued and quiet. Both teams would get decent shots on net but not score. The play was even and one team was not tilting the ice or outplaying the other team. 10:58 into the period, Miles Wood would finish a beautiful passing play with Ryan Murray and Damon Severson to get the Devils within one goal. Unfortunately, New Jersey would have a tough time getting set in the Penguins zone and not be able to get more quality chances. With a minute to go in the game, Blackwood headed to the bench for an extra skater. With ten seconds remaining, Hughes would send Nico Hischier a beautiful pass in the slot that would go centimeters wide. Sidney Crosby would pick up the loose puck and score on the empty net with .02 seconds left.
The Devils would now be on a 9-game losing skid with nine games remaining in their season. Like the previous games, New Jersey would dig a hole that would be too much to climb out of. In most of the games in Pittsburgh, the Devils would get better as the game went on. The young squad was not able to finish chances and had their opponents take advantage of their plentiful mistakes. Another issue that arose in the games in Pittsburgh was the lack of consistent goaltending by their backup goalies. Scott Wedgewood and Aaron Dell would both get pulled in a game each and let in easy goals for Pittsburgh. The rest of the season will consist of chances for young players and hopefully adding points to players’ totals. The Devils travel to Philadelphia to play the Flyers on Sunday.