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1st round

Hamilton made the first shot on the Devils’ goal. Moments later, Hughes made a nice move on Ekblad on the far boards. The Panthers then had a good move, including a tip that was just wide. The Devils were 3-for-2 otherwise. Marino passed to Wood, who fired it in. Marino tried to hit home, but Bobrovsky’s pitch was there. Lomberg had a chance otherwise, but Smith came back to split it, though he took a questionable strike call. Reinhart crossed to Tkachuk for the open net. 1-0 Panthers. (Later the gate was changed to Reinhart, I think it deviated from the devil rather than Tkachuk). Lomberg got behind the defense again and this time Graves stopped him without a penalty. Hischier lost an edge trying to hit Barkov. Tkachuk and Luostarinen went 2-on-1 with Schmid stopping Luostarinen. The Devils were 2-on-1 and Hischier’s backhand was off Bob’s mask. The Panthers had a 2-on-1 and Hamilton blocked Reinhart and knocked the ball away. The Devils went 2-on-1, but Hughes’ pass bounced just over Haula’s stick. Schmid made a glove save on Verhege with 22 seconds left.

2nd period

Barkow wasn’t there to start the period when he received an accidental cross-check by Hischier on a knee outside the final faceoff of the first period. “Panthers” were not happy about it in this period. The Devils iced the jump shortly after the layup. Wood won the next puck and McLeod pounced on a nice center pass from Zetterlund. Tatar focused on Hamilton on OZ’s next shift and he hit the post. The Devils got their first power play with Staal on a cross-check. The Panthers went 2-on-1 in the first 10 seconds. Hughes has a minute focused on Zetterlund and Bob hits wide. Hamilton made a pass to Holtz and he fanned the one timer. Forsling cleared for PP to go down in its final seconds. Panthers killed. With 12:10 left, Forsling drove into the circle from the point and his shot bounced off Schmid’s glove and past, 2-0 Florida. Mercer had a wide open hole and his shot was blocked by Denisenko. The Devils went 3-on-2 a few minutes later and Haula hit a shot wide. Hughes got the puck and hit a layup. Marino pounced on the point and he scored. The referee called a good goal, but Bobrovsky immediately complained. Mercer had clipped his skate and brought him down, but Staal appeared to push him and the contact was outside the blue paint. Florida challenged. The referees determined that the contact was due to a good goal by Staal. Power play Devils. The power play wasn’t very good. Panthers kill. Sharangovic had a chance for about 4 minutes and shot wide. Haula, Boqvist and Holtz were 3-for-2, and Haula’s shot may have gone high, but it looked like Bobrovsky got some of it anyway. With less than a minute left, Reinhart deflected Ekblad’s shot past Schmid. The Devils had a chance to clear, but Hischier lost the stick and the attempted cleanup bounced off him and stayed inside.

3rd period

The Devils started the third well with a great shift. Holtz’s line had the next shift and he scored. Šarangović, Boqvist and Holz came out and Holz had a chance at the front but was robbed by Bobrovsky. The Panthers controlled the next pair of shifts and then Hughes set up Bratt, but Verhege blocked the shot. Stahl had a chance, and Schmid stopped him. Hamilton tried to clear the puck, but it bounced off Ziegenthaler’s skate and into the open net. Ziegenthaler recovered and spun around and cleaned up the puck at the last second. 9 minutes left for Denisenko’s goal post. McLeod had a chance up front and a scrum followed and the Devils finished on the power play. With 32 seconds left, Hamilton was called for interference as Staal slid back into him. Terrible call and that ends the pp. Panthers PP was quiet. After the finish, McLeod looked like he was going to go for a block, changed direction and then focused on Haula, who scored his second goal of the season to cut the deficit in half. Schmid left the goal with 2 minutes left. The Devils had some chances. Wood hit a point on Hamilton’s goal. Marino was taken down along the boards without a call. The puck was cleared of icing. The Devils called a timeout. The Panthers got off the snap and cleared the ball, and Verhegge scored an empty net goal. With less than a minute to go, the Devils emptied the net again. Hughes set up McLeod for an open net, but he hit the shot wide. Panthers ice. The final seconds ticked away and the Panthers were up 4-2. Closed game, unsuccessful result.

Who deserved to win?

This was a very close game. Expected goals are almost perfect, even if you don’t include ENG, which I don’t think should be factored into deciding who deserves to win. Expected goals are again nice even at only 5-5, but given the venue, the Panthers were better. I think the deserved win o’meter includes ENG, but it gave the Panthers the win in 55% of the simulations. With this information and the fact that Barkov only played 1 period, I give Florida a very slight edge, but it was still a very close game and the Devils fought hard against an empty net.

Severson was scratched

Lindy Ruff scratched Damon Severson after a bad giveaway tonight that could have cost them at least a point against the Flyers. It didn’t seem like a good decision, though, as the Devils went down on a couple of 2-on-1s early in the game. The game was close and having Severson playing with Bahl could be an advantage for them. Smith and Bahl were both below 40% xG, with Smith at a team-low 31%. I think Severson should be back in the lineup next game.

It’s time to go back

The Devils started on fire and that put them in a very good position. They had a rough stretch for a few games, but the game against Philly and yesterday’s game was a good response. They didn’t win, but they played well in both. They won some games they shouldn’t have during the streak, and you’re always going to lose some games you deserve to win to balance things out. Perhaps the toughest Game 7 of the year begins tonight. They play the Panthers again, Carolina twice, Boston twice and the Penguins. Pittsburgh and Carolina have nearly matched the Devils’ .710 hitting percentage, while Boston remains the No. 1 team in the league with 50 points. If there’s a time to play high-level hockey, it’s the next 6 games. Neither of these teams will be easy to beat, and you don’t want to let big points slip here on a losing streak. The Devils have a chance to win, but only if they perform at their best.

I’m not worried at all though. The last two games have been pretty good, and the 13-game winning streak has, again, put them in a great spot. Losing Bastian for an extended period of time isn’t great, but Palat should be back in a few weeks and that would be a nice boost for this team. Don’t forget we get Luke Hughes when the NCAA season is over.

One last thought, Erik Haula finally scored his second goal of the year. I’m happy for him and hope this is the start of better luck for him. He has 7.85 individual expected goals and only 2 actual goals.

Your thoughts

What did you think of the game? Thinking about the next 6 games? What did you think about benching Severson? Leave your thoughts in the comments below and thanks for reading.

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