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Hoping for a Brighter 2020 Vision (Better the Devils You Know; 12.31.19)

Robert Cole/ALOST

akoiki-passport2 – by Adesina O. Koiki
A Lot of Sports Talk editor-in-chief

 

NEWARK, N.J. — More than any other team in the National Hockey League, the New Jersey Devils could not wait to flip the calendar and officially mark the end of what turned out to be a disappointing 2019. At least they closed out the decade with a win that, the Devils hope, can spring a more positive atmosphere — as well as more positive outcomes — when the ball drops across the Hudson to usher in 2020.

Defenseman Damon Severson scored in the sixth round of the shootout as the Devils closed out their calendar year with a 3-2 victory over the Boston Bruins at the Prudential Center on Tuesday. Mackenzie Blackwood stopped 28 shots as New Jersey came back from a 2-0 deficit to win their second straight game.

“Everyone competes all the time,” Blackwood said after the game. “Whether we get down a goal or two, everyone plays the same way. I think we’re really starting to learn how to win, and what it takes to play the right way.”

Devils players and fans alike were expecting much more of what happened today in 2019, coming off a surprise playoff appearance in the 2017-18 campaign. However, 2018-19 became a lost year when a promising start to the season gave way to a string of poor results and, eventually, the loss of 2018 Hart Trophy winner Taylor Hall for the rest of the season due to injury.

The summer of this year was spent on bolstering the roster with proven NHL commodities in an attempt to both vault the team back to contention and convince Hall, a free agent at the end of the season, to sign a longterm deal with the Devils. New Jersey went on to lose their first six games of the season and have resided in the Metropolitan Division basement ever since.

On Dec. 16, Hall was traded to the Arizona Coyotes for two first-round picks and three prospects. Earlier in the month, New Jersey fired head coach John Hynes and replaced him with interim head coach Alain Nasreddine.

Despair and disappointment have marked the year, though it is ending in promising fashion for New Jersey; the Devils have won three of their last four games, with the only loss in that span a shootout defeat at the hands of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Despair and disappointment have marked the year, though it is ending in promising fashion for New Jersey; the Devils have won three of their last four games, with the only loss in that span a shootout defeat at the hands of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

“This is a new group with a lot of new faces,” Blackwood said. “Everyone has each other’s back and no one has any quit in them.”

Severson’s goal capped a two-goal comeback, as a second-period tally from Blake Coleman and third-period goal from Jesper Bratt evened the the score after Boston took a two-goal lead. Severson’s goal came in the sixth round of the shootout — and after the Devils’ Jack Hughes and Bruins’ Chris Wagner both scored in the round prior — when he sent a backhand above the blocker of Bruins goalkeeper Jaroslav Halak and into the roof of the net.

“I figured if I could make a good fake and go backhand and get it upstairs, I’d have a better chance to score,” said Severson, who made only his sixth shootout appearance in his six-year career. “Ultimately, it went in. That was a big one. It felt good.”

Boston jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in the first period, taking advantage of a P.K. Subban interference penalty 77 seconds into the game. Brad Marchand scored his 20th of the season on the power play at 2:03, a goal which made Marchand just the fifth Bruin in history to record at least nine 20-goal seasons.

Joakim Nordstrom scored at 4:27 of the second to give Boston a 2-0 lead, and Halak stood tall all game by making 42 saves — including stopping 18 of 19 Devils’ shots in the third period.

“You get a 2-0 lead on the road; typically we’ve been able to handle those situations well but not tonight,” said Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. “We leave with a point, but no one is satisfied in there. It just looks better tomorrow in the standings.”

*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Tuesday’s game, with all photos taken by ALOST senior photographer Robert Cole. After clicking on the first photo to enlarge the picture, make sure to press the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the rest of the pictures. There are 27 pictures in total.

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