GameStoryGRAPHIC 1.19.24

COLUMBUS, OH - John Marino started it and then Alexander Holtz, Nico Hischier and Nathan Bastian called it a comeback.

The Devils scored four unanswered goals in the second period to skate past the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday night.

A four-goal second period turned the game on its head after trailing by one after 20 minutes. New Jersey leaves Columbus with a 4-1 win and two very important points, against a Metropolitan Division team.

The Devils gave up the opening goal of the game for the 30th time this season, but the team kept their composure as they got their chances, before opening up the game in the second.

“We’ve been doing that unfortuantely the whole year,” Marino said post-game, “We had a lot of chances in the first, 2-on-1 the first shift, but we just weren’t able to score, but to have that resilience and stick with it too, especially after how we started last game it says a lot.”

At the time of publication, the Devils' 49 points put them two points shy of both the first and second Wild Card spot, held by Detroit and Tampa with 51 points respectively.

Marino scored 28 seconds into the second period to start the offensive output, quieting the crowd at Nationwide Arena.

Alexander Holtz doubled the Devils goal output with a tip-in shot from a Cal Foote feed, Hischier’s wrist shot beat Merzlikins cleanly and Bastian used his net-front presence to tip in the Devils fourth goal.

The Blue Jackets made a push in the third period, including seven shots in the first four minutes, but all pucks were thwarted away by Vitek Vanecek, whose only goal against was the first shot of the night. With their 4-1 lead, New Jersey dialed in their defensive smarts in front of their netminder to preserve the three-goal lead. The Blue Jackets thought they had a goal go by Vanecek late in the third, but the play was called back for an off-side review by the Devils coaching staff.

Vanecek made 28 saves on 29 shots, turning away every shot but the first one he faced. 

“Big props for him," Hischier said, "First shot on net, we get scored on. But it’s a great shot, a quick release that I don’t there’s a lot to do as a goalie. (Vanecek) sticks with it, doesn’t let himself get beat a second time the whole game and he made some huge saves, he really played well for us and he was a big reason for us tonight why we won the game.”

Cole Sillinger had the lone goal for Columbus.

The Devils take the season series with Columbus 3-1.

New Jersey defeats Columbus 4-1

Full Highlights: Devils 4, Blue Jackets 1
Devils Post-Game Interviews: Hischier | Holtz | Marino

Here are some observations from the game:

• The four-goal second period was the fourth time this season that the Devils have put up four or more goals on their opponent in a single season.

• With Brendan Smith having been lost to injury, there is an imbalance in left and right-shot defensemen on the roster. That has forced Lindy Ruff and his coaching staff to play some of his veteran defensemen on their offside. John Marino moved up to play with Simon Nemec in the game against the Canadiens and was paired on his off side again tonight. Against Montreal, the two struggled, on the ice for all three Habs goals, trying to find their way as a new pairing.

On Friday night, the two found more of a groove, connecting for the Devils opening goal. Lindy Ruff talked this morning about defensemen playing on their off side taking some time to adjust and Marino and Nemec played a much more sound game against Columbus.

“I thought overall a better game,” Ruff said of his top defensive pairing, “They seemed a little bit more comfortable. I liked the defense, the way they played. I thought Bahl and Foote played a heck of a game together, stayed inside their own game and didn’t really put a lot of risk in it and made some good offensive plays.”

Marino opened the scoring, off a pass from Nemec. Marino bid his time, finding his spot, dancing high up above the circles, and finding his opening before letting a shot boom through the slot and behind Merzlikins. The goal was Marino’s third of the season and Nemec’s assist was his eighth of the year.

• Dissecting the four-goal second period, the Devils put their practice session from Thursday to work. The coaching staff emphasized taking away the opposing goaltender’s eyes as part of their drills, as well as causing more disruption in front of the goaltenders. The Devils executed in all those areas against Columbus. Both Marino and Hischier’s goals came from a far out, while Holtz and Bastian played it closer to the crease.

Timo Meier created the perfect screen off the rush on Merzlikins as Hischier wound up his shot, picking and hitting his shot high, glove-side, while Marino took a perfect shot through traffic that entered the net cleanly.

“I think on a couple of goals, even when the one goal where Bratter gets to the net-front, a great play by Bahler to get the puck in, but to get inside the paint, just make yourself a target, whether it hits Bastian’s stick or goes off a skate, the fact that that we had the traffic makes that really tough on the goaltender," Ruff shared.

• Kevin Bahl’s assist on Nathan Bastian’s goal was his sixth assist of the season, matching a career-high set just last year.

• Cal Foote earned his first point of the year with his primary assist, a cross-ice pass to Alexander Holtz, on the Devils' second goal.

• The Devils conceded the first goal of the game for the 30th time this season, playing from behind early against the Jackets. Cole Sillingers slap shot wired past Vitek Vanecek on the Blue Jackets’ opening shot of the game.

• Santeri Hatakka, who was called up from Utica on Thursday, skated in warmups but did not play. Adding Hatakka to the Devils’ roster gives New Jersey another left-hand shot defenseman, with a current abundance of right-hand shots.

The Devils celebrate the induction of Sergei Brylin into the Devils Ring of Honor on Saturday night when New Jersey hosts the Dallas Stars. You can watch on MSGSN or listen on the Devils Hockey Network. Puck drop is 7:16 p.m. ET.