The Devils persevered to win in the seventh round of a shootout.
NEWARK, NJ- The Devils persevered to beat the Columbus Blue Jackets in a shootout, 4-3. Columbus opened the scoring with two goals in the first. The Devils responded with three goals in the second. Columbus tied in the third period to send the game to overtime. With neither team scoring in overtime, the game went to a shootout. In the seventh round of the shootout, Jesper Bratt scored and Mackenzie Blackwood's save gave the Devils the win.
"It wasn't an easy day, but first period you could tell, the emotion and we worked but there was something missing," said Devils Interim Head Coach Alain Nasreddine. "Second period I like the way we came out, and obviously with the three goals. Third period, not exactly how you want to close out a game but you know at the end of the day, we found a way to win the game."
"The team has no quit. Doesn't matter what the score is, we're going to keep playing," said Blackwood. "As long as we find a way to kind of settle things down we know we'll be alright, we'll just keep playing."
The Devils young core stood out against the Blue Jackets. Joey Anderson and Nick Merkley both scored in the win and got the Devils on the board in the second period.
"It's nice we're building some chemistry, hopefully we can keep that going," said Merkley after the game. "It's nice to get some production the last two games."
Nick Merkley goal was his first NHL goal. Merkley was originally scratched but due to the team holding and trading Blake Coleman during the game, he was put in the lineup this afternoon and had an impact for the second straight game.
"[Merkley] followed up on his last performance which was really nice to see from him," said Nasreddine about Merkley. "That whole line was very effective tonight. They played the right way, they played simple, they played direct north hockey, they compete. They got those pucks back, and they played in the offensive zone for a good portion of the game."
"We had some lines going, Merkley, Anderson, Rooney those guys kind of got it started for us, and they played with a lot of energy tonight," said Travis Zajac following the win. "It was good for them to get us back in it and get some positive energy going."
Columbus started strong, scoring two goals during the first period within a span of four minutes. Andrew Peeke got his first NHL goal when he got the rebound of Sonny Milano's shot and roofed it against Blackwood.
A few minutes later Zach Werenski would make it 2-0 for the visitors. Werenski got the rebound of a shot and fired it on net from above the circle, going short side to get past the Devils netminder.
The Devils would respond quickly with two goals in the first four minutes of the second period, both by recent call ups for the Devils. First, Joey Anderson scored on a feed from Kevin Rooney off the rush. Then Nick Merkley scored his first NHL goal just minutes later. Rooney's shot on goal bounced off Columbus goaltender Elvis Merzlikins to Merkley who shot high and scored.
The Devils would take the lead in the final ten minutes of the second period with a goal from Kyle Palmieri. Jesper Bratt fought to get the puck across the blue line, fed it back to Nico Hischier who set up a streaking Palmieri. Palmieri's quick shot hit the crossbar and bounced left corner.
Columbus tied it up with 11:15 left in regulation. Oliver Bjorkstrand passed to a streaking Kevin Stenlund, who's shot from the slot passed Blackwood. Neither team was able to score in the final ten minutes of regulation, sending the game to overtime, tied at 3.
Mackenzie Blackwood stopped 50 out of the 53 shots he faced from the Blue Jackets in regulation.
In overtime, the Devils had several close opportunities and held the advantage in possession time. However, neither team was able to score and the game went to a shootout.
The shootout went to extra rounds until Jesper Bratt scored and Blackwood came up with a save to give the Devils a win at home.
Although the Devils won their game against Columbus, the win was bittersweet as two big pieces in New Jersey's lineup were traded Sunday.
Devils Captain Andy Greene was traded to the Islanders for a second round draft pick and David Quenneville at 4 p.m ET. Blake Coleman was traded at 8 p.m. ET, during the third period, to Tampa Bay for a Nolan Foote and a first round pick.
"It's kind of an emotional day for all of us. We lost two big parts of our team," said Mackenzie Blackwood after the game. "Especially you know Andy, he's been a leader here in the room for ever since I've been here, and someone I looked up to. He's a piece of this room that I'm going to miss. Especially I'll miss Coleman for sure, he's a really good guy, we played together in Albany in my first year. I've watched him develop into the man he is today, which is pretty cool."
Travis Zajac reflected post-game on the impact Andy Greene had for the Devils organization.
"Its tough, I spent 14 years with him, it's tough to see him go," said Zajac. "It's the time of year, but it doesn't make it easier. He's been a great leader for us, I think you saw the first period, we were a little sportic and not there, and he's a guy that's when he's on the ice, everything calms down."
"Those two guys [Coleman and Greene] have a big impact on our club, so with them being gone before the game, I thought our leaders did a really good job [Simmonds, Zajac, Subban], they took over the room and made sure the guys were going to be ready," said Nasreddine. "So that was really good for our team today."
Zajac expanded on what he said to the team ahead of the game, after learning the trade news.
"We have a job to do, we can talk about it after, but we have to control what we can control and that's going out and trying to win a hockey game," said Zajac.
The Devils will travel to St. Louis on Monday to continue their Father's Trip, and will face the Blues on Tuesday. Game time is set for 8 p.m. ET.