Hurricanes score two in the first and two in the third on their way to a 5-2 win over the Devils on Valentine's Day
RALEIGH, NC - The Devils started out strong on the road in Carolina but some unfortunate bounces in the first period followed by the home team picking up the pace from the second period onward spelled a 5-2 defeat on Friday night.
In his first game as a Devil and second career NHL game, Nick Merkley picked up his first career point, assisting on a goal by Joey Anderson, who himself netted his first point of the season with the Devils.
The Devils return home for a game on Sunday, which is PK Subban's Subbanator Bobblehead night. The game can be seen on MSG+ and heard on the Devils Hockey Network, including right here at NewJerseyDevils.com. Puck drop is 8:08 p.m. ET.
Thirty seconds after an early penalty to the Hurricanes expired, Carolina went on the attack. Nino Nieddereiter one-timed a blast from the right point past Devils starting goaltender Louis Domingue to put the home team on the board. The goal came on Carolina's first shot of the game after four by New Jersey.
Just over three minutes later, the Devils completed a nice three-way passing play when Travis Zajac spotted Mirco Mueller in front of the net for an easy tap-in to tie the game up at 1-1
"The first period was good. We got to our game plan but I don't think we competed long enough and hard enough to give ourselves a chance to win. We started to go off on our own page and that's what caused the disconnection and things like that. It wasn't a great last 40," said Devils forward Kyle Palmieri.
Shots on goal were 9-2 Devils past the opening period's midway point but Carolina moved back in front when Warren Foegele shot the puck through traffic past a screened Domingue.
Hurricanes scored on two of their first three shots in the game, but Palmieri said goaltending wasn't the reason the team was behind early despite carrying the play.
"It happens," he said. "It's one of those things, you saw what happened with us in Philly the other night. They were all over us and all of a sudden we were up 5-0 in the third. The first period, I thought we generated a lot of good looks. We were doing what we set out to do and were planning to do in order to be successful but we didn't do it for long enough."
After one, shots on goal ended up 11-8 for the Devils.
Blake Coleman was called for holding to give the Hurricanes their first power play of the game a minute into the second period. Devils were able to kill that off, however.
In a period in which they dominated, Carolina was finally able to increase its lead with just over six minutes to play in the second. Andrei Svechnikov tapped in a tic-tac-toe passing play which included a one-time pass over to Svechnikov from Teuvo Teravainen.
Shots on goal after two were 22-19 for the Hurricanes; 14-8 Carolina in the second.
Martin Necas tipped a shot from the point past Domingue to extend the Hurricanes lead to 4-1 1:44 into the third.
"They made a push late in that period. Second period we seemed disconnected. Our forecheck was disconnected. Puck decisions were not the best," noted Devils head coach Alain Nasreddine.
"In the third period, effort was there. Some of the mistakes we made were costly. You can't afford to have a breakaway or putting it in your own net although it happens."
Shots on goal were 25-22 Carolina with just over 11 minutes to play.
With 7:32 to go in the third, Miles Wood broke in alone and his backhand attempt was denied. He was slashed on the play by Joel Edmundson, resulting in a Devils power play.
Domingue made a few big stops while shorthanded. The biggest came on a Jordan Staal breakaway.
Coming out of the box, Edmundson had a breakaway. His initial shot was stopped by Domingue but he put the rebound home to make it 5-1.
Twenty-one seconds later, Joey Anderson received a cross-ice pass from Nick Merkley and wired it blocker side past Mrazek. It was the first career NHL point for Merkley.
"Building some confidence throughout. Started to feel better as the game went on. Felt lucky on the nice pass to Ando and he buried it," said Merkley after the game, adding that a big hit he had early on really helped get him involved. "It's a good way to start every game. Give a hit and get hit. I think that was a key to getting confidence in the game."
Coach Nasreddine added he really liked what he saw from Merkley as well.
"He stood out. He competed. He worked. Hard on the puck. I really liked his game. That line was really effective all night long. They kept it in the offensive zone, really simple."
Shots in the third were 18-9 for the Devils; 37-31 overall in the game for New Jersey.