SUNRISE, FL - On Saturday night, Game 82 of the regular season, the Devils propelled themselves over the Florida Panthers in a 4-3 victory. Rookie Nathan Bastian had the first two-goal game of his career, Pavel Zacha added a goal of his own to mark his 22nd birthday and the penalty kill was perfect yet again. The Panthers made a game of it after scoring the equalizer with less than two minutes to play in regulation.
Travis Zajac scored seconds into overtime to seal the deal and end the season on a high.
Here are 10 takeaways from the game:
1. It took all of 1:27 for New Jersey to take the lead on the Florida Panthers. Nathan Bastian, playing in a Top-6 role cashed in off a beautiful pass by Nico Hischier. Bastian's second career NHL goal and second career NHL point put New Jersey up 1-0 on the Panthers.
Will Butcher made the play at the blueline to thread the puck through two Florida Panthers and connect with Hischier. Nico then had to fight off defenseman Aaron Ekblad, raising his stick to create room for himself before feeding the puck to Bastian cross-ice for the goal.
2. The two assists went to Hischier and Butcher marking significant point totals. For Hischier the assist was the 99th point of his NHL career, while Butcher reaches the 30-point mark this year on his 26th assist.
3. The Devils took that 1-0 lead on the Panthers into the second period, despite only four shots on goal after 20 minutes of play. Bastian's goal was the Devils third shot of the period, after opening with two in quick succession in the game's opening 26 seconds.
Blake Coleman took a shot moments after Bastian's goal for the Devils final shot of the period with 18:08 to play. New Jersey was outshot 12-to-4 by the Panthers after being unable to register a shot after the opening 1:52 of the game.
4. Bastian wasn't quite done with his first-period goal, he would add a second goal at 7:41 of the second period to put New Jersey up 2-0. The goal, Bastian's third of his career, caps a milestone night for his first two-goal and two-point performance in his career. Bastian was playing in just his seventh career game.
Plenty of credit should go to fellow rookie Egor Yakovlev. The Russian defender had the presence of mind to rip a shot from below the circle into the crease where Bastian was standing for the redirect. It was Yakovlev's fifth assist of the season and seventh career NHL point in his 25th game. Yakovlev had not played since March 21st.
Blake Coleman was credited with the secondary assist, his 14th of the year to bring his season point total to a career-best 36.
5. Pavel Zacha celebrated his birthday in style, scoring what might be the best-looking goal we've seen from the now-22-year old.
Zacha had just spent the prior two-minutes in the penalty box on a holding call and came flying through center ice once he was set free to scoop up a pass from Joey Anderson at the half-wall. Zacha went one-on-one with Panthers top defenseman Aaron Ekblad and scored from 10-feet in front of Luongo with an up-and-over the pad shot. The Devils took a 3-1 lead on the play at 14:29 of the second period. Zacha continues to build on a career season in goals scored with his 13th of the year and 24th point in 61 games played.
Anderson and Kevin Rooney assisted on the goal for their seventh and 10th point respectively.
6. For Zacha, the goal marked a run of eight points in his final nine games of the season with two goals and six assists.
7. Rookie netminder Mackenzie Blackwood was in the Devils net for the season finale. Blackwood has emerged on the Devils scene this season with a 10-10-0 record after 21 starts and 23 games played. Blackwood made 26 saves against the Florida Panthers to lead the Devils to victory in their final matchup of the year, letting up just 3 goals to Florida. With his 10th victory, Blackwood becomes just the fourth different goaltender in Devils history to win 10 games in a rookie season. He joins Martin Brodeur, Sean Burke and Alain Chevrier. (Credit: NJD Radio Statistician Craig Seiden)
8. In what has been the Devils bread-and-butter for most of the season, the penalty kill came up strong yet again. New Jersey killed off two Panthers power play opportunities to go a perfect 3-for-3. It marked the 46th time this season the Devils killed off all penalties in a game.
9. Last season Nico Hischier was the sole player to play in all 82 regular season games, this year that honor goes to two defensemen. Both captain Andy Greene and his defensive partner Damon Severson suited up for the 82nd time this season, marking the first time Greene has played in every game in a season since 2015-16. For Severson, the 82 games marked the first time in his career he has played in every game as the 2018-19 season continues to be a career season for the 24-year-old.
Severson has a career-high in goals (11) and points (38). His 27 assists are just one short of his career-high of 28 in the 2016-17 season.
10. The Devils season comes to a close with Kyle Palmieri as the teams point leader. Palmieri, who finished the season injured missing the final three games of the season, registered 50 points in 74 games played to lead New Jersey. His point total was followed by Nico Hischier's 47. Travis Zajac rounded out the Top-3 with 46 points in 80 games.
Palmieri was also New Jersey's goal-leader with 27, while Blake Coleman (22) and Travis Zajac (19) rounded out the Top-3.
In assists, Hischier was the top point getter with 30 in 69 games. Zajac (27), Severson (27) and Taylor Hall (26) rounded out the Top-3.