The New Jersey Devils got good help from a 21-year-old player and turned things around from their worst game this season. That same team also made it a lot more difficult for the Pittsburgh Penguins to get into the Stanley Cup playoffs for the seventeenth year in a row.
Dawson Mercer got three goals in a row, Vitek Vanecek stopped 22 shots and the Devils team beat the Penguins 5-1 on Tuesday. This put the Penguins out of a place in the Eastern Conference championships with only four more games left this season. That’s just two days after they lost 6-1 to Winnipeg.
After scoring his 27th goal so far this season, Mercer said, “We wanted to make sure we were really ready for this game so it wouldn’t be like the last one. We did great and got an early lead. Then, we kept pushing and doing our best.”
The Devils scored two goals thanks to Dougie Hamilton and Timo Meier. They’re only three points behind Carolina, who won an overtime game against Ottawa but they’ve played one more game than the Devils.
It’s very likely that when playoffs happen, the Devils might get first round home-field advantage over their rivals, the Rangers.
“We really want to keep playing, so we have to just focus on one game at a time,” said Devils coach Lindy Ruff. “If we can stay in control of our future, then that would be awesome.”
Meanwhile, the Florida Panthers won against the Buffalo and tied up with New York Islanders for two wild cards (special spots) in East play. The Panthers earned one point more than Pittsburgh Pirates who they can’t play against since they each have only four games left.
Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said that his team made lots of errors during their game against a skilled opponent, resulting in them having just 4 wins out of the last 11 games.
Sullivan mentioned that, although they lost, there are still valuable lessons to be taken from it and he encourages them to keep trying. He added that, despite their current situation, they’re still in the fight.
Bryan Rust scored his 20th goal of the season and broke up Vanecek’s chance to get his fourth shutout this season, 6:14 in the third period. Tristan Jarry had 32 saves for the Penguins, who have been making it to playoffs consistently for 16 years – which is the longest amount of consecutive times among all major sports leagues in North America.
Although they were outshot and they had to protect themselves against two Penguins power plays, the Devils still got a 2-0 lead in the first period with goals from Hamilton and Mercer.
Meier scored during a power play situation in the 2nd period, when Jack Hughes gave him a great pass! Mercer then scored just before the end of that frame by backhanding it after Jarry couldn’t catch the point shot.
Mercer finished up his hat trick quickly in the third period, when Jarry made a great save on a 4-on-1 rush. Nico pounced on the rebound and passed it over to Mercer, who slotted it into an empty net. Everyone threw down their hats and Mercer was ecstatic – beaming with joy!
Mercer said he had been finding success with his position near the ‘net’. He then explained that Hischier helped him score a goal by starting a 2-on-1 rush.
The Devils swept the four games played against Pittsburgh this season, meaning they won all four. This was the first time New Jersey was undefeated in three or more games against Pittsburgh since 2009-10 when they won every match.In one of the matches, Penguins defender Brian Dumoulin got a huge hit from Michael McLeod behind the Penguins’ net but he came back after that.
Next, Penguin’s are playing Minnesota on Thursday night while Devils will face Blue Jackets on the same day.
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