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Recap: New Jersey holds on to win 7-5 in an explosive game

Win streak once again stopped at six.

New Jersey Devils v Colorado Avalanche Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images

One of the last Eastern Conference teams in the New Jersey Devils was in town to kick off a very busy month of March schedule for the Colorado Avalanche. An at times entertaining game with offensive fireworks ensued but New Jersey ended up on top with a 7-5 victory.

The Game

After several quick starts in a row it was the opponent’s turn to get on the board early in the game. Ondrej Palat was the recipient of a pass in the slot along with loose coverage beat Avalanche netminder Justus Annunen getting his third career start just 67 seconds after puck drop and gave the Devils a lead.

More mistakes compiled when the Devils scored their second goal of the game as Nathan Bastian shoved the puck into the net along with Annunen’s pad at 7:52. The contact was enough to force Jared Bednar to challenge the goal with the hope of getting goaltender interference ruled in their favor. That was not the case as the goal was upheld and the Avalanche went on the penalty kill, which they successfully killed off.

Unfortunately the Devils were not done striking in the period as they got another goal on the board at 11:27 with some nifty cross ice passing and then a pretty wide open cage left by Annunen in which Tomas Tatar took advantage of as he was left uncovered as well.

New Jersey wouldn’t get out of the period with a three-goal lead, however. With 14 seconds left on the clock Nathan MacKinnon got a puck past Vitek Vanecek with a great screen in front. After numerous forced plays this one worked to perfection to give the Avalanche a little life after 20 minutes of play.

Momentum did not carry over through intermission as the Devils put their foot on the gas and scored twice more to open the second period. At 3:13 Dougie Hamilton found himself open in the slot and scored the fourth New Jersey goal. Miles Wood took advantage of a power play with a similar shot uncovered in the slot at 5:53 to extend the lead to 5-1.

The Avalanche were all but done at this point but Mikko Rantanen wasn’t satisfied with only 40 goals and potted his 41st at 7:42 on a timely pass from Josh Manson. At 9:00 MacKinnon received a slick feed from Bowen Byram and the Avalanche were back in the game. Only 36 seconds later JT Compher buried the biscuit on a rush and suddenly the Avs were within one goal. Three goals in just over two minutes showed just how explosive this Avalanche offense can be.

The Devils had one more goal in them during the second frame with red hot Dawson Mercer finding the back of the net on a puck that snuck through the crease at 16:59. A wild game already was at a 6-4 score, what could the third period have in store?

The final frame started in Colorado’s favor with Val Nichushkin scoring the team’s fifth goal to get the game within one less than two minutes into the period. After pulling Vanecek from the game New Jersey challenged for offside but the goal was upheld. Thus the Avalanche received a power play but couldn’t find the equalizer. The failed opportunity seemed to take some wind out of their sails as the pace of the game slowed and the Devils played good defensive hockey. The Avalanche tried to tie the game with the extra attacker but New Jersey got their seventh goal into the empty net fairly quickly and the final score was 7-5 Devils.


It was a chaotic game from the start between two teams who could lack defensive coverage at times and score at will but the inexperience of Justus Annunen in net could have made the difference. Spencer Martin was never seen from again for less in the 48 point season so it will depend how much patience the organization has with Annunen and his inconsistencies.

Newest acquisition Lars Eller arrived in Denver just before warmups and he played like it. Given the chaotic nature of the game plus the obvious whirlwind of a day and little prep time Eller endured it’s tough to get a handle exactly on what he might be able to provide in this lineup. He played 14:28, took 13 face-offs and generated a shot on goal plus a couple shifts on the penalty kill, which all does point to a third line center type of role.

Bowen Byram’s time on ice continues to climb. In this contest he played nearly 28 minutes which eclipsed Devon Toews by five minutes at even strength. Josh Manson had an awkward tumble at the end of the third period and didn’t return. With Cale Makar’s status still up in the air the carousel at defense could continue turning but Byram has been there to play a major role on this team’s back end.

Now the trade deadline looms large in a little over a day. With five trades already executed it seems the shopping list (and bingo card) has been satisfied but will there be a surprise in store?


The start of another back-to-back this weekend on Saturday, March 4th at the home of the Dallas Stars. Puck drop at 1:30 p.m. MT nationally televised on ABC.