New Jersey Devils Penalty Kill Saves Season Again

New Jersey Devils center Nico Hischier (13): Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports
New Jersey Devils center Nico Hischier (13): Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports /

The New Jersey Devils finally got a signature win on their record in December. After a dreadful run where they felt like they had the upper hand only to lose, the Devils survived the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday night. Earlier in the season, the Devils were winning thanks to multiple units coming together. Friday was not that. The penalty kill won the team this game.

What does a game where a team faces nine power plays looks like? It’s nearly impossible to kill nine penalties, especially against a power play as good as the Penguins. They score on about one in four power plays. Yet, the Devils lapped that number two and a half times without allowing one.

Not only did the Devils avoid giving up a power play goal, they scored a shorthanded goal. Nico Hischier sniped the puck past Tristan Jarry, showing he still has an incredible scoring touch.

We also have to give flowers to Vitek Vanecek. The Penguins sent 12 shots his way on the power play, and they had seven high-danger chances (including five from Rickard Rickell alone). They were getting huge chances, but Vanecek would not let them convert. While he’s been shaky compared to his early-season self, he’s stepped up in the last few games, and it finally led to a win.

Coming into this game, the Devils had the ninth-best penalty kill unit in the league. They stopped their opponents a little over 81% of the time. After Friday night, they jumped three teams (including the Pittsburgh Penguins) and are now sixth in the league in team PK.

Just look at the players who took the brunt of the penalty kill. Damon Severson was the player of the game on Friday night. No, he didn’t score, but he played a ridiculous 12 minutes, stopping the Penguins’ power play unit. Jonas Siegenthaler played more than 10 minutes (although he allowed a lot more chances than his counterpart).

Six different forwards had more than three minutes of ice time on the PK. Hischier, like a true captain, led everyone with close to seven minutes of PK ice time.

Did we mention the Devils did this without John Marino and Ryan Graves? Two great penalty killers aren’t on the team due to injury, and the team still gutted out a win.

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This was a much-needed win for the Devils. The December slide took a turn that has them plummeting down the standings. However, if the Devils lost, they would have been tied with the Penguins in the standings. They already lost a ton of ground to the Carolina Hurricanes, who they face on New Year’s Day. Losing their standing to the Penguins would be a gut punch to end the year.