The New Jersey Devils came out the gate with a firecracker attached to their backs, scoring within the game's first four minutes. Devils' forward Ondrej Palat delivered the early blow to the Vegas Golden Knights, but much of the game was stagnant offensively for the Devils. Despite the Golden Knights standing tall for most of the game, it was New Jersey's star defenseman Dougie Hamilton who secured victory for his team with the game-winner in overtime, 3-2.
Evaluating Nathan Bastian's Hit
Although Hamilton showed up clutch late in the game, the emphasis of the game remained elsewhere. One of the big three is Devils right-wing, Nathan Bastian, who some consider part of the best fourth line in all of hockey. Bastian is beginning to find his footing as he’s returning from injury. Prior to the injury, Bastian was averaging roughly 13 minutes per game, according to ESPN.
Bastian returned from injury playing against the Seattle Kraken and played roughly seven minutes. In his second game, Bastian suited up and played for almost 11 minutes. Against the Golden Knights, he suited up and played for 9:28, yet he managed to get into a donnybrook with Golden Knights center Brett Howden.
That said, the altercation on the ice that transpired between Bastian and Howden appeared to be more than just an altercation. Prior to the fight, some believed that the hit Bastian delivered on the boards to Howden’s teammate was dirty. Nonetheless, this fight proved not only is Bastian feeling healthier, but it defines this Devils' team to its core.
“I feel as if things happen pretty quickly out there,” Bastian stated in the post-game interview. “However, I know Howden is a good guy, and growing up I went through the draft process with him. Honestly, if he thought the hit wasn’t clean then maybe, I just answered the bell.”
The Devils’ Identity Unraveling
The NHL All-Star weekend is rapidly approaching, and the Devils are currently sitting in second place in the Metropolitan division. Lindy Ruff's team have completed more than half of their season; however, this is around the time when games begin getting tighter and teams will plow through a more condensed schedule.
“We know games are going to get tighter, we’re getting that part of the season where there’s a lot of games short period of time,” Devils HC Lindy Ruff emphasized. ” … I think where we’ve grown as a team is last year, we may have not scored a point in this game. However, we looked for that opportunities and played the game the right way.”
This Devils' team fights to the end and remains patient in close games, ultimately leading to their comfortable position within the Metro East Division. The future remains bright for the Devils as they fulfill the comeback on the Golden Knights.