The Columbus Blue Jackets will arrive for a road game Sunday afternoon smarting from a lopsided loss and eager to prove they’re better than the effort displayed in the defeat.
If that sounds familiar to the New Jersey Devils, it’s because they’re fewer than 24 hours from riding that formula to a satisfying victory.
The Devils will look to win for the second time in as many days Sunday afternoon, when they are scheduled to host the Blue Jackets in a battle of Metropolitan Division rivals in Newark, N.J.
The Devils earned their first road win of the season Saturday night, when Jesper Bratt scored the tie-breaking goal on a penalty shot with three minutes left in New Jersey’s 4-2 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Blue Jackets began a three-game road trip Friday by getting blanked by the New York Rangers, 4-0.
Bratt’s first career penalty shot goal was set up when Sidney Crosby — playing his first game of the season following wrist surgery — was whistled for tripping after pushing Bratt into Tristan Jarry as he bore in on the Penguins goalie.
Bratt was slow to get up but didn’t hesitate to take the penalty shot. The left winger skated up the ice, shuffled the puck and deked Jarry before tucking a backhanded shot past the goalie.
Andreas Johnsson’s second goal — an empty-netter with 1:43 left — iced a bounce-back win for the Devils, who spotted the Calgary Flames four unanswered goals in a little more than six minutes in the first period of a 5-3 loss in their previous game Tuesday night.
“After (that) game, we felt like there (were) a lot of (places) we could do better and that we could improve,” Bratt said. “We had a couple good practice days to really work on those things and to get our compete back and get the structure back. So I felt like today was a step in the right direction.”
The Blue Jackets had only one day of practice to begin the process of recovering from Friday’s shutout loss — their first since being blanked 4-0 by the Florida Panthers on April 4. The Rangers scored twice in a span of 3:02 late in the first Friday before Chris Kreider collected a pair of power play goals in the third.
Most of the improvement efforts for the Blue Jackets are likely to be focused on their first line of Patrik Laine, Boone Jenner and Jakub Voracek, which combined for just three shots on a night in which Columbus was outshot by a relatively small margin (37-31).
“Our top guys gotta lead this,” first-year Blue Jackets head coach Brad Larsen said Friday night. “They weren’t there tonight. They didn’t play hard enough. It wasn’t just them, but they’re our top guys for a reason. When we go on the road here, they’ve got to bring it — for three periods, not just the start.”
The back-to-back is the first of the 2021-22 campaign for the Devils, who were 4-5-2 in the second game of back-to-backs last season.
The Devils and Blue Jackets are together again in the Metropolitan Division after being assigned to the Eastern and Central divisions, respectively, during the pandemic-shortened 2021 season. The two teams haven’t played since Feb. 16, 2020, when host New Jersey edged Columbus, 4-3, in a shootout.
–Field Level Media