UPDATE: top quarterback for Colorado Avalanche have enter the transfer portal.....

UPDATE: top quarterback for Colorado Avalanche have enter the transfer portal…..

John Marino’s late goal gives the New Jersey Devils a 5-3 victory over the Colorado Avalanche.

In their first game back after the All-Star break, the New Jersey Devils hosted one of the best teams in the NHL, the Colorado Avalanche. Despite the fact that the Avs were playing the second half of a back-to-back (they lost in overtime last night to the New York Rangers), everyone knew this would be a tough test for the Devils. Things were going surprisingly well for a while until disaster struck in the third period, but a John Marino goal deep into the game broke a tie and propelled New Jersey past Colorado for an eventual 5-3 win.

You’re going to be absolutely shocked to hear this, but tonight’s game did not start off so hot for the Devils. Less than a minute and a half into the contest, Nico Hischier committed a pretty bad turnover to Mikko Rantanen in the slot, who blistered a shot past Vitek Vanecek for a very early 1-0 lead. It was the 35th time in 48 games that New Jersey had given up the first goal. But less than a minute later, Simon Nemec flicked a shot toward the Colorado net from the point, and Chris Tierney made a perfect deflection past Avalanche goaltender Justus Annunen to answer right back and tie the game at 1.

For the first half of the opening period, Colorado was the dominant team. They controlled possession and generated the lion’s share of the chances though the first 10 minutes or so. But credit to New Jersey, who weathered that storm and began tilting the ice in their favor after that. The back half of the first period was mostly played in the Avalanche end, and even though the Devils didn’t score they took control of the game.

The second period began with a pretty deflating goal by Colorado defenseman Josh Manson…until Lindy Ruff successfully challenged for goaltender interference, wiping the goal off the board. And how did the Devils respond to that turn of fortune? With a phenomenal play from the Hischier line (more on that unit later) that ended with a Jesper Bratt goal to give New Jersey their first lead of the game.

Then with New Jersey continuing to keep their foot on the gas pedal, Dawson Mercer willed a puck into the net thanks to some great work in tight from Timo Meier and Erik Haula. Mercer finished the play off thanks to some dogged work in front to extend the lead to 3-1.

The Devils entered the third period with that 3-1 edge, and the ESPN+ broadcast of John Buccigross and AJ Mleczko made it a point to open the final frame by talking about how great of a third-period team Colorado is. Well that unfortunately proved prescient as the Avalanche completely subsumed the Devils through basically the entirety of the period. But thanks to some great goaltending from Vitek Vanecek (yes, really) all that possession did not result in any goals…until Ross Colton and Logan O’Connor decided to try sparking their team by gooning it up after a pretty routine stoppage of play. Those two players fabricated a scrum out of nowhere, and Colton and Kevin Bahl got tagged for coincidental roughing minors.

So 4-on-4 play ensued, which is when disaster struck for the Devils. Luke Hughes took a puck behind his net and got blown up by Artturi Lehkonen, and the puck went right to Cale Makar at the side of the net who just tapped it in to cut the lead to 3-2. Then on the very next shift, 29 seconds later, Sam Girard blasted a slap shot past Vanecek to tie the game 3-3. Colton and O’Connor attempted to drag the Devils into some penalties to open up some ice, and it worked about as well as they could have hoped.

For as well as Vanecek had played to that point, those two goals (especially the second one) were positively back-breaking. Things were looking pretty bleak with New Jersey getting blowtorched by the Avalanche all period long and Colorado fighting back to tie the game with a pair of quick strikes. Even after the goals the Avalanche just kept attacking, with Vanecek having to make a terrific stop on Nathan MacKinnon, who got a half-step on Luke Hughes and put a dangerous backhander on net. It really felt like a Colorado lead was only a matter of time.

Not since Washington crossed the Delaware on Christmas night had the Garden State seen such a shift in momentum.

Colorado pulled their goalie with about 80 seconds left, and they spent about 70 of those seconds in the Devils’ zone. But New Jersey did a great job of keeping the Avalanche skaters to the outside, and following a neutral zone faceoff caused by a Colorado offsides, Erik Haula intercepted a pass and flung a long shot into the empty net.

5-3 New Jersey with less than 10 seconds left. Ballgame.

Overall it was an uneven game for the Devils. A bad start, and fantastic middle, a horrific third period, then a late push to secure the win. But New Jersey managed to skate away with a regulation win against a bonafide Stanley Cup contender while missing some key pieces. If the Devils can build off of this and finally go on a run to secure their playoff spot, we may look back at this game as the turning point that jumpstarted them.

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