NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Nine games into his NHL career, Mackenzie Blackwood is starting to emerge as the New Jersey Devils’ No. 1 goaltender.
Blackwood returned to the lineup after missing three games with an injury and made 32 saves in leading the Devils to a much-needed 3-2 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday.
“I can’t imagine how much pressure you have as a goalie if you make a mistake, it’s back in the net,” said Nico Hischier, who got the game-winning goal on a breakaway in the second period.
“If you do a mistake as a forward, you have a defenseman usually still there and you have the goalie. So what he’s doing is pretty impressive for me.”
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The 22-year-old Blackwood, who was called up from Binghamton after Cory Schneider went on injured reserve, is 4-2 in seven starts and two relief appearances. He has allowed two or fewer goals in eight of his nine appearances, including one where he had to leave after one period because of a lower body injury that forced him to miss three games.
There is no doubt the Devils, who need a big second half to get into playoff contention, have shown life when he plays.
“I love that my teammates feel that way, but from my perspective, I feel like they make my job easy,” Blackwood said. “It’s just kind of like working off each other. I guess they’re working off me and I’m working off them. It’s great team chemistry.”
Damon Severson and Miles Wood also scored as the Devils won for the second time in six games and handed the Flyers their ninth loss in the past 10 games (1-7-2).
James Van Riemsdyk and Sean Couturier scored for Philadelphia. Carter Hart gave the Flyers a chance, making 23 saves.
“Certainly it’s been frustrating,” said Van Riemsdyk after scoring in his second straight game. “We shoot ourselves in the foot a lot and it makes you have to chase the game a lot of the time. It’s tough. We did do some good things, but ultimately we made some key mistakes and they ended up in the back of our net.”
The game between the struggling Eastern Conference teams was a matchup of two young goaltenders who have played well since being called up from the minor leagues because of injuries.
The 20-year-old Hart is 3-5-1 in nine games for the Flyers.
“I think he is giving us a chance every time he is in the net to win,” said defenseman Radko Gudas. “It’s what we need. We need the confidence to know he is going to stop the puck. He has been playing well for us. He is really, really good for his age.”
Blackwood, who was activated from injured reserve before the matinee, was a little better. He had 12 saves in the third as the Flyers rallied after falling behind 3-1.
Severson gave the Devils the lead at 6:32 of the first period. The defenseman took a pass from Drew Stafford and one-timed a shot from low in the left circle over Hart’s shoulder for his sixth goal.
Hischier beat Hart on a breakaway 5:08 into the second period after stealing a pass by Flyers defenseman Travis Sanheim. It was his 13th goal of the season and came 15 seconds after he left the penalty box.
Van Riemsdyk cut the lead to 2-1 with 4:09 left in the period on a breakaway, but Wood scored on a rebound 1:18 into the third period. Couturier scored his 16th goal with 2 seconds left in the game.
NOTES: Devils F Marcus Johansson also was back in the lineup after missing 10 games with an upper-body injury. … The Flyers are the fourth team in NHL history to use seven goaltenders in one season. … The previous time the Devils and Flyers started rookie goaltenders was 1987 when Craig Billington was in net against Ron Hextall.
Flyers: Host the Minnesota Wild on Monday.
Devils: Host the Chicago Blackhawks on Monday.
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