Quick thought: Generally, I only recap/review games a day after it happens to have a full, clear thought or two about them. But, for the sake of keeping these short and up-to-date; I'll put up some quick thoughts shortly after games - and then add a recap later on. For the stats: NHL.com's recap has them all there for the 6-5 shootout win over Washington.
On Friday, the Devils played very well on defense and couldn't get results on offense. Tonight, the Devils got plenty of results on offense only to be undercut by some spotty defending. I would like this Devils team to figure out how to triangulate these two extremes so they can win more hockey games.
If you're looking for a Caps-centric recap, I recommend what JP has at Japers' Rink. OK, let's talk about the what went right here. The Devils, on offense, were superb. On Friday night, they only got one goal - Patrik Elias taking advantage on a breakaway - out of 33 shots. On Saturday night, they got 33 shots on net but they put 5 past Jose Theodore. David Clarkson scored on the Devils' first shot of the game, blazing a one-timer from John Madden in the slot. When they went into the second down 2-1, they responded with two goals in the first four minutes in the second period. They even got their first power play goal in 5 games, when Patrik Elias slid one just over the line before Jose Theodore got a mitt on it. The rare Devils power play goal was actually scored last night! That's always a good sign. And the thing is, given how porous the Capitals were in their own end, the Devils could have scored more. Oh, so much more. For example, Zach Parise had two goals absolutely denied by Theodore making a last-second (and amazing) stop.
Patrik Elias was the best forward on the ice, with the aforementioned power play goal and a beautiful slap shot tucked under the cross bar completing his brace. He now has 7 goals and 6 assists in 13 games, with his 66 shots on net this season. It's great to see some of those go in for a change. He earned his star for sure. He wasn't the only Devil forward to have a big night. Clarkson, in a surprising statline, had 7 shots on net. I'd have to think that's a career high for the potential future Randy McKay. Brian Gionta played particularly inspired hockey all night long, and so earned his goal in capping off a beautiful flowing move in the third period for the Devils' fifth goal of the game. The only mistake he made was taking a dumb hooking call in the first period. I'd have to say most of the Devils forwards save for the checkers and Dainius Zubrus had good games. Even defenseman Sheldon Brookbank looked all right as a fourth-line forward.
However, given that the Devils conceeded 5 goals and had to go to a shootout to get the two points, it wasn't a great performance for the whole team. John Madden and Jay Pandolfo definitely weren't shutting anyone down. To the Capitals' credit, Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Ovechkin had excellent nights. Backstrom had a hand in every goal scored for Washington with 1 goal and 4 assists. He's not the big name like Semin or Ovechkin, but I think we're going to hear a lot more about him as the season goes on. He's too skilled not to be heard. Ovechkin had a MONSTER night. 12 shots on net, 6 blocked, and 2 misses to go with a brace - including driving in a literal last-second equalizer. I'm looking at the stats again and I'm learning that he even had significant shorthanded minutes to go with the power play. Ovechkin is worth every cent he's being paid and the frightening thing is that he could have had a better night considering 40% of his attempts on net didn't get there. I would like to suggest that Sutter should have shadowed Ovechkin after the first period or so, but something tells me that either all that would mean is that AO would hand a Devil their jock over and over again.
Back to the Devils defense. The checking line didn't shut anyone down and it showed with Pandolfo and Madden being on the ice for every goal against. Ouch. Mike Mottau looked like he was picked on more often than not, which is why we didn't see much of him in the third. While Bryce Salvador sacrificed his body - both willingly and unwillingly - to the tune of 7 blocked shots, I felt he could have done a little more. Colin White and Johnny Oduya, the pair on with the checking line for most of those goals against, didn't look good in their own end, but they really didn't get any extra help from the forwards. The last two Capitals goals came from players who had the whole net to shoot at as Scott Clemmensen just made a save in one way and therefore couldn't possibly get to his blindside in less than a second. I don't care if it is a defenseman or a forward, a Devil has to pick up that open man! It is inexcusable otherwise, and it led to the Devils losing not just one, but two, leads late in the game. It could have cost them the win, save for an excellent performance in the shootout from Clemmensen and the Devils shooters. Still, I'm sure over the next four days, the defensemen and checking forwards will be reviewing tape from this game to see what went wrong and how to fix it.