The Ottawa Senators gave the Devils more of a fight than I expected and it surprised the Devils to a fault, by scoring first in each period. However, the Devils were able to respond in each period and ultimately got the job done in overtime to win 4-3. The overall effort from the Devils this afternoon was mixed in my opinion. Yes, the Devils did well to put a lot of rubber on Alex Auld, a total of 31 shots in regulation and 4 more in overtime. Yes, the Devils did well in their own end to limit the Senators to only 20 shots all game. Yes, the power play was actually all right given that they actually scored two power play goals. Yet, it was not a comfortable Devils win in the least.
For starters, the Devils were exposed twice on the penalty kill, giving Ottawa their goals in the first and second periods. Allowing 2 power play goals against is never good. Given that the Devils still remain in the bottom third in penalty killing at an 80.5% effectivness rate, it will remain as a weakness of the team. It certainly was today. While the defense (and offensive possession) kept the Senators from shooting at will, they lost focus and defensemen missed their coverages leaving to open Senators to have an easy chance to score on in the second period and again in the third. Moreover, Scott Clemmensen didn't look all that great in the net tonight. He really should have had the shot Nick Foligno scored on in the first period. He got a huge chunk of Chris Kelly's shot that he scored on that I really wonder if he should have had all of it. Regardless, Clemmensen didn't look all that strong in net. The only goal you can't really fault on, Brendan Bell's goal in the second period, actually was aided by Clemmensen knocking Jason Spezza's cross-crease pass right to the wide open Bell, who had a wide open net.
The larger theme of the game was that it was quite physical, with both teams trading big hits. The Senators weren't above applying some extra holds, hooks, and other infraction-worthy moves. I guess when you're doing as poorly as they have been this season, you're willing to do whatever the case may be to throw off the opposition. The Devils took a few too many calls, but mostly not in retalitation which is good. And it ultimately spelled doom for the Senators, as Chris Phillips finally got caught holding a Devil (I think Elias?) as overtime began. About 1 minute and 24 seconds later, Brian Rolston put the game away with the man advantage. Funny how it just came back to bite the Senators. I can't imagine Foligno's abuse of the officials call at the end of the game will help matters going forward, either.
So that's the bad. The good is how well the Elias-Zubrus-Gionta worked tonight. All three were instrumental in the Devils' first two goals, with Zubrus stepping up big to apply the proper finish. Zubrus was definitely one of the better Devils out there today and his work was well rewarded. That's not to say Elias or Gionta did nothing, they hustled to the net, they took shots (Elias had 5!), and they set up plays - specifically ending with Zubrus putting it in the back of the net. Good work!
But the heroes of the day have to be the power play units, which is nice to type for a change instead of criticizing them for being useless. Jamie Langenbrunner's equalizer in the third period only has Johnny Oduya as an assist; but it was really the whole unit who helped out there. Langenbrunner took the puck in to make the play off a turnover; but that doesn't happen if the rest of the unit was in too deep. They were aware enough to get on side quickly, allowing Langenbrunner to step right in. The rest was all on the captain, who put up a shot that just beat Auld (maybe he should have had it?). Lastly, you have the power play not rushing things in overtime, not panicking when they didn't initially score. They set up in the zone real well, and Brian Rolston put up a fantastic shot from the point. It was hard enough to trickle through the traffic and in, without being too high or too wide. That's exactly what we want to see from Brian Rolston on the point. Not just a rocket, but a well-placed rocket. While he's not on the top two lines, he's starting to get more involved on the scoresheet. The goal was his sixth and he's starting to catch a groove. Expect more from Rolston in the future.