The title is a bit of a misnomer. The Flyers lost to the Rangers earlier tonight, so the Devils would have clinched the Atlantic Division regardless of tonight's result.
Still, the Devils achieved a franchise high of 50 wins this season with a 3-2 shootout win over Ottawa. It wasn't a great win, it had it's flaws, but it was a win and for the Devils' confidence, that's all that really mattered. The loss snaps Ottawa's ridiculous 9 game home winning streak, but in the game, they displayed why they won 9 straight. Silver Seven will provide a recap, which should at least praise Ottawa for not completely giving up on the game.
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The Senators' tenacity exasperated the second biggest flaw for the Devils tonight: finishing chances. The Devils scored their two goals in pretty impressive fashions with respect to finishing. Brian Gionta perfectly redirected a hard Brendan Shanahn pass after a power play expired; and less than a minute later, Alex Auld made a massive mistake that Brian Rolston ultimately capitalized on. Auld just laid the puck behind the net; David Clarkson swooped in and tried - what else - a wrap around; Auld stopped the wraparound, but Rolston picks up the puck and fires it in.
Yet, the Devils could not find that lethal shot and bury the Senators - despite the efforts of Gionta (1 G, 6 SOG) and Jamie Langenbrunner (4 SOG). Auld absolutely robbed the Devils a few times, most notably on Brendan Shanahan on a power play in the third period. Shanahan had the whole upper side of the net, no one right on him, but Auld threw up his glove to deny him. There were a few other plays where the Devils could have better. I don't think it was as bad as in Toronto - after all, they did get the two goals.
This second biggest flaw is related to the biggest and most frustrating fact. The power play was awful. According to the official game summary, the Devils had 6 chances for a total of 11:01. Yet, according to the official event summary, the Devils had 5 shots on net on the power play. The Devils were superior in even strength situations and 4-on-4 situations. But with 11 minutes with a man advantage, the Devils need to put more than just 5 on net! It's this sort of thing that really bothers me because it's wasted opportunity after wasted opportunity. Worst of all, the Devils did little the 4 minutes Daniel Alfredsson got for rushing Martin Brodeur and for saying something about the referee that, well, the ref didn't like at all. Terrible!
And the Senators eventually got one late to make the Devils rue those chances! You can believe that the Penguins, the Devils' likely playoff opponents next week will do the same over and over and over. The Devils need to do better on the power play! This includes puck movement, puck possession, and putting shotson net! It's just that simple.
It was a crazy sequence of events in the final 100 seconds in the third period. The Senators tried to match the Devils and did a good job in the first period. Jarkko Ruutu put away a rebound on a Brian Lee shot with no problem - he wasn't covered and the puck came right to him. Since then, especially with the start of the second period, the Devils started winning more battles for the puck, the Senators were denied greatly by Martin Brodeur, and the Devils didn't look so bad in the run of play. but in the dying seconds, the Senators just threw caution to the wind, hit the post twice, a blind feed from Jason Spezza behind the net, and Dany Heatley just banged it home. Defense was just caught up, Brodeur had no real chance, and so it was a literal last-minute equalizer.
Proof that getting that third goal in a 2-1 game is quite important! Had the Devils, you know, scored on one of those power plays or on other scoring chances, we wouldn't be looking at the shootout. Zach Parise and Brendan Shanahan got the job done in scoring, and Martin Brodeur - who isn't tired and proven so tonight - made the big stops like he did throughout much of the game.
Regardless of the how, the Devils got their 50th win this season. They avoided reverting into another slump, they got the division, they broke another record, and they have every reason to smile a little bit into their last game this season.