With the game winning goal in overtime, Jaromir Jagr will be called the hero of the night. He scored to convert a power play for the Devils to prevail 3-2. The play itself started off negatively. Eric Gelinas lost the puck entering the zone, allowing David Legwand to move it up ice. Damon Severson closed him off from going further, so the veteran decided to try and pass it away. Adam Henrique got back in time to touch it away, sending the puck wobbling towards the center dot. Gelinas, backchecking, touched it off to an arriving-from-the-bench Jagr in the neutral zone. Jagr took on Mark Borowiecki. He used him as a screen to beat Robin Lehner. The winless streak ended at four, the capacity crowd at the Canadian Tire Center was disappointed, and the Devils got a valuable second point.
Here's the thing: that was Jagr's only positive contribution to the boxscore. It was his only shot on net all night long. He was just negative in possession and even there, not much happened relative to others at evens. He did draw a holding call, which led to an uneventful power play. He didn't distribute the puck all that well to Travis Zajac or Mike Cammalleri. Given his talent, it made sense to still play him in overtime - especially in a power play situation. However, it doesn't change the fact that it was a quiet night for #68. It also doesn't change that his one contribution secured a win.
I'm highlighting Jagr for two reasons. One, he had the last word tonight. Of course he should be highlighted. Two, I hope Devils fans remember this when the eventual complaint comes regarding not having any luck or any fortunate breaks their way. The Ottawa Senators weren't like Dallas where it was clear that one team was just playing better than the other. Yet, the Sens dominated the third period like the Devils dominated the second. They tied up the game and pushed the play forward; the Devils were out-shot at evens 12-2, out-attempted at evens 22-9. In overtime, the ice was still tilted against the Devils. Ottawa was still creating offense. The Devils were saved by stops by Cory Schneider and errant passes missing their target or hitting sticks off the rush. It wasn't until Clarke MacArthur struck Marek Zidlicky in the mouth with his stick that the Devils got a clear offensive opportunity in OT. It wasn't until the play described at the beginning that the Devils actually got a shot. And it went in.
I wouldn't go as far as to say the Devils were lucky to win the game at all, or even to take a point as I described last night. I would say the Devils got some fortune and Jagr made it count.
The Game Stats: The NHL.com Game Summary | The NHL.com Event Summary | The NHL.com Play by Play Log | The NHL.com Shot Summary | The NHL.com Devils Time on Ice Report | The Natural Stat Trick Corsi Charts
The Opposition Opinion: A recap at Silver Seven is coming. In the meantime, you can rank the Senators' performance tonight through this post by Amelia L. Not a lot of David Legwand fans among the Sens supporters.
The Game Highlights: From NHL.com, here are the highlights of tonight's game:
Once Again, This Side of Special Teams Was a Negative: While the Devils snapped a winless streak and won their first game in overtime this season, some of the issues that have plagued them early on this season were present tonight. First and foremost: the penalty kill. The Devils had to kill four penalties and conceded both goals against on them. While the team held Ottawa's 1-3-1 to only six shots on four opportunities and had some solid kills on the first two, it was still costly tonight.
The first was uglier on Schneider at first glance, but not so on a second look. Alex Chiasson received the puck in the corner from Milan Michalek and had all the space to skate right up and put a shot past Schneider. While it was a high shortside goal, I am still baffled as to why Jon Merrill was playing so high up by the boards and more baffled why Bryce Salvador started in front of the crease and skated away from Chiasson, which only gave him more space to work with. Basically, this was more of the fault of the killers.
The second was a result Ottawa pressure and one missed opportunity. The Senators pinned back Stephen Gionta, Dainius Zubrus (who got stung with a shot and lumbered through the final third of that play), Merrill, and Andy Greene. Wherever the puck went, it was right to a Senator stick. They were in control. However, Michalek missed a puck to the middle. The puck was loose and Greene had a chance to attempt a clear. Michalek dove to tap it right after Greene whiffed on it. So instead of a potential clear, Erik Karlsson had the puck next to the slot, saw a diagonal lane to Bobby Ryan on Schneider's right flank, and goal was academic.
The Devils have now conceded eleven power play goals, the most in the NHL. The issues are deeper than just Salvador being on the team or Schneider not posting a super 92% save percentage on the PK. It is up to the coaches to figure it out and, just as importantly, on the players to execute better.
Speaking of Salvador: Believe it or not, but the 24-2 pairing did not take a minor penalty until tonight. Salvador took two: a hold on Kyle Turris early in the game and an interference call for dumping Bobby Ryan into the net after Ryan lost the puck. Neither were particularly good calls to take. Zidlicky also made up for lost PIMs by getting tagged for a trip on Ryan. At least Zidlicky ended up even on calls thanks to MacArthur not being more careful with his stick in overtime.
As a pairing, they didn't end up winners. They didn't see Ottawa's best unit exclusively, but they saw them enough for it to be an issue. Zidlicky did end up on the positive side of possession with some good shifts with Eric Gelinas, though.
Ottawa's Drivers: There was a mix of the expected and unexpected among Ottawa standouts. With 35 shots on net and 29 at even strength, that'll happen. First, the names you may know: Erik Karlsson put up six shots, took twelve attempts overall, and was usually driving the play. Kyle Turris was dominant at the dot, put up five shots out of eight attempts, and was good for possession. Clarke MacArthur was a problem with five shots on net. Bobby Ryan got the equalizer, got an assist (he won the puck that Merrill couldn't from the side boards), put up four shots out of seven attempts, and drew two calls. Michalek was involved in creating both goals and the play was almost entirely going Ottawa's way when he was on the ice. Those players gave the Zajac line, the Greene-Damon Severson pairing, and others problems.
Among the ones you may not be as familiar with: Patrick Wiercioch saw his minutes split with Cody Ceci and Karlsson, and his combination with Karlsson was very successful. Michalek's linemates, Zach Smith and Curtis Lazar, were both quite good in support. They gave the Elias line issues in particular. A lot of this - from known and not-as-known players - came from Ottawa's strong start and their stronger third period.
New Jersey's Drivers: As the Devils were down in attempts overall 44-49 at even strength, there were a few positives for the Devils. Eric Gelinas had a better night. He was better on the puck, got three shots on net, did well with Zidlicky and Merrill, and while he made an error in OT on the power play, he made up for it. Ryane Clowe looked much better next to Elias than Adam Henrique last night; he contributed four shots on net in addition to winning plenty of pucks going forward. Damien Brunner - usually opposite Clowe - also looked good, darting ahead into the zone and controlling the puck fairly well. He hit iron on a power play
The split-up of the Newfoundline meant Dainius Zubrus played with Henrique and Michael Ryder. This worked OK. Zubrus could have had more than just one shot; he had a great look in second period that he put just wide. Ryder put up three shots and hit the post on a rebound attempt from his own shot; he came close to contributing. Henrique didn't end up positive in possession but only by two; a likely result of following up PKs that just ended. There was enough there that I'd like to see those three together for another game, while Elias has Clowe and Brunner.
Devils Weren't Only One With Discipline Problems: The Devils had five power plays, took seven shots, and scored two goals. I'm sure Ottawa fans aren't pleased with their own team's discipline. Five calls to kill would do that. The unsportsmanlike penalty Phillips took was entirely unnecessary. Tuomo Ruutu hit Karlsson big-time in the corner. Karlsson just got up and moved on; Phillips felt he needed to start a beef. Instead, he got tagged with an extra two that they paid for when Zidlicky hammered in a one-timer from distance. MacArthur's high-sticking call was in the offensive zone and just a mistake by him. You know how that ended.
Yet, I would say the Devils' power play still needs improvement. Three of those seven shots came in the 4-on-3 in OT, where they had more space to work with. In 5-on-4, the breakouts were often a struggle with that lateral pass to gain the zone either surprising the skater who's supposed to get it, missing that skater entirely, or not even getting to make that pass. Often times, the power players weren't on the same page. So more often than not, that power play time was squandered. They did get two goals, so it wasn't a failing night. It's why I'm writing about a win and not a loss. I just don't want the team to become complacent after putting up five power play goals in their last three games.
What of the Rookie: Damon Severson continued his emergence in the eyes of many with a beauty of a slapshot. He picked off a pass by Karlsson in the neutral zone, took it up ice to the circle, and beat Lehner high. The individual effort tied up the game. That's quite good. He also played in all situations and over 27 minutes overall. If there was any doubt that he's set in the NHL for now, then they are mostly gone.
However, possession tells a different tale. Severson, like Greene, had to play a lot in his own end. He was out-shot at evens 7-17; so the attempts were getting to Schneider. It wasn't as if Severson was responsible for most of those shots against. Yet, a differential that low indicates some issues. As a mitigating factor, he did play against Ottawa's best more often than not: Karlsson, Wiercioch, Turris, Ryan, MacArthur, Chiasson. This is going to happen at times; the top pairing just gets pinned a lot on some nights because he's going up against tough competition. To his credit, Severson didn't take a penalty or commit a terrible error as a result of the pressure. Scoring a goal always helps, too. So let the emergence continue.
Schneider Shines: Typically, a goaltender starting consecutive games doesn't go well in the second game. The fatigue is built up from the night prior and Schneider had a lot to do against Dallas. He had a lot to do tonight again, with 35 shots against and a total of 63 attempts against. But the gamble paid off. Schneider was a big reason why the Devils got one point, much less two. What about the two goals? I'm more forgiving on the Chiasson goal given all the space he had to work with and he had zero chance on Ryan. Both were far better than just not covering the post fully on a sharp-angled shot. With three points earned in this back-to-back set, I'd like to think that some of the criticism of Schneider has been answered. Now if he can just stop playing the puck so much, then all the better.
Unity: Before the game, the Senators, Maple Leafs, and Canadiens held a ceremony where they honored those who died in service in the recent senseless shootings. Good on the Devils to join in with the Senators, surrounding the center circle for the moment of silence and crowd-supported singing of the Canadian national anthem. It was a touching sign of unity. I know it doesn't have to do with the game proper, but it was significant enough for the evening - especially to those in the stands and those watching throughout the continent.
One Last Point: Jagr's overtime winning goal was the 19th of his career and he is now one goal behind the sixth-leading goal scorer in NHL history, Mike Gartner. The guy just keeps making history and it's just awesome to witness.
Your Take: The Devils technically won the week by going 1-0-2 and they ended the winless streak. Jagr scored a crucial and lovely goal for the team's first overtime win the of the season. It wasn't pretty, but the result was earned. What do you think of tonight's performance? What can the PK possibly do? What can the PP do to improve? Will the Devils shore up at evens to prevent a dominant period being followed by a period of being dominated in the next game? Who impressed you the most from both teams? Please leave your answers and other thoughts on tonight's win in the comments.
Thanks to those who followed along in the gamethread and on Twitter with @InLouWeTrust. Thank you for reading.