Watching the first 19 minutes and 13 seconds of the game tonight it seemed inevitable that the Devils were on their way to another loss. I actually typed the title "Devils embarrassed in blow out loss to Rangers" halfway through the first period. The team was flat, sloppy, and not playing with any intensity. Already down a goal on a nice finish by Derick Stepan in front, the Rangers were flying around the ice with Cory Schneider keeping the Devils in the game making save after save. At the 19:13 mark of the period Kyle Palmeri, who had already stuck up for Stephen Gionta earlier in the period, dropped the gloves with Kevin Klein. Klein definitely got the better of the match up, but the message was sent by Palmeri to the rest of his teammates to step it up.
The Devils came out like a different team in the second period, spending a ton of time in the Rangers zone and generating a few good scoring chances. Shortly into the second period, Damon Severson stepped up in the neutral zone to break up a pass and Mike Cammalleri jumped on the loose puck and nudged a pass to Adam Henrique. He raced down the left side and took a shot on Henrik Lunqvust, who made the initial save. But Henrique was able to jam the rebound past Lundqvist for the equalizer. Later in the period the Devils had a 5 on 3 power play they failed to convert on (more on that later).
The Devils didn't commit any minor penalties until roughly half way through the third period when Jordin Tootoo essentially cross checked Viktor Stalberg in the neck. They killed that off only for Lee Stempniak to take a very questionable interference call roughly 3 minutes later. The PK came up big again though, and each team secured a point as the game headed into overtime.
While some hockey purists might detest the 3 vs 3 overtime format, no one can deny its entertainment value. The amount of open ice and time the players have really gives fans an insight into how good these guys are. Right off the bat the Rangers looked to have put the Devils away, but Andy Greene made a huge play shutting down the opposing captain Ryan McDonagh right on the goal line. A few back and forth chances later and the Stempniak was able to convert a 2 on 1 opportunity on a great feed from Henrique. Mr. Potato head John Hynes took out his frown mouth and popped in his smile mouth as he celebrated his first victory as a NHL head coach.
The Opposition's Opinion: Who cares? I hate Ranger fans.
The Game Highlights: From NHL.com, here are this afternoon's highlights.
The Offense: It has been speculated on this site as well as some others that Cory Schneider is just too good for this team to be the worst team in the league, but our offense seems to have taken that as a challenge. The team has still only managed two even strength goals in regulation. However, there do seem to be a few bright spots up front, starting with Adam Henrique. Apparently the coaching staff challenged him to step his game up prior to the San Jose game Friday night and he has responded very well. He had the Devils only regulation goal and assisted on the OT winner. I already mentioned how important I thought Kyle Palmeri was this afternoon. In the first period he seemed to be the only guy excited to be playing and his fight turned the tide of the game. Lee Stempniak had a few nice moments outside of the game winner. The guy can dangle and he tries to beat people one on one, which this offense needs more of. And I can't believe I am typing this, but Stephen Gionta has looked good so far this year. He plays his role well and generates a few chances a game.
Outside of that, I thought Josefson and Boucher played decently well together and for the one shift that I saw Stefan Matteau playing with them, they generated a nice scoring chance with Matteau ringing one off the cross bar. I would like to see that be a line combination going forward and see Jordin Tootoo relegated to the fourth line. I just don't think he adds any value outside of a fourth line roll. He took a very predictable and very stupid penalty after he was knocked down in the corner in the third period.
Travis Zajac had another dog baby of a game. I know he was coming back from injury but he has become one of the least inspiring players in the league. In the second period he had the puck coming down the left side, with two teammates rushing the net, and he just lifted a weak backhander right into Lundqvist's chest. Later in the period he was trying to stick handle in the Rangers zone and ended up just coughing the puck up and getting bailed out by Schneider. It just seems like he doesn't really care anymore.
The Defense: David Schlemko is making me miss Peter Harrold. He is just as bad as Harrold was but at least Harrold would get blown up a few times a game and give you something to laugh at. He made two mistakes in the first period that lead directly to scoring chances and doesn't seem to do anything particularly well. John Merrill was sick today so Hynes didn't have any options, but with 7 healthy d-men, I don't see anyway Schlemko can stay in the line up.
That being said, the rest of the defense looked pretty good today. Adam Larson recovered from an unfortunate bounce early that led to the Rangers only goal and he seems to be stronger than ever. He made a lot of little plays that exhibited his strength and looks worthy of that new contract early on. Andy Greene just does what he does, most underrated player in the league. Severson plays the game like he knows he is better than the opposing player, and in most situations I think he is.
The Goalie: To echo John's thoughts form Friday, Cory still rules, that's really all that needs to be said.
Special Teams: For as bad as the power play looked today, the penalty kill looked equally good. Taking into account that the Rangers have a dreadful power play dating back to last season, the Devils PK was still impressive. They broke down a little bit towards the end of the second kill, but overall they didn't allow any real chances and kept most of the shots to the outside.
The power play really shows our lack of skill up front. The departures of Jagr and Gomez leave the team without a guy that can control the puck and set the power play up. Maybe when Patrick Elias comes back from injury he can fill that void, but he hasn't been overly impressive at that in a few years. And Jordan Tootoo needs to stop getting to much time on the power play. I get that he is supposed to eat up space and screen the goalie in front, but there are other players like Henrique and Palmeri that have shown they can handle that role. He is a liability when he gets the puck as the defense just swarms him knowing that he can't protect the puck.
Our 5 on 3 power plays have somehow looked worse than our 5 on 4s. The Devils had nearly two full minutes of 5 on 3 time and spent half of it with Eric Gelinas on the left side, where we can't take one timers. The Rangers probably fear his shot more than any other team in the league, so you have to at least make it an option, even if he is just a decoy. It's early in the season so hopefully the power play will improve with more practice time.
Overall: What is the old saying? A win is a win? I get the feeling that this is what most of the wins for the Devils are going to look like this year. Low scoring, great goaltending, and one or two forwards stepping up. he good thing is that Schneider is a top three goalie in the league and we do have a legitimate chance to win every game he plays.
Your Take: It was great to get the first win of the year, but it was in no way a perfect game. What did you think about today's game? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about tonight's game. Thanks to everyone who commented in the Gagmethread, those who follow along on Twitter with @AATJerseyBlog and you for reading.