Oh, what a wild, weird, wonderful result for the New Jersey Devils. The wordy headline gives you the basic gist of this game. Let’s start from the beginning.
It was 0-3 after the first twenty minutes. The Toronto Maple Leafs, fresh off a 2-1 loss against Carolina last night, looked like they were in control. The New Jersey Devils looked like they were just about guaranteed to earn their fourth straight loss tonight. As do most teams look when there’s a three-goal differential in the first period.
What’s more is that it didn’t take all twenty minutes for Toronto to mount such a lead. The first ten minutes of this game was just sluggish for both teams with a combined four shots on net between the two. But the Leafs figured it out first and preyed upon New Jersey’s mistakes. Zach Hyman fed a pass past Vernon Fiddler to an open Auston Matthews right in front for the game’s first goal. Later, just as the Devils seemed they would kill a minor penalty by P.A. Parenteau, Andy Greene got his stick lifted by William Nylander. Matthews swooped up the puck and fed Nazem Kadri for an unstoppable one-timer to convert the power play. Near the end of the first period, another turnover leads to a Leafs cycle that discombobulated the Devils in their own end. Matthews roofed a loose puck on Cory Schneider’s right flank to make it 0-3. The Devils may have had more attempts in 5-on-5 play. They may have matched them in shots, 8-8. But the Leafs had more scoring chances, they threatened more, and, oh yeah, they scored three goals. It was a disaster of a first period. How could a Hall-less, goalless-since-the-second-period-in-Anaheim Devils team come back from that?
The answer: Michael Cammalleri. Cammalleri returned from his family issue to play tonight. Andrew Gross at Fire & Ice reported before the game what that issue was. His 5-year old daughter suffered from a severe case of pneumonia, which required surgery. The most important news: the surgery was a success and she’s on the mend. He put his family first, which is the right decision. He came back tonight and ended up being the hero of the night for the New Jersey Devils.
The second period began with Schneider still in net. The Devils may have executed their passes better, but it was not so much that their offense went off. They were just finding more successes. And Cammalleri was involved in the most successful ones.
Within the first minute of the second period, Cammalleri received a cross-ice pass from Kyle Quincey and then sent one of his own to Travis Zajac. Zajac finished the play - Jhonas Enroth wasn’t going to stop that - to put them on the board.
Shortly after the goal, Martin Marincin was called for high-sticking. The ensuing power play by the New Jersey Devils featured too much time being pinned in their own end by the Leafs forechecking. But the power play streak would end - as would another one for a Devil searching for his first with the team:
Yes, a rebound bounced right to Beau Bennett. Yes, Bennett put it into the net. Yes, it happened right before the time ended so it was a power play goal. Bennett finally scored his first. The Devils snapped an 0-for-29 power play run of futility. And who took the shot that made the rebound? Michael Cammalleri.
Not long after that, it would be Cammalleri to be the one firing the puck into the net. Nick Lappin won a puck along the boards and made a pass to Greene at the center point. Greene sent the puck across to Zajac, who fired a shot. Cammalleri was in front and piled in the rebound to make it 3-3.
Three goals, 5:30 into the second period, Toronto used their timeout, and the Rock was, well, rocking. The belief of the Devils actually winning this game returned. The awful start was salvaged. Largely thanks to #13, Michael Cammalleri.
Unfortunately, it would not be that simple. The Maple Leafs did not attack much in 5-on-5, but they proved to be a pain on special teams. While the Devils received two more power plays in the period, the Devils wasted them in a great display that their one good result (a goal) does not make up for their poor process. And a turnover on offense by New Jersey provided a counter-attack that would put the Leafs back up. Yohann Auvitu lost it while going forward and could not recover. Nikita Soshnikov sent Matt Martin up on a 2-on-1. Damon Severson tried to cut off the passing lane and he did as Martin shot the puck. Schneider stopped the shot, Severson whiffed on the bouncing rebound, and Martin hit the puck to trickle past Schneider. A soft play, and so the second period ended 3-4. But 3-4 with those three coming in the previous period is a better spot to be in than 0-3. All they needed was one shot to equalize.
The Devils got off to a slow start; it took over four minutes to get that first shot on net of the period. The Leafs started to attack more and more often. But the Devils would get the shot they needed. Nick Lappin whiffed on a shot, but the Devils kept working to get the puck back. Michael Cammalleri kept the puck in play along the boards, protected it, and slid a short pass to Zajac. Zajac passed it immediately to Yohann Auvitu above the high slot. His wrister got by Lappin and Enroth to tie it up. I thought Lappin deflected it in. He did not, so this meant that - yes - Cammalleri picked up another assist.
The Leafs brought plenty of pressure for the rest of the third, only to be spelled by hopeful attacks by the Devils. The goalies really shined here. Cammalleri gaining the zone and firing a wrister - big glove save by Enroth. Parenteau winning the puck amid traffic and going in alone on Enroth - denied. Shots through traffic by Jake Gardiner and Morgan Reilly? Stopped by Schneider. Even the iron got involved - a terrible giveaway within the final minute by John Moore resulted in Gardiner setting up James van Reimsdyk for a banger of a shot. The post stopped him. Overtime was welcomed as the Devils turned a 0-3 deficit after the first period into earning at least one point in the standings.
Overtime quickly became not so welcomed. The Devils did well to start, but the Leafs would take over in both possession and in actually winning overtime. The Leafs put up five shots including two shots by Mitch Marner that Schneider robbed him on and one shot that resulted in Cammalleri literally puck watching right by the crease, forcing a heads-up poke by Severson to prevent a heartbreaking end. It was one of the very few errors by Cammalleri tonight, but the Devils survived to get to a shootout.
There, the Devils found shootout success. Parenteau and Matthews went up first; both were stopped. Jacob Josefson, who otherwise did not play a particularly noticeable game, scored a beautiful top shelf goal. Mitch Marner was denied by Schneider in response. Cammalleri went up to seal the win; alas, he would not provide the storybook ending with a goal. But Schneider made it a shootout win by denying Nikita Soshnikov.
To sum up: The Devils came back from an 0-3 deficit after the first period, came back from a 3-4 deficit after the second period, and picked up the win in the shootout. The Rock was ecstatic and how can any Devils fan not be? This was a big way to snap a three game losing streak, if only because it really looked like it would be a four game losing streak after the first period. Again, Cammalleri was the hero of the night. Cammalleri had nine shots on net, a +6 in 5-on-5 Corsi, one goal, and three assists in 23:02 of ice time tonight. He was involved in all four goals scored. Cammalleri was easily the best Devil on the ice tonight and his performance was crucial to tonight’s comeback victory. You almost couldn’t have scripted a more dramatic result. It was a wild game. It got weird in a good way. It ended wonderfully.
The Opposition Opinion: KatyaKnappe at Pension Plan Puppets has this recap where she called the game a tie. It’s actually a very good recap except for that conclusion. It wasn’t a tie, Leafs fans and/or PPP readers. Toronto blew a 0-3 lead tonight; they lost 4-5. They’re holding a shootout ‘L.’
Seriously, calling losses ties because of the shootout? Denying the reality of the last decade or so of the NHL? What would Chris say about that? Something like: “You know something, Leafs fans? You just made the list!”
The Other Standouts: Cammalleri was fantastic. He was not the only one to have himself a good night. Cammalleri was lined up with Travis Zajac and P.A. Parenteau to start the game. That unit became Cammalleri-Zajac-Lappin. Either worked; the latter received more ice time. Cammalleri playing very well had a lot to do with it. But don’t sleep on Zajac either. He had four shots, a goal, and two assists - including the shot that created Cammalleri’s goal. I figured Zajac was playing well this season in part with playing with Hall. It’s clearer now that he’s just playing well period. As for Lappin, while he did not end up with a shot on net or a point (shame since Auvitu’s goal doesn’t happen without him) tonight, he thrived on a scoring line. He was not at all an anchor as helped the play go forward. Not that it was in doubt, but Lappin further proved he’s here to stay in New Jersey. So these three forwards had themselves a fine night.
I liked Bennett as well. He had three shots on net, finally scored his first with the team, and was rarely seen on defense because the puck was going towards Toronto’s end when he was on the ice. I think his minutes were limited to just under 13, I would have liked to have seen him receive more. Maybe next game.
On defense, I’m loathe to highlight the defense since their coverage was rather soft at times. But I will say that Auvitu was definitely the brightest of the bunch. Sure, he may have provided the turnover that led to the Leafs’ fourth goal, but if there’s a defender to really blame on that, then I’d say it was Severson. Anyway, Auvitu looked worlds better on the puck than Jon Merrill and he helped the play go forward. Most of all, he scored the most important goal in regulation in the third period. I’m glad he’s back, although I am confused at how little power play ice time he received.
A Smart Non-Change: After the first period, Cory Schneider had three goals allowed on eight shots. While neither of those three goals were soft or even all that stoppable, it would have been understandable if John Hynes replaced him with Keith Kinkaid. It’s a common “message-sending” move to change goalies after a bad period or a rush of goals against. It didn’t matter that such a thing would have nothing to do with turnovers or bad defensive-zone coverage, which plagued the Devils in that first period and in spots tonight. However, if a message was sent, it wasn’t through the goaltender. Hynes stuck with Schneider. That was a bold non-change and it paid off. Schneider would come up with important saves and he was fantastic in both overtime and in the shootout. Schneider was never the issue in this game. Credit to Hynes for recognizing that.
A Pathetic Power Play: The coaches should get a demerit for the power play performance tonight. Yes, Bennett scored a power play goal. The streak is dead. Yet, in 5:58 of man advantage ice time, the Devils put up only five shots on net and spent large stretches of that time not in Toronto’s end of the rink. The Leafs, notably Leo Komarov, were able to forecheck on their penalty kill. Even on the advantage that ended with Bennett’s goal, about 30 seconds was spent with the Devils just making full turns with the puck in the face of pressure and not going forward at all. The pass-back zone entry did not fool the Leafs and dump-and-chase plays rarely worked. Yes, they got a result. The process is still pretty awful. And I have to honestly question John Moore A) leading breakouts and B) receiving 3:06 of power play time when Auvitu is available (and gets only 1:03).
Seriously, Moore: John Moore should be thankful this year for Van Reimsdyk hitting the post near the end of regulation. That giveaway to Gardiner was abysmal. Otherwise, he would have picked up the secondary assist on the game winning goal against and we would all wonder why he’s still playing over 20 minutes per game. I mean, we still do, but we’d be wondering more so. And wondering with (more) anger and frustration.
The Dangerous Leafs: I did not know much about Connor Brown and Zach Hyman. They skated with Matthews and that line threatened more than any other by Toronto tonight. I know that they are very good with Matthews. The big rookie sensation in Toronto, Matthews, had a big night with two goals (ending a 13-game goalless streak) and an assist. He looked like he would be the hero of the night. Hyman created those two goals and Brown helped make the cycle go that led to Matthews’ second of the night. I expected Morgan Reilly to be the more offensively threatening defenseman, but it was Jake Gardiner that really helped make as many scoring chances as he did. I’m not looking forward to a Leafs team where Matthews, Nylander, Marner, etc. are older and more experienced. Good on the Devils to rise above their early offensive prowess (three goals) to take the game.
Wherefore Art Though, Vernon?: Did something happen to Vernon Fiddler? He only played 5:57 in 5-on-5 play and 8:18 in total. He only took two shifts in the middle of the third period and was not seen on the ice again. Was he benched? Was he hurt? I do not know. It was odd to not notice him as the game went on.
The bottom six for New Jersey did not have the greatest of nights. DSP maybe was the best of the bunch, but he got lost in the shuffle. Sergey Kalinin did not look so strong; Reid Boucher looked like he belongs in Albany; and Josefson at least had his shootout goal to claim as a positive contribution. I’m glad Lappin was moved up from this end of the roster as it was holding him down in a way. Bennett did his best and came out well, at least. All the same, the Devils did not get a lot out of their forward depth tonight. Thankfully, the Zajac line was capable of carrying the load with Cammalleri doing as much as he did.
Nah, Son: Pavel Zacha was assessed an embellishment penalty when Gardiner stuck his leg out right in front of Zacha’s leg. Zacha leaned into the hit to avoid a knee-on-knee hit. It wasn’t to draw the penalty. I think that was a bad call by referees Tom Kowal and Frederick L’Ecuyer. Thankfully, the call did not hurt the Devils and did Zacha not get hurt from the play.
Keeping This Streak Alive: Devils are 7-0-1 at home. That’s very nice.
Remember, Friday is Devils Coat Drive Night: Bring two new or gently used coats and you’ll get vouchers for tickets to future Devils games. So bring some coats to Friday’s game if you’re planning on attending. I hear some stores will have sales on things like coats on Friday.
Happy Thanksgiving: On the behalf of everyone at All About the Jersey, we wish you a happy Thanksgiving.
Your Take: Plenty happened in this wild 5-4 comeback win via shootout by the New Jersey Devils. One led by Michael Cammalleri. What was your reaction to how this game played out? I was stunned when the Devils tied it up at 3-3, how about you? What was your favorite goal? How amazed were you by Cammalleri tonight? What could the Devils do differently for Friday’s game to avoid having to come back from three goals down because, seriously, most teams aren’t going to blow three goal leads? Who in the world calls shootout losses ties? Please leave your answers