The New Jersey Devils ended their second game in Sunrise, Florida against the Florida Panthers the same way they ended the first: they lost in overtime. Unlike that first game, there were more goals involved and the Devils forced extra time with two third period goals. The Devils were down 0-2 to Florida, cut the deficit to one, conceded another goal, and then scored twice to tie it up. It was good to see the Devils earn one point. Alas, they could not get the second one that comes with a win and so the Devils remain winless on the road.
It was heartening to see the Devils respond as they did when they were down two goals. The Devils were trailing throughout the second period and managed to play like it. Their attack was fruitful in 5-on-5 play, out-shooting the Panthers 12-3. They made James Reimer work. Special teams put the Devils in their hole, but Travis Zajac slamming in a loose puck off a block provided a late power play goal to give them life. It was a good period despite conceding a shot by Denis Malgin for Florida’s second power play goal of the night. It gave me hope.
In the third period, the Devils didn’t really play like they were losing. Soon, the hope took a hit. Florida swarmed them a few times and amid their buzzing, Jaromir Jagr set up Vincent Trocheck - who had an awesome night - for a one-timer Cory Schneider wasn’t going to stop to make it 1-3. Another two goal deficit. But it did not last. On the very next shift, the Devils went forward and were rewarded. John Moore joined the rush and picked up the puck behind the net after a missed shot (intentional?) by Nick Lappin. Moore fed P.A. Parenteau, who put the puck through Reimer’s legs to make it 2-3. Florida kept up their attack, but the Devils would get a few attempts here and there. Fortunately, they would get the important one. With just under four minutes to play, Beau Bennett and Pavel Zacha made their mark. Bennett beat Keith Yandle in going forward and made space for himself entering the Panthers’ end. He fed Zacha a lateral pass across the slot that Zacha hit perfectly with a shot. Top shelf to beat Reimer and make it 3-3. That was Bennett’s first point with the Devils and Zacha’s first NHL goal. And it was a crucial play from both.
While I was not happy with the Panthers out-attempting and out-shooting the Devils down 21-10 and 14-7 in 5-on-5 play in the third, I was very happy that the Devils’ few chances did not go begging. In the first period, particularly on the power play, both Zacha and Michael Cammalleri had glorious one-timer opportunites where they both missed the net instead of scoring. In light of that and that the team had a two-goal deficit for the first time this season, witnessing the Devils tie it up makes me feel more confident in the offense.
Overtime could have been better. Overtime ended in the first game against Florida with Damon Severson being put on his wallet and losing the puck behind his own net that led to the game winner. Tonight, it began with a lost puck on offense. Adam Henrique was close to the net and turned into Reimer in the hopes of jamming it in. Reimer knocked the puck into space where all three Panthers could rush forward. Only Andy Greene was back and the rush was led by Trocheck. Greene had to pick up Smith to deny a one-timer and so he did; Cammalleri and Henrique couldn’t come back to help; and that left Schneider with Trocheck. Schneider denied Trocheck’s shot; but Trocheck collected his own rebound and put it around Schneider for the game winner. It was an impressive effort by a man who had an impressive night of one goal, six shots on net, drew two penalties, a Corsi of +6, and won 17 out of 26 faceoffs.
Despite another road game ending without a win, I’m pleased with the Devils earning a point to start this three game trip. It looked like it was a guaranteed loss between the two goal deficit and the Devils’ struggles to score goals. The Devils got something out of it instead. That’s a positive and I think that should be the focus as they head into a back-to-back set this weekend. Even with a repeat of the same result of their first game of the season.
The Opposition Opinion: Kevin Kraczkowski has this short “re-cat” at Litter Box Cats of the Devils’ 3-4 OT loss.
Another Change to Come: In the third period, there was another shift in the lines. Nick Lappin was skating with Adam Henrique and P.A. Parenteau at right wing. Kyle Palmieri was skating with Sergey Kalinin and Vernon Fiddler. I do not know exactly why this switch was made. I will say that Lappin made the most of his opportunity. His high shot actually led to Parenteau’s goal in the third period. He received a little bump in ice time in the third period and even played a shift within the final minutes of regulation in a 3-3 game. It’s not a massive sign, but I see it as a sign that Lappin is earning more trust of the coaching staff.
As for Palmieri, well, I don’t know what to say. He had four shots out of seven attempts, which is good. It’s arguable he should have drawn a holding call in OT when he was grabbed from behind while trying to go forward. However, in 5-on-5 play, Palmieri was frequently seen on defense and that’s not exactly what he’s best at. I’m going to just chalk it up to someone else having to move down to allow Lappin to be used with others.
What of Cammalleri?: I wish he back checked harder in overtime. But he really didn’t have a bad night. Maybe not a good night, but not an awful one. Cammalleri, Zajac, and Taylor Hall were good in 5-on-5 play and when #13 was on the ice, the Devils out-shot the Panthers 10-5 in the same situation. Given that he saw the Trocheck line the most, that’s not shabby. He wasn’t an anchor when he was out there in regulation. Cammalleri may have missed a glorious one-timer from the right circle - his usual spot on power plays, that’s not new for this game. But he had three shots on five attempts so it wasn’t like he provided nothing. I don’t think he was as bad as he was to start the season, but I can agree that he’s in kind of a funk. Scoring a goal would help. Playing more like he did against Tampa Bay last Saturday would too. I think he’ll stay at right wing for another game, but that may change similar to how Palmieri and Lappin switched up in the third period.
A Standout Failing on Defense: John Moore did set up an important goal that came right after the Devils went down 1-3. However, Moore nearly made it 1-3 just before the end of the second period. He had the puck behind the net and I am going to assume he figured he would just wait out the clock. Reilly Smith, who had a strong night with his usual center Trocheck, was coming into forecheck Moore. Moore hestitated, got bodied by Smith, and lost the puck to him. Smith threw the puck right in front to a wide open Trocheck, who had to be robbed by Schneider with about two seconds left to play. While the play did not result in a goal against, it was awful enough to remember.
It was, in a way, symbolic of how bad the Devils defense was at times tonight. A miscue on the puck or not handling Florida’s pressure well or just not paying attention (e.g. Lovejoy on Trocheck’s third period goal) allowed the Panthers to keep swarming the net. Schneider had to be active and acrobatic to make several of the stops he did make. I thought he did well aside from the goal allowed to Denis Malgin and his playing of the puck with his stick. The third period - the one the Devils were trailing in except for the final 3:55 - featured the Panthers crashing the net and nearly catching Schneider and Devils all askew for another goal. It was a departure from the second period and it nearly dashed any hopes of overtime at all. It’s not all Moore’s fault (well, the above paragraph was) and it’s not as if all of the defenders were bad (Greene-Severson was good), but the blueliners aren’t always getting the help they need from the forwards and the defensemen aren’t always making the right plays.
Poor Taylor Hall: Taylor Hall had a night where maybe he wasn’t necessarily dominating but you figured he did OK. Then you look at the scoresheet and realize he had six shots out of ten attempts on his own. That’s more than OK.
He could have had some points tonight too. First, early in the second, he forced a 2-on-1 with Devante Smith-Pelly. But the pass across to DSP led to a shot that went wide instead of beating Reimer. Second, in overtime, Hall beat out Aaron Ekblad - who also had a great night for Florida - to a rolling puck for a breakaway. The puck stayed on edge, which may have made it easier for Reimer to stop Hall. It would have made for an amazing moment for Hall to score on a breakaway in overtime for the team’s first road win. Alas, it was not to be. I wish the Devils actually put up another shot on net in overtime, but that’s not all on Hall. Play like this, though, will surely lead to more points and further reason why Hall on the Devils is a very, very good thing.
Impressive Panthers: With all due respect to the Aleksander Barkov line, the unit I was most impressed and eventually fearful of tonight was Trocheck’s line. Trocheck himself was great beyond scoring the game winner. Smith played a great game too. Colton Sceviour had good moments. Similarly, the line of Malgin, Kyle Rau, and Jared McCann had plenty of positive shifts - which is what you would want from a “bottom six” line. They did good work. On defense, Michael Matheson - my “X-factor” from the preview - had a solid outing and looked like he was going to ruin the Devils in OT for a second time this season. Ekblad looked like a stud and his shot for Florida’s first power play goal was fantastic. I was surprised Reimer got the start over Roberto Luongo; but Reimer did his best to justify the coach’s decision. He faced 34 shots and while I’m sure he’d like the Parenteau goal back, I thought he did well. In a way, one could argue that the Devils may lament this loss because they took a Panthers squad that had plenty of good to great performances to overtime. Still, I have to give the opposition their due.
The 360 was a Bit Much: Keith Yandle’s biggest lowlight may be getting beaten by Bennett that led to Zacha’s goal. His second would be over-selling a trip by Ben Lovejoy in the first period. Lovejoy’s stick was in between Yandle’s skates, so it was a fair tripping call. But Yandle did a spin as he went down. That was a fair embellishment call.
Shaky Special Teams: The Devils’ penalty kill got lit up twice for goals and, for some time in the second, it looked like that would be enough for the Panthers to succeed tonight. It wasn’t. It was not long after Malgin’s goal that Adam Henrique took an unneeded roughing call for getting his hand on Trocheck’s collar and beefing with him. The Devils killed that penalty well so the PK was not 0-for-3 in terms of success. It was not a great night overall for the unit, though.
The Devils did have four power plays and put up eight shots on net. Early on, the Devils’ most glorious looks at the net were met with missed shots. And one shot that ended up hitting Hall in the dome (the helmet, thankfully). Zajac’s rebound-off-a-block goal was a part of a better power play effort. Alex Petrovic gifted the Devils a third period power play when they were down 2-3 with a delay of game call. The movement and possession was nice, but the shots left a little something to be desired. Still, I like how the Devils performed on their latter two power plays than their first two.
One Last Thought: Given how Kyle Quincey performed tonight, I wouldn’t be surprised if Vojtech Mozik comes in for him at some point this weekend.
Your Take: While losing another overtime game in Sunrise, Florida and remaining winless of the road isn’t good, I am glad the Devils did pick up a point and came from behind two goals to force overtime at all. And without Hall needing to do something miraculous. What’s your take on tonight’s OT loss? Who impressed you the most among the Devils? Who impressed you the least? What should the Devils learn from this game ahead of their back-to-back set this weekend? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about tonight’s OT loss in the comments.
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