It was 4-1 Nashville after the second period. The Nashville Predators bodied up the New Jersey Devils for about twenty minutes in the middle frame. The Predators had strong moments in the first period. The Predators scored two goals in the first period. But the Devils had good shifts of their own and even had a goal. That was competitive. The second period was not. The Predators did whatever they wanted. They didn’t just score two goals. They made the Devils look silly. They made the Devils skaters look like minor leagues. They overloaded Keith Kinkaid with attempts and shots. It was looking like that after a winless streak full of one-goal and/or post-regulation losses, this would be a rout. A blowout. It was 4-1 in favor of Nashville.
On the very first shift of the third period, Andy Greene fired a shot towards the net. It is blocked by Mattias Ekholm. The puck came to an open Michael Cammalleri, who fired it in on Pekka Rinne’s flank. The score was then 4-2.
Thirty seconds later, Vernon Fiddler leads a rush up ice with Miles Wood. The puck was rolling so Fiddler failed to get the puck to Wood, but Fiddler recovered the puck in the slot in motion. He fired a quick, low shot on Rinne. Rinne made the save. Andy Greene followed this rush and slammed in the rebound. The score was then 4-3.
Nashville took a timeout and the Predators went back to performing like they did in the second period. They just controlled the puck. The Devils struggled mightily to do anything with the puck. Whether it was due to fatigue or a lack of options or just not understanding the situation, they just kept sailing pucks away. Pucks that Nashville recovered and often turned into offense. The Preds kept firing and the Devils were held without a shot - until Nashville made a mistake.
While rolling on offense, Craig Smith hooked Cammalleri. The Devils power play took to the ice for the third time against a Nashville penalty kill that has not allowed a goal against. Mike Fisher denied a zone entry and was about to go off to the races before Kyle Palmieri pasted him into the boards. The Devils recovered and restarted their zone entry. Damon Severson up to Taylor Hall, who carried it in. Hall with a short pass to Travis Zajac, who looked for an open man. Zajac with a pass to Adam Henrique, who was inside the left circle. Henrique turned, fired, and scored the first power play goal Nashville allowed all season in their building. And on the first shot the Devils put on target since Greene scored 55 seconds into the period. The score was then 4-4 with 7:23 left.
The Devils held on with plenty of scares. Kinkaid took a puck to the face under his mask after denying Craig Wilson on a breakaway; he remained in the game and made some big stops - like a massive stop on Roman Josi with minutes left. The Devils were just in survival mode. And they did so all the way to the end of regulation. Overtime would be needed.
Despite the 3-on-3 situation, the on-ice play remained the same. Nashville was dominant in possession. So much so, that Andy Greene and Michael Cammalleri, who started for New Jersey in OT, were on the ice for 2:21 and 2:06 in their first shift in OT. The Predators were just in control. It would not be until the last minute of overtime where the Devils had the puck in control and going towards Nashville. It resulted with Cammalleri missing the net and allowing Filip Forsberg to charge up ice. He missed the net and there would be one last drive, led by Cammalleri and Hall.
It was 4-1 Nashville at one point.
It ended 5-4 in favor of New Jersey.
The Opposition Opinion: Michael Gallagher at On the Forecheck has this recap.
My Reaction to the OT Winner and the Game Going to OT At All: HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA
More Seriously...This was an Improbable Comeback: Per Natural Stat Trick, the Devils finished the game out-shot 22 to 42 in all situations, out-attempted in 5-on-5 play 31 to 63, out-chanced in 5-on-5 play 9 to 23, out-attempted in all situations 38 to 77. The Devils took exactly five shots on net in the third period and overtime and four of those shots went into the net. There was a long gap between the third and fourth of those five shots, which were both goals. There was a long gap between the fourth and fifth of those five shots, which were both goals - and went beyond the third period. The Devils power play was the one team to break Nashville’s shutout streak on their penalty kill. And on top of that, the Devils were effectively shorthanded on their roster. Hockey isn’t about deserves. Hockey isn’t about fairness. Hockey is a game and the Devils made the kind of comeback that you’re not going to see very often today. It was that improbable.
Effectively Shorthanded: The Devils entered this game with twelve forwards but only used nine throughout regulation. Pavel Zacha left the game in the first period with a facial laceration. John Quenneville and P.A. Parenteau were limited to two shifts in the third period. The former could be understood in that throwing a rookie out there against a steamrolling Nashville team in a tight game may not be a good idea. The latter has to be a benching of some sort. Parenteau didn’t play a good game. I cannot identify what specifically led to his benching, though.
The Best Devil: Easily, it was Keith Kinkaid today. He faced 77 shooting attempts and 42 shots in just under 65 minutes. That’s a hefty workload for anyone. While he was beaten four times, he only gave up one soft goal. That soft goal being the one allowed to P.K. Subban in the first period; Subban torched Parenteau on a toe drag and then fired a wrister that Kinkaid initially stopped but the puck trickled through. Kinkaid was under siege for the majority of the second, third, and overtime periods. The other three goals? Not on him from what I saw. Kevin Fiala beat him first when a rebound off a save by Kinkaid hit off Fiala’s body and went into the net. That was a fluke. Fiala beat him a second time when he one-touched a marvelous pass by Craig Smith on Kinkaid’s right flank. That wasn’t good defending, particularly by Severson. And the fourth goal? Shortly after they survived Nashville crashing the net, Josi fired a one-timer from distance through many bodies. While four goals allowed isn’t world-class goaltending; Kinkaid did the best he could. And he absolutely was in the third and overtime periods, keeping Nashville off the board as the Devils made their improbable comeback.
My point from the preview remains: Devils need to do a better job to help their goalies.
The Best Devil Skater: Among skaters, it’s hard to identify someone as good given how much the Predators picked apart the Devils in the run of play today. I would have to say it was Michael Cammalleri. He started the comeback effort with a quick goal in the third period. He was one of two Devils to register three shots on net. In 5-on-5 play. he was impressively the only Devil to out-shoot their competition (5-4) and he was the closest to 50% Corsi (11 CF, 12 CA) among all Devils. He even was hooked in the third period, which led to the power play that New Jersey scored on. Most of all, Cammalleri finished the comeback effort with an overtime winning goal. So I would say it was him.
As an aside, Cammalleri played 3:14 of overtime in two shifts, first a 2:06 long shift and then a 1:08 shift that he scored on. Get some rest, Cammalleri. It’s earned.
A More Standout Hall: Taylor Hall ended up having a big day too. He scored his first goal in a long, long time (October 25) when he batted in a rebounded puck in mid-air in the first period. He made the zone entry and the short pass to Zajac that led to Henrique’s PPG. He led the 2-on-1 that set up Cammalleri in overtime. That’s a 3 point effort along with 29 shifts and 23:12 of ice time. I would have preferred he attempted more shots; that batted-in goal was his sole shot of the day. But Hall made an impact in an improbable comeback. Not bad for someone who was out with a torn meniscus a few weeks ago.
The Predators: A big chunk of Nashville’s 42 shots on net came from four players: Roman Josi (5 shots), P.K. Subban (5 shots), Viktor Arvidsson (6 shots), and Kevin Fiala (7 shots). Only Arvidsson didn’t score among those four and Fiala had two goals, although one was a fluke. They just kept pounding the Devils; they seemed to be on the ice much more than they were.
These four, as with pretty much the rest of the roster, was just dominant in possession. Only Nashville’s fourth line was held below 50% Corsi and their lowest CF% player other than them was Yanick Weber, who was around 58%. Why? Nashville started forechecking early and that helped. Nashville executed very well at entering the Devils’ zone and making passes on offense, which also helped. Nashville were well structured on defense to end Devils’ advances early, which led to more attacking opportunities and that helped. All of that added up. And with every good shift, the Devils seemed to struggle more and more to find a response - even when they were down a goal amid a winless streak.
Despite the result, the Predators demonstrated how good they are. The improbable comeback is a stunner. But by no means they did they come up lame or display some weakness that the Devils exploited (that didn’t happen). They only had a few moments where things didn’t go right and they all went as right as possible for New Jersey. That doesn’t happen often. That’s something the Predators and Devils fans should keep in mind, especially when the Predators come to the Rock later in December.
Adam Henrique Did Something: He scored the power play goal. It was his lone shot today, but he made it count. May it lead to more substantive and notable performances in the future.
One Last Thought: This win ends a four game winless streak and a four-game road trip. The trip ends with a record of 1-1-2. While New Jersey has been bleeding goals and displaying a lot of poor defense (John Moore is a facepalm-fest, Kyle Quincey was made to look like a pylon today), they’ve been able to score bunches of goals and keep games close. And that leads to points in the standings. For many teams, a winless streak yields no points or maybe just one. The Devils earned three on their streak and the win means their situation in the standings is not so dire. There’s plenty for the Devils to work on, but the Devils got something out of the trip - even if it took a highly improbable comeback to do so.
Your Take: The Devils stunned Nashville by coming back from being down 1-4 to win in overtime, 5-4. The Devils ended a winless streak and a road trip with Cammalleri’s overtime winner. What was your reaction to how the game ended? Was it laughter? Who was the best Devil today in your opinion? What, other than everything, should the Devils work on from this game ahead of their return home on Tuesday? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about this win in the comments.
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