Based on the first forty minutes of this game, I would not believe it if you told me the New Jersey Devils and Washington Capitals would decide their game in the shootout. The ice was firmly tilted against New Jersey in those first two periods. Even strength attempts were in favor of the visitors, 33-19. All situation attempts were also in favor of the visitors, 35-21. It took just over twelve minutes for the Devils to even register their first shot on net. Worse, the Devils were down 0-1 twelve minutes into the second period. An attempted pass to the slot by Evgeny Kuznetsov hit off Eric Gelinas' stick and Justin Williams streaked in for a shot. Andre Burakovsky got a piece of it as it went in, so it's his goal. All the same, the Devils and deficits are not good places to be. So after two periods, I had very little confidence there would be any positive result for the Devils against the best team in the NHL today.
Then things took a turn in the third period and for the mostly better. Mike Richards was tagged for tripping Tyler Kennedy. Shortly after the power play began, Travis Zajac fired a shot from the slot that got through Braden Holtby. Just before John Carlson could clear the puck off the line, Joseph Blandisi darted in to dunk the puck home for the PPG and the equalizer. That was good. Later in the third, it got better. Lee Stempniak led a 2-on-1 with Joseph Blandisi. Despite an out-stretched Nate Schmidt, Stempniak elected to pass it across. He hit Blandisi's skate and so the puck bounced up the zone. Perfectly placed for Adam Henrique to pick it up and rip it past Holtby. A 2-1 lead after what was seen to start was refreshing.
It did not last. With just under six minutes left to play, Washington would get an equalizer of their own. No, not from their ace scorer Alex Ovechkin. No, not another one from Burakovsky. No, not one from the other scorers on the team. It was Paul Carey's first NHL goal. He just got to the slot and re-directed a pass by Matt Niskanen before Bobby Farnham realized he probably should've done something more than just stand there. That was a bummer. But it wasn't like the previous two periods where the Caps just imposed their will on the Devils. If anything, the Devils had the advantage late - literally. Justin Williams was given two for tripping Kyle Palmieri with a minute left to play. Even if they didn't convert in the first minute, the Devils would get a point.
Of course, they did not convert. And in overtime, they didn't do as much with the 4-on-3 as they should have. David Schlemko's decisions, in my opinion, were just not the right ones. I wondered why John Moore wasn't there? In any case, the situation became 4-on-4 hockey until the next whistle in overtime. As it turned out, the pace picked up and there would no whistle at all until about eleven seconds left in OT. Despite two hopeful blasts off faceoff wins, there would be a shootout. By this point, I was satisfied. The Devils already secured a point against the best team in the NHL despite getting rolled on them early. There were additional pluses: the penalty kill was great, Cory Schneider played like he usually did, and the Devils power play still outscored Washington's. That helped dull the pain that came from another shootout loss. I'll look at it from the positive perspective: the Devils took the Caps to the limit. A much better result than their last meeting.
The Opposition Opinion: ThePeerless has this recap at Japers' Rink.
The PK: I cannot stress enough how great the Devils penalty killers were today. Despite some not-so-smart penalties to take - namely Jordin Tootoo knocking down Carey behind the play - the Devils were very smart when down a man. They limited Washington to only one shot on net out of all three kills. It was brought up during the broadcast that the Capitals' power play has endured a slump. Knowing the talent and the power of Alex Ovechkin's one-timer, I was hoping the Devils won't provide them an end to that. And they didn't. Great.
Other Than Cory...Who Else Was Good?: Would you believe Tyler Kennedy? He led the Devils today with four shots on net. He was one of the few Devils to finish not in the red in possession too. I think that counts. I liked how Travis Zajac and Joseph Blandisi played. A benefit of a returning Michael Cammalleri (cross fingers) is that Blandisi can re-unite with Zajac and Palmieri. I think that could pay off well. As much as I didn't like his work on the power play, David Schlemko put in a good day's work. Andy Greene and Adam Larsson played like they are expected to play.
Who Wasn't As Good Despite Making Such a Big Mark on the Game: Lee Stempniak and Adam Henrique weren't all that great from what I saw. For over twenty minutes of ice time today, you'd expect more than just two combined shots. True, one was a goal and a pretty important one. Still, I was left with wanting more. It also didn't help that the line of Kuznetsov, Burakovsky, and Williams torched the Henrique line at evens.
Who Just Wasn't Good at All: The fourth line. "Wild Thing" ain't so on defense, apparently.
Surely, Severson's Got to Return Soon?: Seth Helgeson got to play so much defense and contribute so little going forward today that I'm not sure how anyone saw his performance can conclude that it's fine. While I don't think Eric Gelinas was as bad as he was earlier in this week, I can understand those who are still frustrated with him. Damon Severson has to return to the lineup soon, right? Right?
Your Take: The Devils come away from this day with something, which is usually better than what most teams get when they play the Capitals this season. What did you think of this performance? What was good? What was bad? What needs to be better for Monday's rematch against Our Hated Rivals? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about today's game in the comments. Thank you for reading.