Never give up. Never say die. Never quit. Whatever non-effort word you like to throw after “Never” seemingly applies to the 2017-18 New Jersey Devils. After a heinous second period that featured bad penalties, bad goals allowed, a goaltender leaving due to injury, and seeing 2-1 turn into 2-4, things were looking somewhat bleak. But the Devils kept up the offense, they played to the score, and they were rewarded with two third period goals to force overtime. In overtime, the Devils dominated the puck and John Moore scored his fifth career goal in the fourth period to make it a 5-4 win. The home fans were unhappy to see what probably should have been a regulation win go up in smoke. The Devils fans around the world should be celebrating.
As with many of the Devils’ games in their young season so far, this game was jam packed with events. Nico Hischier scored his first ever NHL goal, one-touching a feed from Taylor Hall right in front to open the game’s scoring. Minutes later, Hischier roofs the puck on a jam play for his second ever NHL goal (and it cost Guy Boucher his timeout when his challenge for goaltender interference failed). As for Hall, the man had a four-assist night while going hard on the ice on seeming every shift. The line of Marcus Johansson, Adam Henrique, and Kyle Palmieri was a force to be reckoned with. They not only contributed the two third period goals that forced overtime (Palmieri for the first, Johansson with the second); they combined for fifteen (!) of the team’s 46 (!!!!) shots on net. In other news, the Devils put up 46 shots on net! There were stretches where the Devils would need at least two games to get that total. The Devils tore through whatever Ottawa called a trap again and again. In the other end, Keith Kinkaid replaced Cory Schneider after the second period and was sensational. He robbed Bobby Ryan of what could have been the game’s deciding goal; he held true under serious power play pressure in the middle of the period; and he came in cold knowing that he was to play tomorrow. Lots of good stuff.
There was plenty of bad stuff, though. The game became very physical, with Dion “Jerk” Phaneuf notably trying to bully Hischier around and hitting Palmieri in the head. Discipline was more of New Jersey’s problem though as they kept taking fouls. They conceded six power plays. Damon Severson took two penalties. Dalton Prout took two penalties. Johansson and Santini conceded a trip each in a row in a 3-4 game in the third. That one could have been a killer as Johasson’s shortened their own power play and Santini’s occurred with three seconds left from that penalty kill. While the Devils killed those calls and had three impressive shorthanded one-on-one plays; the Devils conceded two goals. One right off the draw from Kyle Turris that had the puck see its way through Santini and Cory Schneider’s legs. The second came from a one touch pass by Erik Karlsson that sent Alex Burrows around Andy Greene for a shot and had him pot in the rebound before Santini could get to him. Penalties nearly sank the Devils tonight and the calls, again, were avoidable ones. Yes, Ottawa went physical but they did most of it in a gray zone.
The second period was a whole mess. That Burrows goal came shortly after a Derrick Brassard goal that Schneider should have stopped and Hischier should have done a better job on Brassard than hooking him (which was going to be called). Later in the second, Tom Pyatt spun around Will Butcher and beat Schneider’s left skate to the right post. Both goals were bad ones for Schneider to allow. Making matters worse: he left the game with a lower body injury and did not return to the bench. An injury may explain the soft goals; we’ll see whether anyone is called up from Binghamton soon. But even some of those soft goals featured some less than ideal defending. While the Sens did not shoot the lights out of New Jersey, there were more than a few times where the defensive effort was lacking. Such as a heinous giveaway by Santini in the first that forced a massive stop by Schneider and Bobby Ryan easily going around Santini before Kinkaid robbed him in the third. (Santini did not have a great night.) Adding to all of this was that Anderson was stopping everything in the second period. The Devils threw 14 shots at him with some real good chances and he got them all. Discipline issues, giving up 3 goals, losing a goalie, and the opposition’s goalie looking strong? It looked bleak.
But the Devils rebounded. They more than played to the score. Outside of a less than effective power play, the Devils put in the work and put the game to the Senators. They were rewarded with big goals. Following that note about physicality, Hall took a big hit after a zone entry - only for Palmieri to take it and move in for a great goal. Later, a bounce from behind the net went off Palmieri and Anderson and the Senators lost it. Johansson found it first and right in front of the net. He made it 4-4. And the Devils’ offense did not really stop. Hischier kept going to the “dirty” areas no matter what Jerk Phaneuf was saying or doing. Hall kept driving the play despite taking a big hit earlier. 90-14-21 kept racking up the Corsi. Even the “energy” players like Stefan Noesen, Miles Wood, and Blake Coleman had strong shifts. It was exciting to watch and heartening as a fan to witness.
Overtime could not have gone any better for the Devils. The Devils won possession from the start and they never really lost control. For eighty seconds, the Devils were able to get a change, they regrouped in the neutral zone as needed, they did not go so far back as to make it safe for Ottawa to change, and their one shot counted. Hall dropped back, he passed it to Moore, and this happened:
As with other games in this young season so far, there is plenty of room for improvement. There will be nights where this kind of comeback does not happen, whether it is because their goalie is on fire, they add to the lead, or something else went awry. There will be nights where the opposition doesn’t blow a two goal lead and doesn’t put their best skater on the ice to start overtime. The discipline, the defensive efforts, and the power play have to be better. But that does not diminish nor should it take away from what the Devils accomplished between 46 shots, 5 goals, and several impressive displays of offense from the skaters. They were fast. They were attacking. They supported each other. They never quit. They never said die. They never gave up. They won 5-4 in OT. Moore won it. The Devils won it. Enjoy it because the good outweighed the bad tonight. Enjoy it because it should be enjoyed. Come on, it’s a celebration.
The Opposition Opinion: Check out Silver Seven for Ottawa’s take on this game.
Seriously, 90-14-21 Ran Wild: The Devils won in CF% in 5-on-5 and all situation play at 51-38 and 70-51, respectively. The Johansson-Henrique-Palmieri unit was a big factor. They had it rough against Tampa Bay. Tonight, they absolutely enjoyed their shifts against most of the Senators’ top players like Karlsson, Kyle Turris, Mark Stone, and Brassard. They allowed something like eight attempts against and only three scoring chances; whilst putting up well more than that in 5-on-5 play. I was down on Johansson with how he lost pucks on the power play and took that tripping call in the third period. The numbers show that he was good for more than just his goal. Henrique played like a boss; justifying CJ’s glowing post about him. Only Henrique was absolutely shooting the puck with seven shots on net. Palmieri put up six and scored a huge third period goal to make the comeback even seem possible. He was right to be mad at Phaneuf for hitting him high in the second period; good to see #21 get some revenge on the scoresheet. (And he drew a trip from Phaneuf too, not that NJ did much with it.) All together, this was a great night for them and it is highly likely we will see them together tomorrow.
Nico Nico: Welcome to scoring, Nico Hischier!
It was great to see him score his first after such awful luck on Tuesday keeping him from getting that first career goal. It was even better he scored his second tonight. Most of all, he did it around the crease. The thing about Hischier is that despite his size and his game, he absolutely has no issue getting into the areas on offense where players can take a pounding and/or miss opportunities because they’re took close. Hischier had a fine game. I was not so happy with his play on the Brassard goal against, but Hischier kept motoring on and getting involved on offense. He also picked up a cheap secondary assist on the Moore OT winner. Cheap or not, that point means the Devils’ first overall draft pick now has seven points in seven games. Seems good in the basic stats department. Nico’s rising.
One “Ow” for Hall, More Pain for Ottawa: Hall had a huge four-assist night. The most impressive assist was one where he did not pass the puck. He took a hit from Mark Stone at the blueline and lost the puck. The puck slid into space, where Palmieri took it and scored. Given that Hall took some pain for that one, I am not so against awarding him a primary assist for that one. But in general, Hall was hustling and making plays as he should. He was making life difficult for Cody Ceci, Stone, Johnny Oduya, and even Jerk Phaneuf. If one wondered what he would bring to the table, then you saw it big time tonight. By the way, the four assists bring him to seven for the season. Yes, he has seven already.
Noesen Satisfied, Prout Maybe Not?: Noesen replaced Jimmy Hayes tonight and played a perfectly fine game as a bottom six forward. Energy on the ice? Yes. A few chances? Yes. Costly on defense? No. Penalties? No. Very nice. Dalton Prout drew in for Mirco Mueller. On the one hand, the 5-on-5 run of play went well when he was on the ice in terms of attempts (19-10), shots (12-8), and chances (11-4). He did not concede a PPGA when he was killing penalties. On the other hand, he took two penalties, one of them cost the Devils immediately after the call, and he is sort of limited as to what he could provide. I’m on the fence whether he should play against San Jose. I would not be surprised if Ben Lovejoy or Mueller are back in tomorrow. We’ll see.
Other Observations of Note: Jesper Bratt had some good shifts. He even took seven in a third period full of action. But he ended up being the only Devil to not register a shot on net tonight. That kind of stinks given that everyone had shots. Even Prout had two shots on net.
Damon Severson had a better night than he did against Tampa Bay. While he took two penalties, at least Severson wasn’t forcing passes or turning over pucks. The one really good run on the power play involved him running the 1-3-1 well early in the game. (Shame it didn’t happen again.) Severson limped off the ice towards the end of regulation after being hit in the back of his leg by a shot. But he returned to the bench in overtime. According to this Tweet by Andrew Gross, Severson should be OK. I just want him to cut down on the calls like everyone else on this team. His partner was not so bad either. While Greene looked sort of silly on the Brassard goal, I will concede that Karlsson’s pass was just about perfect. There was not much Greene could do. I will say that I was pleased with his performance otherwise. He put in a solid 22-and-a-half minute night with five shooting attempts and helped the play go forward.
In a physical game like this where tempers flared and scrums were common, Miles Wood impressed me. He stayed relatively calm. He only lost his cool when he cross-checked Alexandre Burrows during a faceoff; but Burrows provoked him and got two for his trouble too. But in other moments where Wood took a big hit or received some lumber after a whistle, Wood did not engage. He did not try to fight anyone. He did not try to start a beef himself. Instead of taking a penalty during the game, Wood even drew one.
He’s Going to Hear About This: I’m glad Ottawa head coach Guy Boucher did not start Erik Karlsson in overtime. He really should have. If the plan was to have him out there against Hall’s unit or when the Senators were able to get possession, well, that was not a good plan. While Hall’s unit did come out, the Devils never lost control of the puck and the Senators could not get a chance to change. It should be a talking point in Ottawa because Karlsson had a really good game tonight. He had three assists. He was one of the few Senators where when he was on the ice, the Senators out-shot the Devils in 5-on-5. Karlsson had eight shots on net tonight. He was a force on the puck. I’m happy he was not out there in a situation where puck control and handling are crucial. I’m also happy I do not have to answer the question Guy Boucher should be receiving after this loss.
History: According to Hockey-Reference, the last time the Devils put up 46 shots on net in a game, it was in a 3-4 shootout loss to Toronto on March 23, 2012. And, of course, I recapped that game here.
One Last Thought: Scott Niedermayer is the franchise leader in overtime goals by defensemen with seven per NHL.com. John Moore has five, solely second among defensemen and tied for fourth among all skaters with OT goals. John’s coming, Scott. (Don’t worry, Patrik Elias fans, his lead of 16 overtime goals should be safe.)
Your Take: The Devils completed a big comeback on the road, with John Moore capping it off. What did you think of this win and this performance? What concerns you going forward? Who impressed you the most tonight? How did you react when Nico finally scored? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about this win in the comments.
Thanks to everyone who followed along in the Gamethread and/or on Twitter (when it was working for me) with @AATJerseyBlog. Thank you for reading.