Last week, the New Jersey Devils visited the Ottawa Senators and spoiled their two goal lead in the third period to force extra time. There, the Devils won 5-4 with an overtime winner. Tonight, the New Jersey Devils went up 4-2 on Ottawa with under six minutes left. Damon Severson scored his first goal in a really long time from the top of the right circle. It looked like a sure-fire insurance goal. However, the Senators would have revenge and make up that two goal deficit - with an extra skater and within the final 75 seconds of the game. History looked like it was going to repeat itself but only with teams reversed. Yet, the Devils managed to get to the shootout and with the help of Drew Stafford, Keith Kinkaid, and one amazingly sweet goal by Jesper Bratt, the Devils prevailed 5-4. The Devils lost the regulation win, but ended up winning the game in the end.
Alex remains right, this team is definitely dramatic.
The game as a whole was like a sandwich on the scoreboard and like a runny soup in the run of play. Ottawa scored the first and second goals, both in the first period. The Devils provided the delicious innards of the sandwich with four goals to make up a 0-2 deficit and to eventually be up 4-2. However, the Senators provided the not-so-tasty second-half of bread with two extra-skater goals to make it 4-4.
Amid these goals was a game that was brisk and competitive but low on both shots and attempts. It was a far cry from the shooting gallery the Devils provided in Kanata last week. Then, the Devils alone put 46 on net. Tonight, the two teams combined for 52 total - and they needed overtime to get that. It was not so much that Ottawa put up a neutral zone trap or the Devils somehow remembered what defensive hockey looked like. Sticking with the soup analogy, a game filled with turnovers, bad passes, unfortunate stick checks, and blocked shots all seemed to run together across both sides of this game. In total, per Natural Stat Trick, Ottawa had a slight edge in 5-on-5 play in terms of attempts; the Devils had an edge in chances; but nobody really outright dominated the run of play. The bowl was filled with action; not favoring any edge.
If any team had an edge in anything, then the Devils certainly had one on special teams. Ottawa entered this game with a very good penalty kill. They left this one with a mark against it: a rebound goal by Adam Henrique from a blocked shot from Will Butcher. That PPG made it 2-2 at the time and, for a little bit, encouraged some more offense. In total, the Devils did generate five shots and more attempts across their power plays. The penalty kill of the Devils was fierce. Blake Coleman, Jesper Bratt, and Brian Gibbons were a joy to watch on the forecheck. Coleman nearly had a shorthanded goal that would have made it 4-2 earlier in the third period. But the forwards were just giving the Senators fits. They and the other defenders limited Ottawa to just one shot across two power plays all night. In other news: the Devils only conceded two power plays tonight, which is also a plus. This aspect went well.
Obviously, what could have been better was the play against the extra skater. Give Guy Boucher, head coach of Ottawa, credit. He pulled Condon with about 2:40 left and the gambit worked. The Senators pinned the Devils back for about a minute until Mark Stone knocked in a puck in mid-air past Kinkaid to make it 4-3. Boucher used his timeout to establish a game plan. After an offside call with 1:09 left, Ottawa gained the zone and continued to own the puck. Whereas Stone’s goal came against a tired unit, the fresher Devils skaters were just overwhelmed. Brassard found Chris DiDomenico, who caught Kinkaid not fully against the right post. He put one off of him for his first of the season and to stun the Rock. Disappointing as the goals were, the Devils were not able to get a clear prior to the Stone goal and the Devils were not able to get the puck at all prior to the Brassard goal once Ottawa gained the zone. I understand 5-on-6 defending is akin to a penalty kill. However, in retrospect, they would have done well to be more aggressive to force the puck handler to make a non-ideal decision. The incident speaks to the Devils’ defensive woes. While the team did not give up a lot of attempts (40 in 5-on-5) or shots (27 total), Ottawa took them to school for the better part of two minutes and turned a 4-2 lead into 4-4. While I would not immediately say this has been an issue (I would need to see how severe it really has been), this is something to focus on before it becomes an issue this season.
Fortunately, the Devils were able to salvage the game. Even there, it was dramatic. Overtime featured two shots for both teams, but Ottawa played it smart. They maintained possession better and took more dangerous shots. The Devils, notably Nico Hischier, seemed to fire passes and shots as if it was still 5-on-5 hockey at points - where they lost the puck. In 3-on-3, possession is even more paramount. But Kinkaid stopped Ottawa’s shots and the Devils were able to get it to a shootout. The Devils won their second shootout of the season thanks to Stafford tying it up after Pyatt scored; Kinkaid denying Erik Karlsson; and Bratt turning Condon into a highlight victim:
This goal was glorious. The Rock was ecstatic and even moreso when Kinkaid denied Hoffman. The Devils nearly lost it. They eventually won it. They salvaged this game. Onto the next one.
The Opposition Opinion: Ary M has this recap at Silver Seven.
The Game Highlights: From NHL.com:
Looking Good!: Three of the Devils’ four goals were just excellent shots past Condon. Jimmy Hayes put in an inch-perfect shot to the top left corner. It was the finish to an excellent zone entry and read by Pavel Zacha that found the big winger open. He fired a lovely shot before Cody Ceci could do anything about it. Late in the second period, Zacha outworked Nate Thompson along the right sideboards. He gets the puck out to Brian Gibbons, who snipes a shot from the top of the circle to beat Condon. It was another great finish after strong play from Zacha. It was also Gibbons’ fourth goal of the season, which surprisingly makes him the team leader in goals. All of these goals and it’s Brian Gibbons who leads with four. The final goal in regulation from Severson was a well placed shot to the far post from the right circle. Taylor Hall worked hard to maintain possession, keep the puck in the zone after it was knocked away, and made a great pass to Severson across the zone and through Ryan Dzingal. Severson made that pass count. These three goals were not just great shots, but they were great finishes from strong play by the Devils.
Related to that, this was a great night for most of the Devils mentioned in the previous paragraph. Zacha was more aggressive on the puck and he made a big statement with his play tonight. Hayes was able to get on the scoresheet and he was OK in the run of play. Gibbons was a joy to watch on the PK and he played off Zacha well. Clearly, the coaches and management knew something when he was kept up and Joseph Blandisi was sent down at the beginning of this season. Gibbons has done plenty to justify his roster spot. As for Hall and Severson, well, I have something else to say about them.
Unrelated to those goals, the Devils received strong performances from others. The fourth line of Blake Coleman (another forward who’s been putting in a strong effort to stay in the lineup), Miles Wood, and Stefan Noesen was a proper energy line tonight. As in, they had multiple shifts where they just swarmed Ottawa and kept them back with speed and extra effort to keep attacks going. If Wood was a bit smarter or the others had a bit more luck, then we could have seen a goal from them. I liked how Will Butcher performed from the back; he added another (primary) assist to his growing collection and attempted four shots. I liked what I saw out of Marcus Johansson, especially when he was taking Senators on with the puck. I liked what I saw out of Steve Santini and even John Moore on defense, too.
Not Looking Good!: This was a rough night for Severson and Andy Greene. So much so that John Hynes moved Greene to play with Santini and Moore with Severson by the second period. The duo were picked on plenty from an attempt and shot perspective. While Severson scored, he had issues with making passes out of his zone. Many times, it would be picked off by a Senator or end up being one. Greene was off his mark too. The two even contributed to Ottawa’s first two goals. On the first, Greene pinched in following what was supposed to be a dump-in (I think by Bratt). But Jean-Gabriel Pageau denied it and with Greene caught up on offense; he fired a pass to up DiDomenico to lead a 2-on-1. Damon Severson stayed in the middle, lost his footing, and so Mike Hoffman had an easy goal. Later in the first, Severson attempted a shot and his stick broke. Ottawa responded with an attacking shift that ended with Johnny Oduya firing in a shot helped with a screen by Greene. Normally, 6-28 is a solid combination. Tonight, they were not and so Hynes did the smart thing and split them up after that first period. Still, they were wrecked from a CF% standpoint and it was easy to see - especially with Severson’s issues on the puck - why that was the case.
The forward line that was also pinned back a lot was Hall, Nico Hischier, and Stafford. They played quite a lot of defense. They would have had more offense generated if A) some of those sweet zone entries by Hall did end up with a shooting attempt and B) the trio fired less into Senators players. Even so, they were struggling against Brassard’s line and had issues with other units too. It was not as dire as Tom Pyatt, Thompson, and Max McCormick (the only one of those three to have 1 CF), but it was a struggle for them. While Hall created a goal and had some good moments; I cannot honestly say that he and the line had a good game.
Was Fatigue a Factor?: The Senators played the prior night and the Devils were off for about a week. It was definitely a factor early on. The Senators were slow to get going for the game and to take initiative. Although they scored the first goal, it was not as if they really took the game to the Devils for long stretches at a time. The Devils’ own mishaps and errors undercut any plans to shock the Senators with speed. Credit the Senators’ defensive effort. There was often a white jersey by the puck handler and they kept the Devils to the outside plenty of times. There were some crease crashing, but they did force the Devils to shoot more from the tops and outside of the circles. As the game went on, it did not appear that the Sens were tired or the Devils were more fresh. I would go as far as to say it was not a factor at all as the game went on. By the final few minutes, everyone was feeling it in someway like any other hockey game. It is tempting to lament that the Devils were fresh and yet gave up two 5-on-6 goals against to lose a lead. Lament their defensive play, not their fitness. Hope that they are fit so they can avoid a slow start against Arizona on Saturday.
A Legend in the House: Patrik Elias was in the stands tonight and received a deserved ovation from the fans.
Defensive Note: Ben Lovejoy drew in for Mirco Mueller. Lovejoy was not so heinous at times. I liked his play on the penalty kill. However, he made a terrible pass that was picked off and sprung Mike Hoffman for a breakaway that Kinkaid stopped. That stood out to me, even though it was just a moment (and Severson was lucky none of his bad passes ended that way tonight). So does the fact he was out-shot 4-8 in 5-on-5 play. I don’t know, I don’t think he stays in the lineup with this game tonight.
Goalies?: I don’t think either goalie played particularly bad despite conceding eight goals in total. Kinkaid probably would want the fourth goal back. Condon would probably want to not be beaten three times on high shots. I’d give an edge to Kinkaid for the shootout performance. Besides, Condon’s jockstrap may still be in Bratt’s possession.
Congrats: Cory Schneider was not the backup today as he was with his wife, who was due to give birth. As I found out through the Devils’ Twitter account, Remy Elizabeth was born this afternoon. Congratulations to the Schneiders.
Coat Drive: The Devils will have another coat drive tomorrow. The voucher for the tickets state they are for November 7, 9, and 22. In the past, the games were spread out and in the future. I guess the Devils want those tickets to be given away quickly. Either way, if you’re going to the Devils-Arizona game, bring a coat so you can help somebody.
Two Last Thoughts: The Rock was not close to being full or a sell out tonight. And some did leave when it was 4-2 late in the third period, assuming the Devils were going to prevail. Yet, the crowd was rather loud and energetic when the Devils went up and especially in the shootout. I enjoy this more lively atmosphere and I hope the Devils can keep playing well enough to earn that crowd noise.
Lastly, Bratt and Stafford should remain as mainstays on the shootout.
Your Take: The Devils blew the lead but salvaged the win in the shootout. What did you think of the Devils’ performance? Who do you think was the best Devil in this game? Who do you think was the worst? What do the Devils need to takeaway from this game before playing their next game, which is against Arizona on Saturday? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about this game in the comments.
Thanks to everyone who followed along in the Gamethread and/or on Twitter with @AAtJerseyBlog. Thank you for reading.