First Period: Miles Wood made his first stupid play of the game when he tried to make a power move on Craig Anderson and ended up plowing over the goaltender. Less than a minute into the period, the Senators were on the power play.
Pavel Zacha made a great play during the penalty kill, chipping it out of the zone past Thomas Chabot. Zacha got to the puck in the neutral zone, having given himself a breakaway. He put a quick move to his forehand, and put the puck in the net. It was a good start for the snakebitten center. The Devils killed the rest of the penalty, having outshot the Ottawa Senators two-to-none throughout the two minutes. Blake Coleman had the other shot - his 16th shorthanded shot of the season.
About halfway through the period, Miles Wood had another opportunity to do something when Travis Zajac threw a cross-ice pass to him. Wood entered the offensive zone, and made a move towards the net, but couldn’t hold onto the puck.
Just a minute later, the Devils had the Senators pinned back in their zone. Taylor Hall got the puck towards the net, and Santini held the zone on the rebound off the boards. Nico Hischier took out his man along the boards to free up the puck for Taylor Hall again, who passed it to Kyle Palmieri on the edge of the circle, who ripped it past Craig Anderson to make the game 2-0.
With less than five minutes remaining in the period, Jesper Bratt took the puck off a defensive zone draw and sped up the ice. He tried to make a pass to an open John Quenneville, but the puck was too in his skates and he was disrupted by the Ottawa defenseman to put a clean shot on Craig Anderson.
Ottawa took their first penalty of the game when Ryan Dzingel tripped up Blake Coleman at center ice. With one minute and 26 seconds left in the first period, the Devils were headed to the power play. The closest thing the Devils had to a chance on the first wave was a Will Butcher point shot attempt that came back to Kyle Palmieri in the slot, who couldn’t hit the net. Pavel Zacha had the last opportunity to make something happen when a pass came to him to the right of Craig Anderson on a rush, but he couldn’t steer the puck to the net. With that, the period expired.
It was a good period, ultimately. There were no defensive breakdowns I noticed, and Keith Kinkaid had solid defensive support in front of him for the first time in…*checks calendar*...awhile. Unlike last night, the Devils were not in need of being saved by their goaltender every other couple of minutes. The shots on goal count through one period was 11 to seven in favour of the Devils - and they appeared well on their way to their first win in the second game of a back-to-back this season.
Second Period: The Devils had 36 seconds of carryover power play time to start the period. That time expired with little to note, but after the power play, Kyle Palmieri made a move to his backhand that Anderson denied, followed by Damon Severson ripping a shot off the pipe.
After Miles Wood took a hit in the neutral zone, he responded with a shoulder check of his own in the corner. A few seconds later, he took a high sticking penalty. The Ottawa Senators did not waste their time on this power play. Mark Stone geared up for a shot from the circle, and instead crossed the puck to Matt Duchene in the other circle, who had an open net and did not miss.
With 16:04 left in the period, the Devils got a power play of their own. Kyle Palmieri took a high stick in front of the benches from Ben Harpur. After Palmieri held the zone, Taylor Hall got the puck in the circle, faked a pass to Will Butcher, and took a wrist shot at Craig Anderson to make the game 3-1 just 11 seconds into the power play. That was Taylor Hall’s 10th goal of the season, and his first power play goal.
The Devils had the most insane sequence I’ve seen in the past few seasons. Sami Vatanen threw his body into the open net to stop the puck from going in, and Nico Hischier aided him with the glove. The puck got ahead to Kyle Palmieri, who hit the puck off a glove back to himself, and got a two-on-one with Taylor Hall. Hall got the puck from Palmieri, and put the puck past Palmieri. It was utterly amazing.
The Devils took a penalty past the halfway point of the period. Anderson came off for the extra attacker, and Kinkaid saved a slap shot from the top of the circle, and a pass deflected off of Sami Vatanen’s skate right to Matt Duchene, who buried a goal to cut the Devils’ lead to 4-2. Right after play resumed, Brett Seney took a stick to the face, and the Devils appeared to be going to the power play. However, both Zach Smith and Brett Seney went to the box. I disagreed with giving Seney a coincidental roughing call as he got crosschecked in the face, but whatever.
The Devils took another penalty for slashing Matt Duchene with three minutes and 39 seconds left in the period. Brett Seney went to the box. During the penalty kill, Blake Coleman and Pavel Zacha almost connected for what would have been Pavel’s second shorthanded goal of the game, but Anderson made the stop. The Devils successfully killed the penalty, preventing the Senators from getting a shot during the two minutes for the second time of the game.
Taylor Hall, after the penalty expired, moved through the offensive zone with the puck on his backhand, creating a rebound with a tough shot on Craig Anderson. The puck came back to Nico Hischier, who stayed with the loose puck with multiple Senators surrounding him and put it past Anderson for his ninth of the season, making the game 5-2. The period expired shortly after.
Third Period: Lowell Devils star goaltender Mike McKenna, who is surprisingly still in the NHL, came on for the Senators to play the third period. In seven appearances (four starts) prior to tonight, he had a .902 save percentage and a 3.99 goals against average. McKenna did well the first few minutes of the period, making a couple stops. The third was not moving very fast for several minutes.
John Qunneville took an offensive zone penalty for holding Zach Smith. It was not an ideal penalty - especially for someone who is trying to convince his team to not send him down again. Regardless, the Devils went back to the kill. There was a bit of chaos for a moment during Ottawa’s first wave, but after the puck came out of the zone they had trouble setting back up. However, the Devils went right back to the kill due to Kyle Palmieri taking a tripping call. The Devils, again, killed off the penalty.
Miles Wood and Mark Borowiecki were about to get into a fight with about six minutes left after coming together for one of many times in the game. Before they could do anything, a linesman got between them, and they got kicked out of the game. The linesman was certainly having himself a time, holding Wood, Borowiecki, and Brady Tkachuk all from each other. After the whistle, Mark Stone and Blake Coleman continued to jaw at each other, but play resumed without a fight.
There was absolute chaos in the Devils net when Matt Duchene went for a hat trick with under three minutes remaining. Kinkaid went down to stop the puck, and Tkachuk and Stone went very hard at Kinkaid trying to bang the puck home, and Tkachuk got a penalty out of it for roughing.
Hall got a shot right off the draw, which was steered away by McKenna. He, too, was looking for a hat trick. The Devils had trouble setting up after their first shot, and the first wave was mostly spent trying to establish the zone. Jesper Bratt had a strong shot on the second wave, which was knocked away high by McKenna. Severson fanned on a one-timer, which ended the power play. The horn sounded with a sharp angle shot by Tom Pyatt that was frozen by Keith Kinkaid - a strong win for the New Jersey Devils.
The Game Stats: The NHL.com Game Summary | The NHL.com Event Summary | The NHL.com Play by Play Log | The NHL.com Shot Summary | The Natural Stat Trick Game Stats
The Opposition Opinion: Check out Silver Seven Sens for their recap.
The Ultimate Highlight: We need to have a look at this.
It was absolutely amazing to watch. No words do this sequence justice. When I was watching this unfold live, I thought the universe’s laws of physics had been broken for a moment, because I didn’t think it was possible that Vatanen saved that goal. But he did. And I bet that Mark Stone wishes he had set up Thomas Chabot for the one-timer - Chabot was ready, but Stone gave Palmieri the opportunity to strip the puck from him instead.
I imagine some Senators questioned whether Nico Hischier closed his glove around the puck. From the replay, it look like Hischier properly knocked it away, and the referee was correct in not awarding the Senators a penalty shot.
The Hall-Palms Connection: The first line was clicking tonight, offensively. Taylor Hall connected with Kyle Palmieri for Palms’ 18th of the season, and Nico Hischier picked up the secondary assist on the play. On both of the goals for Taylor Hall, Kyle Palmieri got the primary assist. This game should probably say to John Hynes that, for the time being, these three players are best when on the ice together. While I have been in favour of breaking them up in the past, this game stands in stark contrast to the line experiments of last night.
The Defense: They started this game very, very well. They got less good as the game went on, though they also had to deal with five Ottawa power plays, only allowing one goal (and also an extra attacker goal on a delayed penalty). For what it’s worth, though, the team did not allow a single five-on-five goal. And while Andy Greene and Damon Severson were apparently hemmed in at a glance in a game where they saw plenty of ice time together (25.00 and 29.63 CF%, respectively), there were only five shots against and no high danger chances against while Greene was on the ice at 5v5. When Severson and Greene were together, the team had a 27.78 CF%, while outshooting the Senators five-to-three at 5v5. Severson had a few bad minutes with Sami Vatanen, where they allowed three shots on goal and were unable to generate any momentum the other way. I expected the Devils to maybe fall behind in the energy department as the game went on - given they were on the back end of a back-to-back and Ottawa was coming off of a few days of rest. However, they seemed to handle themselves okay - but it would have been nice if they were as solid and steady as they were in the first period, defensively.
Zacha: On most nights, Pavel Zacha would have had the highlight of the night with his goal. He set himself up by chipping it off the boards, passing a sensational rookie defenseman by and looking like a natural goal scorer with quick hands and a nice shot past Craig Anderson. Here’s a look at that play again.
If nobody else is going to finish Pavel Zacha’s passes, Pavel Zacha is going to have to do it himself. Also, with just five points on the year, Zacha has managed to score in all three types of situations. But it’s hard to see why he only has five points when he does things like this. He basically got Chabot to give up when he protected the puck on his backhand, as the only way to stop him would have been to take a penalty. Zacha’s line did not fare as well in even strength play, but this will likely stave off a return to Binghamton, which I think is for the good of everyone.
Here to Stay: Last night, I mentioned Steven Santini’s performance as a surprise in the loss. Tonight, he got The Helmet.
#TheHelmet | #️⃣1️⃣6️⃣ pic.twitter.com/PCoq4bV9HI— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) December 22, 2018
Santini broke even in possession at even strength tonight. Even better, he was on the ice for all three even strength Devils goals. And while he didn’t pick up an assist, I felt like he was not playing poorly with the puck. I imagine that, if Santini continues to play like this, we might not be seeing Mirco Mueller for a fair bit. While this means somebody is going to have to play on their off-hand, an improved Santini would be a boon to this Devils defense.
Your Thoughts: How did you feel tonight? Is this enough to get you pumped? Or do you need a couple more wins before you can feel that way again? Who stood out to you most, aside from Taylor Hall and Kyle Palmieri? Did you forget Mike McKenna? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
And as always, thanks for following along with us at All About the Jersey - whether you were in the gamethread or you followed on Twitter @AATJerseyBlog. This is Chris - goodnight.