Every once in a while, I get the chance to see something I have not seen before in sport. Maybe it’s a goal directly off a corner kick. Maybe it is a natural hat trick by a fourth-liner. Tonight, I have once again seen something I can honestly say I never saw before - and I wish I had not. The New Jersey Devils scored three goals against themselves in a 5-6 shootout loss to the Anaheim Ducks. I am not making this up. The Devils legitimately out-scored the Ducks at scoring against the Devils tonight.
When I write own-goals, I am not referring to a chance deflection amid traffic where the puck hit off a leg or a stray stick. Oh no. I mean it when I state that the Devils scored three times against themselves. The offenders purposedly did things they should not have done because what they did do on the ice led to the goal. Unlike soccer, the NHL does not record who was responsible for the own goal. Unlike the NHL, I can name and shame those who did it.
Stefan Noesen was the first one. In a 3-on-2 counter attack rush against the Devils, Keifer Sherwood was wide open coming down the left side of the net. He received a pass. He nearly mishandled but recovered a slung a pass to the middle. Stefan Noesen put it home on the goaltender’s flank. Noesen was ahead of his man, Carter Rowney, so all he had to do was collect the puck or knock it as far away from the net as possible. He one-touched it home with authority. This goal made it 1-2 in the game. Noesen was pretty bad in general tonight (when he was on the ice in 5-on-5, the Devils were out-attempted 3-13) and this play (among others) led to him being benched for the entire second period.
Ben Lovejoy was the second one. Pontus Aberg was pitchforking the puck into the Devils’ zone on his backhand. He had no other play but to dump it in. Lovejoy saw this lobbed puck and went to go glove it down. He failed. Instead of gloving it down, his own glove re-directed the puck to lob further to the left and it surprised - and beat - the goaltender. Worse, this goal tied up the game in the third period at 4-4. This was not unlike Phaneuf deflecting in a shot for the Devils. I called out Phaneuf for making that mistake on Thursday night. This is me calling out Lovejoy for a similar act.
Andy Greene was the third one and this was a special kind of stupid. The Ducks were on a power play. Greene failed to clear the zone and so the Ducks spent the end of the power play in New Jersey’s end of the rink, trying to score. After some successful, heads-up defending around the net, Ondrej Kase had a free shot at the right side of the net. The goaltender denied him with a big blocker save. The puck popped up in the air and Andy Greene - the team captain, Andy Greene; the experienced, Andy Greene; the oldest player on the team, Andy Green - decided he needed to try and bat the puck towards the net. He thought he could get the puck over the net and, instead, put it into the net. I feel dumber for writing that sentence. This would be bench-worthy for a rookie. Why in the world would any defenseman in any sport decide that the smart play would be to try and move the object of desire towards the goal they are trying to help protect? This goal made it 4-5 in favor of the Ducks. This was disheartening as it was as smart as drinking milk that went bad three months ago thinking it would grant someone superpowers.
What’s worse is that this all happened to Cory Schneider, the last goaltender on this planet who needs this kind of garbage. OK, Schneider should have stopped Brandon Montour’s goal in the first period. That goal made it 3-3 at the time. By that point, he was already victimized by one own goal. He was beaten twice by his own defensemen. Veteran defensemen who should know better. I know a goaltender alone does not win games; a team wins games. What do you even do when the team manages to beat you more than the opposition?
The New Jersey Devils did manage to salvage the game. With Schneider pulled for an extra skater, Marcus Johansson scored his third 6-on-5 goal of the season to make it 5-5 in the final minute of play. He finished a jamming effort by the Devils. Overtime came and, well, Schneider was great and the Devils did not lose there for the first time this season. Tonight was the first time the Devils went into the shootout. The Ducks scored, the Devils did not, and I am not even bothered by that as I am still convinced that the game never should have went this far. The Devils should have won this game in regulation. Schneider put in a decent night’s work against the opposition; and the Devils scored plenty of times. Yet he (and his numbers) and, more importantly, the team suffers big time thanks to Noesen, Lovejoy, and Greene royally screwing up tonight. I’ve never seen this before. And it’s nonsense like this that is contributing to the Devils sitting in last place in their division and in their conference.
If a good team is a team that finds wins out of situations that they probably should not have won in, then what is a team that finds all kinds of ways to lose points and/or games? It is definitely not good.
The Opposition Opinion: Check out Anaheim Calling for their take on this game.
Seriously: Three own goals!
Were There Positives?: Yes. The unit of Nico Hischier, Kyle Palmieri, and Taylor Hall had a strong game. Palmieri scored twice and came close to getting his first hat trick as a Devil tonight. He finished a loose puck from a missed shot by Egor Yakovlev to beat a sprawled out Ryan Miller for the first goal. Palmieri tied up the game at 2-2 in the first period when he rifled in a one-timer past Hischier screening Miller. Hall set up Palmieri perfectly for the shot. Palmieri had a couple other tries among his three other shots and five other shooting attempts. Palmieri also drew a high-sticking call too, so he was positive on that front too. The trio was responsible for 10 of the Devils’ 35 shots on net and when they were on the ice in 5-on-5 play, the Devils were often on the attack. The only thing I missed about Palmieri was his presence in overtime. He was not in it. He did have a shootout try; but he was stopped by John Gibson.
I also appreciated the general work that Will Butcher and Egor Yakovlev put in tonight. When they were on the ice, the Devils generated plenty of scoring chances and the Devils out-created Anaheim in shots and attempts. In Butcher’s case, the Devils out-chanced the Devils 18-8 and out-high-danger-chanced 9-3. That’s excellent work. While only a missed shot yielded a point for these two, I thought they did well.
Marcus Johansson was not so good in the run of play. Along with Pavel Zacha, they were pinned back quite a bit. Only Noesen - who was benched for a whole period - was worse in terms of CF%. But Johansson did make a big impact on the scoresheet and that matters. He made an amazing pass to Damon Severson for a power play goal in the first period that put the Devils up 3-2. Severson’s shot was great, but the pass was a perfect diagonal one from the goal line to the right circle. Johansson also scored the game-salvaging goal near the end of regulation. The Devils did not do so well in the third period, own-goals aside, so seeing him pot one was big since the Devils struggled to create a lot of offense in the period as a whole. I did not like Johansson so much in overtime; he lost the puck twice that led to Anaheim chances or a long string of possession. But he had two big points.
Similarly, Jesper Bratt - who was not as picked on in the run of play as Zacha and Johansson - had two big assists as well. Bratt found Johansson down low on the way to the PPG. He also took a great, low shot at Miller. The goalie kicked the shot out to the middle - and right to Brett Seney in the slot. Seney slammed in his second NHL goal ever to make it 4-3 in the second period. Bratt continues to produce and add to the team’s depth up front.
The second period as a whole was a good period for New Jersey in 5-on-5 play. After a first period that slightly favored the Ducks, the Devils went up in the second period 4-3 while also out-attempting the Ducks 19-15 and keeping shots even at 10-10. The big difference was in scoring chances. The Devils out-chanced the Ducks 11-4 in the second period and out-high-danger-chanced them 6-0. While the shots were even, the Devils were threatening more and more and could have made this larger than 4-3. Given how the first was not a solely Devils period, it was good to see the Devils take a period over on the road to take a lead.
Those who wanted to see Schneider make some big saves did get to see plenty of them in the third period and especially in overtime. Again, no Duck beat him after the first period until the shootout. Adam Henrique was a factor in OT and Schneider denied him twice, once with the glove and once with the left pad on his doorstep. Schneider also denied Henrique on what could have been a game breaking breakaway late in the third period. Those who want Schneider to do well - and as Devils fans, I should hope you want the Devils players to do well - got a decent game. It wasn’t perfect, certainly; but he was truly victimized by his own teammates tonight. Like the 1-2 loss to Carolina, it wasn’t perfect but Schneider did enough to make it a game. Unlike that game, the Devils scored on themselves three times.
Lastly, the power play was effective. At least, the first one was as both units generated good looks and shots before Severson’s PPG. The other two were not effective; but at least they drew them.
What Went Wrong Other Than the Own Goals: Overtime may have not ended with a loss, but it was still a bad overtime. The Devils were out-shot 1-6. The one shot was a shot in the high slot by Johansson where his stick broke. Hischier drove the net once but lost the puck in the process. Hall took a chance but Montour blocked the puck out of play. That was it in terms of shooting. It was not like the Devils had no possession. They did, but they often bailed out on plays unless they saw it was there. I can respect that to a point, but when Sami Vatanen is hesitant to start a breakout and Johansson loses a puck in his own end when trying to force one to happen, I am thinking the team needs some new plays.
I also thought that as I saw the Ducks move. They often gained the zone as a team and were able to set up in the Devils’ end while maintaining possession. The Devils looked like they wanted to catch the Ducks off a rush or lead an odd-man rush or something. Anaheim tried and succeeded at cycling. They were able to create spaces for their shooters and create good shots. The six they took weren’t easy ones for Schneider. While not losing in overtime is progress, there’s a long way to go.
I’ve already noted how Noesen (who needs to sit a game, he was just bad tonight overall), Johansson, and Zacha were picked on in 5-on-5 play. I want to especially highlighy Greene and Miles Wood. Greene’s lack of speed was an issue on some of these plays and he just made some curious decisions in terms of coverage. When he was on the ice, the Devils were out-attempted 14-24 and out-shot 6-13. His partner, Severson, was a bit worse; but it wasn’t #28 who was a step behind on plays and struggled to get the puck out of the zone. Greene also took a penalty that was never whistled because Montour scored during the delay. This brings me to Wood. My impression of Wood is that he is not a smart player off the puck and in non-offensive situations. Tonight showed that. Wood lost the puck to the Ducks multiple times, he would get caught puck-watching instead of looking what is happening on the weakside of the ice, and as fast as he is going forward, he is not so quick on defense. Wood’s energy was somewhat nice to see early on, but he did not really contribute a lot tonight. He was another passenger.
The third period as a whole was not a good one. Goals aside, the Devils were out-attempted 12-22, out-shot 5-9, out-chanced 7-9, and allowed three high-danger chances while creating four. I am not totally surprised by Anaheim tilting the ice. They were down a goal. They were at home. Of course, they were going to attack more often. But I wanted to see the Devils keep them honest at least. They really didn’t. Even after the own goals, offense was few and far between. I’m happy Johansson scored at 6-on-5 (which had 4 shots on net). This could have easily been a period where a lead after two could have slipped away to a regulation loss.
What About the Shootout?: Well, it didn’t go well. But the Devils lack a solid shootout taker when Drew Stafford is out of the lineup. Hall beat Gibson but didn’t beat the crossbar. Schneider was beaten twice. It is not good; but I’m not so bothered by it partially because of those stupid, stupid, stupid own goals and partially because it was the first shootout of the season. I had zero idea what to expect from the Devils in shootouts. I wrote quite a bit about it in the Summer and I was left unsure this would be a good thing. With no expectations, can I say I was disappointed?
Replaced: Anaheim did make a goaltender change and it was not by choice. Ryan Miller, who was not exactly having an “A” game, was replaced by John Gibson presumably due to injury. In the third period, Hall decided to take a loose puck into the neutral zone and try and beat defenseman Josh Mahura. Mahura kept Hall to the outside, but they both collided into the net with Mahura hitting Miller’s left leg in the process. Hall was fine, got up, and immediately called for a trainger. Mahura was OK too, but Miller was shaken up. He was helped off the ice and replaced in the game by Gibson. Gibson did OK. I hope Miller did not suffer a significant injury. I don’t like seeing players get hurt. Especially in collisions like that one, where all Hall wanted to do was make something happen in a third period when NJ did not have much going on offense, and Mahura wanted to do his job and deny that.
Another Silver Lining: With the point, the Devils secured 3 out of a potential 6 points on this California road trip. Tomorrow in San Jose will be a challenge, but the Devils can at least say it was not a losing trip.
One Last Thought: Three own goals. I still can’t get past it. I still can’t believe I saw that.
Your Take: The Devils lost in Anaheim 5-6 through a shootout, their first shootout loss of the season. This was created in a game where the Devils scored three goals against themselves. What do you even do if you’re John Hynes in this case? What do you say if you’re Schneider? Or if you’re Noesen, Lovejoy, or Greene? What positives do you want to take out of this one? What lessons - other than not to score against your own goalie - can you take out of this one that the Devils should apply for tomorrow’s game in San Jose? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about this loss in the comments.
Thanks to Chris for the game preview. Thanks to Mike for running @AAtJerseyBlog this evening. Thanks to everyone who commented in the Gamethread. Thank you for reading.