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Devils Dominated by Alex Ovechkin, Lose 5-2 to Capitals

Ovechkin was mad from the start, and a mad Ovechkin is hard to stop.

New Jersey Devils v Washington Capitals Photo by Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images

First Period: The Devils had trouble possessing the puck early in the game, being guilty of an icing along with committing multiple turnovers. One of those giveaways went right to Alex Ovechkin, who got the puck to T.J. Oshie, who hit iron with his shot. Domingue fell back to try to prevent a rebound goal, and the puck was cleared.

Louis Domingue seemed to give up his first goal of the game less than three and a half minutes into the game. Lars Eller had the puck behind the net, and he passed to Carl Hagelin just outside the low slot. Hagelin went five hole, which was a bad way for Domingue to let the shot through. Alain Nasreddine, however, challenged for offsides. The point of the challenge was that the puck exited the zone while Kempny tried to make a hold just prior to winding the puck around the boards to Eller. After a few minutes of reviewing the play, it was determined that play was offsides. 0-0.

Six minutes into the period, Alex Ovechkin took a high stick and went down the tunnel, but there was no penalty called. Miles Wood was the one guilty of the offense, and it should have been a double minor.

The Washington Capitals took the first called penalty of the game, as Tom Wilson went off for interference on Miles Wood, perhaps in retaliation for the earlier play. On the power play, the Devils had trouble getting shots to the net. The first good shot came from Sami Vatanen, as Jack Hughes fired a puck from the corner at the goal line to the faceoff circle where Palmieri is usually posted, and Vatanen’s shot was stopped and covered with 37 seconds remaining in the power play. Will Butcher wasted an opportunity to shoot right after the penalty expired off a pass from Pavel Zacha, and his return pass nearly went right to Tom Wilson skating to the Capitals bench.

The Devils were slapped with a minor penalty of their own as Travis Zajac went off for tripping with six minutes and 21 seconds remaining in the period. He tripped Michal Kempny below the Capitals’ goal line trying to make a play on the boards. Louis Domingue made one big save on the penalty kill before John Hayden took a minor for holding behind the Capitals’ net on the forecheck. Immediately off the draw on the second penalty, Alex Ovechkin fired a one-timer that went past Domingue’s glove. 1-0, and a nearly-full second power play for the Capitals.

With Zajac back on the penalty kill, the Devils were able to push the Capitals back with more efficacy. Sami Vatanen blocked a shot out of play with 56 seconds remaining in the kill. Pavel Zacha cleared the puck down the ice off the following draw, and the Capitals were offsides on the next re-entry. At the end of the penalty kill, Damon Severson blocked a pass across the crease with his skate to prevent a goal.

With under a minute to play in the period, Niklas Backstrom kicked the puck back off an offensive zone draw, and Alex Ovechkin zipped across the faceoff circle to the puck and fired it. Domingue stood no chance, and the game was 2-0.

Second Period: Cory Schneider came into the game to start the second period. Carl Hagelin made his life hard immediately following the Capitals’ first zone entry. The Devils turned the puck over while breaking out, and Hagelin was gifted a one-timer opportunity that he put past Schneider. 3-0. It was a terrible defensive showing, as Severson and Vatanen missed their assignments following Coleman’s inability to handle a pass, which led to the turnover.

Wayne Simmonds put the Devils on the board early into the second minute of the period. On the top line with Bratt and Hischier, Nico Hischier turned Jenssen around behind the Capitals net before centering it to Simmonds, lifted the puck past Samsonov. 3-1. Will Butcher was injured on the play getting the puck to Nico Hischier, as he absorbed a huge check on the corner boards.

The Capitals took another penalty as Blake Coleman had Travis Zajac in front for a redirection attempt. Richard Panik hooked Coleman while he tried to make the pass, and might have prevented a goal. On the power play, Pavel Zacha set Nikita Gusev up for a wide open goal, as he had a wide open net from the faceoff circle. Gusev fanned on the shot, and the game remained 3-1. That was the closest they came to scoring on the power play.

Miles Wood made a good play after the penalty expired, as the Capitals were buzzing in the offensive zone and Alex Ovechkin was sent a cross-ice pass for a one-timer. Wood got his stick on it, and the Devils turned play in the other direction.

Just past seven minutes into the period, Steve Cangialosi announced Louis Domingue left the game with a lower-body injury.

Cory Schneider started a stretch of great stops as Evgeny Kuznetsov had nobody to beat nearly eight minutes in, as Oshie drew a defenseman wide before centering the puck to Kuznetsov. Schneider made a stop in close. On the following entry, Carl Hagelin made Schneider work with a hard wrist shot followed by multiple rebound attempts before Schneider covered the puck.

The Devils nearly scored with six and a half minutes to play in the period, as there was a netfront scramble following a shot from Michael McLeod at the point. On the rebound, John Hayden hit the post with a wide open net. Richard Panik went off for cross-checking in the madness that ensued.

Sami Vatanen failed to control his stick when Lars Eller had the puck at the top of the Devils’ offensive zone. He went off for a high-sticking double minor 40 seconds into the power play.

At four-on-four, P.K. Subban worked the puck all the way down the ice, and after a few passes the puck got to Pavel Zacha in the faceoff circle, whose shot got through Ilya Samsonov and fluttered just wide of the net. After a line change, Nico Hischier took the puck just above the goal line by the corner before flipping it across the crease to Damon Severson, but Samsonov got across for the stop.

On the extended penalty kill, the Devils had multiple shorthanded chances. Blake Coleman nearly batted a puck out of mid-air into the net with Travis Zajac supporting. Later in the kill, the Capitals began to get more shots on Schneider, but they were unable to pull him out of position as they were able to do with Domingue.

The Devils were unable to get any more prime scoring chances for the rest of the period, as they mostly cycled the puck around for perimeter shots. Cory Schneider stopped 14 of 15 shots by the Capitals, including six of seven high danger shots according to Natural Stat Trick.

Third Period: Travis Zajac made a great pass to Blake Coleman entering the offensive zone in the first minute, giving Coleman a lane from the top of the faceoff circle to Samsonov. Coleman passed back, however, and Zajac was unable to corral the puck below the goal line. Tom Wilson came down the ice right after, as he got behind Wayne Simmonds off a pass from Lars Eller. Schneider stacked the pads to make the save.

Will Butcher took a minor penalty for holding Lars Eller just over two minutes into the period. On the penalty kill, John Carlson played catch with Backstrom for three passes before switching with Ovechkin. As they switched, Backstrom sent Carlson a cross-zone pass to make Schneider stretch to save a one-timer in the lower half of the faceoff circle, but the pass was broken up.

Blake Coleman took advantage of a Capitals’ defensive break, taking the puck off a bad pass past John Carlson, going backhand and sliding the puck through Samsonov. 3-2, and Blake Coleman had his 19th goal of the season.

However, the Devils continually failed to clear rebounds for Schneider. Kempny took the puck from the blue line all the way to Schneider, bouncing the puck off his pads right to Jakub Vrana, whose rebound shot hit twine. 4-2.

Jesper Bratt drew a penalty with under 12 minutes to play. He was moving behind the Capitals’ net with his back turned to Niklas Backstrom, and Bratt cut to the front of the net, leading to Backstrom taking a holding penalty. On the power play, Jack Hughes set P.K. Subban up for a shot, but Subban’s stick broke. The Devils were able to fully re-enter at the end of the first minute, before the Capitals cleared the puck. At the end of the power play, Damon Severson played the puck to Gusev, who passed to Butcher in the faceoff circle. Yet again, Butcher refused to shoot and passed back to Gusev, leading to a turnover.

Andy Greene appeared to be hurt on a shot block with nine minutes to play, and left the ice for a short while.

Pavel Zacha won a board play and worked the puck to Nico Hischier behind the net with seven and a half minutes to play, and Hischier centered the puck to Wayne Simmonds, who fired quickly. Samsonov, however, moved across quick enough to save the shot.

Nikita Gusev seemed to take a stick to the face from Michal Kempny as Kempny tried to swing his stick at a puck in the air. Kempny was given a double minor for high sticking, and the play went under review. After said review, it was stated the puck hit Gusev’s face, and the penalty was rescinded.

With under five minutes to play, Tom Wilson made a no-look backhand pass to Alexander Ovechkin after Will Butcher failed to control a puck that came right to him as the Capitals followed a dump-in. Wilson collected the puck behind the net, and took it near the corner before flipping it to Ovechkin, whose goal gave him a hat trick. 5-2.

Aside from a Pavel Zacha backhand shot, I did not think the Devils had any more chances the rest of the game. The final score was 5-2, while the shots were 38-32, Capitals.

The Game Stats: The Game Summary | The Event Summary | The Play by Play Log | The Shot Summary | The Natural Stat Trick Game Stats

The Opposition Opinion: There will be a recap over at Jaspers’ Rink.

Wood’s Mistake: At the very start of the game, Miles Wood “inadvertently” collided with Alex Ovechkin and high-sticked him in the process. Alex Ovechkin appeared to be livid on the bench upon his return, with a bloody lip on display. It should surprise nobody that he ended up scoring a hat trick.

Back to Blackwood-Schneider: Louis Domingue, after a terrible performance on Tuesday in Toronto, gave up two goals and one disallowed goal (offsides) before leaving the game with an injury. For fans who thought they were done watching Cory Schneider, they will have to watch him start some games moving forward. For what it’s worth, Schneider was doing a great job before the defense’s wheels fell off in the third period.

Awful Fourth Line: Jesper Boqvist, Michael McLeod, and John Hayden played three minutes and nine seconds together. In that fateful time, they allowed 12 attempts and took only two, leading to Alain Nasreddine not playing them much - even after switching the lines up. McLeod finished with 6:55 of ice time, and Hayden with 8:03. John Hayden could have scored a goal after the line changes, but his chronically-subpar hands conspired to make sure his rebound shot hit the post.

Step Back for Butcher: On Tuesday, I thought Will Butcher had one of, if not his best game of the season, with three assists. Tonight, his pairing with Connor Carrick was terrible, and he continually flubbed chances resulting from the man advantage. Butcher and Carrick were the worst defensemen on the ice in terms of expected goals for percentage (xGF%), and it remains to be seen if Nasreddine has any intention of giving Will Butcher a defensively-capable partner. In 8:11 together, they had a 30.43 CF%, giving up 11 shots while the Devils only took six. With a 0.42 xGF and 0.84 xGA, their 33.5 xGF% was 12.05 percentage points lower than the Vatanen-Severson pairing and 22.21 percentage points lower than Greene-Subban.

Lopsided Power Play Units: Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier, and Jesper Bratt were joined by P.K. Subban and Sami Vatanen on the first unit of the power play tonight. They had five shots, three scoring chances, and one high-danger scoring chance; but could not score. At the very least, they set the second unit up to keep the pressure on Samsonov. That did not happen. Nikita Gusev, Pavel Zacha, and Wayne Simmonds were joined by Will Butcher and Damon Severson in over two minutes of play, in which no shots were registered.

Part of this was due to a puck rolling off Gusev’s stick after a great pass from Pavel Zacha in the first period. After that, the unit was mostly bad - though Will Butcher had multiple opportunities to shoot off cross-ice passes from Gusev. For some reason, Butcher found lone defensemen using poor shot blocking techniques deterrent enough to send terrible passes back across the zone leading to opportunities for the Capitals to counterattack.

Your Thoughts: What did you think about tonight’s game? Do you think Schneider is still looking decent after his first relief appearance? Do you think the defensive deficiencies of this game were more due to bad strategy from the coaches or from poor execution by the roster? Do you think Louis Domingue will ever play in a Devils uniform again? What is the coaching staff doing with Jesper Boqvist? Why is John Hayden playing every game? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

As always, whether you followed along in the gamethread, or on Twitter @AATJerseyBlog, thanks for reading. This is Chris - goodnight.