The New Jersey Devils got off to a fast start against Our Hated Rivals this evening. They scored first when Jonas Siegenthaler took a shot from the point off an offensive zone faceoff win. The puck apparently hit off Nico Hischier as it fooled Igor Shesterkin. A little later, Jack Hughes stole a puck, Jacob Trouba knocked it away, and Dawson Mercer roofed the loose puck. The Devils were up 2-0 and Our Hated Rivals took over eleven minutes to register a shot on net.
However, a poor decision to activate by Siegenthaler created a 2-on-1 chance for Vincent Trocheck and Chris Kreider. Trocheck pass, Kreider scores, and it’s 2-1 late in the first period. An otherwise good period marred by that goal against.
The Devils took control in the second period. In 5-on-5 play, the Devils out-attempted Our Hated Rivals 23-5. They out-shot them 11-5. Jack Hughes served Igor Shesterkin the sauce in a 2-on-1 where The Big Deal kept it and put the Devils up 3-1. Hughes even drew a penalty shot and an uncalled Carey Price-like club from Shesterkin. The Big Deal did not score on the penalty shot, but that was not the issue. The Devils were up 3-1.
Then Siegenthaler gets tagged for a soft interference call against Barclay Goodrow. The Devils penalty kill basically survived an earlier power play. They would not survive this one as a long shot from Adam Fox was tipped in by Trocheck to make it 3-2. A bad call and a bad break. It is hockey. It happens. What happens next is the maddening part and my biggest sticking point with this game (no, not Hughes not scoring on a penalty shot). On the ensuing faceoff, Jesper Boqvist was knocked down which allowed Kaapo Kakko to streak down the right as the other four Devils - Hughes, Mercer, Dougie Hamilton, and Siegenthaler - chased the play with no one picking up Kakko on then weak side. It took seven seconds in game time for K’Andre Miller to set up Kakko for a one-timer to make it 3-3. Seven seconds to allow two goals in a period the Devils otherwise dominated in 5-on-5. Inexcusable.
After a third period where the Devils attacked a bit more and Our Hated Rivals seemed content to get to the end of regulation, the overtime period began. It took fifteen seconds for the Devils to win possession. After cycling through a full line change and maintaining possession (which is what you’re supposed to do instead of forcing shots), Mercer forced a high shot and missed the net. He recovered the puck and set up Damon Severson. Severson put a shot on net and forced a save from Shesterkin. Severson tried to win the puck back but did not. Hughes engaged up front while Tomas Tatar chased down Artemi Panarin. Panarin found Filip Chytil in a pocket of space. Pass, shot to the far post (which was inch-perfect), 3-4, that’s game.
The Devils basically lost this game due to moments in time. As opposed to being out-played or having a bad period or a bad ten, twenty, or thirty minutes. Sure, special teams were a net negative. Sure, you would have liked to have seen Hughes bury the penalty shot. Sure, both second period penalties against the Devils were bad calls. Yet, the Devils basically let this game slip away due to a few errors that Our Hated Rivals punished them for it.
The Devils got a point in this game and arguably played a far better game than they did against the Islanders. For those who wanted to see improvement, then you got it. For myself and the People Who Matter who dearly hate Our Hated Rivals, I hate this result.
The Opposition Opinion: From David Chiesa at Blueshirt Banter, the headline includes the word “Opportunistic.” I fully agree with that word choice for Our Hated Rivals this evening.
The Game Highlights: From NHL.com, here are the highlights to tonight’s game.
Another Reason Why I Hate This Result: The Devils pretty much dominated this game at 5-on-5. In the 50:58 of the most common situation in hockey played, the Devils out-attempted Our Hated Rivals 49-33, out-shot them 26-16, out-chanced them 33-9 (!!), and out high-danger chanced them 13-3. This is exactly what you want to see from a team against any opponent in 5-on-5. Moreover, the Devils’ top two lines crushed it in 5-on-5. The Hischier line out-attempted Our Hated Rivals 13-3 and out-shot them 7-1 in 5-on-5. The Hughes line out-attempted them 15-8 and out-shot them 8-2. Both even out-scored them as those two lines provided all three goals scored.
Yet, this is hockey and this kind of dominance is not always rewarded with goals and wins. That it was an overtime loss to Our Hated Rivals stings even more.
And Another Reason Why I Hate This Result: The Devils got great games from Jack Hughes, Dawson Mercer, and the Hischier line. You even got a lot of excellent work from John Marino and Ryan Graves on defense. You can even give a shoutout to Michael McLeod playing one of his better games as a Devil in his career (12 for 14 on faceoffs, 4 shots, a drawn penalty). Artemi Panarin was remarkably quiet tonight outside of overtime and a power play. Only Mika Zibanejad (3), Filip Chytil (5), and Chris Kreider (6) had more then two shots on net for Our Hated Rivals. A lot of these things are very good. Yet, I am not writing about a decisive win by the Devils, I am writing about an overtime loss.
Special Teams Were Not Good: How can a team win despite not winning the battles in 5-on-5? Special teams is one way. Our Hated Rivals had two power plays against the Devils. One because a referee decided Erik Haula fouled Adam Fox when the cameras showed Damon Severson, if anything, touching Fox. The other because Siegenthaler slightly held up Goodrow in a hit that happened hundreds of times in games but somehow that one was whistled. In those two power plays, Our Hated Rivals generated eight shooting attempts, put five on net (including one in the net), four of those attempts were scoring chances, and two of those were high-danger chances. The Devils were pinned back for the majority of their first penalty kill and they were beaten fairly quickly on the second one.
Contrast this with the Devils’ power plays. They received two. Somehow, the Devils went stupid with the puck. Jack Hughes went from brilliance to losing pucks left and right. Ditto Nico Hischier, Dougie Hamilton, and Jesper Bratt. The Devils created all of four shooting attempts and one shot on net. While those attempts were from good locations - all four were scoring chances and two were high-danger - one shot on net is not going to get it done. Worse, the Devils gave up three attempts including a 2-on-0 that Vitek Vanecek made a big stop on.
While the special teams yielded just one goal for each side, it made it possible for Our Hated Rivals to come back in this game. Trocheck’s tip was followed up by Kakko’s goal.
I Don’t Have Data But...: The Devils shot a lot of pucks high on Igor Shesterkin this evening. To the point where they skied a couple of them. I suspect that the Devils felt he could be beaten high. It also helped that Mercer and Hughes torched him high for goals this evening. Shesterkin played a fairly sloppy game where he even struggled to glove some pucks and Mercer was unlucky to not have a second goal as he hit iron in the second period. Of course, he stopped Severson in overtime and made a poke on Hughes during a penalty shot, so he can be seen as a hero instead of someone fighting pucks against the Devils for a second straight time this season.
A Short Bench: This will be a night to forget for Jesper Boqvist. Getting pinned down to kick off the catastrophe that ended with Kakko scoring would do that. Yet, I do have to question Lindy Ruff here. The line of Yegor Sharangovich, Boqvist, and Alexander Holtz played a whopping 2:42 today. I get that they did not do well, but it was not like they caused Siegenthaler to step up at the wrong time to cause a 2-on-1 in the first period. g Even with line changes and overruns from power plays and penalty kills, all three played fewer than four minutes of 5-on-5 hockey today. I get that the unit was not that effective, but why limit the team to three lines so early in this game? It is not like they are going to be effective or learn to contribute with just a handful of shifts. This also meant more minutes for every other forward, such as Miles Wood, Fabian Zetterlund, and Michael McLeod playing over 15 minutes. Ruff was clearly switching up defensive pairings in the third period to manage the defender’s minutes ahead of tomorrow’s game. That is fine and respectable. Why shorten the team to nine forwards in that case? I do not get it.
Defending Vanecek: I suspect some of the People Who Matter may want to pin this result on Vanecek as he let in four goals out of an expected two goals against (2.02, technically; I am rounding down). I am not sure what you would have wanted in terms of a save on the Kreider or Kakko goals as they involved cross-slot passes and the shooter just needed to not miss the net. The Trocheck PPG was a tip-in through traffic. Chytil’s shot was just about perfect. If you want to criticize Vanecek, then the Isles game is probably the one you want to do it for. I think he was more or less a victim tonight.
Two More Questions Prior to the Kakko Goal: Why did all four Devils just chase plays instead of trying to pick up men once Boqvist went down? Just as importantly, why was Boqvist, Hughes, and Mercer taking the draw after a power play goal?
End of History: The OT loss means the Devils’ road winning streak ends at 11. They had a chance to tie the NHL record of 12 tonight. Alas.
One Last Thought: As much as I hate this result, it bears mentioning that it could be worse. The loss could have came in the final minute of regulation. Which is exactly what happened to tomorrow’s opponent, Dallas. They were tied 1-1 in Pittsburgh and Evgeni Malkin scores with 35 seconds left to take the game. Given how opportunistic - David Chiesa’s word and mine - Our Hated Rivals are, I would rather eat the loss in overtime than in regulation.
Also, with the point, the Devils are 21-5-2 and have a six-point lead over Pittsburgh to still lead the division. I suggest worrying about a freefall if one actually happens. Going 2-1-2 to start a month is not it. I hate this result. I also know it is not a reason to panic. A simple gnashing of the teeth and grousing about it online - such as in a recap like this one - would suffice.
Your Take: The Devils lost 3-4 in overtime to the one team I would rather see them not lose to ever. What did you make of the game? What will the Devils have left for Dallas tomorrow night? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about this OT loss in the comments. Thanks to everyone who followed along with @AAtJerseyBlog on Twitter, those who commented in the Gamethread, and thank you for reading.