I said I would get to this game and have a post written!
Anyway, the Devils traveled up to Canada’s national capital to begin their last road trip of the season and fell in a strange one, 5-4 in overtime to the Ottawa Senators.
For New Jersey, the game saw a new addition and some returns to the lineup.
First, the highly anticipated debut of defenseman Reilly Walsh. Walsh was recalled from Utica and finally got to make his National Hockey League debut tonight, wearing number 8. Walsh was supposed to make his NHL debut earlier in the season in Detroit against the Red Wings along with Nikita Okhotyuk, but that was put aside when COVID hit the team and the two got sick.
He was healthy tonight, though, and got the nod as he was on a blue line that saw the return of Ty Smith to the lineup as well. PK Subban and Okhotyuk were healthy scratches along with Tomas Tatar, Colton White and Jon Gillies.
Nico Hischier remained out of the lineup up front while dealing with a stomach bug. Mason Geertsen and Fabian Zetterlund slotted in with the forwards. This game was Geertsen’s first appearance in the Devils lineup since March 31 at Boston and played on the fourth line with Michael McLeod centering him.
Another return to the lineup was between the pipes.
Mackenzie Blackwood made his long-awaited return following an extended layoff with the heel injury that has given him trouble all season long. He said in his postgame presser that his foot did feel a lot better than it had, although, basically, work needs to be done this summer on it. This was his first start since January 19 against the Arizona Coyotes.
He made 29 saves on 34 total Senators shots for an .853 save percentage. Special teams remained a problem as he let in the single shorthanded shot he saw (the 14th shorty the Devils have let in this season) and two of Ottawa’s four power play shots. The Sens went 2-for-3 on the power play as a team. He stopped 27 of 29 at five-against-five.
Facing him was Anton Forsberg for the Sens. He had a bigger workload, making 37 saves on 41 total Devils shots for a .902 save percentage. He nabbed all three Devils power play shots – with New Jersey going 0-for-2 as a team on the man advantage. At even strength, he made 34 saves on 38 shots.
Utica Comets head coach Kevin Dineen was special guest on the MSG+ pregame show with Erika Wachter and Bryce Salvador. He discussed his players making the jump from the AHL to the NHL this season as well as how the Comets feel their chances will be heading into the Calder Cup Playoffs after they clinched the American League’s North Division last week.
The Devils were trying to stop a three-game losing skid and notch a rare victory North of the Border tonight.
But it was Ottawa that jumped out to the lead. It came very late in the first period – with 17 seconds remaining the frame to be precise.
Just prior to this, with the Devils on the power play, Ty Smith had hit the post on a sequence that saw Yegor Sharangovich right in front ot put the rebound off of the post in, but he was unable to get to the puck in time.
At 19:13 gone by in the period, Janne Kuokkanen was called for holding Erik Brannstrom, a call which was made following a missed Devils too many men on the ice call. It was a make good call for the Sens, but the Devils did dodge a bullet initially anyway.
So, at the 19:43 mark and still on the power play, Tim Stutzle passed from the point to Brady Tkachuk, who was camped at the post to Blackwood’s left. He made a one-touch pass to Thomas Chabot at the other post and Chabot just tapped the puck right in to make it 1-0 Ottawa.
That set the stage for a wild second period.
The Sens would take a two-goal lead 11 seconds into the second frame when Drake Batherson scored his first of two on the night.
Tkachuk was behind the Devils net and went down to his knees, still able to make a pass to Bahterson cutting in front of Blackwood. Batherson gathered the puck with his skate and got it to his stick blade, shooting and scoring to double the Ottawa lead.
Travis Hamonic had the secondary assist and the goal, though separated by the first intermission, was scored 28 seconds after the first Ottawa goal back at the end of the first period.
The Devils would take another nine or so minutes, but they would get on the board, cutting the Senators lead in half at 2-1.
The Devils won a faceoff in their own zone and Walsh moved the puck ahead to Fabian Zetterlund, springing him up the right side. He broke into the Ottawa end with Nolan Foote. Zetterlund faked a shot and made a slick pass to Foote. Foote received the pass and just whipped a shot by Forsberg to make it 2-1.
Zetterlund had fought for the puck through the neutral zone after getting the pass from Walsh – who got his first NHL point on the play, so congratulations to him!
Ottawa retook their two-goal lead at 16:41 gone by on the power play due to Tim Stutzle.
Damon Severson was called for a high-stick against Josh Norris to give the Sens the man advantage for two minutes and Stutzle converted Norris passed from the far half wall to Tkachuk, who was cutting through the crease in front of Blackwood. Blackwood stopped his chance, but the rebound came right to the German rookie and he scored to make it 3-1 Sens.
Tkachuk now had the primary set up on all three Senators goals.
The Devils were still hanging around, however, and would cut the Ottawa lead to one once again before the period was over.
With six seconds left in the second period, Smith dished the puck to Pavel Zacha cutting in front towards the doorstep. Forsberg stopped his backhand shot, but Foote was sneaking around by the far post and just tucked the rebound in past Forsberg to make it 3-2.
This all set up a dramatic third period.
The drama built when Stutzle scored his second of the game – a shorthanded goal – to put the Sens up 4-2.
Ottawa’s Scott Sabourin was called for cross-checking Walsh at the 5:12 mark of the third to put the Devils on the power play (which could be just as dangerous of late for the Devils than their opponents).
Sure enough, at 6:34 gone down on the big clock, Stutzle picked off a Sharangovich pass at the Ottawa blue line while Sharangovich was attempting to help the Devils gain entry into the Senators zone. Stutzle was then off to the races, cut in alone on Blackwood and went to his backhand. He beat Blackwood unassisted to give the Sens a 4-2 lead.
The Devils would then storm back for the next two to tie the game and send it off to overtime.
At 7:29, a little less than a minute than the Ottawa goal by Stutzle, Jesper Bratt had recovered the puck and moved towards the middle of the ice in the Sens zone. He dished aside to Zacha, who ripped a shot from off the right-wing and by Forsberg to make it 4-3.
The Devils would fight back fully to tie things at the 10:15 mark of the third. On this one, the Sens turned the puck over to Severson at their own blue line and he was able to keep play alive in the Ottawa zone.
Severson made a heads up pass to Sharangovich down low, who then cut in towards Forsberg from the near side. He backhanded the puck in between Forsberg’s five-hole to tie the game at four each.
The Devils then gave two major indications that they may be able to hang on and win the game.
The first was late in the third when Dylan Gambrell was stopped on a breakaway by Blackwood.
The second sign extended between the latter part of the third period and into the OT session.
With 54 seconds to go in regulation, Dawson Mercer was called for cross-checking Norris. This put the Devils down a man to end the game and for a little more than a full minute should the game get to OT.
It did and the Devils would wind up killing the whole thing.
What it took was an amazing individual effort from Batherson to win the game for the Senators.
With 3:17 gone by in OT, Batherson skated one-on-one with Smith isolated in the Devils zone. Batherson made a toe drag move on Smith as the Devils defenseman lost his edge and fell down. Batherson then beat Blackwood in close on his backhand to win the game for the Sens 5-4.
Stutzle and Brannstrom had the assists on Batherson’s beauty of a game-winner.
The Devils outshot Ottawa 34 to 41. The Devils won 49-percent of the game’s draws with Michael McLeod leading in personal percentage with 62-percent (winning eight of his 13 faceoffs) and Zacha winning 11-pf-22 (50-percent) of his.
The Devils accumulated six penalty minutes while the Senators had just four minutes.
It was a hard-hitting game with the Sens outhitting New Jersey 32 to 24. Ottawa also had 17 blocked shots to the Devils’ eight. Team giveaways saw the Devils with seven to the Sens’ 11.
Zacha (a goal and an assist) and Foote (two goals) each had multiple point nights for the Devils.
In terms of ice time, Ryan Graves led all Devils skaters with 25:06 (which included 3:27 of time killing penalties). Dougie Hamilton spent the most time amongst Devils blue liners on the power play at 3:01, out of his total ice time of 22:12, spent on the man advantage.
Dawson Mercer led the forwards with 19:47 of total TOI (including 2:22 on the PP – tied with Bratt for most power play time for the forwards – and 28 seconds on the PK). McLeod led the forwards with 1:51 of PK time out of his 12:13 of total time on ice. He also played ten seconds on the PP.
Foote and Zetterlund tied in most shots on goal for the Devils with five each. Severson and Nathan Bastian led in hits with three each. Smith and, in his first career NHL game, Walsh, led in blocks with two each. Personal giveaways were led by Sharangovich, Foote, Zacha, Janne Kuokkanen, Walsh, Smith and Severson all with one while forced turnovers were led by Sharangovich with one.
Next up, the last Devils road game of 2021-22 as the Devils visit Raleigh, North Carolina to take on the Hurricanes tomorrow in a rematch from last Saturday.
Early news for that game is that Alexander Holtz has been recalled from AHL Utica and will join the team down in Carolina. Also, the Canes clinched the Metropolitan Division regular season championship with their win over the Rangers on Tuesday at the Garden.
I will be late on this one as well, as I actually have tickets to the New York Giants Draft Party up at MetLife Stadium and will be attending that tomorrow. I will be recording the game and will try to have a recap up as fast as possible.
The game will be broadcast on MSG (not MSG+ as the Devils website and app insist) – at least that is what I am hoping since that is what my DVR is set for. We shall find out. Puck drop is 7 PM.
In the meantime, enjoy your Thursday everyone!