After suffering a shootout loss in Toronto Thursday, the Devils returned home to face the first place overall Washington Capitals. The opponent may have been at a different point in the standings, but the result was the same for the Devils: a shootout loss.
The Devils went into the game on wave of anticipation. Martin Brodeur’s jersey retirement is less than a week away and the man himself was on-hand to drop the ceremonial first puck. In a neat change of pace, instead of both teams captains taking the draw, Cory Schneider and Braden Holtby, the game’s starting goaltenders took it. In the final game at Prudential Center before Marty’s statue goes up and his number is raised to the rafters, the Devils would look to get a win for their former star goalie.
The goalies were solid: Holtby made 22 saves on 24 Devils shots, including two more in the shootout. Schneider was 27 for 29 and made one extra save in the shootout.
After a scoreless first period, Washington’s Andre Burakovsky put them ahead 12:30 into the second. He got assists from Justin Williams and Evgeny Kuznetsov.
The Devils would catch a break, though, when the Caps’ Mike Richards was called for tripping Tyler Kennedy just 1:34 into the third. The Devils needed just about twenty seconds to capitalize when the puck was worked from the point to Jacob Josefson on the near half wall. He passed to Joseph Blandisi behind the Capitals net, who quickly passed to Travis Zajac in the slot. He fired and the puck squirted behind Holtby, only for Blandisi to sneak behind and bury the puck in the net. The game was tied on the power play and the Devils seemed back in business.
The Devils would break through at 7:47 of the third when Blandisi and Lee Stempniak were sprung for a two on one. Stempniak tried to pass to Blandisi, but a Capitals defender broke up the pass, which luckily for the Devils, landed on the stick of Adam Henrique. Henrique shot and beat Holtby cleanly stick-side. The Devils had a 2-1 lead with just about half of a period left to go.
But it was not to be as Washington’s Paul Carey scored his first of the year at 14:07 of the third (assists to Matt Niskanen and Brooks Laich) to tie things up. Suddenly, the Devils were facing three-on-three overtime with the high-scoring Washington Capitals.
But luck would shine on them again when Williams was called for tripping Kyle Palmieri with one minute left in regulation. The Devils would finish the game on the power play and, if needed, would begin the extra session with the man advantage.
Time would expire with the Devils a man up, but they would still have one minute’s worth of power play time in the overtime period.
The bad news: they did not score on the man advantage. The good news: they kept the Capitals off the board as well.
And so, time ran out on overtime and it was back to the shootout. The Devils had gotten a point on the Caps, now they just needed to stop them in the “skills completion” to finish the job.
In the first round, Joseph Blandisi was stopped by Holtby and the Capitals’ TJ Oshie converted. Jacob Josefson was stopped in the second round, as was Kuznetsov. The Devils needed Reid Boucher to score to keep them in it. He did and it was down to Alex Ovechkin and Cory Schneider to decide the game. Two all-stars, one-on-one with the game on the line.
The Russian superstar skated in to a chorus of boos from the New Jersey fans and, after a series of head fakes and leg pumps, was able to beat Cory to give Washington the 3-2 shootout victory.
The Devils had stayed in the game with a very tough Washington team, only being outshot 29-24 and were able to come out with a point. That is a minor victory in and of itself, but they will need more when they visit the Rangers at the Garden on Monday.
It is another rough Metro Division game on Monday in Manhattan with more than bragging rights on the line. The Rangers won today and the Devils will need to pull off another victory against their arch-rivals in order to keep up the pace in the race for a playoff spot.