What a game!
The Devils went down 4-1 leading to the third period when they made a miraculous comeback, then fell in overtime to lose to the Washington Capitals 5-4.
The Devils scratched Will Butcher, Aaron Dell and Nikita Gusev. Washington was without Tom Wilson, suspended for seven games for a high hit on Boston’s Brandon Carlo last week.
For the Devils, it was right back to the hot hand. Scott Wedgewood, after stopping New Jersey’s five-game skid Sunday in Boston with a 1-0 shutout victory, started again tonight in Capital One Arena in DC.
Wedgewood made 25 saves on 30 Caps’ shots for an .833 save percentage. He stopped two of Washington’s three power play shots and was 23-for-27 at even strength.
Facing him for the Capitals was Vitek Vanecek. Vanecek made 37 save on 31 Devils shots for an .871 save percentage. He stopped the Devils’ one shorthanded shot and all three of their power play shots. He was 23-for-27 at even strength.
The Caps were in their ‘90s-styled Reverse Retro uniforms tonight and they look pretty good in the red-white-blue color scheme that I am surprised the team never went with for those.
Washington got on the board 17:22 into the game when TJ Oshie scored on the power play. With 13 seconds to go on the man advantage, Nicklas Backstrom dished off to Justin Shultz at the point. He fired and his shot was tipped up high and in by Oshie to make it 1-0 Caps.
The Caps went 1-for-2 on the power play while the Devils ended 0-for-3.
In the second, the Capitals’ firepower was on full display. It started at 7:42 of the middle frame when Jakub Vrana scored. It happened when John Carlson spun around in the Devils zone, then passed through a seam to Vrana, who scored from the far faceoff circle. Backstrom had the secondary assist.
At the 10:36 mark, less than three minutes later, Daniel Sprong made it 3-0 Caps. Evgeny Kuznetsov got the puck quickly up to Sprong. Sprong was in on a 2-on-1 and elected to shoot. He snapped it by Wedgewood to put the Caps up by a three-spot.
The Devils would get one back when Janne Kuokkanen scored at the 12:44 mark. Travis Zajac took the puck from a Washington player behind the Capitals’ net. He centered to Kuokkanen, who scored in front. That made it 3-1 and the Devils seemed to be back into things.
Then the Caps got one more and seemed to put things really out of reach. At 15:03, Dmitry Orlov took a drop pass just inside the New Jersey blue line from Richard Panik. He had time and space and shot top shelf to make it 4-1 Washington.
Things looked bleak. And then the third period happened.
It began with Miles Wood 5:47 in. Ryan Murray gave to Jesper Bratt in the Devils’ far corner, and he skated the puck into the Washington zone. He gave to Wood, trailing, who snapped the puck by Vanecek stick side. That cut the Caps lead in half at 4-2.
Less than five minutes later at the 10:17 narjm Yegor Sharangovich scored to make it 4-3. Zajac chipped the puck up to Kuokkanen, who chipped it to Sharangovich who skated in all alone in the Capitals’ zone. He shot glove side on Vanecek and scored.
The Devils were building something. Then the finish.
Damon Severson completed the comeback at 12:20 when he scored. Ty Smith made a no-look, backhanded pass to Severson just inside the Washington blue line. He shot through a Kyle Palmieri screen, the puck bounced off of a player in front, it may have been Palmieri, but the goal has not been changed yet. He scored and that made it 4-4. Zajac had the secondary assist, giving him three assists on the night.
After regulation expired (and the Devils had a few chances to win in in regulation before it expired), it was off to overtime.
The Devils and Caps had played one-goal decisions all season and this game would be no exception as the Devils looked for their first win over Washington since February 22, 2020.
But the win was not to be, as, 1:30 into OT, Vrana scored his second goal of the night. He came off of the Capitals’ bench, got behind the Devils’ defense – catching New Jersey in a change – and went upstairs, scoring on Wedgewood to give Washington the 5-4 victory.
The Devils fought back to earn a point but could not get the full two.
Ty Smith led all Devils in ice time with 23:23 while Palmieri led the forwards with 21:31.
The Devils outshot the Capitals by one – 31=30. They won 53-percent of the game’s faceoffs with Zajac leading the way for centers with a 65-percent winning clip.
Zajac led in points with his three assists. Sami Vatanen led in shots on goal with four, hits (the teams tied with 18 hits each) were led by Nate Bastian with four, blocked shots (the Devils led 17-11) were led by Vatanen with three and takeaways were led by Jack Hughes with two.
Next up, the Devils begin three games against the East Division-leading New York Islanders. The Devils travel to the Island for the first game on Thursday. That game starts at 7 PM and we will have a recap for you right here afterwards.
Until then, stay safe everyone!