Things looked a little better for the Devils tonight as they welcomed the Ottawa Senators to the Prudential Center – the first game of a three-game homestand for the Devils. Then again, when you’ve likely hit rock bottom for the season, as the Devils did in their 8-4 loss at the Winnipeg Jets on Friday, things have to be looking up.
The Devils never trailed in regulation, but ultimately failed to secure the two points against the Senators, losing 3-2 in a shootout.
This was the makeup game originally scheduled for November 16. Ottawa had ten players in COVID protocol for that game and the decision was made by the NHL to postpone a week or so of Sens games.
Although the Sens have had a rough go of it this season, but they have played well of late. They defeated the Colorado Avalanche 6-5 on Saturday in overtime and recently became one of the few teams in the league to notch a win over the Florida Panthers on the Panthers’ home ice. They came into the game having won two in a row.
The Devils have not won in regulation in five and had a potentially demoralizing road trip to Minnesota and Winnipeg late last week.
But that was then and this is now. The Devils would need to get back on the horse and ride it to get out of this slump. Seasons are going to have ebbs and flows and they cannot get too high or too low.
In roster news, Christian Jaros (upper body) was activated off of Injured Reserve today – as he had suffered a hand injury at a morning skate during the California road trip back in early November. With him being available, Colton White was reassigned to Utica of the AHL.
Mason Geertsen, Jesper Boqvist and Jaros were the Devils’ scratches tonight.
In goal, the Devils started Mackenzie Blackwood, who came on in relief of Jonathan Bernier on Friday in Winnipeg. Blackwood had suffered back-to-back regulation losses for the first time this season and was looking to bounce back.
He stopped 21-of-23 Ottawa shots total for a .913 save percentage on the night. All of those shots came at even strength as the Senators did not draw a penalty and were 0-for-1 with no shots on their only power play opportunity.
Facing Blackwood was Anton Forsberg, who was equal to 22 of the Devils’ 24 shots for a .917 save percentage on the game. The Devils did not have a power play chance, as noted.
Due to the COVID pandemic and the rescheduling of the November game (which was related to the ongoing pandemic), these teams had not met since January 27, 2020 (a 4-3 shootout win for the Devils at Ottawa). Their last meeting in New Jersey was November 13, 2019 – a 4-2 Ottawa win.
The Devils claimed a very early lead just 35 seconds into the game when Damon Severson struck.
A Jonas Siegenthaler shot was blocked by the Sens and the rebound was recovered by Severson. Severson snapped a shot quickly towards Forsberg with Pavel Zacha providing a screen in front and the puck went in cleanly. Severson had the Devils up 1-0 fast. Jesper Bratt had the secondary assist.
That goal moved Severson past Rob Ramage on the Devils franchise all-time goal scoring list for defensemen. Ramage never actually played for the New Jersey Devils, as he spent his time with the franchise with the team in Denver and the Colorado Rockies.
In addition, Bratt’s assist was his 100th NHL assist. Congratulations to both men.
The Devils played a great first period, dictating play for the majority of the frame. They came out flying, in short. Then missed chances began to rear their ugly head again.
Late in the first, Zacha got in behind the Ottawa defense and was alone with Forsberg. He hit the post as New Jersey continues to be snake-bitten when it comes to posts.
The Senators nearly tied things in the second period with 14:45 left on the clock. Connor Brown scored and the goal was immediately waved off by the officials on the ice.
What had occurred was, before the goal, Nick Holden had barreled through the Devils’ crease and run over Blackwood. The officials determined that Blackwood was unable to get right to his feet and get set to make the save on Brown’s shot, on which he scored on.
The Devils dodged a bullet and it remained 1-0 New Jersey.
Then the teams began to trade goals back and forth.
With 7:15 gone by in the second, Drake Batherson tied the game for Ottawa. Brady Tkachuk dug the puck out of the near corner and got it to Thomas Chabot at the top of the near circle. Chabot saw Batherson all by himself at the far circle. He passed over to him and Batherson stepped up, beating Blackwood to make it 1-1.
The Devils had let it seemingly get away again but would respond extremely fast.
At 8:20 gone in the second, just over a minute after Batherson’s goal, Nathan Bastian notched his first goal in his return engagement with the Devils.
Michael McLeod won a faceoff deep in the Senators zone and moved the puck back to Ty Smith at the near point. Smith went D-to-D to PK Subban, who got his shot on net with Bastian cutting in front of the Ottawa net. Bastian tipped Subban’s shot by Forsberg to give the Devils a 2-1 lead. Today is also Bastian’s 24th birthday, so congratulations to him scoring a goal on his birthday.
The Devils had the lead. However, that would not survive the second period.
At the 12:42 mark of the second, the Sens again tied the score when Brady Tkachuk – the newly minted Ottawa captain – scored.
The goal came when the Devils failed to clear their zone and the Senators kept play alive there. Holden got the puck along the boards to Batherson, who was camped out behind the Devils net. Batherson then centered to Tkachuk, who entered the slot and scored to make it 2-2.
And that was it for scoring in regulation.
The Devils got chances. Early in the third period, Jimmy Vesey was stopped by Forsberg in front of the Senators’ net. The rebound came right back out to Vesey, who waited, having a wide-open side of the goal cage to shoot at. His second chance, however, was blocked aside by Sens’ defenseman Nikita Zaitsev, denying him twice in one play.
Jack Hughes then hit another post for the Devils midway through the third.
With the Devils and Senators on their second four-on-four of the game due to matching minors (the first one came in the opening period) while the Sens’ Tyler Ennis was off for charging and Ryan Graves for roughing, another missed opportunity for the Devils.
This time, Forsberg robbed Severson. Severson walked in behind the Ottawa defense with Bratt hitting him with a beautiful pass. Forsberg stopped him and another Devils chance was snuffed out.
With the score still tied up at two apiece as the horn sounded to signal the end of regulation, we were off to overtime.
The Senators came in at 1-1 in OT games with their first win coming Saturday against Colorado. The Devils have amassed a 2-1 OT record this season.
The Devils had some puck possession time and chances, but the Sens kept them mostly to the outside, the perimeter of their zone, not allowing them to get good looks and frustrating them and the fans.
After five minutes of OT did not settle things, we went to a shootout.
In round one, Tim Stutzle went for the Senators and the German sensation shot five-hold on Blackwood, scoring.
Tomas Tatar rounded out the first frame for the Devils. He would beat Forsberg stick-side upstairs to score for New Jersey.
Josh Norris was up for Ottawa in round two and beat Blackwood far-side to put the Sens on top.
Bratt shot wide in his turn in the second round.
Batherson missed wide and over the net in round three for the Senators.
This left it up to Andreas Johnsson to keep the Devils alive in round three. His shot was saved by Forsberg and the Senators had secured the two points and their third straight win. It was also their first shootout win of the season.
As for the Devils, they are now winless in their last four and are now 1-3 in shootouts this year with their lone win coming in San Jose in November.
The Devils edged the Sens in shots 24-23 and won 53-percent of the game’s faceoffs. McLeod was once again the Devils’ best faceoff man, winning 62-percent of his draws personally to lead the centers.
The Devils took six penalty minutes to Ottawa’s four (all but a Ryan Graves first period slashing penalty were coincidental minors). Graves led the Devils with four total penalty minutes.
The Devils also outhit the Sens 29-23 while Ottawa had more blocked shots at 19 to the Devils’ ten. The Devils had nine giveaways to the Senators’ five.
Severson led the Devils in total time on ice with 24:28 logged total. This included 1:20 of penalty killing time. Hughes led the forwards with 17:48 of total ice time. McLeod led the forwards in PK time with 1:12.
Johnsson led the Devils with four shots on goal. McLeod led in hits with five. Blocked shots were led by three defensemen, Dougie Hamilton, Graves and Siegenthaler with two each. Giveaways were scattered between Johnsson, McLeod, Zacha, Bratt, Hughes and Subban who all had one. Takeaways were led by Hughes and Yegor Sharangovich with three each.
Next up, an interesting one for the Devils. They need a win to get off of their slide. The Philadelphia Flyers, their next opponent at the Rock, are in a state of turmoil. They have a record of 8-10-4 and lost tonight 7-5 at home to the Avalanche.
They fired coach Alain Vigneault on Monday, replacing him with assistant Mike Yeo on an interim basis. The Flyers have lost nine in a row now and the Devils will need to make hay against them.
But Philly will be desperate on Wednesday at 7 PM against their rivals.
How will things shake down for two teams that need a victory in the worst way? We will find out on Wednesday on MSG+ and I will have a recap for you right here following the game.
Until then, enjoy the week everyone!