The Devils had six days in the middle of the season to practice and recharge. In a long season, the six day “non-bye week bye week” is a welcome thing. But the fact that it came so soon in the season with the team on a roll as they had been early on, could be troubling.
But New Jersey used the six days to their full advantage and came back better than ever against the Ottawa Senators last night at Prudential Center. They last saw Ottawa exactly eight days ago, last Thursday, which the Devils won on a John Moore goal in overtime following Nico Hischier’s first two goals of his career.
Some roster news for the Devils saw Kyle Palmieri sitting out with a lower body injury. Deb Placey on the Devils MSG pregame show said that he was seen wearing a boot and did not practice this week with the team. Cory Schneider also missed the game, but for a better reason. Cory’s wife gave birth yesterday afternoon to a baby daughter. Congratulations to the Schneider family on their new addition. Keith Kinkaid would get his second straight start (albeit with six days in between them) with Scott Wedgewood backing him up. Mirco Mueller and Dalton Prout were healthy scratches. Ben Lovejoy and Steven Santini slotted back in on defense.
THe Senators were coming off of a win last night against the Philadelphia Flyers, so this was the back half of a back-to-back for them. Kyle Turris was out with an illness and Bobby Ryan was missing with a broken finger.
Ottawa jumped out to an early 2-0 lead, putting the Devils behind the eight ball early on. Mike Hoffman scored at 7:58 of the first period, off assists from Christopher DiDomenico and Jean-Gabriel Pageau to make it 1-0. Former Devil (many moons ago) Johnny Oduya made it 2-0 when he beat a screened Kinkaid from Erik Karlsson and Zack Smith at 17:14.
The Devils were in a hole early, but started the big dig out with just under two minutes left in the first. That happened when Santini broke Pavel Zacha out of the Devils zone. Zacha then skated the puck through the neutral zone and fed Jimmy Hayes who beat Senators goaltender Mike Condon glove side to make it 2-1 before the end of the period.
From there, New Jersey took over the scoresheet. At 9:50 of the second period, Ottawa took a bench minor for a faceoff violation. That set up a Devils power play where Adam Henrique tied it up at two. It happened when Taylor Hall gave the puck to Jesper Bratt. He settled it down along the half wall and spun around to avoid a Sens defender, dishing to Will Butcher at the point. He fired and his rebound came right out to Henrique, who buried it behind Condon. That goal came at 10:52 of the second period.
The Devils grabbed the lead at the 18:07 mark when Brian Gibbons notched his fourth of the year from Zacha and Jimmy Hayes. It came when Hayes and Zacha worked the puck along the boards at the near half wall. Zacha spun and backhanded a pass to Gibbons, who snapped the puck by Condon to put the Devils ahead 3-2.
But the Devils needed an insurance goal and that would come at the 14:10 mark of the third period when defenseman Damon Severson found twine for the first time this year from Hall. This came when Hall made a great one-man effort to work the puck out of the corner, stickhandle it to the point, switch sides with Severson, slide the puck to Severson at the opposite point, only for Severson to fire, beating Condon cleanly for the 4-2 lead.
That should have been it, but Ottawa is a tough out. Coach Guy Boucher pulled Condon twice late in the third, getting the extra attacker on, which resulted first in a goal from Mark Stone (assists to Hoffman and Dion Phaneuf) at 18:45 to make it 4-3 New Jersey. Once the Sens took control of the puck off of the ensuing faceoff, the Senators would pull Condon again with DiDomenico scoring this time to tie things up at 19:23. With that blown lead, the Devils would run out the remaining time and take it to OT again against the Senators.
There were no heroics here, as the teams came close, but did not score in the extra session, taking us to a shootout. And that is where things got really crucial. The Devils shot first, with Condon making a save on Hall. Kinkaid then stopped DiDomenico while Nico Hischier missed on his try. Ottawa’s Tom Pyatt beat Kinkaid to make Drew Stafford’s try a must-score situation. He would convert to tie things up. Erik Karlsson missed for Ottawa and it was up to Jesper Bratt, who deked Condon out of his pads and cooly skated the puck around him to put the Devils up. The contnuation of the shootout was on Hoffman, who had gotten the scoring started for the Sens, but Kinkaid stopped him to give the Devils the 5-4 win.
With that, the Devils improve to 7-2-0. The Devils were able to improve in an area that had been hurting them: they only took two minor penalties on the night, keeping Ottawa 0-for-2 on the power play. The Devils themselves were 1-for-3.
In net, Kinkaid made 23 stops on 27 Senators shots, including one save on one power play shot. Princeton University product Mike Condon made 21 saves on 25 Devils shots, the Devils had five of those shots on the man advantage.
John Moore led the Devils in ice time with 25:34 while Hischier, Henrique, Blake Coleman and Santini all tied for the shots lead with three each.
On a side note, congratulations to the Prudential Center, which opened ten years ago to the day on October 27, 2007 with a game between the Devils and these Ottawa Senators. Two men in this game also played in that, Devils’ captain Andy Greene and the Sens’ Johnny Oduya (who was with New Jersey back then). Patrik Elias assisted on Brian Gionta’s goal (the first Devils goal in the history of the building) that night and was in attendance tonight. When shown on the big board, the crowd gave him a lengthly standing ovation, as is deserving of the legend who will have his number retired this February.
The Devils finish their back-to-back with a game later tonight at home against the Arizona Coyotes. The Coyotes have struggled this early part of the season, we will see how the Devils do against them.