Coming off of a successful 3-2-0 road trip, the Devils had some reason to feel confident on their return to the Prudential Center to take on the Ottawa Senators tonight. Unfortunately, a bad third period and a Jean-Gabriel Pageau hat trick doomed them to a 4-2 loss.
Ottawa lost 8-2 to the Carolina Hurricanes in their last game meaning that they would be looking to have a bounce back and would come out pretty angry.
The Devils responded to their win in Vancouver by shaking up their lines a little bit. Jack Hughes was centering the top line with Taylor Hall and Kyle Palmieri. In addition, Sami Vatanen is now listed as day-to-day with an upper body injury, although he did skate on his own today according to Erika Wachter of MSG.
John Hayden and Jesper Boqvist were the two healthy scratches for the Devils.
In goal, the Devils went right back to Mackenzie Blackwood, who stopped 21 of the 24 shots he saw for an .875 save percentage and second star of the night honors. He played extremely well tonight, including making a huge glove save going post-to-post on Nick Paul late in the third period when the balance of the game was still on the line.
Opposing him was Craig Anderson, who stopped 21 of 23 Devils shots for .913 save percentage and the win.
The Devils got the scoring going when Wayne Simmonds notched his third of the season at 4:19 of the first period. Nico Hischier blocked a Sens’ shot in his own zone and the puck bounced to Miles Wood. Wood headmanned the puck to Simmonds, who broke in on a breakaway, choosing to go wide on Anderson, scoring around him to make it 1-0 Devils. Simmonds would go on to be named the game’s third star.
There was a slight delay midway through the first as some confetti fell on the ice from the Prudential Center ceiling. It was a little strange and baffled the players, officials and announcers as to why it was actually falling.
Once that was cleaned up, play resumed and, at 14:54, Pageau notched his first of the game when Connor Brown took a shot from a weird angle that hit the left side of the goal cage. The rebound came to Pageau and he snuck the puck between Blackwood’s arm and the post to tie the game at one.
The Devils would regain the lead before the first period was out, however. Will Butcher got this one at 17:52 when the Devils won the Ottawa zone faceoff back to the point. Nikita Gusev shot from the point after taking the puck from Blake Coleman. The rebound came to Butcher on the far side and he blasted the puck into the net to make it 2-1 Devils. It was Butcher’s first goal since October 14 against the Florida Panthers.
Following a largely “safe” – as Devils’ ice side analyst Bryce Salvador put it – second period, in which neither team scored, the third period would see things simply fall apart for the Devils. The closest scoring play came when Hughes split the Senators’ defense and took a shot as he was falling down. However, Anderson turned that aside and the Devils failed to add to their lead.
Hall was stopped on a breakaway halfway through the frame and, once again, the Devils could not add to that lead.
Finally, after applying pressure for a good portion of the latter part of the period, the Sens broke through. Mark Borowiecki took a pass at the point from Nikita Zaitsev at the other point. He shot through a couple of screens and beat Blackwood to tie the game at two each. Filip Chalpik had the other assist on the goal that came at 13:30 of the third.
It was after this goal that Blackwood made his big glove save on Paul. Following the save, that saw Blackwood go right to left to make the save post-to-post, the refs checked to see if the shot broke the plane of the goal line during a TV timeout. It did not and the save was confirmed.
However, things were not over for the Sens. Pageau scored his second of the game when Paul – who had been stopped a second time by Blackwood before this – hit the post from the near circle. Pageau was right there in the slot to put it home and give Ottawa their first lead of the night, 3-2. Brown had the other assist on the goal that came at 17:59.
The Devils would pull Blackwood with about 1:30 to go in regulation, but Pageau would complete his hat trick by scoring into an empty net at with 26 seconds to go in the game. Pageau would go on to be the first star of the night.
The Devils lost big in the faceoff circle, winning only 40-percent of the game’s draws. Both teams put up an ofer on the power play. The Devils were 0-for-3 against a team that not only takes the most penalties in the NHL, but also has a bad penalty kill. They had power play shots. The Sens were 0-for-1 with zero shots on the power play. They did, however, muster a shorthanded shot on goal.
The Senators outhit the Devils, 19 to eight and had more blocks at nine to the Devils’ seven. The Devils had ten giveaways to a single one for Ottawa.
Individually for the Devils, the ice time has been spread out amongst the New Jersey defensemen since Vatanen went down. Tonight PK Subban led the defense and the team in time on ice with 22:33 (including 1:59 on the power play and 1:02 on shorthanded). Hall led the forwards with 19:53 (3:42 on the power play).
Shots on goal were co-led by Hall and Subban with three each while Simmonds led in hits with three as well. Blocked shots were led by Hughes with two and takeaways by Hischier, Hughes, Simmonds and Pavel Zacha who each had two.
Next up for the Devils, they play the Penguins on Friday at home. In fact, eight of the Devils’ next 12 games are at Prudential Center. That game also begins a back-to-back as they travel to Montreal on Saturday. The Pens may be without superstar forward Sidney Crosby as he suffered an injury over the weekend and is mulling over surgery for it. We will see if he plays then and find out how the Devils do when that goes down on Friday.