The Devils have emerged from the All-Star break and it was just more of the same frustrating thing.
They traveled to Ottawa tonight and fell 4-1 to the Senators.
The Devils have now won one game in their last eleven and have lost seven straight. They had last played this past Tuesday, a 7-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on home ice.
New Jersey played tonight’s contest without All-Star representative Jack Hughes, who returned from Las Vegas and tested positive for COVID, being placed on the COVID list yesterday.
With that, some shakeups to the lineup saw Nico Hischier move up to the top line to take Hughes’ place as center between Jesper Bratt and Yegor Sharangovich. Pavel Zacha moved to center on the second line as the Devils also got Michael McLeod back from Injured Reserve.
In addition, head coach Lindy Ruff was back, joining the team in Ottawa following spending time in Alberta mourning the death of his father.
Mason Geertsen, Marian Studenic and Christian Jaros were the Devils healthy scratches while goaltender Akira Schmid was sent back to the AHL Utica Comets.
Recalled from Utica was goalie Nico Daws, who got the start tonight with Jon Gillies backing him up.
Daws, making his third NHL start for the Devils, made 20 saves on 24 total Senators shots for an .833 save percentage on the night. All of those shots/saves came at five-on-five as the Sens did not have a power play nor did they have any shorthanded scoring chances as we shall see.
Ottawa countered with Matt Murray, who was looking a little more like his old self from his Pittsburgh days and made 32 saves on 33 Devils total shots for a .970 save percentage. He stopped all 32 of the Devils’ shots at even strength, letting in New Jersey’s only power play shot. The Devils were 1-for-1 on the man advantage.
The only real silver lining for tonight’s game was that tonight was a milestone game for PK Subban. He was playing in his 800th career NHL game, although this is probably one he would most likely want to forget.
Things started off well enough for the Devils.
Following about 11:30 of scoreless hockey, a lightning-fast breakthrough for the Devils. At 11:39, Ottawa’s Nikita Zaitsev was called for boarding Jesper Boqvist, putting New Jersey on the power play.
It would take the Devils one shot and eight seconds on the power play to convert.
Nico Hischier won the faceoff in the Sens’ zone with Zacha providing support to move the puck back to Damon Severson at the point. Severson dished to Bratt along the left wall and Bratt got off a quick shot that was redirected in front by Hischier, who had gone to the front of the net to make it 1-0 Devils.
Things were looking very good very early for New Jersey, but that feeling would barely make it out of the first period.
The Senators tied things at 16:51 gone by in the first when Alex Formenton retrieved the puck on a hard dump in by the Sens. The Devils were caught in a bit of a defensive change and could not get on the puck as aggressively as they would have liked due to lack of personnel on the ice.
The Sens’ forecheck recovered and moved it immediately to Connor Brown behind the Devils net. He then centered to Nick Paul on the doorstep, who scored to tie the game at one.
In the second period, the wheels simply fell off for the Devils.
Nick Holden scored 7:54 into the second period when Ottawa overloaded to one side after winning the puck on a strong forecheck. Zach Sanford found a seam and passed to Holden all alone on the other side of the ice. He had time to shoot and beat Daws to give the Sens a 2-1 lead. Mark Kastelic was later given the secondary assist.
Just nine seconds after Holden scored, the Senators made it 3-1 when Adam Gaudette got he puck from Thomas Chabot, raced up the left-wing boards and shot off the rush, scoring on Daws to quickly give the Senators an insurance goal. Chris Tierney had the secondary assist.
The Devils had chances throughout the game that they just could not connect on. Sharangovich was stopped by Murray in the final minute of the second period. That was a momentum stopper and then, early in the third, off of good puck movement by Bratt, Hischier and Sharangovich, Sharangovich was stoned again by Murray.
New Jersey could just not buy a finish on their chances in the game and that would go on to bite them in the end.
Ottawa would ice the scoring at the 11:58 mark of the third period when Artem Zub got the puck to Brown, who gained the Devils zone and passed cross-ice to Paul. Paul passed back to Brown, who was cutting in behind the Devils’ defense and got in in front of Daws. He scored to give us our final score of 4-1.
The Devils outshot the Sens 33-24 and won 59-percent of the game’s faceoffs. McLeod, back in the lineup after missing the last four games, was back to leading Devils centers with a 73-percent personal winning percentage.
The Senators took the only penalty of the game, the two-minute boarding minor by Zaitsev. Ottawa outhit the Devils by a wide margin at 44 to 28. The Sens also blocked more shots at 27 to the Devils’ 15. New Jersey had more team giveaways at 11 to the Senators’ seven.
Jonas Siegenthaler led all Devils skaters with 23:14 of total ice time. Severson had nine seconds logged on the power play out of his 20:52 of total ice time – the exact amount of time the Devils spent on special teams all game.
Sharangovich led the forwards with 18:25 of total ice time while Hischier (16:47 total TOI), Nate Bastian (14:29 of total TOI), Zacha (15:37 total TOI) and Bratt (17:36 of total TOI) all were on the ice for the Devils’ nine seconds of power play time to be the unit that led in that category.
Zacha led in shots on goal with five. Bastian led in hits with eight. Ty Smith led in blocks with three. Personal giveaways were led by McLeod with three while personal takeaways were led by Dawson Mercer, Boqvist and Smith with one each.
It is a quick turnaround for the Devils as they travel to Montreal tomorrow to take on the struggling-more-than-the-Devils Canadiens. The Habs have won just eight games this season and are in a rough way.
We will have coverage for you right here following the game. Puck drop is at 7 PM from Bell Centre and the game is listed on the Devils’ website as airing on MSG.
Hopefully tomorrow is a better effort and we will see you then!