Hughes Helps Devils Down Sens in OT

Following a tough overtime loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Friday, the Devils needed a victory tonight over the Ottawa Senators at Canadian Tire Centre in the Canadian capital.

And they got it. Courtesy of a Jack Hughes overtime goal, the Devils beat the Sens 4-3 to earn a point in their third straight game – two of which have been wins.

Some roster moves first. Will Butcher did not travel with the team nor practice with them yesterday as he is now day-to-day with an undisclosed injury, although the team did say that nothing was broken. Connor Carrick slotted in on defense for him and played on the third pairing with Mirco Mueller. Kevin Rooney was the other scratch as Pavel Zacha was back in after being a game-time decision and not playing on Friday.

Ottawa has been hurting as well, as Steve Cangialosi of MSG Network pointed out, the entire left side of their defense that played when these two teams last met on November 13 at the Rock, is out.

The goaltending matchup featured Mackenzie Blackwood for the Devils who stopped 20 of 23 Sens shots for an .870 save percentage for the night. For the Senators, Craig Anderson was equal to 30 of the 34 shots the Devils threw at him for an .882 save percentage.

It was an early 5 PM ET start for the teams and they would push this game to the near limit.

The game started with some fireworks when Andreas Englund laid a big hit on Jesper Boqvist. Englund was already going to go off for interference, but John Hayden took offense and challenged him. In the end, neither team got a power play, though the Devils would be without Hayden for the next ten minutes. He got five for fighting, plus a ten-minute misconduct, plus the instigator. Englund got five for fighting plus the interference. This all came 6:13 into the game.

Nico Hischier would get the Devils on the board first on the power play when, at 7:09, Vladislav Namestnikov was called for a trip against Damon Severson. The Devils would take advantage on this chance when, at 8:58, Sami Vatanen kept the puck in the Senators’ zone, threw it at the net and Nico tipped it by Anderson to make it 1-0 Devils. Vatanen had actually made another great play to keep the zone just before the one that led to this goal. Severson had the secondary assist on Nico’s eighth of the season. This made six points in six games for Hischier and kept Vatanen’s four game assist streak alive.

Ottawa would tie things up 8:39 into the second when Nick Paul broke in on a 2-on-1 with Chris Tierney. Paul elected to shoot and the puck just squeezed through Blackwood, although he did get a piece of it. That tied it up at one apiece and Anthony Duclair and Cody Goloubef had the assists.

Artem Anisimov gave Ottawa their first lead of the evening when he scored at 13:28 of the second. Colin White won a faceoff back to Englund at the point. He shot and Anisimov batted the puck out of the air, knocking it in off the post and off of Blackwood’s heel and in. The Situation Room in Toronto looked at the goal for a possible high-stick, but it was a good goal and it was 2-1 Senators.

From here, the Devils would storm back and retake the lead. At 15:12 of the second, on a 5-on-3, Nikita Gusev struck.  At 13:57, White was called for a delay of game for shooting the puck over the glass. Then, at 14:14, the Devils went up by two men when Namestnikov was called for tripping Vatanen. On the ensuing two-man advantage, Vatanen got the puck down low to Gusev and he shot from a bad angle, but was able to get it behind Anderson to make it 2-2.  It was Gusev’s first NHL power play goal and Jack Hughes had the secondary assist.

The Devils ended the night 2-for-4 on the power play with a whopping nine shots (to go with two shorthanded shots) while Ottawa was 0-for-3 on the power play with four shots on goal.

The Devils would take back the lead at the 18 minute mark of the second when Miles Wood used his speed and strength to score the Devils’ third goal. It came when Wayne Simmonds lobbed a pass up to a breaking Wood through the middle of the ice. Wood cut in and beat Anderson five-hole to make it 3-2 Devils. At first, not even Wood was sure the puck had trickled in, but it did and the Devils had the lead again.

They would hold that lead until just over five minutes to go in the third, at 15:02, when Thomas Chabot tied it up again. Ottawa had only one once at home when trailing going into the third period, but things looked good for them when the Devils could not clear their zone and Jean-Gabriel Pageau passed to Chabot at the point. He one-timed it by Blackwood and scored cleanly to knot the game up.

Things were looking even better for Ottawa when, very late in the game, Hischier was tripped up on a partial break and went tumbling into the Sens’ net. No tripping call was assessed, although the replay did show that one should have been.

And so, when regulation expired, we were headed to OT once again. This time, it only took 54 seconds and the Devils got the result that they wanted. The goal came when Kyle Palmieri lobbed a pass to Hughes, who got in on a partial break. The pass was similar to the one that Simmonds used on the Wood goal. Hughes, fending off Pageau, who was hounding him, cut in on Anderson with one hand on his stick. He kind of chipped the puck over the Ottawa netminder and it went in, giving the Devils the 4-3 win. Vatanen had the other helper.

In the end, the Devils won 47-percent of the game’s faceoffs and were outhit 32-29. The Sens had 19 blocked shots to the Devils’ ten, but Ottawa did have more giveaways than New Jersey at 14 to the Devils’ ten.

Individually, Severson was right back on the horse, leading the Devils’ skaters in total ice time with 24:59 (including 2:32 on the power paly and 2:50 on the PK). The forwards were led by a pretty wide margin by Nico, who had 19:01 of total ice (including 3:30 on the power play and 2:23 shorthanded). Vatanen led in points with three (all assists). Hischier led in shots on goal with five, Blake Coleman in hits with seven, Coleman, Severson and Andy Greene in blocked shots with two each and Hischier, Coleman, Hughes, Boqvist and Vatanen in takeaways with one apiece.

The Devils next take on the Boston Bruins at home on New Year’s Eve. Note that puck drop for that game at Prudential Center is 1 PM ET.

Before I go, I just wanted to send a get well to the Maple Leafs’ Ilya Mikhayev. He had his wrist cut in the game against the Devils on Friday by Jesper Bratt’s skate in a freak accident. He had surgery to repair an artery and tendons and will be missing some time. Good luck to him and here’s hoping he gets well soon.

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