The Devils rode into the Canadian capital having won two straight and looking to get back to an even 3-3-1 record on the year. They would ultimately get to NHL .500 through hard work and a never say die effort from an unlikely hero, defeating the Ottawa Senators 5-4 in a shootout.
Andrew “the Hamburgler” Hammond, getting his first start of the year for Ottawa would face Cory Schneider, who would end up making 35 saves on the night. A win tonight would give Cory his 45th win as a Devil and his 100th win in his NHL career.
The scoring got underway when the Sens’ Erik Karlsson was called for tripping at 3:46 of the first. Travis Zajac, coming off of the three-point night on Tuesday, converted the Devils’ power play (assists to Kyle Palmieri and Mike Cammalleri) and they led 1-0.
Ottawa would only need 52 seconds to respond as Mika Zibanejad scored on a breakaway to tie the game. That was a short-handed goal, as Zack Smith had gone off for delay of game at 4:33. On the same penalty, with a second left on the power play, Jordin Tootoo found the back of the net to give the Devils a 2-1 lead. Adam Henrique and Jacob Josefson assisted on Tootoo’s first of the year.
Midway through the second, Stefan Matteau and Chris Neil took coincidental roughing minors, putting the game at four-on-four. The game opened up a little bit, but neither team was able to notch anything during this time.
The second period would see two other major events. First, Zack Smith scored to tie the game at two apiece. That goal was assisted by Chris Neil and Shane Prince. That assist would be 1/3rd of Neil’s (who was playing in his 900th career NHL game – all with the Senators) Gordie Howe Hat Trick, which consists of a goal, an assist and a fight. This goal occurred before his roughing minor, at 9:25 of the period.
The other event was Stephen Gionta getting upended in the Senators’ zone behind a play by Mark Borowiecki. When he did not get the call on that, Gionta would poke his stick toward Borowiecki’s midsection and get called for a spearing major and a game misconduct for his efforts. The Devils would now have to kill off a five minute power play and be without the services of Gionta for the rest of the night. An uncharacteristic moment of retaliation by Gionta but the Devils would still be facing a major roadblock to victory.
New Jersey was able to kill the 2:22 of the five minute power play in the second, but Ottawa was going to be getting about two and a half minutes of power play time on fresh ice in the third. Two minutes and twenty-four seconds into the third frame, Mike Hoffman put the Senators up 3-2 with a power play goal and (because it was a major penalty) still had some time to work with with the extra man.
The Devils survived the rest of the major penalty, but at 6:38 of the third, Neil got his goal to get 2/3rds of the way to the Gordie Howe Hat Trick. That goal put Ottawa up 4-2 and things were beginning to look hopeless for New Jersey.
Neil finished off the Gordie Howe Hat Trick when he and Tootoo (who was also an assist away from the same feat) fought at 12:53 of the third. It was also Tootoo’s second fight in as many games.
Adam Henrique would pull the Devils within one when he wristed one past Hammond at 14:10 (Cammalleri and Lee Stempniak with the assists) and the Devils looked like they were slowly shifting the momentum back their way.
Although it was derailed a bit when the team had to kill off a Brian O’Neill boarding penalty late, that momentum would fully switch in the Devils’ favor late in the third. With Schneider pulled and the extra attacker on, Stempniak was able to move to his forehand on a scramble in front of the Senators’ net and fire it home (assists to Damon Severson and Cammalleri) at 19:28.
The Devils had engineered a comeback and even had two good chances to win it with mere seconds left, but were unable to. The game would go to three-on-three overtime, the Devils’ third trip in as many games. They had also secured a point in their fourth straight game.
Although the game would not be won in overtime, it was not for lack of trying. Similar to the San Jose game, the Devils would go on the power play late in the extra session, as the Sens’ Mark Stone was called for holding at 4:47. When that yielded nothing, the teams were headed to a shootout.
First up for the Senators was Cherry Hill, New Jersey native Bobby Ryan, who scored on his shot for the Senators. That was the only conversion Ottawa would have in the shootout. Adam Henrique was stopped in the first round for the Devils, putting the Sens up 1-0 going into the second round. Kyle Turris was stopped by Schneider and Josefson scored for the Devils, tying things up. When Zibanejad missed for Ottawa, Cammalleri had a chance to end it. He could not and the shootout went into an extra round. Stone missed for the Senators, giving Stempniak, the man who had tied the game and forced overtime and the shootout for New Jersey, a chance to win it for the Devils. He would connect and the Devils had their third straight victory.
The Devils had fought back from a two goal deficit to win the game and it was largely due to the play of Lee Stempniak, a player signed late in training camp who is showing good veteran leadership for this young team seeking to find its way.
Next up for the Devils, the road trip continues in Buffalo where New Jersey will get their first taste of the new look Sabres and Jack Eichel. The Devils have shown that they have the fight in them; can they continue their winning ways against one of the NHL’s youngest guns? We will find out on Saturday.