Devils Down Senators in Shootout, 4-3

We are back from the NHL All-Star break and the Devils’ bye week and what a busy night of hockey we have for you! In the first game, the Devils faced off with the Ottawa Senators up in Canada’s national capital. The Devils won this one 4-3 in a shootout.

It was the first Devils game in nine days, since they faced off with Columbus on January 18. The bye week/All-Star break was good for injured Devils. Kyle Palmieri was activated off of injured reserve and played tonight, scoring a goal while playing on the top line with Jesper Bratt and Nico Hischier. Louis Domingue was also off of IR and backed up starter Mackenzie Blackwood. Cory Schneider was reassigned to Binghamton.

Also spending some time in Binghamton is Jesper Boqvist, who was sent down during the break and will remain there for the time being, getting a little more seasoning with a good amount of playing time.

Connor Carrick was the lone Devils scratch as Mirco Mueller slotted back in on defense.

The starting goalie matchup saw the aforementioned Blackwood made 35 saves on 38 Ottawa shots for a .921 save percentage. For the Sens, Marcus Hogberg stopped 50 of an astounding, and season high, 53 Devils shots for a .943 save percentage. In the shootout, Blackwood stopped two shots and Hogberg stopped neither of the two shooters he faced.

In a nice gesture, the Senators payed tribute to Kobe Bryant with a moment of silence pregame. The Sens were wearing their heritage jerseys, which is always a nice look. The Senators also had a nine-game winless streak that they snapped just prior to the break with a win over Calgary.

And this one looked bleak for them early one when Damon Severson scored 8:23 into the game on the power play. Connor Brown of Ottawa had gone off for a high sticking double minor, clipping Sami Vatanen. The Devils were held off of the scoresheet during the first two minutes, but during the second half of the power play, Severson took a shot from the point that hit the post and was kicked in by Hogberg when he spun around to locate the puck. Miles Wood served as a screen in front and, though he did not get an assist, did play a major part in the goal. Bratt and Nikita Gusev had the assists.

But the Sens would knot things prior to the end of the first frame. With less than two minutes to go in the first, at 18:42, Tyler Ennis scored on the power play (Mueller was off for a slash at 17:13) when Brady Tkachuk shot and the rebound came right to Ennis cutting back door. Drake Batherson had the secondary assist and the game was tied at one going into the second period.

On the power play, the Devils went 1-for-5 with 11 shots (plus one shorthanded – which came just prior to the Ennis goal). Ottawa was 1-for-2 with three power play shots and two shorthanded shots – both of which they scored on, which we will obviously get to later.

The second period began with PK Subban and Tkachuk, who had been going at it all game in front of the Devils’ net, scrap.

The Devils retook the lead when Andy Greene made a nice takeaway in the Devils’ zone, this led to the Devils getting it up ice and putting some pressure in the Ottawa zone. Kevin Rooney capitalized at 4:28 when he scored on a wraparound. Greene and Mueller had the assists on the goal that made it 2-1.

But if the second period was great for New Jersey, it was about thirty seconds in the third that was nearly their undoing.

At the 8:28 mark, Tkachuk took a high-sticking penalty against Pavel Zacha, putting the Devils on the power play. However, at the 9:06 mark, the Devils gave up a 2-on-1 with Vladislav Namestnikov and JG Pageau skating in. Namestnikov used Pageau as a decoy and elected to shoot, beating Blackwood to make it 2-2 and notching the Sens’ first shorthanded goal of the game. Ron Hainsey had the lone assist.

Less than forty seconds later, at 9:41, Ottawa took the lead when, off a partial 2-on-1, Connor Brown made a nice, thread-the-needle pass to Chris Tierney, who went backhand on Blackwood and scored. Dylan DeMelo had the secondary assist.

So the Devils had given up two shorthanded goals on the very same penalty and seemed on the brink of collapse. They would nail two posts and a crossbar in the period and could not seem to get one by Hogberg.

A scary moment for the Senators when Mark Borowiecki tried to stand Blake Coleman up at the Ottawa blue line and, as he turned his back and both men braced for the hit, Coleman’s stick caught him in the face, knocking his helmet clean off. Borowiecki immediately went to the Sens’ locker room, but returned to the bench a few moments later.

The Devils would finally tie things at the 16:39 mark when Hischier took a shot on Hogberg that rebounded to the stick of Bratt in front of the net. He poked it over to a cutting in Palmieri who put the puck in the empty side of the goal mouth. That made it 3-3 and we would soon be headed for overtime.

The Devils won their last trip to Ottawa in OT with Jack Hughes scoring the winner. This time, the winner would not be decided in the extra session, but there would be plenty of action. Severson was stopped on a breakaway early on and later, Will Butcher was stopped in close on a nice chance set up by Hischier.

But due to excellent goaltending by both Blackwood and Hogberg, we were off to a shootout.

This one would only need two rounds to decide. Anthony Duclair went first for the Sens and was stopped by Blackwood. Gusev was up first for the Devils and he scored off of a nice move. Batherson went for Ottawa to kick off the second round and was stopped by Blackwood. Hughes then buried his chance to give the Devils the shootout victory.

The Devils won 52-percent of the game’s faceoffs with Travis Zajac winning 60-percent of his. The Devils outhit the Sens, 27-23 and had more blocked shots at 29 to the Senators’ 11. The Devils had slightly less giveaways at 13 to Ottawa’s 18.

Individually, Severson led in time on ice with 26:50 (including 3:18 on the power play and 2:19 on the penalty kill). Hischier led the forwards with 22:13 with 5:06 on the power play.

Shots on goal were led by Hughes by a wide margin with eight. John Hayden and Wayne Simmonds led in hits with four each while Severson led in blocked shots with five. Gusev led in takeaways with two.

Next up, the Devils will face old coach John Hynes when the Nashville Predators come to Newark on Thursday. That game is on NBCSN at 7:30 PM and we will have coverage for you right here when it is over. Later tonight/this morning, we should have coverage of the AHL All-Star game for you as well.

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.