Devils and Sens Play Crazy One as Ottawa Prevails in Overtime

I said I would get to this game and have a post written!

Anyway, the Devils traveled up to Canada’s national capital to begin their last road trip of the season and fell in a strange one, 5-4 in overtime to the Ottawa Senators.

For New Jersey, the game saw a new addition and some returns to the lineup.

First, the highly anticipated debut of defenseman Reilly Walsh. Walsh was recalled from Utica and finally got to make his National Hockey League debut tonight, wearing number 8. Walsh was supposed to make his NHL debut earlier in the season in Detroit against the Red Wings along with Nikita Okhotyuk, but that was put aside when COVID hit the team and the two got sick.

He was healthy tonight, though, and got the nod as he was on a blue line that saw the return of Ty Smith to the lineup as well. PK Subban and Okhotyuk were healthy scratches along with Tomas Tatar, Colton White and Jon Gillies.

Nico Hischier remained out of the lineup up front while dealing with a stomach bug. Mason Geertsen and Fabian Zetterlund slotted in with the forwards. This game was Geertsen’s first appearance in the Devils lineup since March 31 at Boston and played on the fourth line with Michael McLeod centering him.

Another return to the lineup was between the pipes.

Mackenzie Blackwood made his long-awaited return following an extended layoff with the heel injury that has given him trouble all season long. He said in his postgame presser that his foot did feel a lot better than it had, although, basically, work needs to be done this summer on it. This was his first start since January 19 against the Arizona Coyotes.

He made 29 saves on 34 total Senators shots for an .853 save percentage. Special teams remained a problem as he let in the single shorthanded shot he saw (the 14th shorty the Devils have let in this season) and two of Ottawa’s four power play shots. The Sens went 2-for-3 on the power play as a team. He stopped 27 of 29 at five-against-five.

Facing him was Anton Forsberg for the Sens. He had a bigger workload, making 37 saves on 41 total Devils shots for a .902 save percentage. He nabbed all three Devils power play shots – with New Jersey going 0-for-2 as a team on the man advantage. At even strength, he made 34 saves on 38 shots.

Utica Comets head coach Kevin Dineen was special guest on the MSG+ pregame show with Erika Wachter and Bryce Salvador. He discussed his players making the jump from the AHL to the NHL this season as well as how the Comets feel their chances will be heading into the Calder Cup Playoffs after they clinched the American League’s North Division last week.

The Devils were trying to stop a three-game losing skid and notch a rare victory North of the Border tonight.

But it was Ottawa that jumped out to the lead. It came very late in the first period – with 17 seconds remaining the frame to be precise.

Just prior to this, with the Devils on the power play, Ty Smith had hit the post on a sequence that saw Yegor Sharangovich right in front ot put the rebound off of the post in, but he was unable to get to the puck in time.

At 19:13 gone by in the period, Janne Kuokkanen was called for holding Erik Brannstrom, a call which was made following a missed Devils too many men on the ice call. It was a make good call for the Sens, but the Devils did dodge a bullet initially anyway.

So, at the 19:43 mark and still on the power play, Tim Stutzle passed from the point to Brady Tkachuk, who was camped at the post to Blackwood’s left. He made a one-touch pass to Thomas Chabot at the other post and Chabot just tapped the puck right in to make it 1-0 Ottawa.

That set the stage for a wild second period.

The Sens would take a two-goal lead 11 seconds into the second frame when Drake Batherson scored his first of two on the night.

Tkachuk was behind the Devils net and went down to his knees, still able to make a pass to Bahterson cutting in front of Blackwood. Batherson gathered the puck with his skate and got it to his stick blade, shooting and scoring to double the Ottawa lead.

Travis Hamonic had the secondary assist and the goal, though separated by the first intermission, was scored 28 seconds after the first Ottawa goal back at the end of the first period.

The Devils would take another nine or so minutes, but they would get on the board, cutting the Senators lead in half at 2-1.

The Devils won a faceoff in their own zone and Walsh moved the puck ahead to Fabian Zetterlund, springing him up the right side. He broke into the Ottawa end with Nolan Foote. Zetterlund faked a shot and made a slick pass to Foote. Foote received the pass and just whipped a shot by Forsberg to make it 2-1.

Zetterlund had fought for the puck through the neutral zone after getting the pass from Walsh – who got his first NHL point on the play, so congratulations to him!

Ottawa retook their two-goal lead at 16:41 gone by on the power play due to Tim Stutzle.

Damon Severson was called for a high-stick against Josh Norris to give the Sens the man advantage for two minutes and Stutzle converted Norris passed from the far half wall to Tkachuk, who was cutting through the crease in front of Blackwood. Blackwood stopped his chance, but the rebound came right to the German rookie and he scored to make it 3-1 Sens.

Tkachuk now had the primary set up on all three Senators goals.

The Devils were still hanging around, however, and would cut the Ottawa lead to one once again before the period was over.

With six seconds left in the second period, Smith dished the puck to Pavel Zacha cutting in front towards the doorstep. Forsberg stopped his backhand shot, but Foote was sneaking around by the far post and just tucked the rebound in past Forsberg to make it 3-2.

This all set up a dramatic third period.

The drama built when Stutzle scored his second of the game – a shorthanded goal – to put the Sens up 4-2.

Ottawa’s Scott Sabourin was called for cross-checking Walsh at the 5:12 mark of the third to put the Devils on the power play (which could be just as dangerous of late for the Devils than their opponents).

Sure enough, at 6:34 gone down on the big clock, Stutzle picked off a Sharangovich pass at the Ottawa blue line while Sharangovich was attempting to help the Devils gain entry into the Senators zone. Stutzle was then off to the races, cut in alone on Blackwood and went to his backhand. He beat Blackwood unassisted to give the Sens a 4-2 lead.

The Devils would then storm back for the next two to tie the game and send it off to overtime.

At 7:29, a little less than a minute than the Ottawa goal by Stutzle, Jesper Bratt had recovered the puck and moved towards the middle of the ice in the Sens zone. He dished aside to Zacha, who ripped a shot from off the right-wing and by Forsberg to make it 4-3.

The Devils would fight back fully to tie things at the 10:15 mark of the third. On this one, the Sens turned the puck over to Severson at their own blue line and he was able to keep play alive in the Ottawa zone.

Severson made a heads up pass to Sharangovich down low, who then cut in towards Forsberg from the near side. He backhanded the puck in between Forsberg’s five-hole to tie the game at four each.

The Devils then gave two major indications that they may be able to hang on and win the game.

The first was late in the third when Dylan Gambrell was stopped on a breakaway by Blackwood.

The second sign extended between the latter part of the third period and into the OT session.

With 54 seconds to go in regulation, Dawson Mercer was called for cross-checking Norris. This put the Devils down a man to end the game and for a little more than a full minute should the game get to OT.

It did and the Devils would wind up killing the whole thing.

What it took was an amazing individual effort from Batherson to win the game for the Senators.

With 3:17 gone by in OT, Batherson skated one-on-one with Smith isolated in the Devils zone. Batherson made a toe drag move on Smith as the Devils defenseman lost his edge and fell down. Batherson then beat Blackwood in close on his backhand to win the game for the Sens 5-4.

Stutzle and Brannstrom had the assists on Batherson’s beauty of a game-winner.

The Devils outshot Ottawa 34 to 41. The Devils won 49-percent of the game’s draws with Michael McLeod leading in personal percentage with 62-percent (winning eight of his 13 faceoffs) and Zacha winning 11-pf-22 (50-percent) of his.

The Devils accumulated six penalty minutes while the Senators had just four minutes.

It was a hard-hitting game with the Sens outhitting New Jersey 32 to 24. Ottawa also had 17 blocked shots to the Devils’ eight. Team giveaways saw the Devils with seven to the Sens’ 11.

Zacha (a goal and an assist) and Foote (two goals) each had multiple point nights for the Devils.

In terms of ice time, Ryan Graves led all Devils skaters with 25:06 (which included 3:27 of time killing penalties). Dougie Hamilton spent the most time amongst Devils blue liners on the power play at 3:01, out of his total ice time of 22:12, spent on the man advantage.

Dawson Mercer led the forwards with 19:47 of total TOI (including 2:22 on the PP – tied with Bratt for most power play time for the forwards – and 28 seconds on the PK). McLeod led the forwards with 1:51 of PK time out of his 12:13 of total time on ice. He also played ten seconds on the PP.

Foote and Zetterlund tied in most shots on goal for the Devils with five each. Severson and Nathan Bastian led in hits with three each. Smith and, in his first career NHL game, Walsh, led in blocks with two each. Personal giveaways were led by Sharangovich, Foote, Zacha, Janne Kuokkanen, Walsh, Smith and Severson all with one while forced turnovers were led by Sharangovich with one.

Next up, the last Devils road game of 2021-22 as the Devils visit Raleigh, North Carolina to take on the Hurricanes tomorrow in a rematch from last Saturday.

Early news for that game is that Alexander Holtz has been recalled from AHL Utica and will join the team down in Carolina. Also, the Canes clinched the Metropolitan Division regular season championship with their win over the Rangers on Tuesday at the Garden.

I will be late on this one as well, as I actually have tickets to the New York Giants Draft Party up at MetLife Stadium and will be attending that tomorrow. I will be recording the game and will try to have a recap up as fast as possible.

The game will be broadcast on MSG (not MSG+ as the Devils website and app insist) – at least that is what I am hoping since that is what my DVR is set for. We shall find out. Puck drop is 7 PM.

In the meantime, enjoy your Thursday everyone!

Devils Suffer Disappointing Loss to the Senators

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!