Hockey, Devils Fall to Senators 3-2 in Shootout
Opportunity Missed for Devils By Matt Blittner, The New York Extra/TheNYExtra.com
The makeup game was there for the taking…until it wasn’t.
Monday night, in the heart of Newark, New Jersey, at Prudential Center, the Devils fell to the visiting Ottawa Senators in a shootout, 3-2, as the teams made up the game that was postponed during Ottawa’s COVID-19 outbreak several weeks ago. A back-and-forth second period, which featured three-goals (two by Ottawa), was the spark that ignited the Senators as the team went on to use the two-goals from Drake Batherson and Brady Tkachuk as a springboard for their eventual shootout heroics.
“Those were self-inflicted plays,” said Devils Head Coach Lindy Ruff.
The action started 35-seconds into the game when New Jersey defenseman Damon Severson fired a long shot from the point, through traffic and past Ottawa netminder Anton Forsberg for the 1-0 lead. That lead gave the Devils an early edge in play and also allowed the team to play ahead, rather than from behind. Don’t discount the importance of that, especially with the Devils coming into the game riding a three-game losing streak.
“It’s huge for any team to get offense from the backend,” Severson later told reporters. “The defense always tries to help the forwards out.”
Then came the second period and the relatively one-sided affair became a seesaw battle as the team’s tallied three-goals in a span of 5:27 in the middle of the period. Drake Batherson got things started with a shot from below the left face-off dot that beat Devils goalie Mackenzie Blackwood over his right arm.
The key moment prior to that goal was Joshua Norris winning a one-on-two puck battle downlow before getting the puck over to Brady Tkachuk. Ottawa’s Captain then passed the puck to Thomas Chabot, who dished it to Batherson for the game-tying score.
1:05 after Batherson’s tally Nate Bastian redirected a P.K. Subban blast past Forsberg to put New Jersey back in the driver’s seat. “It’s great when you’re able to get pucks through,” said Bastian after the game. “So many things happen in the game. Sometimes you get the bounce and sometimes you don’t.”
Bastian’s go-ahead marker only stood for 4:22 as Brady Tkachuk got in-between Dougie Hamilton and Ryan Graves down by Blackwood’s crease. Tkachuk received Batherson’s pass from behind the net and quickly deposited it past Blackwood to tie the game at 2-2.
That ended the seesaw battle as the teams jockeyed for position during the third period in what continued to be a mostly defensive affair. In fact, through 40-minutes of play, neither team mustered double-digit shots on goal during either period. That remained true through the third period and overtime as the tightly contested affair went to a shootout in front of the 10,312 dedicated fans in attendance.
In the shootout things started poorly for New Jersey as Tim Stutzle beat Blackwood for the quick advantage. Then came the equalizer from Tomas Tatar. Unfortunately, that’s where the good news ends. Joshua Norris scored in the second round for Ottawa while Jesper Bratt missed the net high and wide to bring the shootout to the third and final round. Blackwood gave his team a chance to tie things up when he stopped Drake Batherson but Andreas Johnsson wasn’t able to beat Forsberg as the Devils lost for the fourth consecutive game.
After the game, Bastian told reporters, “it’s a step in the right direction,” in regards to the Devils strong defensive performance. “We’re working to get the ship headed in the right direction.”
Head Coach Lindy Ruff added: “There were lots of parts of our game I liked…it was just puck management that ended up biting us…That’s probably a game we have to win 2-1…There were some good opportunities we left out there.”
An interesting factoid for you stats fans, the Devils entered the game with a 9-9-4 record through 22 games. Through those 22-games New Jersey had a 2.91 goals scored-per-game average…The same as the Rangers, who were idle on Monday and boast a record of 16-4-3 through 23-games…As for the Devils special teams against Ottawa, the penalty-kill went 1-for-1 and they did not receive a power-play opportunity…New Jersey and Ottawa entered the game with identical team shooting percentages (9%) despite there being a rather sizable difference in their goals scored-per-game averages (2.91 (NJ) to 2.59 (OTT)).