The New Jersey Devils and the Ottawa Senators went the distance and the Devils ultimately won in double overtime. As always, NHL.com has the official scoresheet
and official super stats
of the game, linked respectively.
Wow. That was a very exciting game. When you hear hockey fans talk about how great playoff hockey is, they are talking about games like this one. I must say, it had great action and was very entertaining to watch.
The Devils did exactly what I wanted in the first period. They came out strong, the return of Patrik Elias really energized the EGG unit (they were flying all night), they scored first, Brian Gionta scored on the Devils' first shot on goal in the game on a power play, and the Devils kept pressing the Senators all period long. 16 shots for the Devils and the Senators were too busy playing defense, only managing 5 shots. Sergei Brylin made the game 2-0 literally less than a second before the end of the first period when he got a loose puck off the faceoff and pounded it home off the post and in to convert on the power play there. The Devils were looking good, playing well, and I was feeling good.
But the Devils did not maintain. I wish I could take a picture of an entire period (or two periods in this case) to show clearly and concisely show that hanging back, playing primarly defensively, "turtling" on a lead for over a period against Ottawa is a bad idea. The Devils put 8 shots on net in both the second and third periods and what I'm talking about is more than just shots. The team's mentality was too defensive and too passive. When the Devils did have an offensive rush, the players made too many passes. I understand why the forwards did so, had some of those passes connected to the intended Devil, the receiver of the pass would have an excellent chance to score. But the Senators stopped the pass, or the pass bounced over the stick or it didn't go all the way through or something else. Often times a good shooting opportunity was literally passed up - to make one more pass.
Overall, however, the Devils really should have pushed for a third goal instead of trying to defend the lead. Martin Brodeur was fantastic, literally robbing the Senators of goals several times; and the penalty killers did a great job holding Ottawa to only one power play goal. However, even Brodeur needs offensive help and as a result the Senators crashed the net late and were rewarded when Heatley pounded it in for the equalizer deep in the slot. Why Paul Martin or Sergei Brylin didn't stop Heatley is beyond me. I understand that taking a penalty is a bad idea, but if it's a one goal lead with less than 30 seconds left; take the penalty if it'll prevent a goal being scored. Naturally, after the equalizer, Gionta hooks somebody.
However, in overtime, the Devils decide that offense is a good idea and showed a lot more of it in the first overtime. While Brodeur was stoning Senators left and right, Ray Emery was showing a lot of net on his glove side - so the Devils forwards shot there. Unfortunately, Emery was up to the task with his fast glove hand so the Devils did not convert on a decent number of scoring chances the Devils actually pushed for. Especially on the Devils' power play in overtime. As an aside, I'd like to note how the Devils got their power plays. The Devils got an abbreviated one due to Ottawa putting too many men on the ice during their own power play. The second one was the result of defenseman Anton Volchenkov catching a puck in mid-air and closing his hand on it (and it's not the first time Volchenkov did that in this playoffs I believe). The Senators took two really dumb penalties in the first overtime and they should thank Ray Emery that the Devils didn't end it on those power plays.
Fortunately, the Devils caught a huge break when Jamie Langenbrunner found himself behind the Ottawa Senators defense at the blueline. He got the pass, he went in on a breakaway, Joe Corvo tried to hook him (he did, it would have been a penalty call), and Langenbrunner just puts it in past the post before Emery's left leg could stop it. Despite turtling for two periods, despite going 2 for 7 on the power play, and despite Emery getting hot in the first overtime, Jamie Langenbrunner was the hero and won the game with his breakaway goal. A great looking goal to end an up-and-down game by the Devils.
Glad that the return of Elias was good, Martin Brodeur is definitely in his groove, that the Devils responded in overtime - showing no signs of being disheartened by the late equalizer by Ottawa, and that Langenbrunner came through the clutch. I would really like to see the Devils cut down on the unnecessary passes and, more importantly, try not to sit on leads for extended periods of time (especially against a team like Ottawa). I'm telling you, the way the Devils played in the first period was great; if they are looking for what they should emulate to win this series, you can't do much better than that performance. That said, the Devils won an important Game 2 and the series now goes to Ottawa tied up at 1. Good job, overall.
COMMENTER UPDATE: Ethan notes in the comments that Barry Melrose has said that the Devils are fun to watch now. If you saw any pigs fly this morning, it probably had something to do with that.
Labels: 2007 Playoffs, Devils Postgame