You know those goals that you can see coming? Either the players pass the puck a certain way or you can just feel it in your bones? That’s how I felt in overtime. Connor McDavid, Mark Letestu, and Oscar Klefbom passed the puck to each other a few times until Letestu shot the puck and it found the back of the net.
The only reason the New Jersey Devils were able to deke out a point tonight against a very formidable, playoff-bound Edmonton Oilers team is Cory Schneider, who was excellent tonight. He faced 43 shots on goal by a high-scoring Edmonton offense and only let in two of them. Considering his (brief) performance last night, this was several steps up. He showed that he’s capable of being the Top 5 goaltender he was last year. He made some incredible saves tonight; the game could have (and should have) easily been 7-1 in favor of Edmonton.
Miles Wood scored the lone goal for the Devils. He took a pass from Travis Zajac and outskated Eric Gryba, and shot the puck past Cam Talbot and into the back of the net. It was a beautiful goal, and his speed and his puck sense is going to make him a building block for the Devils going forward. He has five goals on the season and a pair of assists, and although he’s not a high-scoring power forward, his speed is going to be a critical component of the Devils’ offense.
Matt Benning scored the lone regulation goal for Edmonton and the first of his career at 3:33 in the third period to tie the game at one. They remained scoreless at the end of regulation and both teams had multiple scoring chances in overtime until Letestu scored to win the game for The Oil. Letestu’s OT goal was also a power play goal (Edmonton was 1/2 on the night) because Travis Zajac was called for slashing McDavid with a little over two minutes left in OT. I thought it was an unwarranted call especially because McDavid didn’t get a penalty call for crashing into Schneider’s net.
But, at the end of the day, the Devils escaped with a point and an undeserving one at that. They were completely outshot and outplayed the entire game. It’s a miracle that it wasn’t a complete blowout.
However, New Jersey is now down another defenseman. Yohann Auvitu, recalled from Albany (AHL) before tonight’s game, went limping to the Devils bench and didn’t return to the game. We were told lower body injury only but it is unclear as to what the exact injury is or how the injury occurred. This is yet another blow to a Devils’ defense who was finally starting to click and play well together on the ice. Both Captain Andy Greene and John Moore (concussion) were listed on injured reserve and Greene is definitely out for Monday’s home game against the Florida Panthers. For a team with five defensemen, they played more than well tonight but going forward, the Devils may have to recall someone else from Albany (I’m assuming Vojtech Mozik, whom they called up earlier in the season but never saw NHL time). Seth Helgeson was a healthy scratch tonight but he’ll be in the lineup Monday. The Devils’ defense is getting younger and younger each day, which is not a bad thing and I welcome it, but they are also inexperienced. They’re really going to have to step it up several notches if the team has any hope of finishing the season on a high note.
Schneider was the game’s second star and Wood was the third but they weren’t the only players to shine tonight. Steve Santini and Jon Merrill both had solid games as well. Adam Henrique also had a good night at the faceoff circle, winning 64.7% of them, and he had multiple excellent scoring chances, including one towards the end of regulation. The Devils weren’t able to score on their only power play of the night but they killed off Edmonton’s only PP in regulation. They were able to contain McDavid, who leads the league in points (46).
P.A. Parenteau led the team in shots with four; Henrique, Wood, and Taylor Hall all had three. I was hoping Hall would score against his former team but no such puck luck. Adam Larsson also had his homecoming tonight at The Rock; fans gave him a rousing ovation after a video tribute was played during a break in the first period.
The Devils will be back in action Monday night to close out a three-game homestand before they embark on a four-game road trip to Western Canada. They’ll hope to salvage two points when they take on the Florida Panthers in their last meeting of the season.