No way would I have predicted what happened tonight's game between the New Jersey Devils and the Anaheim Ducks. No way. This game had it all, which surely helped the late night viewer in the Eastern Time Zone stay away. There were bad and weak calls that led to a total of four power play goals. (OK, the fourth power play goal came on a legit call) An even period (the first), a home team heavy period (the second), and an away team heavy period (the third). Both Hiller and Brodeur gave up a bad first goal. They couldn't do much about the second or third ones that got past them. Overtime would be necessary and it ended on a very bad break for Anaheim: an own goal. The Devils won tonight's game 4-3, their first post-regulation win this season, to get this road trip off to a successful start.
Note: Since this was a late night game for local time, this recap will be structured different than normal.
The Opposition Opinion: In this recap at Anaheim Calling, Chris Kober was in disbelief at what happened tonight.
The First Period: The game started fairly even. The Devils and Ducks definitely had some time to "feel each other out." The game really opened up after Adam Larsson decided to throw a hit that ended up being high and unnecessary on Matt Beleskey. The Ducks generated one shot on net and then resembled the Devils' power play for most of the season as the penalty killers kept pushing them out.
The Devils proceeded to have some strong shifts on offense, which was good. I felt Damien Brunner and Andy Greene were making their mark, and Steve Bernier came close to scoring off a rebound. Alas, the puck sailed through Jonas Hiller's legs and wide. After some good play, witnessing Beleskey getting free on the left circle and rifling a shot through Martin Brodeur was disappointing. The shot was similar to Larsson's goal on Saturday in that it got in between his right arm and body. Brodeur should have had it and he reacted in kind.
The Devils would come out with their top line and Travis Zajac drew a hook from Corey Perry as a deflection off a skate in front nearly caught Hiller by surprise. One would think that this would be a good opportunity for an equalizer. One hasn't seen the Devils power play as of late. The Devils did nothing with that power play. Brunner showed off how he's bad at leading a breakout and gaining the zone remained a challenge. The highlight was Perry getting a breakaway after the penalty ended; Brodeur robbed him. The game returned to evens as did the play for the most part.
A controversial call certainly turned the tide in favor of the visitors. Mathieu Perreault lifted Marek Zidlicky's stick into Greene's face and drew blood. The refs, Eric Furlatt and Ghislain Hebert, gave a double-minor to Teemu Selanne. Selanne was in the area and unless they saw some other high-stick from #8, it appears they got the wrong guy. I can buy lifting a stick into someone else's face as a penalty. But I can see why the Ducks would be unhappy about it. Especially since the Devils made the absolute most of the four minute power play. Eric Gelinas kept a puck alive along the boards, Patrik Elias got it out to the slot to Zidlicky, and Zidlicky turned around and unloaded a slapshot through Hiller's five-hole. On the second half, Gelinas made a dump-in to the opposite corner that looked foolish. I was a fool to think that way as Elias got to it and passed it to Adam Henrique. Henrique made a beautiful pass across the slot to Gelinas, who buried the one-timer. It was the first non-soft goal of the game and it was the Devils' second goal. The power play got two goals on two shots on some great plays, though the process in general still needs work. I didn't forget about that wasted power play on the Perry penalty. It still led to a turnaround in an otherwise even game for the visitors.
The Second Period: The Honda Center tilted in one direction for the vast majority of the second period and it was against Brodeur. The Ducks pounded the Devils in terms of shots 11-3, with two of those three shots by the Devils coming in the final minute. Dainius Zubrus did hit a post after receiving a gift of a giveaway from Hampus Lindholm. Other than that, offense from any Devils were few and far between. The Ducks controlled the tempo, the puck, and and eventually the score.
The refs decided to give out some make up calls that led to Anaheim's equalizer. The first, high-sticking against Gelinas, wasn't nearly as bad as Peter Harrold getting tagged for hooking Devante Smith-Pelly off the rush. If there was a hook, then it's no different from what every defenseman does in that situation. It was an awful, terrible, no good call and it gave the Ducks a long 5-on-3 situation. Cam Fowler took a shot from distance, it bounced off Dustin Penner in front, Nick Bonino collected the puck off his own skate, and then he put it through Brodeur to make it 2-2. It all happened so fast yet few Devils fans were surprised at an equalizer. Maybe even some of the calls given the double minor to Selanne.
What surprised most fans was how lame the Devils played. And that's beyond Zubrus flinging a puck at Brodeur that nearly fooled the goalie. They were the beneficiaries of two shocking misses by the Ducks to make it 3-2. Selanne sent a puck lateral across the crease instead of an empty net off of Brodeur's right flank. Later, Ryan Getzlaf powered through the Devils and seemingly beat a Brodeur pokecheck; only for him to curl the puck too much to his left and missed the net. But instead of making the most of it, they tried to play fast like Anaheim did. It didn't work as the Ducks kept up the attack. They were the superior team on the ice and a third goal was seemingly coming. It happened after Cam Janssen hooked Emerson Etem off a faceoff (it was a post-icing faceoff if you're wondering why he had a defensive zone start). The Ducks got set-up, the diagonal passes crossed-up the Devils penalty killers, and all of a sudden a puck was sliding slowly in the direction of Getzlaf. Getzlaf stepped up and unloaded a shot that picked the top left corner. Brodeur never saw it as he had Perry and Harrold right in front plus other traffic prior to the play. Just as power plays got the Devils up, the Ducks used them to take it back. At no point did the Devils really respond in the second period. It's one thing to go down 3-2 after two periods, it's another to do it with a whimper. Yuck.
The Third Period: The Devils definitely came out roaring. Jagr got hooked by Penner off the opening faceoff and the first half of the power play featured an actual breakout, an actual set-up, actual control of the puck, and some shots. The second half was utter garbage but the Devils did not relent. They kept putting rubber on Hiller. The Ducks just kept chipping pucks away, getting changes, and then being forced to defend. By the halfway mark, the Devils were up 10-0 in shots in the period. No, the Devils didn't have any glorious chances like the ones Selanne and Getzlaf missed. They just kept going after a Ducks team seemingly just hanging back save for the odd forechecker. Matt Beleskey wasn't much of a factor like he was in the previous forty minutes. Their second line didn't keep going after the Devils as if they were giving pucks away. The neutral zone was solidly New Jersey's. This was what one hopes to see in a one-shot game in the third period.
It wouldn't last. The Ducks are too good to let that go on for a full twenty and maybe the Devils couldn't sustain it as well. After the halfway mark, the Devils' efforts faded. The Ducks tightened up on defense such that the Devils didn't gain the zone so easily. They made better passes. They even created two shots on net. But they managed to keep the Devils at bay rather than have Hiller do it all himself. Zidlicky gave Perry a gift with about five minutes left. After giving the puck away right to him, he got his stick on Perry's gloves while trying to defend him. It wasn't much but it's been called hooking ever since Fall 2005. It was a bad call to take. It could have changed everything. Thankfully, it didn't. The Devils' penalty killers did a great job at stopping the Ducks. But then they were pinned back. Arguably worse since the Devils couldn't get the puck out of the zone with possession for a bit of time, much less get it in Anaheim's end. Amid it all, Etem torched Larsson and nearly iced the game, only to be denied by Brodeur's pad. The Ducks didn't allow the Devils to get a change for about a minute. With just over a minute left, the team had to risk pulling Brodeur off the rush.
Believe it or not, it worked. The zone entry wasn't so good as the pass went right to a Duck. Travis Zajac got a great interception to keep the puck in play and get it in deep. Zajac drew the attention of Bryan Allen, which helped Patrik Elias pick up the puck. He went forehand, saw Jagr call for it, and one pass later, it's in the back of the net. It was a dramatic equalizer. In a way, it was deserved as the Devils dictated much of the third period as the Ducks did in the second. It didn't feel that way given what happened in the seven minutes or so where the Devils only got two shots on net. Either way, the Devils and Ducks would play some extra hockey.
The Overtime: It was an up-and-down overtime period with both teams getting good looks in front of net. Perreault had a glorious chance to end it on a rebound created by Etem. The puck was just right there for him with so much net. He would not miss. He just got denied. Brodeur dove back and gloved the whole thing just as the forward pushed it forward. It was a massive save. The Devils respond to that with a rush up ice that could have led to a lovely Harrold-to-Zajac finish but that pass to the center was no good. The Ducks countered on their own. They rushed up ice, Getzlaf is out wide open on the right, but Perry's pass goes to Getzlaf's skates and gets away from him. Zubrus leads a 3-on-1, he manages to get a pass off to Zajac in the middle. Lindholm lifts his stick so Zajac kicks the puck right at Hiller. Ben Lovejoy, one of the Ducks remaining defensemen, was back in front of the crease to clean it up. A routine play for any defenseman. Only Perry backchecked so hard that he was also there. This meant Lovejoy's attempted clearance hit Perry's skates. And the puck just rifled back into the net. Yes, the Devils won this game, their first post-regulation win this season, on an own goal.
It was a crazy way to end an action and event packed game. The road trip is off to a success as strange as it all turned out. What did we learn? Brodeur may not be so hot but he still made some important stops. Elias picked up three assists. Gelinas had a big night. Zidlicky frustrated the viewer at times. Jagr, Zajac, and Greene continue to be important. The power play process still needs tons of work. And I'm glad there's only two more games that start past 10 PM EST this season.
Your Take: Well, that happened and that was something. What did you think of the game? Did you stay up for it and, if so, did all of the excitement help you stay awake for it? Who stood out to you on either team? Who really didn't? What can the Devils do, if anything, to make adjustments for the next one in Los Angeles? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about this game in the comments. Thanks to those who stayed up late in the Gamethread and/or following @InLouWeTrust on Twitter during the game. Thank you for reading.