This was a very dumb hockey game. Borderline inexplicable, really. One of the two hockey teams played fantastic and the other looked absolutely ghastly for 80% of the game. The New Jersey Devils were the latter of those two descriptions tonight but it didn't matter as they pulled out a 2-1 overtime victory over the Los Angeles Kings. If you didn't watch the game, it's tough to explain to you how miraculous it is that the Devils won this game. Nate summed my feelings up best after the game was done:
@ColdSportsTakes Your recap should just read: "¯\_(ツ)_/¯".— Nate Pilling (@natepilling) November 22, 2013
As much as I would like to leave it at that, this is ILWT, so a full recap you shall receive.
Sometimes, there will be nights when your team controls play and seems to do everything right but they just can't break through the opposing goaltender, so they end up losing to an inferior team. People who root for the New Jersey Devils have become exceedingly familiar with this type of game over the past couple years. Tonight was the opposite of the usual, though. The Devils were getting steamrolled through 2+ periods of action, but a Ryan Carter goal off a backhand through a screen in the third was enough to put them up 1-0 and ultimately get the Devils to OT after a Kings equalizer. Then Jaromir Jagr played the hero once again and put home the winner in overtime to get the Devils two points.
The Devils were ultimately outshot 32-12 in regulation, were down 29-5 in shots about 5 minutes into the third, and at one point in the game, the MSG chance counter had them down 17-1 in scoring chances. This was a complete and total Leafing of the Kings by the Devils. They had no business winning this game, but for the man between the pipes. Yes, Cory Schneider stood on his head all night long and, despite the Devils best efforts, was finally rewarded with his second win of the season.
Check out the highlights below if you want to see a lot of saves by Cory Schneider, and a team getting ultimately rewarded for bad behavior. Honestly, it's good fun if you're a Devils fan. Likely not so much for Kings fans.
Opponent Perspective: Head over to Jewels From the Crown, where they will likely recap the game once they un-explode their heads.
Possibly the Worst Period You've Ever Seen: The first period of this game was ugly. After a little bit of back-and-forth play to start the game, the Kings began an onslaught that the Devils were completely unable to counter. It started innocently enough with the fourth line getting pinned back a couple times (as one might expect from a line featuring Cam Janssen and Stephen Gionta). But then it spread out to basically everyone on the team. No one could corral a puck. No one could connect on a pass. No one could stop the Kings from doing what the wanted in the neutral zone. Even Andy Greene got burned and had to take a penalty. They had a power play where the Kings appeared to be a much bigger threat to score. They had a penalty kill where they allowed six (6!) shots on net. Really, really dreadful stuff.
But then, late in the period, Cam Janssen had a big fight that really turned the momentum of the game in favor of the Devils. Haha just kidding, the fight was pointless and the Devils were still just as awful after it. The Devils ended the first down 13-2 in shots and 31-7 (!!!!) in attempts. Yes, it was a top-to-bottom suckfest of a period for the Red, White, and Black, with one exception: Cory Franklin Schneider. He was an absolute brick wall for the Devils during the first period and the entire night. The Kings were all over him and he just woudn't relent. Odd man rushes, scrambles in front, redirections, he was up to the task on all of them. So for that reason, and that reason only, the Devils left the first period in a scoreless tie. It's remarkable because I am hard pressed to think of a time this team was more thoroughly dominated in a period.
Better, I guess?: The second period was a slight improvement over the first, but that really isn't saying much. The Kings continued to press early on, and the Devils mounted a little bit of a counter, but not very much one would consider threatening. There was some line shuffling that saw the CBGB line reunited, but the Devils play remained largely ineffective. The Kings drew penalties on Stephen Gionta and Jaromir Jagr, and just kept bombing away on Schneider throughout the period. Even when Adam Henrique finally mustered a good chance late in the third (he shot it wide, naturally), the Devils immediately gave up a 4-on-2 going the other way. They were slightly better overall as they were only out-attempted 26-13 in this period. They were still very bad though (besides Schneider once again, of course), and were down 27-5 in shots by the end of the frame.
An Actually Decent Period: The Devils were actually finally not that bad in the third period. They started off bad as they took another penalty (an admittedly weak one on Carter) and continued to get pinned back for the first five. Finally they were able to muster some zone time after that and, lo and behold, a Ryan Carter backhand out of nowhere found it's way through a screen and the Devils were somehow, some way, up 1-0 on the scoreboard. The Devils immediately gave it back though, as they yielded a 2-on-1 where Anze Kopitar got one through Schneider for the equalizer just a minute and change later. After that the Devils would actually look like a hockey team interested in playing a game, but the teams would neutralize each other the rest of the way and eventually head to OT.
Wacky OT, Featuring a 3-on-3: Regulation gave way to an exciting extra frame that featured the ever elusive 3-on-3. Early in the period, Jaromir Jagr and Dustin Brown would both go off for the old foul-plus-dive situation that always seems dumb. Jagr got hit with the hold and Brown, shocker of shockers, took the diving call. This led to 3-on-3 play, which actually turned out to be pretty exciting. Both teams would threaten, including a glorious chance on a feed from Peter Harrold that Eric Gelinas spiked just wide of the net.
The game would end shortly after Jagr and Brown emerged from the box. Dainius Zubrus intercepted a puck in the Devils end and and pushed it along to a streaking Marek Zidlicky. Zidlicky would skate into the Kings zone, pull up, and deliver a beautiful pass to a trailing Jaromir Jagr who patiently dragged it along and put it under a sprawling Ben Scrivens. It was basically the one nice play the Devils had all night and it was the game winner. The Devils get the stunning OT victory over a team that dominated them.
The Devils Just Leaf'd the Kings: Seriously, it's absurd that the Devils won this game. Even Toronto doesn't get crushed this badly when they pull games out of their rear. It's doubly ridiculous when you consider how many times the Devils have dominated possession and lost a game. It was actually really refreshing to be on the other side of that equation for once.
Record Books Victimized Again: Jagr tied Gordie Howe's GWG record everyone thought he broke a few weeks ago with his OT winner. He also tied his former teammate, legend Mario Lemieux, for ninth all time in goals with his 690th career tally. He is good at hockey.
Other Miscellaneous Thoughts: I'll keep these short because it is so very far past my bed time.
- Penalty Drawing Machine: Matt Frattin drew three separate penalties tonight. Not all of them were the best of calls and it might have been partially because Frattin could scarcely stay on his skates, but it's still pretty impressive. The Devils were bad at 5-on-5 but the constant penalties allowed the Kings to bomb away even more.
- Shaky Officiating: The officials didn't have the best of nights out there. There were some questionable calls on both sides and one brutal blown offside call where the Kings had actually clearly held the line that cost them an extended attack.
- PDB <3 CBGB: Part way through the second tonight, the lines were shuffled and Cam Janssen was dumped on Andrei Loktionov and Mattias Tedenby and Carter-Gionta-Bernier was reunited. Both units looked marginally better after the change, I thought, but that isn't saying a whole lot. Also, Carter's goal came when Michael Ryder was on the ice with he and Gionta.
- Everyone Not Named Schneider Stunk: I would go through individual efforts, but I don't think any of the Devils skaters were very good tonight. Zidlicky had some flashes, but also his requisite adventurous plays as well (and obviously the final play). Carter looked decent in the third and Jagr obviously had a beautiful play on the winner, but that's about it on the positives. Pretty much everyone struggled.
Final Thought: This was an absolute robbery for Cory Schneider tonight. He stole this one for the Devils, and I don't think anyone would argue differently. When the Devils were down 29-5 in shots, the pleas from Devils fans were starting to go from #GoalsForCory to #HowAboutEvenSomeShotsForCory. All of the skaters should send Schneider a fruit basket for this win, because he was basically the only one who decided to get off the bus for the first 45 minutes of this game. Goaltending is very much a strength in New Jersey right now.
Your Thoughts: That was many, many more words than I originally intended to write. Sound off on this silly game in the comments below with your own thoughts and thanks for reading.