NEWARK, N.J. — There were only 65 seconds left in regulation, and the New Jersey Devils, two goals to the good at that moment, were salting away their fourth win in the last five outings.
Almost 20 minutes of real time – and a five-minute scoreless overtime and four shootout rounds later – and the Devils finally did come away with that victory, but only just. Jesper Bratt’s wonderful deke and goal in the fourth round of the shootout saved the Devils’ blushes tonight in a 5-4 victory over the Ottawa Senators, a win which almost was squandered when Ottawa scored twice in the final 1:05 of regulation – both coming with goalkeeper Mike Condon pulled for an extra attacker.
The game almost was a mirror image of the game these two teams played in the Canadian capital just eight days ago, when the Devils came back from an early two-goal deficit to come away with a 5-4 overtime victory. Like that game, Ottawa opened up a two-goal lead, with former Devil defenseman Johnny Oduya scoring the second goal for the Senators on a shot from the left point at the 17:14 mark of the first period to give the Senators a 2-0 advantage.
New Jersey responded with four unanswered goals to take control of the game, as Damon Severson’s goal seemed to ice the game at the 14:10 mark of the third to give New Jersey a 4-2 lead.
With Condon pulled, Ottawa scored twice on a couple of shots in front, with a goal-mouth scramble in front leading to a Mark Stone tally at the 18:45 mark to cut New Jersey’s lead in half. Just 38 seconds later, Derick Brassard centered a pass from behind the net to 28-year-old rookie Chris DiDomenico, who scored past Devils’ goalkeeper Keith Kinkaid to tie the score at four with 37.7 seconds remaining.
Both teams only had two shots on goal in overtime, but the Senators had the best chance in the extra session, when Mike Hoffman had a clear lane to shoot in Kinkaid, who had his stick knocked from his hands just a few seconds prior. Kinkaid made the point-blank save on Hoffman with less than 30 seconds remaining, preserving the opportunity for the Devils to earn (re-earn?) that second point in the standings if they were to win the shootout.
That’s exactly what the Devils did, though Senators forward Tom Pyatt scored during the second round of the shootout to give Ottawa a 1-0 lead and forcing New Jersey to have to score to keep the game alive. Forward Drew Stafford scored on a backhand past Condon to keep the shootout going, and after Erik Karlsson’s shot went high to Kinkaid’s glove side afterward, extra shooters were needed to break the deadlock.
It only took the next shooter to do just that, as Bratt made a wicked backhand-to-forehand move on Condon, leaving the latter completely out of his crease and Bratt with a yawning net to shoot at.
Kinkaid then got the better of Hoffman once more, catching Hoffman’s shootout attempt in his glove to give New Jersey the victory.
As tough as closing the game out was, it was probably tougher for New Jersey to start the game tonight, as this was the team’s first game in a week after a 3-0 loss to San Jose last Friday. A hard week of practice ensued, but that did not prevent New Jersey from starting out the game a little sluggish, and, at 7:58 of the first, Hoffman scored on a 2-on-1 after Devils defenseman Andy Greene was caught pinching in the offensive zone, receiving a pass from DiDomenico and scoring past Kinkaid for a 1-0 lead.
Before the end of the first period, New Jersey found a route back into the game, with Jimmy Hayes scoring on a wrist shot just 58 seconds after Oduya’s goal to cut the Senators’ lead to 2-1 right before the end of the first period.
New Jersey carried that momentum from Hayes’ goal into the second period, with Adam Henrique scoring a power play goal at the 10:52 mark to tie the score, and Brian Gibbons scoring on a slap shot set up by Pavel Zacha with 1:53 remaining in the second to give New Jersey its first lead.
New Jersey is back on the ice tomorrow to take on the Arizona Coyotes, who remain the only winless team in hockey (0-9-1) after their loss in the New York City area to the Rangers on Thursday.