The Ottawa Senators were coming home from Boston after an ugly 7-3 loss, but their previous five games at home had been wins. They looked to keep things going tonight, but the Devils goaltender had something to say about that. It was a typical Ottawa-New Jersey game where nothing crazy happened, and it was low scoring.
The first period was not the start the Senators wanted, and a lot of the disappointment can be attributed to penalty troubles. The Devils would get on the board first, and it was near the end of their second power play in which they did it. Erik Karlsson lost the puck at the blueline off of a face-off, and Mike Cammalleri came streaking down on a half-break and was able to sneak it short side past Andrew Hammond.
Just one minute later Chris Neil would take an obvious charging penalty, and by the end of New Jersey's third power play with 7:30 left, the shot attempts were 11-5 for the Devils. Here's the aforementioned Neil penalty, which should live in infamy.
Neil charging penalty pic.twitter.com/zMuV1OEG8r— Stephanie (@myregularface) December 31, 2015
Ottawa began to put more pressure on the Devils after the 3rd penalty ended, but it didn't matter because Cammalleri would add his second goal of the game with 1:52 left. The puck was on the wall in the Senators zone but it got out into the middle when Mark Stone lost it, and Cammalleri was right there to fire a one-timer slapshot into the top corner. It was one of those goals where you can't even blame anyone, as it was just a perfect shot. Although Ottawa had been putting on more pressure, it was 2-0 for New Jersey after one period.
The second period was one of Ottawa's most dominant this year---yet they failed to even score a goal thanks to Cory Schneider. The shots were 15-6, but the overall attempts ended up being 34-8. Even at 5 on 5, it was 23-7. Suffice to say, New Jersey was extremely lucky they have one of the best goalies in the league in their net.
Ottawa continuously kept pressure in the New Jersey zone, and they only benefitted from two power plays. It was hard to be upset with the score at this point, just because for once, they were legitimately out-playing their opponent---by a lot. Nevertheless, it was still 2-0 going into the third period.
The third period was more of the same story. Each of the teams traded late penalties, so it was essentially a wash on special teams. So in all situations in the third period, it ended up being 25-9 in favour of Ottawa for shot attempts. They fired another 13 shots on Schneider to raise the total to 36, but it was all for naught. Ottawa had same great chances, but it never really felt like they had a chance.
That's what happens sometimes when you are opposing one of the best (if not the best honestly) goalies in the world. With under two minutes left the Devils would take a holding penalty, and the Senators had a few late looks, but Lee Stempniak sealed the deal to make it 3-0 with 16 seconds to go. There isn't really too much else to say about the game, other than the fact that this was easily Ottawa'a most dominant game this season possession-wise. If we can take anything out of this game it is that they finally outplayed another team.
Two pieces of bad news with this game though is that this is just the second time Ottawa has been shutout this year (and since December 2013), and the Devils leap-frogged the Senators for a Wildcard spot. So things aren't looking too great right now.
Sens Hero: Patrick Wiercioch
I could give this to so many players on Ottawa, but I'd like to point out Wiercioch especially. Tonight when he was on the ice, the shot attempts were 29-3. That's simply unheard of. He's been playing a lot better in the past few weeks, and it shouldn't go unnoticed. He's making much better outlet passes, and he looks to be more confident. If Ottawa is going anywhere, they need him to be just as good as he was tonight.
Honourable Mention: Fredrik Claesson
He didn't amaze in his NHL debut, but he looked competent out there. Ottawa just needs him to be a fine 2nd/3rd pairing player, or even an upgrade over Jared Cowen and Mark Borowiecki. He only played 12:20 tonight, but he didn't embarrass himself, so that's a start.
Honourable Mention: Chris Neil
Is it just me or is he looking like a fine hockey player this year? He still takes too many bad penalties, but he made the most of his 11:56 in ice time tonight. He was on for 22 shot attempts and 3 against, and once again looked like a solid fourth liner. He shouldn't be treated as anything more than that, but it's nice to see some solid play from the depth players once in a while.
Sens Killer: Cory Schneider. Who else?
I guess I could have also done Cammalleri, but without Schneider playing, Ottawa would have blitzed the Devils. He's one of the most underrated goalies in the league, and it seems like nobody even realizes that he has the best save percentage in the league since 2010-11. He got the shutout, and he was clearly the best player out there tonight.
Game Flow: This is insane
ESPN Shot Chart: