OTTAWA – The power play, early in this NHL season, for both the Ottawa Senators and the New Jersey Devils is proving to be a little troublesome but for different reasons.
The Devils are having a hard time capitalizing on their man-advantage opportunities while the Senators are having a hard time not providing their opposition with them.
New Jersey did manage to score a power-play goal Thursday night in their 5-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators, but they had seven power-play chances.
Travis Zajac scored early in the third period with the Devils heading towards the end of an extended 5-on-3 advantage. It was the team’s first power-play goal since the third game of the season and just the second they’ve scored thus far.
The Senators, on the other hand, have gotten into a bad habit of taking bad penalties all season long, and have allowed at least one power-play goal against in all but two of their seven games this season.
They have been shorthanded 38 times—tied with the Philadelphia Flyers for most in the league—and have allowed seven goals against. Twice they have allowed two goals in a game and in both of those games they lost by a single goal.
“We take way too many penalties and in my opinion they’re lazy penalties, for want of a better term,” Senators coach Paul MacLean said after Thursday’s win.
“We reach instead of moving our feet and skating and we end up taking penalties because we’re reaching with our stick and that turns momentum the wrong way. With seven-and-a-half minutes left in the second period we’re up 2-0 and we take four minor penalties. All four of them we didn’t have to take.”
Two of the penalties the Senators took Thursday were for holding, another for hooking and another for interference. Those are all the types of penalties that drive coaches crazy.
“That’s something that we’re going to have to clean up. Especially the ones in the offensive zone and the ones when we don’t have the stick on the ice,” said Senators defenceman Erik Karlsson, who has taken but a single minor penalty this season.
“Some of them are unnecessary penalties and those are the ones that we need to clean up. Hopefully we can learn it soon.”
While the Senators discipline problems may have cost them in a couple of games, the Devils misfortunes with their opportunities has as they continue to search for their first win of the season.
The club had only 15 power plays heading into Thursday and despite going just 1-for-7 against the Senators, their percentage rose from 6.7 percent to 9.1 per cent. They also climbed from 29th to 28th overall.
They only had 10 opportunities in their first five games, including a 5-4 loss to the Edmonton Oilers when they were 1-for-3.
In the past two games though, they are a combined 1-for-12.
“It was much better than last game,” Devils winger Patrik Elias said, referring to a 3-0 loss in Winnipeg Sunday when they went 0-for-5.
“We created chances (Thursday) but the first five games before that we had maybe one (opportunity) a game so that doesn’t tell you much about the power play. Tonight was much better. We were creating chances off of shots but you’ve got to score those goals, no question.”
The Senators didn’t take a penalty in the third period so once the two penalties they took late in the second were done, the Devils didn’t get a chance to gain momentum from the power-play goal they did score.
“We got it going in the third and we had some opportunities. (Ottawa goaltender Craig) Anderson made some big saves so it wasn’t like we didn’t generate offensive opportunities,” Devils coach Peter DeBoer said.
“Right now it’s Murphy’s Law and nothing is going right. We know we’ll come out the other end of it, we just need it to happen now.”
The Devils next opportunity will come Saturday when they host the New York Rangers in just their second home game of the season.