As captain of the Ottawa Senators, Brady Tkachuk was willing to take the blame for his team’s 5-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils on Saturday afternoon.
The reality is that the Senators just weren’t good enough against the hottest team in the NHL.
The Devils (15-3-0) have now won 12 in a row and were better in every way that day.
“Overall disappointed with the way we played,” said Tkachuk. “We just weren’t ready to play from the start.
“For us as players it’s a Saturday afternoon, it’s about to sell out so it’s up to us. It’s up to us not to beat ourselves up. It’s up to me not to help my group prepare, so I take responsibility for that.” There were times tonight where we played solidly, played our game, but it wasn’t enough.”
Ottawa (6-10-1) has been struggling lately, winning only twice in the last 11 (2-8-1). Late in the game, faint chanting from “Fire DJ” could be heard. Fans have been calling for head coach DJ Smith to be fired in recent weeks.
“I see it all the time and I’m sick of the negativity towards it,” Tkachuk said. “It’s nobody’s fault but ourselves, the players. We just weren’t ready to play today and that’s my job to get everyone ready and I’m sick of seeing all this negativity on social media and all of that. It’s not a person, it’s the group in here that has to find out.”
The Devils took control when Erik Haula scored the first goal of the season with a power play goal early in the first half. Nathan Bastian made it 2-0 late in the first competition after a rebound.
The Devils didn’t give up and made it 3-0 early in the second game when Jesper Boqvist grabbed a puck in front of the front, ending Anton Forsberg’s afternoon. The Senators goalie allowed three goals in 18 shots.
“I thought tonight would be a total team game,” said Devils head coach Lindy Ruff. “We performed, we scored an important shorthanded goal from (Yegor) Sharangovich but all four lines were there. I thought our defense played well and our goalkeeper made some great saves again at key times.”
Cam Talbot, allowing one goal on 17 shots, made huge saves against Bastian late in the half and when Derick Brassard got the Senators on the board late in the half it seemed like they finally got some momentum, but the Devils got the better of them right-back scored a goal with 34 seconds remaining, outnumbered.
“That’s exactly the difference,” Tkachuk said of the man down goal. “Started with (Talbot) making that incredible save, (Brassard) scoring and then the power play opportunity to make it a one-goal game in the third half. All responsibility lies with us. That’s definitely deflated because you could feel the momentum swinging in our direction and the fans getting back into it, but yeah that was a turning point.”
Michael McLeod added an empty goal late in the game to round out the goal for New Jersey.
“We were just resilient,” said Haula. “There were a couple of holes in our game, I thought, where we felt a little bit comfortable and then they took it a bit and got some chances, but overall good for (Akira) Schmid, great game from him, and 12 in a row, we need to be comfortable with this one.”
Schmid made 25 saves for the Devils.
The Senators now have the lofty task of winning the West, where they will face San Jose, Vegas, Anaheim and Los Angeles.
“It’s huge for our season,” Smith said. “I think we’ve been playing a lot better lately. We have four good teams in the west to pull ourselves together and you have to be good on the road.”
MERCER’S NO. 100
Devils forward Dawson Mercer’s next game will be his 100th NHL game and he will become the fifth player in franchise history to play his first 100 straight games. The Senators had not lost at home to the Devils since December 30, 2015 (5-0-3).
Ottawa D Artem Zub returned to the lineup after missing the last eight games with an upper-body injury. The Devils are a perfect 7-0-0 against Canadian opponents this season. Today’s duel is the second of three against the Senators. Devils captain Nico Hischier now has 12 points (6G, 6A) in his last 10 games.
The Senators travel to California where they will face San Jose on Monday. The Devils return home and host the Edmonton Oilers on Monday.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on November 19, 2022.