During the offseason, The Hockey Writers will be doing a ten-part series on the success stories of the 2013-14 New Jersey Devils. Despite missing the postseason for the second consecutive spring, the Devils had a memorable season. The fourth success story focuses on the team’s nine thrilling overtime victories.
New Jersey’s inability to win, or score for that matter, during the shootout was a key reason the Devils failed to make the postseason. The best remedy to avoid the dreaded shootout once the game went beyond regulation was to win in overtime. Fortunately for Jersey’s Team, overtime treated the Devils a bit more warmly than the shootout did as the Devils won nine of their fourteen overtime decisions.
After the midway point of November the Devils embarked on a California road trip. They opened with a battle at the Anaheim Ducks, winners of all eight of their home games during the season. The Ducks looked to be well on their way to their ninth victory but Jaromir Jagr buried his eighth goal of the season to tie the game at three goals a piece with just over a minute to play. Then after Martin Brodeur made a spectacular save to preserve the tie in overtime, Travis Zajac scored perhaps the flukiest goal of his career to win the game for New Jersey.
The following evening the Devils visited the Los Angeles Kings for the first time since Game 6 of the 2012 Stanley Cup Final. The Kings dominated the first two periods and out shot New Jersey 27-5. The Devils, however, entered the third period tied at one. None of the teams’ combined 12 shots lit the lamp in the final period of regulation and the Devils went to overtime for the second straight night. Then Jagr tied legend Mario Lemieux on the all-time goals list with his 690th career goal.
On November 30, the Devils and Buffalo Sabres were each held scoreless during regulation. The first four minutes of overtime brought the same result. Then with 40 seconds remaining Steve Bernier blasted a shot beyond goaltender Jhonas Enroth to secure a 1-0 Devils victory. At the other end of the ice, Cory Schneider stopped all 15 shots that headed his way for his second shutout as a Devil.
In perhaps Brodeur’s final start at Madison Square Garden on December 7, the Devils rallied from a 2-0 deficit to take a 3-2 lead late in the third. Chris Kreider tied the game on the power play for the New York Rangers with 22 seconds remaining and the two bitter rivals headed to overtime. Ryan Callahan took a double-minor high-sticking penalty just over a minute into the extra session when he clipped Andy Greene. 13 seconds later, Eric Gelinas ripped a slap shot off a pass from Patrik Elias to give the Devils their second win in two total games at the Garden during the 2013-14 season.
On December 21 at the Verizon Center, the Washington Capitals brought a 3-1 lead over New Jersey into the third period. Jagr brought the Devils within one but Alexander Ovechkin quickly responded with a sniping shot of his own that pushed the Capitals back ahead by two. Marek Zidlicky and Dainius Zubrus scored, however, to knot the game at four just past the halfway point of the period. Less than a minute into overtime, Greene batted home the winner off of Jagr’s rebound.
As the calendar flipped to 2014, the Devils success in the extra period of hockey continued. On January 11 the Florida Panthers and Devils brought a 1-1 hockey game into the final five seconds of overtime. In the faceoff circle to the left of goaltender Tim Thomas, Zajac won it cleanly back to Jagr. The Czech forward quickly dished the puck over to Zidlicky where he fired home the game-winning goal with just 2.1 seconds remaining.
Later in January the Devils headed to the Lone Star State for a match-up with the Dallas Stars. Zubrus and Zajac gave New Jersey a 2-0 lead but the Stars battled back. Tyler Seguin knotted the game at two with just 52 seconds remaining in the third. The excitement in the American Airlines Center would be short lived. Just 40 seconds into overtime, Elias scored his first overtime goal since December 4, 2008 at the Philadelphia Flyers. It was the 16th career overtime goal for Elias, good for second all-time in the NHL. Teammate Jagr is first with 18 overtime goals.
The Devils had a temporary slip in the extra period as they lost both of their next two games beyond regulation. Then in their final home game before the Olympic break, the Devils righted the ship with a 2-1 victory over the Edmonton Oilers. This time the game-winning goal was more than just an overtime winner. It was also the first career NHL goal for New Jersey defenseman Jon Merrill.
The last game decided in overtime for the Devils during the 2013-14 season was especially memorable as it came against the Minnesota Wild in Zach Parise’s first game back in New Jersey since he signed with the Wild in the summer of 2012. The Devils brought a 2-0 lead into the third period before the Wild began clawing back. The Devils briefly went ahead 3-1 when Jagr notched his 23rd goal of the season off of a pass from Ryane Clowe but the Wild eventually tied the game. In overtime, Elias picked up the puck in his own end of the ice and skated all the way to the faceoff circle to the left of goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov. Elias threw the puck towards the net where it found Greene. Greene scored on the wide-open net for his second overtime winner of the season, the only Devil with more than one winner beyond regulation.