After dispatching the New Jersey Devils in a wild, 7-6 overtime victory the night before Halloween, defenseman Ryan McDonagh and the Tampa Bay Lightning still find themselves out of a playoff position. But it’s super early and for a team that coasted through last year’s regular season and lost in the first round as a President’s Trophy winner, maybe a little adversity to start the season is what they need.
In the road triumph, McDonagh logged 25:27 which led all skaters in the game that featured six lead changes, a tying goal with under eight seconds left in regulation, and a total of 65 shots on goal. Oh and the ten-year veteran also assisted on the winning goal in overtime.
With fellow blueliner Victor Hedman out of the lineup, it was McDonagh who stepped into the role of alpha dog amongst the defense corps and following the game he also spoke with The Hockey Writers which you can read below.
Nuts and Bolts
The Hockey Writers: What did you like most about how your team battled back after a tough loss against the Rangers last night?
Ryan McDonagh: We gave up a lot of chances against, made a lot of mistakes (tonight) and we could have just packed it in. But instead, we dug our feet in, kept with the game plan, and kept battling for one another. Last season we found a lot of ways to win games and this year (so far) it hasn’t gone that way. Hopefully, this is a step in the right direction for us.
THW: Tonight against the Devils the game was obviously a back-and-forth affair for 60+ minutes. Was the mood on the bench a rollercoaster of emotions?
RM: We kept our spirits up and kept saying the right things. You’re just going out there trying to play in sync as a unit of five as much as possible and it’s not an ideal way to win (a game). But two points at any point of the season is nice.
THW: This was your first time playing against the no. 1 overall pick in last year’s draft Jack Hughes. As a defenseman who was on the ice often against him tonight, what were your impressions?
RM: He’s very shifty, very crafty. You can see the speed and the skill, no doubt. He’s got a lot of jump in his step, a lot of energy. I think he’s going to be a big impact player for a long time.
THW: Tonight you had a handful of players out of the lineup yet still came away with the win, what does that say about the ‘next man up’ mentality of your team?
RM: It’s really the first time that this group has had a pileup of injuries like that, and it was a test for sure. The guys that came into the lineup played great games. That’s all you can ask for – guys stepping in and can play the way we want to play. I’m just glad we got (Curtis) McElhinney the win because he was huge tonight.
THW: You have one more game left in this area before the team heads to Stockholm, Sweden for a pair of games against the Buffalo Sabres; how excited are you guys about the upcoming trip overseas?
RM: It’s a unique opportunity but we have to take care of business here first, we have a tough opponent next in the New York Islanders so we’ll focus on Buffalo after that. For a lot of us, it will be a great experience and maybe the first time playing over there. I think we’re all really excited for Victor Hedman.
Dan Rice is in his 9th year of reporting for THW & has covered NJ Devils home games for 15+ years at various websites. He began his journey working for legendary broadcaster/writer Stan Fischler from 2002-04 & completed an internship at the ECHL; he also has been writing features for the NWHL (nwhl.zone) website since 2016.