OTTAWA — 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 the Senators just weren't good enough against the NHL's hottest team.
The Devils (15-3-0) have now won 12 straight and were better in every aspect of the game on this day.
"Disappointed overall 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 close to a sellout, so it's on us. It's on us for not getting ready. It's on me for not helping my group get ready so I’ll take responsibility for that one and there was times tonight when we played solid, played our game, but it wasn't enough."
Ottawa (6-10-1) has struggled of late, winning just twice in its last 11 (2-8-1). Late in the game a faint chant of "Fire D.J." could be heard. Fans have been calling for the dismissal of head coach D.J. Smith the last couple of weeks.
"I see it all the time and I'm sick of the negativity towards that," Tkachuk said. "It's nobody to blame but ourselves, the players. We just weren't ready to play today and that't my job to get everybody ready and I’m sick and tired of seeing all this negativity on social media and all that. It's not one person, it's the group in here that needs to figure it out."
The Devils took control when Erik Haula opened the scoring with a power-play goal early in the first period for his first of the season. Nathan Bastian made it 2-0 late in the first jumping on a rebound out front.
The Devils didn't let up, making it 3-0 early in the second when Jesper Boqvist grabbed a puck out front putting an end to Anton Forsberg's afternoon. The Senators goaltender allowed three goals on 18 shots.
"I thought tonight was a total team game," said Devils head coach Lindy Ruff. "We got production, we got a key shorthanded goal from (Yegor) Sharangovich, but all four lines were in on it. I thought our defence played well and, again, our goaltender made some big saves at key times."
Cam Talbot, who allowed one goal on 17 shots, made a huge save on Bastian late in the period and when Derick Brassard got the Senators on the board late in the period, it seemed like they were finally grabbing some momentum, but the Devils came right back scoring a shorthanded goal with 34 seconds remaining in the period.
"That's the difference right there," Tkachuk said of the short-handed goal. "Started with (Talbot) making that unbelievable save, (Brassard) getting the goal and then the power play has an opportunity to make it a one-goal game going into the third period. All the responsibility falls on us. That definitely deflated because you could feel the momentum swing in our direction and the fans getting back into it, but, yeah, that was a turning point."
Michael McLeod added an empty-net goal late in the game to round out the scoring for New Jersey.
"We were just resilient," said Haula. "There were a couple holes in our game, I thought, where we got a little bit comfortable and that's when they kind of took it to us a little bit and got some chances, but overall, good for (Akira) Schmid, great game from him, and 12 in a row, we've got to feel good about this one."
Schmid made 25 saves for the Devils.
The Senators now have the lofty task of trying to win out west where they will face San Jose, Vegas, Anaheim and Los Angeles.
"It's huge for our season," said Smith. "I think we've played a lot better of late. We've got four good teams out west to get ourselves together and you're going to have to be good on the road."
MERCER'S NO. 100
Devils forward Dawson Mercer's next game is his 100th NHL game and he will be the fifth player in franchise history to play his first 100 games consecutively. Coming in, the Senators had not lost to the Devils in regulation at home since Dec. 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 match-up is the second of three against the Senators. Devils captain Nico Hischier now has 12 points (6G, 6A) over his last 10 games.
The Senators head to California where they will take on San Jose on Monday. The Devils return home and will host the Edmonton Oilers on Monday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 19, 2022.