New Jersey coach Peter DeBoer was more than willing to give credit where it was due.
DeBoer said assistant coach Adam Oates was the one who chose David Clarkson to take New Jersey's fourth attempt in the shootout. After Johan Hedberg stopped Nicklas Backstrom, Clarkson whipped home a backhander to give New Jersey a 3-2 victory against the Washington Capitals on Saturday night for a split of their home-and-home series.
"You know, I'm a big Clarkie fan," said DeBoer, who coached Clarkson in juniors with the OHL Kitchener Rangers. "I can't take credit for that. Adam Oates was the guy. We were choosing between (Petr) Sykora and Clarkie and Adam picked Clarkie and he was right on."
Clarkson is known more for his physical play than his offensive skills.
"It's nice when a coach puts that confidence in you," he said. "It just feels good to get the win.”
New Jersey has won four of five shootouts this season, and Hedberg has been in goal for all four.
Although his team was playing without regular defensemen Mike Green and John Erskine and lost another defenseman, Roman Hamrlik, midway through the game due to an upper-body injury -- forward Brooks Laich played on the blue line -- Caps coach Bruce Boudreau wasn't thrilled about having to settle for one point on a night his team led 2-0 well into the second period.
"It's a double-edged sword," he said. "Will you take a point? Yes. Will you take a point when you have a 2-0 lead? No. I thought the goals they scored were mistakes on our part. If we don't make those mistakes, because Neuvy was at the top of his game, it's probably a 2-0 win."
New Jersey overcame a 2-0 deficit on second-period goals by Sykora and Ryan Carter. After a scoreless third period and overtime, the Devils' Zach Parise scored in the first round of the shootout, but Alex Ovechkin tied it when he snapped a shot past Johan Hedberg in the second round. After Hedberg stopped Alexander Semin and Nicklas Backstrom, Clarkson won it when he deked Michal Neuvirth to the ice and lifted a backhander over him.
The teams combined for just 36 shots -- 19 by the Devils and 17 by Washington, which managed only eight after the first period. They also combined to block 36 shots.
"It was a real gutsy effort in this building, down 2-0 to that team," DeBoer said. "To hold them to (eight) shots over the last 45 minutes, I thought it was a real gritty effort."
Though he scored in the shootout, Ovechkin was completely shut down during regulation and overtime. He did finish with 11 hits, but said that kind of physicality isn't his job.
"My job is to score goals, not to make hits," Ovechkin said. "The second period, I probably had three chances to score, but I didn't do the right thing."
The Capitals, who won the front end of the home-and-home series 3-1 in New Jersey on Friday, carried that momentum into the first period by scoring a pair of goals.
Troy Brouwer put the Caps ahead at 6:30 with an unassisted goal, stealing Adam Henrique's pass at the New Jersey blue line, racing in and deking Hedberg before lifting the puck over him. Jason Chimera, whose third-period shorthanded goal turned out to be the winner on Friday, made it 2-0 at 16:10 by tipping home John Carlson's blast from the right point.
But with both teams playing stifling defense, the Devils found a way to beat Neuvirth twice late in the second period to pull even.
Sykora made it 2-1 at 12:18 when he one-timed a slap shot past Neuvirth after Patrik Elias won an offensive zone faceoff. Carter tied it at 18:54 with his first goal as a Devil, when he set up in the high slot and deflected Bryce Salvador's bad-angled slap shot from the left circle.
The Devils' two goals matched Washington's shot total in the second period.
Hedberg made the best stop of the third period when he used his left leg to deny Jeff Halpern in alone near the 10-minute mark. He stopped a Dennis Wideman blast from well inside the right circle in the early seconds of overtime.
"It's disappointing to have this outcome," Laich said. "Teams are good and a two-goal lead is not safe. You have to push for that third one, try to get that third one and I think if you can get that one, then you are in control of the game.”
Material from team media was used in this report