The New Jersey Devils have just had a poor week. They got outplayed in Philly and had their winning streak broken by 3-2. The Devils and Nashville Predators played an even game, but Nashville won with the shootout. Tonight could be seen as the worst loss. Now without Dainius Zubrus, the Devils switched their line up, started Yann Danis, and got rolled 3-1 in the first period to Dallas. The Devils eventually made the comeback to tie it up at 3, but Tom Wandell stole all the momentum back and Stephane Robidas put the nail in the coffin.
The Devils did what they often did, came back from a deficit, only this time the opposition re-took the lead. The Devils lost 5-3, they are now winless in 3, and will have Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday to think about what needs to be changed prior to the Senators coming to the Rock on Wednesday. NHL.com has their recap up, with links to the boxscore and other stats. Brandon Worley has a recap going at Defending Big D - check that out if you want to read about the Dallas' view of tonight's game. I guess they're ecstatic with Robidas' performance. Read on for my recap.
Where does one start with a game like this? The Devils scored first, and not only went on to not build on that Brian Rolston beauty of a goal, but they went on to concede three goals. Yann Danis had no real chance on either of them, the first coming off a deflection (Warren Peters by way of Stephane Robidas) and the latter two coming from the power play. If anything, the power play goals were more of a result of the PK units looking lost and, really, the root cause of those power plays were two really stupid penalties by David Clarkson and Tyler Eckford. Still, the Devils struck first, struck quickly, and Dallas made sure that meant little by the first intermission. Needless to say, the Stars were the better team in the first twenty minutes.
While the Devils did come back in the second period (where Brian Rolston scored from the point and the team generally looked better) and tied it up in the third period by way of a Travis Zajac power play goal, they did little to press the issue after Zajac's equalizer and the defense got too shaky at times. As a result, Dallas saw their opening and got a break when Tom Wandell was able to follow up his own shot. That not only revitalized Dallas, but it returned the Devils to their first-period mode. Stephane Robidas - who was having an amazing game - was left uncovered for the one-timer and with it being so late in the game at that point, the Devils had no real chance to get momentum back short of Marty Turco making a ridiculous error. But that wasn't happening - the Devils put 34 shots on Turco, outshooting Dallas, and the only time the goalie looked off was when he tried to the play puck. That wasn't happening, it didn't happen, and that was the game. The Devils weren't good enough in the first period and didn't build upon an equalizing goal in the third period.
There were positives in the game. Scoring the first goal was a positive. Coming from behind and taking advantage of the Stars in the second period was a positive while down 3-1. Scoring two power play goals was a positive. Brian Rolston scoring a two goals - and having a good night overall - was a positive. Andy Greene playing 26:54 and blocking 8 shots (Dallas had 23 blocked total. Yes, Greene alone accounted for nearly 25% of all blocked shots) Matthew Corrente was a positive (of sorts), playing at forward and not looking terribly out of place. Elias looked more like his old self tonight, putting up 4 shots and getting 2 assists - that's a positive. No one got injured, though Nicklas Grossman checked Zach Parise from behind into the corner boards late in the game. Given the state of the team, no injuries is definitely a positive.
But they didn't lead the Devils to a result. They got them into a situation where they could have earned a point or even two of them, only for the Stars to take the game right back into their favor.
Yet, I question some of the decisions made by the Devils tonight. Not just on-ice decisions like the penalties the Devils took, but also in how they were used. The lines were jumbled up so much, we actually saw a shift of Zach Parise with Tim Sestito and Matthew Corrente. We saw Elias at center after all, but not Corrente as a defender. Despite 7 defensemen on the roster, we saw the same four defenders get the same amount of minutes again, and I think they're honestly starting to get tired more often - the workload could be getting to them. Danis had little chance on any of the 3 goals given up, I'm not sure why Lemaire felt he had to replace him with Martin Brodeur after the first.
Most of all, I'm not sure why the Devils didn't adjust for Dallas' top players. Mike Ribiero and Brad Richards had fantastic nights and were able to make slick passes all night long. Richards had a hand on 4 of Dallas' goals, so why wasn't he tightly checked? Stephane Robidas had a (Pierre McGuire-worthy) MONSTER night with 2 goals and 2 assists, 22:38 of ice time, 8 hits (I think the scorekeeper was generous with the hits, Dallas was credited with 62), and four shots on goal. Given the first and second goals scored, you can say that every one of Robidas' shots on net led to a goal if it didn't go in on its own. Couldn't Lemaire have just told the team, especially after a three-point first period, to have someone always smother him when he's on the point?
But what's done is done. Now the larger question is whether we should be really worried as Devils fans. After all, the injuries are looking to take their toll. On the other hand, that the Devils were able to tie this game up and yet give it right back is not just disappointing, but inexcusable. The Devils honestly looked like they were a team looking for the win, especially after the second period and the Travis Zajac's power play goal in the third. But they got sloppy in their own end and Tom Wandell sucked the life right back into the home team. It doesn't matter how depleted the roster may be, allowing to let momentum slip away after working so hard to tie the game up is just not acceptable.
Inconsistent play often leads to losses. The Devils certainly weren't great in the first period or in the last 11 minutes of the third period. Lo and behold, that's when Dallas struck. Not that the Stars were consistent, but they weren't as inconsistent as the Devils were. Not in terms of length of time or the severity of the inconsistency.
I'll update this with an embedded video of all the highlights from NHL.com as soon as it appears. Check out Defending Big D for the Dallas fan's view of the game. Surely they must be pleased, especially with Stephane Robidas. Feel free to leave your thoughts, questions (e.g. Why is Andrew Peters on this roster if he's only getting 3 shifts?), complaints (I'm sure you'll have a few), and other messages about tonight's game in the comments. As usual, thanks for reading.