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Disgraceful: New Jersey Devils Turn Over 3-1 Lead to 3-5 Loss to Florida Panthers

The New Jersey Devils played a bad first period, a great second period, and managed to turn a 3-2 lead at the third period end at 3-5 in regulation to the Florida Panthers. As the title indicates for this recap, this was a disgraceful game by a team that can ill afford such games.

The aftermath of Scottie Upshall's (not pictured) game winning goal.  The shot that infuriated Devils fans all around the world.
The aftermath of Scottie Upshall's (not pictured) game winning goal. The shot that infuriated Devils fans all around the world.
Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Nobody involved with the New Jersey Devils is happy as of 10:08 PM EST.  The New Jersey Devils, who are fighting to get a playoff spot, lost 3-5 to the Florida Panthers.  It is understood from many fans that this is a team the Devils should beat.  Florida has nothing to play for at this point.  If you're going to make the playoffs, then beating a depleted Florida team playing their second straight game is expected.   Especially when leading 3-1 in the second period and carrying a lead into the third period.  The Devils managed to botch that to lose 3-5.

Everyone's understandably upset in their own way.  While he was calm as calm can be in the post-game presser (the Devils do have a game tomorrow, so it's not the best time publicly lose his cool), Peter DeBoer has every right to throw chairs and other items in anger in private.  He preached to not underestimate the Panthers.  He's made a point of it all season to keep things simple.   The Devils played an atrocious first period but managed to end it 1-1.  They played an awesome second period and ended that up 3-2.  But the team just faded badly down the stretch.  I'm not a mind reader, but I'm incredibly confident he didn't tell the guys to make the fundamental mistakes they made tonight.  This wasn't a coaching loss, this was a loss by mindless execution. Let's run through them.

First goal against:  Patrik Elias turned the puck over coming out of his own corner.  Jimmy Hayes recovered, Jonathan Huberdeau shot it, nobody was aware for Brian Campbell flying past him to pop in a loose puck.

Second goal against:  Scott Gomez got in and took a low shot.  That was Florida's first shot of the second period. He gets the rebound and passes it to Quinton Howden.   He had enough space in the slot to beat Cory Schneider easily. He did.  That was Michael Ryder's man, Ryane Clowe looked useless, and so that's how the second - and last - shot of the second period for Florida was a goal.

Third goal against: Mark Fayne made arguably one of the worst turnovers of the season.  He committed the cardinal sin of throwing the puck up the middle.  Brad Boyes picked it off.  While Schneider was certainly surprised, Boyes just put it through his legs to trickle in.  Fayne was apologetic, I was spitting verbals at my TV that I can't use here.

Fourth goal against:  Boyes goes after a puck to the corner and Tuomo Ruutu has him.  Jon Merrill, for some reason, thought he needed help so he moved towards him. As he stepped towards the bodies, the puck went up the boards to an open Scottie Upshall.  He easily slid up, took a shot, and it went off Jaromir Jagr's stick - good intentions, but dangerous - and through Schneider's leg.

Fifth goal against: Empty netter for Vincent Trochek.  Whatever, though it's worth noting Marek Zidlicky played the puck with a high-stick so even if he got it, there would have been a faceoff to force Schneider back in the net. Oh, and it was 4-on-4 because Elias was beefing with Joey Crabb and then Dmitry Kulikov.

Read through those descriptions again. Good on Florida for being opportunistic and taking advantage of big errors.  Notice the names, too.  Other than Merrill, these are all errors by veterans.  Elias is normally safer than a bank vault in his own end in the rink.  Fayne has been very good all season.  And each handed the Panthers a goal tonight.  I know Ryder isn't a good defensive player, but he just needed to just get in the way.  Jagr's intentions were good but he inadvertently broke the deadlock.  Elias taking himself out at the end.

In a way, seeing Elias throwing fists is almost too perfect of a way to describe this game.  It was captivating to see someone who knows so much better to do something so dumb.   It took him out of the final minute, where the Devils needed to have their best offensive players out there. He lost his cool, which means he lost his good sense. That cost the team tonight.

And it didn't have to be this way.  This was a night where the Devils were awful in the first period but ended up tied thanks to a power play goal.  Jagr touched off a rebound-attempt by Damien Brunner.  This was a night where Bryce Salvador scored a goal.  Yes, the captain scored.  OK, hit shot went off Roberto Luongo, then off Dylan Olsen's leg, and then into the net.  It still counted.   Elias redeemed his earlier error with a lovely shot through a big screen by Dainius Zubrus.  They out-shot the Panthers 31-22 including a 12-2 second period, they were superior on special teams, and they had these good things going for them.   Yet, the team shot themselves in the foot on their way to this loss.  Simply, it was a disgraceful loss.

The Game Stats: The Game Summary | The Event Summary | The Play by Play Log | The Shot Summary | The Devils Time on Ice Log | The Extra Skater Game Stats

The Opposition Opinion: In a rare feat, I got my recap up first.  Anger fuels speed, I suppose. Anyway, please check out Litter Box Cats for a Florida-take on what was a big win for them.  Florida took advantage of errors.  Good for them, awful for the team we support.

The Game Highlights: You want to see video of 3-1 turning into 3-5?  Well, this highlight video from has all of the ugly details.

Another D-Word: Disgusting works very well.  Even with a horrid first period where they were out-shot 13-6, the Devils out-attempted the Panthers 61-38, only three Panthers were above 50% in possession in 5-on-5 tonight, Roberto Luongo was leaving juicy rebounds like an orange tree bearing fruit, and managed to end up on the wrong end of 3-5.  Disgusting.  Normally, dominating possession is fantastic for a lead.  But when a team forgets to do the very basics.   It was disgusting to watch live, it is disgusting to write about, it's going to be disgusting to think that this game and similar ones may be touted as the reason why the Devils are setting tee times on April 14.  (The latter depends on what you'd want to blame between shootouts, a lack of winning streaks, a lack of goals, goaltender usage, etc.)

CBGB: On a night like this, I'm tempted to say everyone stunk.  That wouldn't be true.  I thought the fourth line did a really good job tonight.   They generated a lot of shooting attempts at evens, they were great on the forecheck, and they came close to putting one home. Steve Bernier and Ryan Carter were especially active.   Granted, Florida's depth is very poor; but they took advantage.  They'll have a tougher time tomorrow but it would be good to see them similarly spirited in the next game.  This was a good night from CBGB.

They Did Well, Again?: The Bryce Salvador-Anton Volchenkov pairing was positive for a second straight game!  I know, it's hard to believe but they were.  Granted, they didn't see a lot of tough players.  Like the fourth line, they made the most of who they went against, they didn't get burned as a pairing, and they contribute a goal.  Alas, the one time Salvador scores a goal, the Devils blow the game.  Here's another D-word: Demoralizing.

What in the World, Elias?: I know he scored a sweet goal, but this was definitely not a good game from Elias.  He made an ugly giveaway early.  He struggled with and without the puck in the first period.  He took twelve minutes at the end of the game for reasons I have yet to really fathom.  OK, he may have been slashed but since when does Elias lose his temper in a game?   Unsurprisingly, his line was at the bottom of possession even though they created two goals.   I'm hopeful he'll be better. The team needs him to be good.

What A Stupid Call Is: Marek Zidlicky decided to give everyone a perfect example of what a remarkably dumb penalty looks like.  It's swinging your stick by a player and hitting him within the final four minutes of a game when his team is down by one.  Not that the Devils would have necessarily tied up the game if he didn't do that and the team did kill the penalty.  But two minutes down a man definitely didn't help the cause.

I'd Bench Ryder: Forget the lack of goals, I'm just sick of seeing #17 float at this point.  Maybe that's just me, I don't know.

So Cold: Speaking of cold, look at Cory Schneider.  He was one of the best in the NHL from January all the way through to the Olympic break. After the break, well, let's say he's opened the door for Martin "90 Sv%? No Problem!" Brodeur.    He was hung out to dry a lot in Detroit.  He got some tough situations but I can't really say he did well tonight. He got beaten five times - Upshall hit a post in the second period - and even with errors, he looked foolish on the Boyes goal.  Per the broadcast, he thought he should've had Upshall's shot too.  Regardless, he's cooled off considerably and arguably at the worst time to do so.   I don't even know what to say about the goaltending situation other than shaking my head and sighing.

No Help: Even if the Devils did win this game, they didn't get much help around the standings.  Still, dropping these two points means they didn't keep pace.  They're not out of the picture by any means, but the task becomes harder.  Especially when the next five games are Tampa Bay, Boston, Minnesota, Our Hated Rivals, and Toronto.

One More Reason to Be Mad: Still no winning streak.

Your Take: Believe it or not, the Devils have held leads successfully as recently as Tuesday and they have responded to blown leads successfully as recently as last Saturday.  Still, I feel your frustration.  There was a lot of gritted teeth and scowling while typing all of this.  Of course, a win tomorrow soothes the pain.  But tell me about your take about this game.  What in the world was this other than a disgraceful, disgusting game?  Please leave your answer and other thoughts about this loss in the comments.

Thanks to those who followed @InLouWeTrust on Twitter and those who commented in the Gamethread.  Thanks for reading.