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New Jersey Devils Foiled by Columbus Blue Jackets Again, 1-2

The New Jersey Devils returned home to the Rock to take on the Columbus Blue Jackets, who foiled them again in a 1-2 loss. This game recap goes into the controversy of the evening, how the game flowed, who did well, and more.

I think this should be called "Ceci n'est pas une but."
I think this should be called "Ceci n'est pas une but."
Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight, the New Jersey Devils returned home after a three-game road trip through Western Canada. Tonight, the New Jersey Devils active roster featured the return of Patrik Elias, who has been out with a right knee injury since preseason. Tonight, the New Jersey Devils faced the return of the Columbus Blue Jacketswho beat them at the Rock back in October. Tonight, the New Jersey Devils returned to the 'L' column with a 1-2 loss to the Blue Jackets.  But for the first time this season, there would be controversy.  And so I'm going to devote the next 500 words or so of this recap about it.  Let's get it out of the way now.

Somewhere just past the eight minute mark in the third period, there was a delayed penalty call. After much tribulation at moving the puck, the Devils get set up on offense and attack the net.  The puck came across to the sideboards and the puck went into the corner from a scrum.  A Devil got to it first, flung it across to Adam Henrique, who slammed the puck past Sergei Bobrovsky to tie the game at 2-2 - his second goal of the night.  The referee pointed for a goal and so the many fans at the Rock and the Devils were ecstatic.

Then the referees and linesmen conferenced and overturned the call. The explanation given was that there should have been a whistle for Columbus possessing the puck, and so there could have been no goal.  The goal was taken away, the play was not reviewable, and the Devils went on a power play with the Rock letting the men in stripes know what they thought about that and them.  Myself included.

The official explanation given after the game was that Gregory Campbell shot the puck into the corner.  Shots require possession so therefore, there should  have been a whistle.  There wasn't because a linesman saw it and not referees Jean Herbert (#15) and Graham Skilliter (#24).  That's the explanation. This is cited even in Mike Morreale's recap at Gulitti himself has been steadfast in stating that Campbell shot it.  This video taken by a Twitter user called @dyermakn that Gulitti re-tweeted shows something like that. Being there live, I don't have the benefits of replays or additional angles.   And the officials certainly didn't have the benefit of it.  If you slow it down, then sure, it's clearer that Campbell certainly hit it.  Given he was bodied by Eric Gelinas and Kyle Palmieri, I'm not convinced he had control on it - do all whacks at a puck constitute control? - but it's moot now. Either way, that's a bang-bang play in real-time.

More to the point, if the linesman saw it, then what in the world were Herbert and Skilliter looking at? You know, the two people on the ice with the power to do something about it. Wouldn't the back referee in the zone actually see this better than the lineman?  If they weren't sure, why not use their simple motor skills to blow a whistle in the seconds after the touch?  Since they didn't, surely they intended to let play go just as when a ref or a linesman misses an offside, an icing, a penalty, or something else.  This wasn't an intent to blow; this was "There should've been a whistle; so even we missed it, now we're calling it."  I have never seen or heard of this before.  I cannot say it's wrong.

Yet, this is astonishing to me. Refs make wrong decisions all the time in games.  How come this decision was made and not the many other non-calls that should have warranted a whistle in most games?  Can officials now say, "Well, we missed a foul (e.g. a trip, a cross-check) earlier, but the linesman saw it and now that there's a stoppage, we talked about it and now we know there should have been a whistle and so please go to the box number so-and-so."  I know why they won't.  Missed calls happen as officials are humans and make mistakes.   They cannot capture everything and so players and coaches and so forth are instructed to just play until there is a whistle.  Let the refs make that decision. If they miss it, then move on. But not tonight, not in this case.

File it under that the call was technically correct.  Like most who love to cite the quote of "Technically correct is the best kind of correct," it's still quite irritating.  I'm less salty about it writing it out, and I would have been if I saw this on TV and not live.  Yet, what's done is done.  I'll (mostly) leave it at that. With that written, I want to - not intend or should want to, pay attention, I will - move on as the team surely will.

After that disallowed goal, the Devils tried but just couldn't put another one in the net.  That's all it really came down to.  The power play they received yielded one cross-slot shot and nothing more. The Devils played quite well since the call as they took seven shots, conceded only one, and pushed the play into Columbus' end plenty of times.  Sergei Bobrovsky certainly met the challenge the Devils provided and the Blue Jackets' escaped with the one-goal win.  Further, the Devils played rather well in the second period where they held the Blue Jackets shotless for the vast majority of the period and came close to scoring more than once (they hit two posts and forced the goalie to work).  In general, I'd say the Devils certainly played well enough to come out of this one with something.  Surprising given how poor the Devils were in the first period and on their power plays tonight.

Alas, hockey does not work like that. It is not fair.  In that second period, the Blue Jackets got going for a few minutes, a nightmare shift in the Devils end yielded to Matt Calvert putting home a loose puck in the fray in front of the net. This after fifteen-plus minutes of Devils-dominant hockey.  A perfect response to an absolutely stinky first period where the Devils were fortunate to have only conceded a goal to William Karlsson off the rush.  That goal by Calvert held up as the winner.  So it goes.

The Game Stats: The Game Summary | The Event Summary | The Play by Play Log | The Shot Summary | The Natural Stat Trick Advanced Stats

The Opposition Opinion: Ryan Real has quick thoughts at The Cannon.

The Game Highlights: From, here are your highlights.

This Game Essentially Was About This: Puck movement.  In the first period, the Blue Jackets appeared to do whatever they wanted because they were able to maintain control and make good passes.  They did scramble on offense, but in a good way as they were chasing down rebounds, loose pucks, and preventing pucks from being cleared. Columbus just ate the collective lunches of the Henrique line and started a very long night for John Moore and Damon Severson.  They could have scored multiple goals; though Cory Schneider gloriously denied Cam Atkinson in front and Adam Larsson either blocked out or Schneider denied a near-gimmie for David Savard in the game's first power play.  In response, the Devils struggled to put two or three of them together and were just out of sync on offense.  As a result, the Devils were out-shot 4-14.

Flip it around for the second period.  The period was over 75% over when Columbus got their first shot on net in the second. Meanwhile, the Devils nearly made up the shot difference, Adam Henrique scored off a beautiful feed from Mike Cammalleri, and had several other scoring chances. That line didn't just score, but they were far more effective and productive when it came to offensive opportunities.   Keep in mind, this happened after wasting the first three minutes or so on a power play that made next-to-nothing happen.   The Devils were just hitting on the majority of their passes through the neutral zone, disrupting Columbus' attempts to go forward, and put on plenty of pressure. Columbus got their goal within two shifts where they just steamrolled the Devils. After Calvert's score, Lee Stempniak nearly put home a rebound, Travis Zajac and Kyle Palmieri made Bobrovsky sweat, and Cammalleri hit iron to close out the period.   The Devils were able to move the puck effectively and therefore they controlled the game.

The third period was tentative to start. Both teams weren't doing so well, with plenty of pucks going into the zone but loosely and therefore not staying there for long.  Columbus showed the first signs of taking the period, but they never kept it up. The Devils, in time, were able to revert more to how they were playing in the second. The 4-on-4 play (matching minors for Jordin Tootoo and Andrew Bodnarchuk) was in their favor.  While the power play after the disallowed goal didn't do much, the Devils just turned it on as the Blue Jackets seemingly were hoping just to survive.

In total, puck movement and how well each team did it really decided how this game flowed. If there's a positive to take away for New Jersey, it's that they were playing like garbage in the first period and they found a way to figure out better ways to breakout, they utilized lateral passes better (especially on offense), and they went from strength to strength.  That's the sort of play that will get them out of holes more often than not and result in good goals.

The Reputation Was Real: John Tortorella has the reputation of turning his skaters into blocking machines on defense, particularly when the shifts get tough.  Somehow, the New Jersey Devils' scorer for only counted two of them in the final eight minutes when the Devils were bossing the game and trying to tie it up.  There were definitely more than two instances of a Blue Jacket lying on his stomach to deny a big shot from distance.  One of which yielded a lot of pain for Atkinson.  There were definitely more than two instances of a Blue Jacket going down on one knee to propose a block for a shot at an angle.   I get it. Bobrovsky hasn't been exactly inch-perfect and it's a one-goal road game.  If a block saves a goal, then go for it.  But, man, did they sell out for them.  To the point where it was clear to anyone watching that there were more than three blocks in this entire game.  This particular reputation of Tortorella's was upheld.

The Power Play Was Famine: If we're going to discuss lost opportunities, then check out the Devils' power play. It's common for conversion rate to act as the figure to determine whether a power play is good or not. Generally, I think that's right but the 2015-16 Devils are a living exception.  While their conversion rate was nicely above 20% heading into this game, you wouldn't know it from how they broke out of their own end, how they entered the zone, and what they did when they got there.  They struggled with the first two pieces for most of their first two power plays, a six-minute (the second was a double-minor) stretch that garnered deserved boos with every missed pass and every bad read.   The third power play was decent in that the Devils got set-up and fired some understandable shots. The last one in the third had one chance and that was it.  All told, they had five power plays (two were part of a double minor) lasting ten minutes, and didn't threaten for the vast majority of that time.  A top-ten power play should be more consistent in at least getting in on offense.  A top-ten power play should spend quite a bit of those ten minutes in the other team's end of the rink.  The Devils don't have that, they just either feast on an advantage or it's a whole lot of time off the clock.

The Return of Elias: Patrik Elias returned to the lineup tonight and, well, looked like he didn't play in preseason. He was limited to nine minutes at even strength, playing mostly with Jacob Josefson and Stefan Matteau. He got a deserved chant for his first shift.  They didn't do too much good or bad.  He was a regular on the power play and even got some shorthanded ice time.  I don't think he was a positive factor on the power play, though I suppose he didn't hurt much on the PK.  I think it was a bit too much for a 39-year old who's in his first game since last April.  That said, I support the decision to activate him for tonight.  I'd rather have him get his feet wet and start to get the rust off in this game than in a back-to-back set with a powerhouse like Montreal.  I think where he is in the lineup is appropriate until he starts getting into some kind of form. I don't know whether that will be good enough for him to move up in the lineup or get more regular shifts on special teams.  We'll see.  I will say he was far more noticeable than, say, Brian O'Neill and Matteau.

Other Positives: From what I saw, Adam Larsson, Andy Greene, and the Zajac line were very good tonight.  They were bright spots on defense in that horrid first period and they really kept things going forward all night long.  There was a scare when Kyle Palmieri left the game.  But he did return in the second period with a full face mask and finished out the game.

Schneider had himself a fine game. I wish the defense stepped up on Calvert or anyone on that shift where he scored because he made an astonishingly great save on Atkinson on a rebound earlier in that shift.  Schneider robbed Atkinson twice tonight, I'm sure the forward is talking to himself a bit about it when he's not feeling the pain from the block that the scorer may or may not have recorded.  Schneider was under siege in the first period and really held it together to ensure it would only be a one-goal deficit.  That was important, but the Devils' offense couldn't help him out beyond a goal.

Other Negatives: I wasn't a real fan of Moore and Severson again. They had plenty of struggles in their own end.  They made some nice plays in the second period, but Columbus had more success against them than the other combinations tonight.  I don't think it was a coincidence.  It was definitely a difference from Greene-Larsson.   I noticed Eric Gelinas' minutes were real low and I did see Moore and Jon Merrill for several shifts tonight.  That 2-7 pairing got rocked on the Calvert goal; I don't know if we saw it much again.  It's good that John Hynes may be experimenting with some changes there.  I don't know if I'd make Gelinas get the short end of the stick for it.  It may be the case with a soon-to-return David Schlemko.

Tonight's first penalty kill by New Jersey was the very definition of just escaping without a conversion.  Again, Savard had a whole lot of net to shoot at and somehow he was denied.  Columbus swarmed it up for most of those two minutes, showing the arena what a proper power play can look like.  Fortunately, the Devils' penalty kill played much better on later kills this evening.

Mea Culpa: I wanted the Devils to challenge Bobrovsky, they did, and Bobrovsky met most of it.  Well done for him.

One Last Thought: Remember the Devils' Coat Drive is on Friday. Bring a coat if you're going to the game.

Your Thoughts: The Devils lost a close one and referees were involved in denying an apparent equalizer. I've written my piece on that. Are you still understandably unhappy about it? What about the rest of the game, do you think the performance deserved a better result?  Who do you think had a real good game for the Devils? What can the Devils takeaway from this game to get ready for their back-to-back with Montreal?  Please leave your answers and other thoughts about this loss in the comments.

Thanks to everyone who commented in the Gamethread and followed @AATJerseyBlog on Twitter. Thank you for reading. Have a happy Thanksgiving.